CNN’s Inside the Middle East delves into the region’s comic book community
Dubai, UAE, August 06, 2018: CNN’s Inside the Middle East meets a group of young, like-minded people who have a passion for comic books and have come together to establish a pop culture community. Brought up on seeing western superheroes, these comic book fans crave an Arab superhero.
The programme meets Saeed Arjumand, a comic book illustrator and owner of Comic Stop store, who speaks about the need to see more nationalities in comics: “Marvel talked about diversifying all their heroes. Like they want to get rid of Captain America, Iron Man, Thor and I think they're trying to be like this is not a world where it's like a white playground. It's a white kid, and a black kid and an Arab kid and a Filipino kid....”
Saeed continues to speak about seeing global representation: “…I think it's nice to see stories from different parts of the world. Take a look at Disney, the princesses. We have Jasmine, we have Moana now, we have Merida. Those are the ones that come to mind. They're extremely diverse.”
Whilst Saeed praises the increasing diversity he would like to see heroes who are truly representative of the region: “If I see another Arab superhero based on the sand, I'll shoot someone, kind of a thing, because we had an X-Man actually that was Arab. She was full hijabi. She had the burka and everything, and guess what her superpower was? She could diminish into sand. She creates sand… like come on. That's racist. The one Arab mutant in the world, and she could control sand? Put an Arab in charge of the ocean. Make Aquaman an Arab.”
Fatma Almheiri is a director and comic artist who agrees with Saeed about the desire for Arab representation in comics: “I think the world is thirsty for an Arab superhero and I think we need to quench that thirst fast. I am Emirati, I grew up in Dubai watching a lot of cartoons and noticing that nobody in the cartoons I'm watching really look like me …I wanted to see myself or to give other people the chance to see representation of themselves in cartoon.”
Fatma decided to create her own Arab superhero that accurately reflects the culture of the UAE: “I recently created a super cool, superhero cartoon called Emara which is about a young Emirati superhero fighting crimes in the busy, bustling streets of the UAE. Emara is the superhero I wanted growing up that I didn't get to have. What I made sure to give Emara is that there are little bits and pieces of how life is here and it's chill. It's not how they think it is which is, ‘Oh, you know, everybody has to be in a niqab. You're not allowed to leave your house. You can't drive.’ Which isn't the case in the UAE. You can base a lot of things around the culture. Like what I did with Emara and I dressed her up. I wanted Emara to dress modestly because I think that specific character, especially as a main character, is missing. There are no hijabi main characters, especially not in a superhero cartoon or comic or whatever. At least nothing I've seen before, so I really wanted to include that.
Fatma continues with her hopes for the future: “If I could send Marvel a message, great job with Ms. Marvel but can we also have an Arab superhero preferably a woman but whatever. I'll take whatever you give me, but we'd love an Arab superhero character, please.”