Middle East Heroes: Drawn to a Fair Future
Khan, Amil, New Statesman (1996)
As a female Arab nuclear scientist, Jalila is unique, but it's the flying and crime-fighting that really make her stand out from the crowd.
Since an invasion of Iraq was first proposed, western politicians and analysts have been prescribing how a future Middle East should look. Some say the region needs more freedom, others that its unruly people need controlling. What's been missing is an Arab vision for the future.
Europe and North America have a history of futur. Arab literature, on the other hand, has tended not to concern itself with distant possibilities. Until, that is, Egyptian-based AK Comics introduced a new world order guarded by Arab superheroes.
Three out of AK's four superhero comic characters live in the near future. Zein, a philosophy professor, is the last in an ancient line of pharaohs and lives in Origin City, which is much like Cairo. Jalila lives in the City of All Faiths, which resembles Jerusalem, and protects it from the radicals of the Zios Army and the United Liberation Force. Aya fights crime in Algeria, prowling her city in a catsuit and head-covering cape. All live in a Middle East recovering from a 55-year war between two unnamed powers.
Ayman Kandeel, who created the characters, says his aim is to depict a futuristic but realistic world. Muslims, Christians and Jews live together, facing the same threats from organised criminal gangs, evil robots and aliens. Black-clad soldiers massacring civilians do not discriminate between women in headscarves and those in T-shirts.
"In one year, ten or a hundred, it is inevitable--we will have peace and some form of harmony," he has said. …