Wednesday, January 05, 2011

The hysterics bash Batman's Parisian partner

A friend sent a link to this story about hostile reviews of the new comic character, the Batman de Paris, Nightrunner. It seems that Nightrunner is a Muslim kid of Algerian background, and some people find this inherently wrong. Andy Khouri at takes this attitude on.
Green's hideous remarks convey incredulity as to the crime fighting qualifications of Muslims, but Huston doubles down on the disgust and writes that a Muslim hero is patently ludicrous because Muslims are apparently congenitally terrorists. this age of international Muslim terrorism assaulting the whole world, Batman's readers will be confused by what is really going on in the world. Through it all DC makes a Muslim in France a hero when French Muslims are at the center of some of the worst violence in the country's recent memory.

The true cause of the riots and violence between Frenchmen of European stock and that of immigrant Muslim stock is glossed over as if it doesn't even exist. DC Comics makes the whole problem as simplistic as mere racism as if that is all there is to it ignoring the fact that Islam is the single most important factor in the strife.

Huston refers to the civil unrest France saw in late 2005, when a state of emergency was declared after Muslim youths began rioting in Paris and other cities, burning thousands of cars and several buildings. Huston, Green and other bigots in the conservative media read the tragic situation as an expression of nefarious Islamic purpose, but most commentators and reporters who followed the event described a matter having more to do with social inequality than religion. As is the case in America, where there have also been riots, the economic and social underclass of France is populated largely by minorities and immigrants, and many of those immigrants are Muslims.

Contrary to Huston's claims that DC whitewashed (heh) the sociopolitical realities of France, the story of Nightrunner -- which we strongly suspect Huston didn't actually read [my emphasis -- SM] -- begins in the Clichy-sous-Bois area of Paris, accurately depicted by writer Kyle Higgins and artist Trevor McCarthy as a hotbed of immigrant frustration. The young Bilal Asselah tells us he can't remember a time when people weren't rioting and setting fires, but his pious Muslim mother has obviously kept the boy on the straight and narrow path. Unfortunately, 16-year-old Bilal and his best friend accidentally run afoul of some police officers who confuse the young men for rioters, and Bilal ends up in the hospital. His mother manages to talk Bilal down from the ledge of revenge, but his friend is not satisfied and is killed by French cops after burning down a police station. It's this event that opens Bilal's eyes to the terrible cycle of violence his mother had tried to protect him from, and he weeps.

As he grows older, Bilal's instincts are to take some kind of action, but he can't think of what to do that won't cause more violence in his community. Instead, he teaches himself parkour, which beyond calming him down also gives the neighborhood something to talk about besides riots. But when a series of high profile murders appears ready to claim an inspirational Muslim musician and ignite the ghetto once again, Bilal puts on a mask and sets out to stop the unthinkable from happening.

What Huston calls "PCism run amok," we in the business call an awesome superhero origin story about adversity and character. What's more, it is not at all incongruous with reality, as Huston claims. Like a lot of young men in France, Bilal Asselah was one pissed off Muslim. His best friend burned down a building! He's witnessed firsthand what the cycle of prejudice and violence can do to his city, but rather than give in to hate and fear, he's literally rising above it -- just as Batman swore to make his city safer for innocent people and just as Spider-Man swore to use his abilities for good.

Khouri's guess that Huston didn't actually read the comic corresponds with my sense of reality.

Image: "It's my turn." Read the article for how this scene fits into the Nightrunner origin story.

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