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Green Lantern #0: An Editorial Commentary


By Andy Frisk
September 7, 2012 - 23:00

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Of course, some far right conservatives are denouncing the introduction of an Arab-American superhero to the ranks of the DC Comics' pantheon of heroes, instead of honestly commenting on the attempt at DC Comics to diversify. Jonathan V. Last, of The Weekly Standard wrote an article titled "Green Lantern Becomes a Muslim Arab-American" (which is technically not even correct-an Arab-American Muslim became a Green Lantern) which states (about DC Comics) that "they’re pulling another stunt" and that next "they’ll have to create a transgendered Green Lantern with a drinking problem—in a wheelchair!—in order to get people to pay attention." I'll let my readers determine the validity of these statements themselves, but there was one thing that I did sort of agree with Last about. He stated that "that’s still easier than writing compelling stories that people want to read" insinuating that much of the writing at DC Comics isn't too good right now. While it was a good idea to create a Green Lantern who is of Arab-American descent and place him prominently in the pages of a superhero comic book, I do wish that the usually stellar Geoff Johns had written a stronger origin story for him.

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Basically, Simon Baz is an unemployed auto worker who has turned to auto theft in order to help his single parent sister raise her son who ends up on the wrong side of the law. There's plenty of stories like this in America, so here Johns does a decent job of bringing to life a realistic and complicated character. The fact that he unwittingly steals a van with a huge bomb in it, and is therefore thought to be a terrorist instead of just a car thief, is pushing the boundaries of  "a willing suspension of disbelief" though. Also, the fact that he fights back just before he is waterboarded, as courageous as that is, doesn't really make a strong enough case for him having the "ability to overcome great fear," and hence be granted a power ring (as compared to the trials that many of the previous Earth based Green Lanterns had to overcome).  Perhaps Johns intended that scene to be the one that puts his courage in the face of fear over the top, but ironically the word "error" is blurted by the ring just as it plants itself on his finger... There's also the the choice to put him on the cover of Green Lantern #0 brandishing a gun and wearing a ski mask like hood. This totally reeks of an attempt to appear controversial, thus making headlines grabbing news. The power of the story should do that. It might yet. Simon Baz will be further explored as a character over the next few issues of Green Lantern.

While the story has it's flaws, the one thing that it doesn't do is "point out how terrible America is" as Last claims. It actually points out how terrible Muslim extremism is by recounting the 9/11 tragedy, and how an American citizen, even in the midst of a desperate crime, isn't necessarily a evil person (again decent storytelling partly displayed only by creating a complicated character). Yes, the story does depict Simon and his sister suffering racist attacks. That doesn't mean America is terrible. That means that ignorant racism is terrible, and that it is sadly still a part of American life for some. The story also points out that airport security is incredibly tight (it's insinuated that Simon is constantly picked out for "random" security checks), and that waterboarding is still in use, something a far-right sounding conservative like Last should be thrilled is still a part of America...

Regardless, DC Comics is finally getting the diversity thing right, even if, as pointed out here at ComicBookBin, the character is introduced rather too easily and somewhat sloppily as yet another Green Lantern. A conflicted and thematically controversial figure like Simon Baz, a sort of "golden hearted" criminal (of which there are tons of Caucasian examples of, but few minority examples of) is something that is rarely seen. I just wish that DC Comics didn't try so hard to make him blatantly controversial.


 


Last Updated: May 19, 2020 - 12:25

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