Heroic and po­lit­i­cally cor­rect

A Mus­lim comic-book hero­ine fights evil, care­fully

The Washington Times Daily - - Editorial -

The pub­lish­ers of comic books are ob­sessed with the po­lit­i­cally cor­rect. Diver­sity and quo­tas are more im­por­tant than dis­patch­ing evil. Spi­der-Man has been reimag­ined as a black His­panic teenager. The Green Lan­tern is out of the closet. Early next year, Mar­vel Comics rolls out a Mus­lim su­per­heroine.

Ms. Mar­vel is a teenage girl, Ka­mala Khan, with a shape-chang­ing su­per­power. She will need it to dodge bul­lets in her new home­town of Jersey City, N.J., and as­sas­sins in her na­tive Pak­istan, where a real-life teen su­per­heroine, Malala Yousafzai, was tar­geted for death by the Tal­iban for merely ad­vo­cat­ing send­ing girls to school.

Most comic-book read­ers are male, but this comic is dif­fer­ent. In­stead of the usual hero­ine with bust and gams, like Won­der Woman, Ms. Mar­vel is fully cov­ered in a mod­est red-and-black cos­tume (with a yel­low light­ning bolt). Her face is shrouded not by a Saudi-style niqab full-face veil, but by a mask sim­i­lar to Bat­man’s side­kick Robin.

Ms. Mar­vel, un­like her pa­per-and-ink com­rades, won’t ad­vo­cate for “truth, jus­tice and the Amer­i­can way.” If she wants to find a place on news­stands in Mus­lim coun­tries, she’ll have to be care­ful not to anger mil­i­tant Is­lam, even if she takes on the Great Satan. She can take her cues from Sec­re­tary of State John F. Kerry, who trav­eled to Saudi Ara­bia last week to mend fences and promptly climbed atop one. When re­porters asked him what he thinks of the grow­ing protests of Saudi women de­mand­ing the right to drive a car, he replied that he’s all for equal­ity ex­cept when he isn’t. “We em­brace equal­ity for every­body, re­gard­less of gen­der, race or any other qual­i­fi­ca­tion,” he says. “There’s a healthy de­bate in Saudi Ara­bia about this is­sue, but I think that de­bate is best left to Saudi Ara­bia.”

Ms. Mar­vel prob­a­bly won’t ap­pear in comic books in Saudi Ara­bia, any­way. In the sto­ry­line, Ms. Mar­vel’s mother is “para­noid that she’s go­ing to touch a boy and get preg­nant,” Ms. Mar­vel’s cocreator, Sana Amanat, a Mus­lim ed­i­tor at Mar­vel, tells The New York Times. Her fa­ther thinks she should con­cen­trate on be­com­ing a doc­tor. Ms. Mar­vel’s most daunt­ing chal­lenges, how­ever, might come not from su­pervil­lains, but from her brother, who the ed­i­tor de­scribes omi­nously as “ex­tremely con­ser­va­tive.” Con­ser­va­tives, ex­treme or oth­er­wise, rare in comic books, are usu­ally mega­lo­ma­ni­a­cal in­dus­tri­al­ists and other bad guys.

Mar­vel Comics in­sists that it won’t evan­ge­lize for Is­lam, but the comic book in­dus­try pro­motes eerie life­styles. DC Comics’ ven­er­a­ble Green Lan­tern came out as ho­mo­sex­ual in June 2012, about five months af­ter the Archie Comics’ char­ac­ter Kevin Keller wed his black “boyfriend.” DC’s Bat­woman, a les­bian, was not so for­tu­nate. Her writ­ers quit in protest in Septem­ber af­ter the pub­lish­ers told them Bat­woman could never marry. This is odd, be­cause a lot of fans have been try­ing for years to fig­ure out the ex­act re­la­tion­ship be­tween Bat­man and Robin.

But if love con­quers all (which it rarely does), the pub­lish­ers could al­low Bat­woman to marry Ms. Mar­vel, and they could ar­gue over who con­verts to what­ever. That might only up­set Ms. Mar­vel’s “ex­tremely con­ser­va­tive” Mus­lim brother, but comic books are just funny books for every­body else.

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