An Arab American Comic Strip

Source:;Culture&article=5960 , accessed September 18, 2012.

DC Comics’ Geoff Johns discusses new Arab American "Green Lantern" during visit to Dearborn
By Samer Hijazi
Friday, 09.14.2012, 11:17am
DEARBORN — Last week Geoff Johns, comic book writer and Chief Creative Officer of DC Comics returned to his home state of Michigan where he made some public appearances in Dearborn coming off DC Comics' announcement earlier this month that the comic book company's superhero "The Green Lantern" would be re-incarnated as an Arab American named Simon Baz who resides in Dearborn. 

Johns engages with fans during his visit to the museum last week.
Johns, born in Detroit, is half Lebanese and grew up in Grosse Pointe and Clarkston. As a child he discovered comic books in his grandmother's attic which quickly transformed into a passion for him. He studied Media Art, Screenwriting and Film Production at Michigan State University where he graduated in 1995 before moving to Los Angeles. During his earlier years there he worked on the production of a few Hollywood films including 1997's "Conspiracy Theory," staring Mel Gibson and Julia Roberts.

From there Johns was able to meet with DC Comics personnel and was given the opportunity to pitch ideas for the company, where he was heavily involved in the re-launch of DC's comic book "Teen Titans." Further down the road he became heavily involved in other DC comics titles which included "Aquaman" and an older incarnation of "The Green Lantern." John's work would also expand into television where he served as a writer on a few episodes of "Smallville," the popular long running series based on the early years of Superman.

Johns spoke with The Arab American News during his visit to Dearborn last Friday, saying that the updated version of  "The Green Lantern" had been in the works for about two years.

"I think diversifying our universe is really important to us.  So when I had the story of re-creating a new Green Lantern, I just thought maybe I'd look at my heritage and draw from that. Immediately the publishers and editors were on board. Diane Nelson, the president, approved it right away and they were very supportive of it," Johns stated during an interview before an autograph signing at Dearborn's Green Brian Comic Book store located on Michigan Ave., where dozens of comic book fans showed up for a meet and greet. 

Johns speaking at the Arab American National Museum
Additionally, the updated version of "The Green Lantern" comic book series, which was launched earlier this month with its first issue, will be partly set in Dearborn. The stories will revolve around Simon Baz, an out of work auto engineer who ends up as a car thief before the Green Lantern ring chooses him to be a "cosmic cop." Additionally the comics will tackle some of the struggles that the Arab-American community has been facing.  The first issue in the series begins with depicting Baz as a 10-year-old dealing with the current events of 9/11 and the toll it took on his Muslim family as well as his community. 

"A lot of it will take place in Dearborn. In the next issue there will be a scene that takes place on the roof of the Dearborn Music Building. His sister Sera, will also play a big role in the comics. She works at the Secretary of State," Johns added. 

The announcement of the new series has been well received in the Arab American community, coming as a surprise to many who had been used to the idea of a genre filled with dozens of superheroes that had previously been lacking in the diversity department. Last year, another major comic book company, Marvel Comics, was applauded for taking one of the first steps in diversifying their line-up, when they announced that Spiderman would be revamped  as a half Black-half Latino character for their new comic book series. But for the Arab and Muslim communities, an Arab American Muslim superhero is seen as a major step, especially in a post-9/11 era.

"In general, when you think about Arabs and Muslims in main roles in pop culture, they're always the villains,"  Linda Sarsour, executive director of the Arab American Association of New York told the New York Daily News earlier this week. "We're always the hijackers. We're always the bad people that the good American soldiers or CIA is trying to fight. To finally have the opportunity where the Arab-American can be the super hero, to be the one who saves people, is a lot more powerful an image," Sarsour added.   

Aside from an autograph signing and a meet and greet at the comic book store, Johns also gave a presentation at the Arab American National Museum located on Michigan Ave. on Saturday. He tells us that part of his visit back to Michigan was to speak to the youth and to encourage them to follow their dreams.

"I want to spread the message of how I got into the twists and turns along the way and everything that I have done. The thing about comic books and writing in general is that there is no specific path or college course to take like other careers," Johns stated.  "But the truth of the matter is, whatever it is you have a passion for, you can succeed in it. All writers get rejected, and I remember my first pitch to DC Comics was rejected. There was a lot of struggle but it's just part of the business. Even Steven King was rejected, but don't let rejection deter you. You just need the drive to do it," Johns stated. 

Johns says while talks of a film adaption of the new Green Lantern are too soon to be put on the table (last year a film adaption starring Ryan Reynolds hit theaters and was considered a box office disappointment), the olive skin complected character, who will bear an Arabic tattoo on the same arm as his lantern ring, which stands for "courage," is expected to be turned into an action figure in 2013.