Batman's new Muslim ally causes controversy

  • Breaking
  • 31/12/2010

By Dylan Moran

Batman is no stranger to negative news stories in his native Gotham City, but a new character in the franchise is attracting press for another reason.

Under the current storyline, Batman has returned from the past – where he was trapped, but presumed dead in the present – with a vengeance and an idea.

He wants to set up Batman Incorporated and franchise crimefighting, installing a superhero in major cities around the world in an effort to win the war on crime.

Two cities have been confirmed so far – Tokyo and Paris – and it is the latter which is causing controversy.

The French hero will be called Nightrunner, the alter ego of a boy named Bilal, and he is the franchise’s first Muslim hero.

American conservative blogger Warner Todd Huston has lashed out at the selection of the new hero.

“Apparently Batman couldn’t find any actual Frenchman to be the 'French saviour'.

“The whole situation is a misreading of what ails France. The truth is, neither communist union members nor neo-Nazi parties are causing riots in France. Muslims are. Yet DC Comics is absurdly making a Muslim immigrant the 'French saviour'? This is PCism at its worst. Not only that but it is pretty condescending to France, too. France is a proud nation. Yet DC Comics has made a foreigner the 'French saviour'. This will not sit well with many Frenchmen, for sure. Nor should it.”

But Huston’s comments do not sit with the actual storyline, which depicts Nightrunner growing up in a Muslim community plagued by unrest.

He is one of those who resents the Parisian police force after they mistake him and his friend for rioters, beating Bilal so badly he ends up in hospital. He almost joins the protestors as a result, but is talked out of it by his mother. His friend isn’t as convinced and burns down a police station, before being killed by a group of cops.

Bilal then teaches himself parkour as a way of distracting his teenage mind before a new series of riots forces him into action.

So instead of glossing over the Muslim riots, DC is making a conscious effort to highlight the unrest in Paris and give people an idea of its roots.

But what is the reason for the new direction of the franchise? Is the expansion a desperate ploy by DC Comics to make more money in the midst of a recession?

New Zealand comic book expert Jarret Filmer doesn’t think so.

“I think obviously there is an element where if they use an established character to launch new characters it will be more successful.

“I don’t necessarily think DC is in trouble, because remember they’re owned by Warner Brothers. The comics tend to lose money which just gets written off, because Warner make more money off the franchise through merchandise and movies.”

Comic books have always struggled to launch new ideas successfully, as “a lot of fans just want to see the same storylines over and over,” says Filmer.

But the industry appears to be making equality a focus lately, and the inclusion of Nightrunner may be a real signal of that intent.

The lack of black heroes in the superhero world has been a topic of discussion in recent months – culminating in calls to have Donald Glover play Peter Parker in the upcoming Spider-Man movie.

These moves were unsuccessful, but did a lot to highlight the unintentional racism within the genre – more a reflection of the time that Superman, Batman, Iron Man and Spider-Man were created than intentional racism – and Filmer says changes are definitely being made.

“The problem is not so much the race, but people only accept Bruce Wayne as Batman. You can’t really make Batman black.

“They are trying to make changes, and the thing that will make these characters break through is when someone makes a movie about them and Disney and Warner see that they can sell the lunchboxes, the beach towels, the t-shirts, at the same rate as the white guys.”

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source: newshub archive