After the collapse of its universe last year, DC Comics is starting fresh with its “New 52” series, which re-creates their memorable characters to reflect a more modern time and reimages their storylines to attract a wider audience. Among many other things echoed in the changing times is the growing racial diversity of comic book readers.
Enter Simon Baz of Earth — specifically Dearborn, Mich. — the newest recruit in the Green Lantern Corps.
Baz’s story begins on the wrong side of the law, living as a car thief after getting fired from his automotive job. Eventually, Baz steals a car filled with explosives, unbeknownst to him, and is wrongfully suspected of being a terrorist after an ensuing police chase causes him to crash the van into a building and the bomb to detonate. Before long he is chosen by the OAN power ring, which seeks users based on their willpower and courage, to become a guardian of the universe. What results is a tale of heroism and redemption that seeks to fight against the common stereotypes facing Arab-Americans.
“He’s not a perfect character. He’s obviously made some mistakes in his life, but that makes him more compelling and relatable,” said Geoff Johns, DC Comics’ chief creative officer and writer of Green Lantern #0, in a phone interview with the Associated Press. Johns is also from metro Detroit and used his past here, along with his Lebanese heritage, as a base for the character.
During the interview, Johns said there are plans to include local landmarks, such as City Hall and the Dearborn Music building, in coming issues. He even has plans for the character to become a part of the Justice League, which is essentially DC Comics’ varsity superhero team with other heroes like Green Arrow in its ranks.
Simon Baz isn’t the first Green Lantern to break the mold of the traditional superhero, as the members of the Corps have often set the precedent for social change in comics. Earlier this year an alternate universe’s Alan Scott was re-introduced as one of the first major openly gay superheroes, and before him, John Stewart was the first major black superhero when he was first introduced in the 70s.
Johns remains hopeful that this incarnation of the Green Lantern will be just as inspiring and memorable as his predecessors.
“Hopefully (it’s) a compelling character regardless of culture or ethnic background,” Johns said. “But I think it’s great to have an Arab-American superhero. This was opportunity and a chance to really go for it.”