Sword of God: The Edge, editorial
I’ve had the notion of a Lebanese-American vigilante protagonist in mind for a long time, at least as long as from when I began working on Shahida in 2006. Long before that, my friend Lawrence and I had talked about a Muslim superhero named Saracen; he saw him as similar to Captain America, whereas I imagined him used curving, i.e. crescent-shaped energy – sometimes it was a sword, until I saw Rustam in Suicide Squad; sometimes it was more of a mage-ish image with him standing still and the energies looping around. It turned out too that there’s an old Marvel 80s-movie terrorist villain called Saracen, and I’d decided as well that Arab + Muslim was confounded a bit much. If I couldn’t shed light on that by re-examining the name “Saracen,” then I’d split it another way.
I’ll hold onto our protagonist’s birth religion for now; suffice to say that it’s one of the 17 acknowledged confessions of Lebanon, and that as a child immigrant to the U.S., he isn’t invested in it. When he says “God help me now,” in this story, it’s the same colloquial use that any English speaker might use.
And yes, people, you’ll find out his name and stuff too. To get a bit down that road, it might have been a good idea for one of the gormless teens to deliver a title drop for the super-name, as “Sword of God,” saif alllah, is what people have taken to calling him given a number of activities of this sort he’s been carrying out (none directly confronting the FBI or Homeland Security before this, though).
It’s a thing in my stories that super-powered public actors get quickly named by either grassroots or media means, and that the ones who really feel strongly about what they want to be called have to take forceful steps to make sure of it. I’ll have some fun with characters saddled with annoying names; the Bandit in One Plus One is a good example although after 30 years, he’s over it.
Anyway, back to this story, once I’d pounded out a bunch of preliminary scripts for One Plus One, I had some confidence I could do these things. Then I began the series of vigilante posts here at the blog, framed as a dialogue with Steve Long. It is, I hope, interesting to you that before doing that series, I’d decided the whole grim-vigilante thing was at most a played-out historical artifact, and at worst, broken and stupid from the start. And although my views of the political stupidity and sometimes vileness embedded in most of those characters haven’t changed (and struck great sparks with Steve’s views), I realized that decision was premature. Just as I’d thought after a few months blogging (with this post to be exact) that maybe there’s a little life left in the ol’ superhero girl yet, now I was thinking, h’m, maybe the best thing to do with my critique of grim-vigilante is to write it my way.
I’ll leave you with my purported insights thereof: that crime-fighting is the dumb part of the concept. No one can stop muggings and assaults in any systemic way, or foil bank robberies (and why bother), or “fight crime.” And that crime, in the sense of breaking codified laws, is a broken concept anyway; most laws are bullshit, because the police-and-courts enforce something, i.e., a range of things, that only partly or barely overlaps with what’s on the books.
I get the part about dressing up like a gigantic bat and assaulting people of one’s choosing. But why assume that, if those people aren’t C*5 (card-carrying criminals from central casting), our guy would be making a bad choice? What if I think he has a damn good point? What group of people or set of social priorities will he or she target, for whom I’d say, “yowch, that’s bad-ass,” but also, “you know, they had it coming.”
And that snapped together real fast.
Next comics: One Plus One, Two, p. 2 (October 6)
Next column: Context! (October 9)