Friday, December 31, 2010

The Muslim Batman Flap

It might come as a shock to my longtime readers, but my comic reading has dropped from 20-30 titles a month to practically nil (a rapidly growing family and rapidly shrinking budget will do that) so the current Right Wing freakout over recent events in DC Comics' Batman line of comics had almost entirely passed me by.  The short version: After a several month interregnum during which he was "dead" (which, in comic book terms, has about as much permanence as a rub-on tattoo), millionaire playboy Bruce Wayne has announced to the world that he is funding Gotham City's vigilante hero Batman (unbeknownst to them, he actually is Batman...shhh).  As part of an extended storyline labelled "Batman, Inc." Wayne is seeking out similar masked heroes in all corners of the globe to provide them the financial backing necessary to become their county's very own "Batman."

Sound innocuous enough? Okay, cue the freakout: One of these international Batmen, as chronicled in this year's Batman and Detective Comics annuals, is a Frenchman named Bilal Asseleh, who goes by the superhero nom de guerre Nightrunner. Bilal, as his name may have illuminated for you already, is of Algerian descent, and is depicted as a practicing Muslim.  Yep, a superhero who happens to be Muslim has been chosen by Batman to represent France.  I'm sure you can see where this is headed, but jump over anyway to Bleeding Cool, where Rich Johnston has helpfully compiled some of the wackier reactions, ranging from "PCism run amuck" from Warner Todd Huston (who previously blew a gasket over a perceived Tea Party slight in Marvel's Captain America) to the barely-literate bloviating of a gent with the charming name of "Angry White Dude."

There's a lot to laugh at with this story, but I think what I find most amusing is that it's a lot of sturm und drang for a character whose handful of appearances thus far very likely represents the vast majority of appearances he'll ever make. After all, it's not like the notion of farmed-out, token ethnic characters is anything new to either of the big two superhero universes, Marvel or DC.  Indeed, DC pulled pretty much the exact same trick back in 2000 with their line-wide "Planet DC" initiative that saw a whole new array of international characters introduced -- then promptly ignored.  This whole "Batman, Inc." thing might make for a fine story and all, but let's be real here: there's only one Batman, and that's Bruce Wayne.  And it's only a matter of time before we get back to that status quo.  In other words: who cares?  And that's coming from a comic book fan and a Muslim.

Andy Khouri at ComicsAlliance has done a journeyman's job of going after these folks (as he did the Thor movie bigots from a few weeks ago), and his lengthy write-up is well worth a read.  But really, you don't need to look much further than this post by cartoonist Bosch Fawstin, whose bizarre anti-Muslim fervor has made him catnip for the Breitbart crowd, and who was described by one critic (in about as deliciously nerdy a putdown as I've ever heard) as "a few Infinity Gems short of a Gauntlet." As happens so often with these things, far from Nightrunner being evidence of some pro-Muslim (perish forbid!) conspiracy on the part of creator David Hine or publisher DC, the resultant outrage over the mere existence of such a character has instead exposed the xenophobic insecurities of those shrieking the loudest, proving out the old adage about giving someone enough rope.  Thanks, guys!


Allan Cook said...

Let's play anagrams for a moment...

Bosch Fawstin / Fascist Bohwn.

Now if only I knew what a bohwn was, at least then I could make sense of that idiot.

liquidlen said...

Zaki shouldn't be too upset. According to Fawstin, he's not a real muslim anywho.

Kevin M. Hagerman