With Marvel’s Muslim superhero Ms Marvel hitting the small screen via Disney+ later this year (and due to have a big screen outing in big-budget adventure The Marvels soon), it begs the question as to which will be the next Arab and Muslim superheroes that will make the leap from comic books onto the big screen.
Actually, the answer is quite simple. Dwayne Johnson’s upcoming superhero romp Black Adam, set in the DC Extended Universe and due for release in July, 2022!
Originally an archenemy of clean-cut hero Captain Marvel (who later became Shazam) back in the 1940s, the comic book character has turned heroic over the years, though remains a brooding and dark character. The origin story has changed several times, and when the character was re-introduced in to the DC comic universe in1994 it was revealed he was born in 1279BC as Teth-Adam, the son of ancient Egyptian Pharaoh Ramesses II, and after having been given powers acts as Egypt’s champion of many centuries.
Dwayne Johnson has been linked with the role for many years and – typically for the ever-excellent Johnson – entered into a serious fitness campaign to prepare to play the complex character. For the film, Black Adam is an anti-hero from Khandaq (a fictional country located in the Middle East between Egypt and Israel on the northern part of the Sinai Peninsula) has been imprisoned for 5,000 years. He will become a rival for superhero Shazam, and shares his powers from the ancient wizard of the same name. Also featured in the film will be Atom Smasher, Hawkman and Cyclone.
More importantly, the film also has a key role for superhero Isis, a university professor and resistance fighter in Kahndaq, being played by Sarah Shahi (born Aahoo Jahansouzshahi), whose father was from Iran and mother part Iranian and part Spanish. The character has roots in Egyptian mythology, first appearing in 1975 television series The Secrets of Isis starring Joanna Cameron as Andrea Thomas, a high school science teacher who receives powers after finding an Egyptian amulet at an archaeological dig and went on to feature in comic books in the late 1970s.
The character was re-introduced to the DC universe in 2006 as an Egyptian woman named Adrianna Tomaz who becomes part of the Shazam family after holding the Amulet of Isis and is instilled with the powers of a goddess. In the comics she can fly, is totally bulletproof and with superior reflexes and agility, putting her on a level footing with Wonder Woman.
Black Adam also includes Hawkman (played by Aldis Hodge) an archaeologist who is the reincarnation of an Egyptian prince and has the power of flight through his metal wings. The character has featured in DC comics since 1940 – and seen several origin stories through the years – and also featured on television in shows such as Smallville and Legends of Tomorrow. Black Adam marks his big screen debut.
Also featuring in Black Adam is Doctor Fate, a character has appeared as the name of multiple superheroes in DC C comics, with the original version first appearing back in 1940. The most recent comic book incarnation has seen Doctor Fate as Egyptian-American medical student Khalid Nassour who gets his powers from Egyptian artefacts. The film, though, reverts to the first version of Doctor Fate, archaeologist Kent Nelson, who is given the magical Helmet of Fate, and will be played by Pierce Brosnan.
Slightly more left-field is Gilgamesh, one of the key figures in Marvel comic book series The Eternals. Born in the Neolithic age and around 3000BC, he became Gilgamesh (aka The Forgotten One), king of Uruk in Sumeria (modern-day Iraq) and is part of an immortal alien race who have secretly lived on Earth for thousands of years. The comic book series has been adapted into a film - titled just Eternals - directed by Oscar-winner Chloe Zhao and starring Angelina Jolie, Richard Madden and Salma Hayek and set to be released at the end of 2021. For the film, though, Gilgamesh – the strongest of the Eternals - is being played by Korean star Don Lee (who starred in Train to Busan).
But, of course, there are others characters worthy of attention. Other Arab superheroes that might make the move to the big screen include:
Dust aka Sooraya Qadir. Sooraya Qadir is an Afghani Muslim superhero who discovers her mutant power (to turn into a sand-like substance) when a slave trader tries to take off her niqab. She featured in Marvel's X-Men series, and when first meets the rest of the X-Men team, she introduces herself with the Arabic word for dust, "Turaab", which goes on to become her codename. She also chooses to fight in traditional modest clothing, although it causes rifts with some other X-Men.
M aka Monet Yvette Clarisse Maria Therese St. Croix. She preceded Sooraya in the X-Men series and was first introduced in 1994 as the first Muslim mutant. Born in Sarajevo to wealthy Monegasque Cartier St. Croix and his wife Jamila, heir to ancient Algerian royalty. Monet St. Croix is a mutant with a variety of superhuman powers, such as super strength, invulnerability, dexterity, speed, a healing factor, a photographic memory, the ability to levitate and fly, and telepathic powers. While Monet was a member of X-Factor it was revealed that she was Muslim by having Monet defend her religious upbringing at an anti-Muslim protest similar to the Ground Zero mosque protests that occurred in2010. The character did actually appear on the small screen in TV film Generation X, played by US actress Amarilis, who had appeared in TV series Sweet Valley High.
Green Lantern Simon Baz. The Lebanese-American member of the Green Lantern Corps became a Green Lantern after trying to save lives by driving a car he had stolen into an abandoned factory after realising the vehicle had been filled with explosives. Upon becoming a member of the Justice League, his criminal charges are dropped and his innocence publicly declared.
Kismet. The very first Muslim superhero, this Algerian superhero first appeared in Bomber Comics 1 in 1944 as an agent of the Allies and powerful enemy of Axis powers, fighting bad guys in the South of France. Bare-chested and sporting a fez that that has a “V” Victory on it, he favoured cliched phrases such as “By the star of Islam”. He favoured unarmed combat skills and had some power foresee the future.
Nightrunner aka Bilal Asselah. A French-Algerian raised by his single mother on the outskirts of Paris who trains in parkour and becomes a masked vigilante after being beaten by police after being caught up in protests. Aiming to help all he becomes a symbol without racial or religious bias, bringing justice to Clichy-sous-Bois and even helping his idol Batman taking down a child-slavery ring, later becoming France’s representative of Batman Incorporated.
Arabian Knight. The character has appeared twice in Marvel comic books. The first incarnation in 1981 was Abdul Qamar, the descendant of a legendary Muslim hero, who found his ancestor’s magical equipment inside a tomb and fought off demons with the help of the Hulk. The next Arabian Knight (2006) was Navid Hashim, who dresses in modern military clothing (though it happens to be indestructible), fights with a scimitar and has use of a magic carpet.
Iron Butterfly aka Kahina Eskandari. A Palestinian Muslim who looked for vengeance when her parents were killed. Originally created by Milestone Comics and later integrated into the DC Universe, she is a field commander of the Shadow Cabinet, with the power to move and shape metallic objects. Her superhero name Iron Butterfly comes from the medieval style plate armour she wears into battle, which comes with huge angel wings that allow her to fly by levitating herself.
Jetstream aka Haroum ibn Sallah al-Rashid. A Moroccan mutant hero, born in the Rif Mountains, he appears in Marvel Comics Universe and was part of a group known as the Hellions, a trainee group of mutants set up by the White Queen and the Hellfire Club to rival the New Mutants, though went on to meet a sticky end. He could generate thermo-chemical energy, accompanied by plasma (a super-heated state of matter), and release it through his skin.
Buraaq aka Yusuf Abdullah. Created by brothers Adil and Kamil Imitaz in 2011 to tackle the negative stereotypes of Muslims. After Yusef’s parents are killed in a hate crime he goes into the desert to grieve where he is knocked out by a storm and meteor shower. When he wakes, he has gained superpowers and is able to fly, has super strength and the ability to control the elements. He rediscovers his identity and reconnects with God and his Muslim faith. As superhero Buraaq, he helps others and fights those who oppose humanity, justice and tolerance. Buraaq is set to star in an upcoming animated film.
Qahera: Cairo’s Superhero. Qahera is a feminist superhero created by 22-year-old art student Deena Mohamed in a series of webcomics. The character turned into a hijab-clad viral phenomenon, dealing with issues such as sexual assault and misogyny. Qahera, whose name means “Cairo” as well as “conqueror” or “vanquisher” in Arabic, is not a superhero to mess with. She hates being sexually harassed, she often wears a veil and battles misogyny with a sword, fighting abilities and a quick and quick wit.
Silver Scorpion aka Bashir Bari. Based on the ideas of a group of disabled students from Syria and America, Silver Scorpion becomes the alter-ego of a Muslim teenager named Bashir Bari. After losing his legs in an accident and later witnessing the murder of a mysterious metalsmith, he is chosen to become the guardian of a power that lets him manipulate metal with his mind. Launched in Arabic and in English in 2011, the comic series also features other superheroes that are disabled or able-bodied, coming together to fight an evil force that threatens their world. The comic shows that disabled people have power not in spite of their disabilities, but because of them.
Emara. The creation of director and comic artist, Fatma Almheiri, Emara is a female superhero who fights crime on the streets of the UAE. In appearance, Emara is modestly dressed, in long trousers, gloves, a tunic and a cloak. Fatma Almheiri shares the adventures of Emara on Instagram and previously set about working on an animated series in 2016.
Amulet aka Fadi Fadlalah. A Lebanese-American hailing from Dearborn, Michigan,Amulet was introduced as a new character in comic Magnificent Ms. Marvel#13, the brainchild of Magnificent Ms. Marvel writer Saladin Ahmed and Jordanian-American illustrator Sara Al-Fageeh, Amulet is a nerdy hero, and for the character’s design, Al-Fageeh wanted to pay homage to his Arabian roots by drawing inspiration from the blue and white colours of ’Nazar’, the ubiquitous Middle Eastern symbol that protects wearers from the evil eye.
The 99. The 99 are a team of Muslim superheroes created by Naif Al-Mutawa in Kuwait in 2006. The number 99 represents the 99 virtues of Allah, with the team’s powers, coming from the 99 gemstones that have absorbed the wisdom and power from books from the House of Wisdom, taken during the siege of Baghdad in 1258. Despite the title, there are only a dozen team members, teenagers and adults from around the world, with the characters also featuring in a six-issue crossover story with DC Comics’ The Justice League. Team members included Noora the Light (aka Dana Ibrahim) from the UAE; Jabbar the Powerful (aka Nawaf Al-Bilali) from Saudi Arabia; Batina the Hidden (aka Rola Hadramy) from Yemen and Samda the Invulnerable (aka Aisha Mokhtar) from Libya.
Muslim comic superheroes include:
Josiah X aka Josiah Al-Hajj Saddiq. His father – like Captain America - was tested with the supersoldier serum, but in a trial with only African-American test subjects. Isaiah was one of few who survived the testing and his DNA later used to create new supersoldier, Josiah Bradley.He changes his name to Josiah X and travels to Africa in search of his identity and discovers the Islamic faith. Before returning to America, he makes the holy pilgrimage and becomes a Muslim Minister
Monica Chang. French-Algerian and a devout Muslim, Agent Monica Chang was the chief of SHIELD’s Artificial Intelligence division and formerly married to SHIELD boss Nick Fury. In one comic book timeline she becomes the second character to use the Black Widow codename and later goes on to become director of SHIELD.
Dr Faiza Hussain. She is a London-based Muslim doctor who gains the ability to control any living organism after being hit by a Skrull laser weapon during an invasion. She later becomes the wielder of the legendary sword Excalibur when she briefly becomes Captain Britain when the original Captain Britain, Brian Braddock, was afraid he would die in battle.