A few decades ago, a generation of kids in the Middle East discovered comic books. Marvel and DC comics dominated the top of the reading list, with Batman, Superman, the X-Men and Wonder Woman reaching out to a new community. As all kids do, this generation eventually grew up – but they did not forgot the superheroes of their childhood.
Today, the comic community of the Middle East is rapidly expanding, largely thanks to the now-adult generation who as youth found inspiration in western comics. Hero Factor, Teshkeel Comics, and CurlStone Studios are a sample of young companies that have tried their hand at a comic series with an Arab face in the last five years. A majority of these entrepreneurs hope to fulfill the need for a positive Arab role model in popular media.
But wait one minute! Who said just the Arabs need a superhero? After all, Arabs comprise only 20% of worldwide Muslims, and are hardly the only group effected by the public relations crisis post-9/11. Maybe the entire Islamic world – from Morocco to Indonesia to Muslims living in the west – could use a superhero.
In comes SplitMoonArts ’ Buraaq – a discrimination-fighting Muslim superhero living in fictional Nova City. Created by two American Muslim brothers that moved to the United States from Pakistan as teens, Buraaq caters to Muslims from all walks of life. The two brothers, Adil and Kamil Imtiaz, explain on SplitMoonArts’ website that, “We wanted to have our own Superhero, a hero that shares common universal values of Islam; to standup for Truth, Justice and Freedom!”
If an Islamic superhero is what the Imtiaz brothers are going for, the name they chose is a solid start – Buraaq is the name of the white, winged horse-like animal that carried the Prophet first to Jerusalem and then to heaven during the Night Journey.
References to the Quran, however, are only the start, and the storyline regularly relies on Buraaq’s role as a devout Muslim. In the opening scene of a teaser for Buraaq’s new 3D animated series, the viewer glides through the desert and eventually settles on the superhero performing his prayers upon the dunes. “My lord guided me from darkness to light,” Buraaq narrates in the background. “All my worries and my fears fade away when I call to him.”
This turn towards animation excites the creators, whose ultimate dream is for Buraaq to star on the big screen. Until then, they have every intention to continue emphasizing Buraaq as a religious role model, which they believe is integral to his character.
“The strong message that we want to focus on is the universal values of Islam that is shared across all major religions,” Kamil says. “It’s just been lost in translation, all the negativity around Islam and Muslims in media. So we want to tell our story, a positive story.”
Adil and Kamil have now published multiple issues of Buraaq, sporting a classic comic book style and garnering positive reviews following each release. Sometimes, the storyline can be lacking, and the focus on Islam might be hard to swallow for those without religious interests. Nevertheless, the English-language comic series is among the first comics geared toward Western Muslim audiences, and fulfills a niche market hitherto untapped. We’ll see if Buraaq will make a lasting impression.
Take a peak at the most recently released teaser of the 3D animation series here: