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Tuesday, July 26, 2005 

LA Times fawns over "The First Genuine Middle Eastern Super Heroes."

I'd heard something about this, which could very easily be, or contain, propaganda. The ultra-establishment Los Angeles Times (via the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette) reports on a publishing company called "AK" from Cairo, that publishes comics with titles like "Jalila, Savior of the City of All Faiths" and "The Lone Warrior, Rakan."

The very ambiguous article says in it:
"The heroes are purposely crafted to be vague as to their religious faith, and they live a futuristic vision of the Mideast where national boundaries have been blurred and harmony is threatened by monsters, not intractable religious rivalries."
Now of course, is this telling much? So as a result, I don't know if those monsters they speak of are meant to be analogies for anyone whose views they disagree with/despise.
"The comics have made a footprint in the Mideast – they are now handed out to kids on every flight of Egypt Air and they have replaced Spider-Man on bubble-gum wrappers in the region. But now AK Comics has its eye on the U.S. market, and so a trip to Comic-Con in San Diego was a must.

“It would be a moral victory to be here,” said Marwan El-Nashar, the company’s managing director. Still, a passing conventioneer who was also a U.S. Marine did a double-take at the booth’s sign. “I thought we were the only heroes in the Middle East,” he told the AK team."
I'd have to agree with the US Marine on this one, because I doubt that the characters in the books are as heroic as the publishers, and even the LA Times, would like us to think.

Aside from that, notice the part about "moral victories" that the company's director speaks of. It's not exactly that. Far from it. For people like that, being able to maintain a presence in a lot of these kind of events is something that comes as a victory to them simply for the fact that they want to muscle in on anything where they can gain "representation" whether they're deserving of it or not. Or, they hope to sell as much propaganda as they possibly can.

Now, here's something that certainly casts a shadow of doubt over the sincerity of the convention as a whole:
The convention has become many things to many fans and veered wide enough to include a performance by Tenacious D, the ribald comedy-rock duo that features actor Jack Black. Among the songs about sex and dragon-slaying was the crowd-pleasing political statement of “The Government Sucks.”
So in other words, politics taints the show, is that it? No wait, that's not what's wrong here. What is wrong here is that they say "crowd-pleasing" for the song that was played.

If this is what the convention was all about, and which the newspaper ever so conviniently glosses over, then I can't say that I'm so eager to pay them a visit.
"A more serious note was the panel assembled by Warner Bros. films to debut a trailer for the film “V for Vendetta.” The panel answered questions about the adaptation of a comic that depicts a flamboyant terrorist in England who uses explosives and the subway system to wage war on the government. The book was written in the 1980s and has more to do with Orwell than Osama bin Laden, but the similarities to the recent London bombings gave pause to some."
Somehow, I can only wonder if the movie's been written as a contemporary political statement. With movies like Spielberg's take on War of the Worlds littering up theaters today, is it any wonder that we have to approach them with caution?
AK Comics, the Cairo venture, thinks kids in the Mideast need more caped heroes and fewer terrorist tales. The company founder and comics’ creator, Ayman Kandeel, is a 36-year-old economics professor at Cairo University who grew up in Egypt in the late 1970s searching out the hard-to-get Batman comics from the United States. The simple messages of those stories stuck with Kandeel.

“Yes, I do think the entertainment created for young people says a lot about a culture,” Kandeel said. “These are stories of optimism and positive messages about what we can all be.”
I wouldn't be fooled too easily by what this Kandeel is saying. There are many Arab propagandists who can talk out of both sides of their mouth, and given how superficial this article is, it's always possible that here too, could be the case.

And if they really do give out comics like these to kids on Egyptian air flights, could it be that it's because they're some kind of war/hate propaganda, which this article doesn't make clear?

For the record, such books that AK is publishing aren't the first genuine middle eastern superheroes. Michael Netzer once wrote a comic in Hebrew called "Uri-On" in 1987 when he moved to Israel to take up residence here at the time (as far as I know, he still does), and then, there's also Marvel's own Sabra, Ruth Bat-Seraph. To say "genuine" is just a self-justificatory statement.

Update: on a semi-related note, here's an old article from the Jewish World Review that talks about a propaganda item published by the left-wing reporter/illustrator Joe Sacco that was fawned over in some of the wider medium. As told here, the actual book by Sacco is truly disgusting.

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