It seems like every week there is a new superhero movie coming to the theaters. Hollywood’s love for the superhuman characters has lead to new movies, or remakes of some classics and some over the top special effects, but why? Is it because we all secretly wish we were them, that we could fly like Superman, have awesome technologically advanced tools like Batman and Iron Man, or be able to spin a web any size like SpiderMan? Maybe we see a little bit of ourselves in these characters and can relate, minus the superpowers of course.
Finding a character that you can relate to
For some, though, there are no characters to relate to. Last year, Marvel comics received a letter from a mother who was out of ideas. She had a son that was hearing impaired and refused to wear his hearing aid because none of the other superhero’s did. Marvel leaped into action and created Blue Ear, a deaf superhero who wears a hearing aid so he can hear when people are in trouble. Just like Blue Ear, there are many other characters for others with different qualities, like Daredevil for the blind.
What if you are a young Muslim girl with few role models to look up to? That question is being looked at very carefully and there are many comic book companies looking to fill that niche. Here is an example of some of the characters that have been developed:
Qahera - An Egyptian crime fighter that protects women from sexual harassment by leaving the male predators dangling from a pole--alive of course.
Ms. Marvel - Also known by her friends as Kamala Khan, she is a teenage American girl that comes from a Muslim family. She strives to prove to her family that just because she has guy friends, doesn’t mean that she is going to get pregnant, and show her friends that going to mosque isn’t weird.
Burka Avenger - When she isn’t a super ninja fighting crime, she spends the rest of her time as a school teacher. Not to be confused with the Marvel Avengers.
Iron Butterfly - A Palestinian superheroine from DC Comics, also known as Kahina Eskandari. She has the ability to transform metal objects and is the leader of the Shadow Cabinet.
Dust - In the aftermath of 9/11, Marvel comics introduced Dust to the X-Men lineup. She is able to control dust and can use it to attack her victims.
These characters aren't for everyone
While all of these characters allow Muslim girls someone to look up to, they don’t come without controversy. One of the recurring problems brought up by others is that they are dressed in the traditional hijab and because of that can not be true feminists. Does that really matter, just because someone wears something that you don’t agree with does that mean that it’s not right. What about the other female characters who are scantily clad and not wearing practical crime fighting attire.
What it really comes down to is sending a positive message to girls, to not put up with being bullied and someone for them to look up to. They are trying to create relatable characters, and if the Muslim superhero is showing more skin than is traditionally acceptable, then the relatability won’t come through. This type of comic is designed for a very specific audience, and if people don’t like it, then don’t read it.