From dissidents, to villains, to superheroes, how are Muslim characters written–and how does the public read them–in comic books today? This event explores the roles open to Muslim characters in serialized comics and graphic novels. The medium of serialized comics, commercialized in the twentieth century by mainstream comics publishers such as Marvel and DC, and epitomized by their respective superhero universes, has long been associated with a lack of racial and religious diversity, the sexualization of female characters, and a reader base that is stereotypically young, male, and white.
Minority characters were often limited to tokenized villains or sidekicks designed for comic relief. But the contemporary young Muslim female superhero Ms. Marvel symbolizes a comics landscape that is changing. In the contexts of the Gulf Wars, 9/11, the Arab Spring, the Palestinian conflict, ongoing civil unrest in the Middle East, and worldwide refugee migrant crises, writers and artists from the Muslim and Arab worlds, and others writing journalistically and historically about those locales, are at the forefront of graphic medium literary production.
Graphic novels and comics by and about Muslims and Arabs comprise a growing and distinctive narrative strain within comics studies—one that this event of comics and Muslim and Arab Studies artists and scholars seeks to investigate.