By Lily Kuo
NEW YORK (Reuters) - DC Comics introduced a new Green Lantern on Wednesday - a Muslim from Dearborn, Michigan, who leaves behind street racing to join an intergalactic police force.
Simon Baz, the muscular protagonist in his early 20s with the Arabic word for courage, "al-shuja'a," tattooed on his arm, is the latest example of superhero diversity in the comic book world. His debut comes after DC Comics unveiled a gay Green Lantern in June and Marvel Comics presented a half-black, half-Latino Spider-Man last year.
"In typical comic books there's a big handsome white guy and that's it. But that's not the world we live in, and comics are reflecting that," Thor Parker, social marketing and event director at Midtown Comics in New York, told Reuters. Parker's store was selling the new comic book on Wednesday.
Most comic book fans know the Green Lantern's alter ego as Hal Jordan, who is Caucasian, a ladies' man who was played by Ryan Reynolds in the 2011 film.
But GREEN LANTERN #0, released on Wednesday, tells the story of Baz, an American of Arab ancestry raised in a Muslim family. He is chosen to be part of the Green Lantern Corps, an intergalactic police force.
The original Green Lantern was introduced in 1940 with a character named Alan Scott. DC revived the Green Lantern in 1959 with Jordan.
The new story begins with Baz as a child watching television images of a burning World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, according to a copy of the comic book viewed by Reuters. As an adult, Baz, with a criminal record for illegal street racing, turns to car theft after he loses his job at an automobile factory. A car he tries to steal lands him in the middle of a terrorism investigation. Later on, he is magically bestowed with a ring that gives him super powers and anoints him a Green Lantern.
Geoff Johns, who writes the Green Lantern series, said Baz's character was part of an effort to diversify the universe of superheroes.
"There's no real prominent Arab-American superheroes in DC (Comics) at all," Johns told Reuters, adding that Baz's background also dovetailed with the superhero's story.
"You are chosen to become a Green Lantern because you are of the ability to overcome great fear, and I thought that would be a great (theme) to play with, with a character of this background," he said.
GREEN LANTERN #0 is part of a collection released in September that tells the back story of famous DC Comics characters. Baz will be the focus of several more comic books, Johns said, but he declined to say for how long.
The next Green Lantern comic book, in which Baz will be the focus, will be released in October.
(Reporting by Lily Kuo; editing by Matthew Lewis)