To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West — know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist. – US President Barack Obama, Inaugural Address
In Liquid Comics (originally Virgin Comics), Gotham Chopra, Sharad Devarajan, and Suresh Seetharaman have created a significant line of comics in just a few short years. The majority of Liquid's titles are driven by Indian culture, such as Devi and The Sadhu (which is confirmed for a film starring comic book fan Nicholas Cage). They are the folks who brought you Jenna Jameson's Shadow Hunter (bet you didn't know she had a night job; we'll leave the links to her day job to some other blog), John Woo's 7 Brothers (a remix of the oldest known Chinese superhero story about 10 brothers), and Deepak Chopra Presents Ganesha (seeing the last panel without having read a word wants to make me cry).
American businessman and philanthropist Jay T. Snyder is involved with many humanitarian and progressive organizations, including the UN, the William J. Clinton Foundation, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the Humpty Dumpty Institute (no, I'm not making that name up). He's someone who can put his money where his mouth is.
Snyder launched the Open Hands Initiative (also on Facebook), in reference to the Spider-Man guest star's quotation above. The OHI project is dedicated "to fostering collaboration and dialogue" in conjunction with its aim "to be a catalyst for finding common ground between America and the Arab and Muslim world."
OHI launched its first collaboration program August 1, 2010, in Damascus, Syria. A group of disabled young Americans were flown to Damascus to meet their Syrian peers, and together created a unique comic book character. The group's challenges vary significantly: blind, deaf, using wheelchairs, Down syndrome, autism, and cognitive disabilities. According to the story on NPR:
"The opening question we asked the kids was if you could have any superpower what would it be? I've asked that question in many different groups before and the typical answers are always the ones you'd expect — flying, reading minds, or being super strong," Devarajan said.
"The fascinating thing about this group was that I don't think I heard any one of those three," he said.
"Each of their ideas was so originally distinct, whether the Syrian kids or the U.S. kids," he said, adding that perhaps because of their disabilities, the young people think as individuals without being influenced by outsiders. One girl, for example, wanted to have the power to combine the energy of the moon and the sun.
Devarajan said it was noteworthy that none of the young people wanted the hero's power to be something that cured their disability.
None said they wanted their disabilities healed? Okay, that's inspiring. It means any general tendency to feel sorry for someone with a disability may not be shared by that person at all. (Terry Fox? Philippe Croizon? What's my excuse?) Even better? The kids learned that they're just like each other, share similar hopes and dreams, and that neither Americans nor Muslims are evil – or mutually exclusive.
Although his appearance isn't fully worked out, sketches released show a Muslim boy who lost his legs in a landmine accident. He eventually discovers he can control metal through some form of telekinesis and becomes the Silver Scorpion.
The Silver Scorpion is the first, but won't be the last. Devarajan said he "will be the first in a series of comics with international superheroes, and while one will have disabilities others will not," and almost all the characters being planned "are based on the seeds that were created by these kids together in this trip." The new group of superheroes will be in good company; THE 99 are just weeks away from their crossover release with the Justice League of America.
Fifty thousand copies (in Arabic) will be distributed throughout Syria and in the future throughout the Middle East. Keep your ever-lovin' browser pointed to the Open Hands and Liquid Comics sites – the comics will be released for free there in digital format.
Amazing what can happen when you get the adults out of the way.