What's Worse Than a Muslim Superhero? The Answer May Surprise You.
June 23, 2011 6:51 AM   Subscribe

The most recent issue of Superman, 712, was supposed to have a certain storyline, but it seems at the last minute, DC Comics decided to nix that storyline and instead publish a five-year-old story about Krypto the Super-Dog. These sorts of things happen, but Comics Alliance opined (with some help from direct sources) that the change was due to DC not wanting to feature a Muslim superhero (the original story had Superman aiding "Sharif", a Muslim superhero.) The theory is, after the brouhahae surrounding the Muslim Batman and Superman renouncing his American citizenship, DC is hesitant to add any more fuel to the "DC hates America" fire. "But," says comic-book muckraker Rich Johnston, "I have inside DC stories that are telling me the REAL reason the story got nixed." He claims it's not about Muslims, it's about...well, just see for yourself what it's allegedly really about.
posted by Legomancer (55 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
This seems like an OK time to share this high quality Krypto story.
posted by Wolfdog at 6:54 AM on June 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

I like that they call it "the Superman movie".

Because Zod aside, there really is only one worth considering.
posted by Trurl at 6:55 AM on June 23, 2011

Attempting To Prove It Loves US, Company Proves It Hates Ideas Behind US
posted by DU at 6:58 AM on June 23, 2011 [8 favorites]

It's just a comic book. Don't like it, don't read it.
Hope these folks never see what the library stocks for manga. Their eyes will pop right out.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 6:59 AM on June 23, 2011

Play him off, Cat Stevens!
posted by hal9k at 7:00 AM on June 23, 2011 [25 favorites]

Do kittens from Krypton grow unimaginably cute under our yellow sun? That is a question worth answering. Superman could just give a kitten like that to Luthor, and the diabolical supergenius would spend all his time trying to make a suficiently advanced laser pointer, thus giving up his life of crime.

I also liked the fact that Superman's shocked face on that cover was pretty much the same shocked face that Green Arrow had back when Speedy became a heroin addict for an issue.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:00 AM on June 23, 2011 [8 favorites]

The Superman Spin Control Cycle, not quite as fast as a speeding bullet.
posted by doctor_negative at 7:00 AM on June 23, 2011

Truly, the infidels replaced a story about a Muslim superhero who wears on his chest the name of Allah (swt), with a story about a najis dog! Inshallah, this will cause the faithful to rise up in anger and make jihad against DC Comics!

I'll be watching Fox News and cowering in my basement.
posted by orthogonality at 7:04 AM on June 23, 2011 [3 favorites]

Play him off, Cat Stevens!

I am so going to use that line next time I'm in a conversation about kittens and Islam.
posted by etc. at 7:05 AM on June 23, 2011 [7 favorites]

Knowing Metafilter, that could be more awesome than you realize.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 7:08 AM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Kittenphobia only encourages disaffected kittens, hemmed in by discrimination and deprived of opportunity, to join radical fundamentalist cat groups as an outlet for their frustrations. That D.C. went so far as to replace the kitten story with one about a dog, implying that stories about dogs are somehow more American than stories about kittens, is sure to provoke an inflammatory response from radicalists on the fringes of the kitten community and will only increase tensions between dogs and cats. When will this cycle of pet prejudice and violence end?
posted by BlueJae at 7:10 AM on June 23, 2011 [4 favorites]

I meant often, not awesome. Though I suppose both works.

As for the "it's not Muslims, it's kittens" excuse from DC, at first, I didn't believe it since this seems to be a solution to a problem that is worse than the problem. But then I realized, it's DC, and that's sort of their thing lately.

Where "lately"= in my lifetime.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 7:14 AM on June 23, 2011

My own personal take on the matter.

That's rather good.
posted by aught at 7:14 AM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

What's really odd is that in the Power Girl book there doing a Guantanamo storyline (falsely accused super-powered Arab-American has to break out to see his dying father, PG and Batman have the typical "misunderstanding between good guys, but we'll all get along in the end" fight with him.
posted by oddman at 7:15 AM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

I don't really care about the subject of this post, but if I could separately favorite the Latinate plural "brouhahae", I would.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 7:19 AM on June 23, 2011 [12 favorites]

If DC really hated America I'm sure they would have Superman causing quite a bit more damage to the nation than just aiding a Muslim superhero. It sounds like they're more focused on just making a good guy doing the right thing.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 7:27 AM on June 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

What? Seriously? I thought this summer would be a great time for DC to test the waters with wacky new ideas, like having a superhero belong to one of the Earth's most populous faiths, before rebooting to blandness in the fall.

Anyone know what Sharif's actual powers are? I'll reboot him on my blog, but he's missing from Wikipedia, my normal go-to for this sort of thing.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:32 AM on June 23, 2011

Superman is popular in the Middle East, right? There was a post here about it. Could it be that this story line was designed with the overseas market in mind?
posted by subdee at 7:34 AM on June 23, 2011

More Superman in Arabic.
posted by subdee at 7:36 AM on June 23, 2011

Not only has DC done "the Muslim Batman" (actually, Nightrunner), but Power Girl had a recent story about an Arab-American with superpowers who gets stuck in Gitmo. (This was mentioned in the Comics Alliance article.) It's entirely possible that DC decided not to run the story either because of the proximity to Judd Winick's Power Girl story making it seem a little anvilicious, or that it just wasn't a very good story (even though Chris Roberson, in the Comics Alliance article, makes it sound as if it's all his story, J. Michael Straczynski still gets a story credit, and his early stories in the Grounded arc were heavily criticized), or both.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:43 AM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

It says a lot about the damage DC has done to its own brand over the last many years that I can't believe an issue was pulled for being hacky, but I can believe that it was pulled for being the vaguest bit political.
posted by Etrigan at 7:48 AM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

robocop is bleeding, the Comics Alliance article mentions that Sharif is actually a pre-existing character named Sinbad (urgh); here's the best article I could find about him.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:48 AM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think there's a big difference between Superman and Power Girl. That is, if Power Girl has an Islam-friendly storyline, it won't rile up people nearly as much because most people have no idea who Power Girl is. But Superman? That's a big deal. That will get attention and, as shown from the events I linked to, not good attention. It's especially telling that this storyline was okay with editorial up until fairly recently, which indicates it's something only recent that triggered it, nothing endemic to the story itself.

It's also worth pointing out that the entire reboot itself, coming up so suddenly and out of the blue, is an indication that someone outside of DC is executing some heavy handed control now, which could also be a factor.
posted by Legomancer at 7:49 AM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Seconding the urgh there, Jack, but thanks for the info. So he's a telekinetic? That makes the temptation to cross him with The Great and Powerful Turtle pretty strong, but dammit, fictionalized Muslim George R.R. Martin should be working on the next book in the Surahs of Ice and Fire series, not rescuing kids from buses falling off of overpasses!
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:55 AM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Legomancer: That is true. Superman certainly isn't the first superhero to express disillusionment with the American government, he's just one one people complain about because he's "iconically" American. (Never mind that his renunciation came in response to the American government threatening him with kryptonite bullets over his support of Arab pro-democracy movements.)

But "no kittens" is crazy enough that it actually is plausible given everything else mainstream publishers have done in the last decade.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:18 AM on June 23, 2011

Man, I don't know about you guys, but I am so tired of discussing teen power fantasies like they have any relevance any more.
posted by clvrmnky at 8:25 AM on June 23, 2011

Well as long as teens exist I think that teen power fantasies will remain relevant.
posted by jnrussell at 8:29 AM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Man, I don't know about you guys, but I am so tired of discussing teen power fantasies like they have any relevance any more.

Well here's a thought...
posted by Legomancer at 8:42 AM on June 23, 2011 [3 favorites]

The no kittens is clearly ridiculous. Assuming Johnston isn't super-credulous, he's clearly trolling as I'm pretty sure DC would just, umm, get two pages redrawn rather than scrap an entire issue.

It's far more likely to be a (somewhat) ham-handed attempt to manipulate the news cycle - bearing in mind they're going to want to hit the mainstream media pretty hard in a month or so post-Flashpoint, they don't want to risk that quarter's comic-book story being a continuation of the Action 900 nonsense. Which is not laudable or anything, and has now run the risk of being seen as craven, but it does at least make some kind of sense.

Mainly just a shame they narked George Perez off over it.
posted by Hartster at 8:44 AM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Man, I don't know about you guys, but I am so tired of discussing teen power fantasies like they have any relevance any more.

I'm not a huge fan of those types of discussions either; that's why I keep my fat trap shut.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:46 AM on June 23, 2011 [3 favorites]

Kittens are too corny, so they use a story about a SUPER DOG as a replacement? I guess dogs aren't corny (or are they only "not corny" when they have super powers?).
posted by asnider at 8:53 AM on June 23, 2011

I'd like to think that it makes Superman's day that the only thing he has to do for work that day is save a kitten. I bet that despite whatever villiain or cosmic threat he's squared off against, the thing that makes him feel like a hero is something as mundane as saving a kitten that's stuck in a tree. Sure it sounds like a job for Captain Marvel, but in my imaginary DC universe, Captain Marvel is the guy Superman aspires to be (ironically, wunderkind blogger journalist/podcaster Billy Batson's hero is Clark Kent, ace reporter for the Daily Planet. Also, Kyle Rayner is still the only Green Lantern there and Wally West is the only Flash).
posted by KingEdRa at 8:58 AM on June 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


Worst. Power. Ever.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 9:41 AM on June 23, 2011 [6 favorites]

The cat was Mohammad's (pbuh's) favorite animal. A hadith even tells us that The Messenger (pbuh) made wudu with water from a cat's bowl.
posted by orthogonality at 10:09 AM on June 23, 2011

I dunno about the kitten thing - I'd buy an issue where Superman tries to rescue Dex-Starr from a tree.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 10:12 AM on June 23, 2011 [3 favorites]

Anyone paying attention to DC the past few years should have no problem believing the current editors are far more afraid of not looking sufficiently XTREME EDGY SERIOUS KEWL than they are afraid of looking anti-American.
posted by straight at 10:21 AM on June 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

If you want to balance out the GRAR on this, I highly recommend the "Letters to a Bat-Brother" item posted to ComicsAlliance today. Very cute. And it has a kitten.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 10:22 AM on June 23, 2011

Ever since their pointless reboot announcement, it really has seemed like DC Comics is on a "fuck up everything as hard as possible" initiative.
posted by EatTheWeek at 10:36 AM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

(As a supplement to sevenyearlurk's link, this CBR tribute thread to Dick Grayson & Damian Wayne is also worth a look - lots of great panels from the freshest, most exciting idea DC has explored in a damn long time, an idea they're flushing down the toilet as part of their clumsy move to appear more fresh and exciting this September. LONG LIVE TEAM DICKBATS)

posted by EatTheWeek at 10:46 AM on June 23, 2011 [4 favorites]

I do not believe the kitten story. I would actually rather DC nuked an issue over Islamophobia than because of the kitten thing because AAAAAAARRRRRGGGGHHHHH WHAT THE HELL PEOPLE I MEAN SERIOUSLY THIS DOESN'T MAKE ANY SENSE. Also Streaky the Super-Cat is gonna be pissed.
posted by jtron at 10:53 AM on June 23, 2011

Regardless of whether it was the kitten or the Islam, this was apparently a case of editors and/or executives getting involved in the writing. Sometimes that works well: It's nearly impossible to have a "brilliant author" without the judgment of a good editor. Other times it works poorly and ruins everything. Often the distinguishing factor is whether the external judgment (editor/executive) is motivated by craftsmanship or marketability. That's a fine, hard-to-discern line that can nonetheless grow really dark really fast.

I read collected editions, not monthlies, and I don't follow a lot of characters; so I don't have as clear a picture of DC's overall trend as others might. But I haven't seen a lot of evidence in recent years that DC is hiring brilliant authors and then stimulating (and tempering) them with discerning editors. Although I pay less attention to Marvel, I'll bill them the same: It seems to me that the overall quality of comic writing has declined in the past couple years.

I don't believe it's due to a sudden dearth of talent. I think it's bad management. And I don't think it's a coincidence that things drifted in this direction right around the same period when Hollywood really latched onto comic-book movies as an action staple. I suspect that if you shook-up the business end of comic publishing right now, the products would get a lot better.
posted by cribcage at 11:01 AM on June 23, 2011

Not to derail, but more stuff about Islam and cats:

1.) The story goes that once Mohammed had to go to prayer, but his cat was sleeping on one sleeve of his robe. He very carefully cut the sleeve off without waking the cat and went to prayer. The legend has it that when he came back, he stroked the cat three times, giving her seven lives and the ability to land on her feet at all times.

2.) One of Mohammed's friends and companions was called by a name (Abu Hurairah) that literally translates as "Father of the Kitten".

3.) There was a grammarian in 11th-century Cairo named Ibn Babshad who was eating with some friends on the roof of a mosque when a cat came by and begged for some food. They gave it some, and it disappeared, only to return a minute later. This happened a few times until they decided to follow the cat, at which point they discovered it had been taking the food and giving it to another nearby cat that was old and blind and couldn't hunt for itself.

On seeing this, Ibn Babshad was so moved that he immediately sold all of his belongings and gave the money to the poor, living in poverty himself until his death.

I'm not actually Muslim myself...I just like history and stories about people being nice to cats.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 11:15 AM on June 23, 2011 [17 favorites]

Conservatives should be thrilled. George and Martha Kent's sham adoption of this illegal immigrant fabricated solely to get young Kal-El (sounds like one o' them there mooslim names) into the fine Kansas creationism-teaching public school system, is finally receiving its due attention. I can't wait for the issue where the government tries him as an enemy combatant before deciding on either deportation or extraordinary rendition where the CIA tortures him with green Kryptonite.
posted by prepmonkey at 12:35 PM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

The only thing more ponderous than a comic book trying to tackle political issues is someone using a straw man to tackle political issues. Let's go back to the cat stories.
posted by Etrigan at 1:10 PM on June 23, 2011

Very strong superhero rescues cat from tree? Opening of The Incredibles movie (Disney/Pixar, i.e. not Warner Bros), anyone? Book nixed for unintentional plagiarism? Just speculating.
posted by Hogshead at 1:10 PM on June 23, 2011

In case anyone was wondering if Mr. Bad Example's third story about Ibn Babshad and the cat is one of those cute Internet stories too good to be true, it appears in Ibn Khallikan's Deaths of Eminent Men and History of the Sons of the Epoch, a biographical dictionary of great Muslims written in the 13th century. Here is the relevant page from the 1843 English translation.
posted by Sangermaine at 1:15 PM on June 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

Book nixed for unintentional plagiarism?

"Rescuing cat from tree" is an old, old cliche; it's one of the most stereotypical "good guy" acts, like helping a little old lady cross the street. The Incredibles used it precisely because it's so hokey and corny, which actually adds to the point claimed for DC, though I don't buy that theory at all.
posted by Sangermaine at 1:20 PM on June 23, 2011

Didn't they recently have a bunch of issues where Superman walks across America (to prove some kind of point...I think)? But all along kittens were the problem?
posted by tumid dahlia at 4:00 PM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Anyone paying attention to DC the past few years should have no problem believing the current editors are far more afraid of not looking sufficiently XTREME EDGY SERIOUS KEWL than they are afraid of looking anti-American. posted by straight at 10:21 AM on 6/23

Spot on. Especially given the whole crossover with The 99 (Islamic team) that already happened. I know it sounds mental to think DC would be that batshit, but that's seriously where they are at the moment.

There's ongoing and new crossover events at the moment (Brightest Day, Flashpoint), and they've said they're going to reboot EVERYTHING later this year. Amazing way to kill any investment in the current storylines.
posted by MattWPBS at 4:02 PM on June 23, 2011

People always complain that Superman is boring and irrelevant, so what does DC do? They pull a story that sounds interesting and relevant. Good job!

I love the 'Superman as beacon of tolerance' idea. He works because he is an icon, and icons should do stuff like this.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 4:12 PM on June 23, 2011

Seriously, there's already been Superman and other DC heroes working with an entire TEAM of Islamic superheros. JLA / The 99:

That's at least partly why a group of execs freaking out after over analysing the appearance of a kitten makes a certain degree of sense. DC really is that much of a Bizzaro world at the mo.
posted by MattWPBS at 4:55 PM on June 23, 2011

I think the bigger issue is the absolute Arabic fail on the intended cover. If the guy's name is Sharif, shouldn't he have a sheen on his chest instead of seen?
posted by Gordafarin at 8:56 PM on June 23, 2011

POST SCRIPT: Issue 713 features Superman saving a kitten.
posted by Legomancer at 6:48 AM on July 13, 2011

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