With the Ms. Marvel show on Disney+ bringing Kamala Khan to new audiences worldwide (and hopefully encouraging them to check out her comics), it has been a landmark moment for Muslim, Pakistani, and South Asian representation in popular media. Muslim and South Asian superheroes remain scarce across the landscape; Ms. Marvel is a rarity for having her own headlining comic and TV series. But while Kamala is an incredible character that deserves all the recognition and love, she can’t be the only South Asian and Muslim character to carry the weight of that representation. There are billions of South Asians and Muslims, worldwide after all!
While more South Asian and Muslim characters should be made in superhero media generally, there are some who already exist and have made waves, even while not having their own headlining series like Kamala Khan. Some have been core cast members in onscreen media already, and may be getting that treatment soon as well. Here are 10 Muslim and South Asian superhero characters that you should be aware of, and who will hopefully have more stories in the realms of comics, TV, film, games, and beyond — with more Muslim and South Asian creators crafting their adventures.
Zari Tarazi of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow (both 1.0 and 2.0)
Created by Phil Klemmer and Marc Guggenheim and played by Iranian-American and Muslim actress Tala Ashe, Zari Tarazi (or Tomaz, her apparent alias) was loosely based on the DC Comics character Adrianna Tomaz/Isis. But she always distinctly stood out, with the Legends writers and Ashe creating a tremendous and fantastic lead that could be considered nearly wholly original. Zari is an Iranian-American and Muslim hacktivist from a dystopic future where ARGUS has banned religion and murdered her brother Behrad and presumably her parents, and she will stop at nothing to change her future. When she finds her family amulet that gives her wind powers and meets up with the time-travelling Legends, she winds up on an adventure and goes on a journey of self-discovery while saving countless innocents through time. We see her fasting for Ramadan and refusing to drink alcohol, in casual but meaningful scenes that show her sincere devoutness.
Eventually she does succeed in changing the future and preserving her brother’s life, but at a cost to her own existence in the timeline: she’s replaced with a Zari who never had to face hardship, and in fact gained widespread media success. Initially appearing shallow, “Zari 2.0” soon starts to discover she has more in common with the previous Zari than viewers might have expected as she becomes a Legends team member. Witty, smart, brave, and caring, Zari in both her versions is an absolute standout character, providing wonderful and meaningful representation for Muslims and West Asian/Middle Eastern people everywhere. Post-Legends of Tomorrow, Zari will continue to stand out and live on, and hopefully will enter the comics and other media and continue as she deserves to. (Netflix)
Behrad Tarazi of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow
Behrad is also loosely based on a comics character: Amon Tomaz, the brother of Adrianna. But on Legends of Tomorrow, Behrad ended up standing out completely on his own, much like his older sister Zari. Played to wonderful effect by Iranian-American actor Shayan Sobhian, Behrad is a consistent delight of a character. He has a sincerely joyous disposition, often breaks out into song to cheer up his friends with his fantastic guitar skills (that Sobhian has in real life), and casually carries his faith with him through his adventures with the Legends. But we also found more depth to him as we uncovered what it was like for him growing up with a famous sister. What a delightful surprise it was in season four of Legends that we would have both Tarazi siblings, and in season five that Sobhian would be a series regular along with Tala. The Tarazi siblings are a landmark in Muslim representation in superhero TV, and I hope we get Behrad along with Zari in other media and beyond. (Netflix)
Violet Harper/Halo of Young Justice
Created in the comics by Mike W. Barr and Jim Aparo, with the Young Justice version created by Greg Weisman and Brandon Vietti, Violet is a unique case on this list. Voiced by Muslim and Pakistani-American actress Zehra Fazal, they are the result of the soul of a Mother Box entering the body of a murdered girl from Qurac (a fictional Middle Eastern country) named Gabrielle Daou. (A rather upsetting origin, to say the least.) The being names themselves “Violet Harper” after they’re taken in by the Team, and even though they don’t initially consider themselves Muslim, they don’t want to take off Gabrielle’s hijab. Eventually, once Violet speaks with Gabrielle’s mother in a beautifully meaningful conversation about what belief in Islam entails, they realise they have genuine faith in Allah and His messenger, and start more actively incorporating Islam. For this development, the show’s creators consulted with the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), and the results are beautiful. It’s also at this point they realise they’re non-binary, as well as queer, showing a groundbreaking instance of a Muslim person proudly claiming the intersection of those marginalised identities. There’s nothing that should contradict them. In this, Halo is a standout example of rediscovering one’s faith, and using it to bolster their resolve in their heroism (just like Kamala Khan, by the way). But that’s not the only great Muslim representation in Young Justice… (HBO Max)
Khalid Nassour/Doctor Fate of Young Justice and DC Comics
Created by Paul Levitz and Sonny Liew, Khalid Nassour is the current mantle bearer of “Dr. Fate” after his great uncle Kent Nelson, the first Doctor Fate. The son of Egyptian Muslim Muhammad Nassour and his wife Elizabeth Nassour, Khalid is an Egyptian-American-Muslim medical student who soon finds himself drawn to the helmet of Nabu, and takes up the mantle. He is the first ever Muslim DC character to have his own (brief) headlining comic series, and is a recurring member of Justice League Dark, delving further into the mysticism of the DC Universe. There might seem to be many contradictions in what he does, as the magic he practices may contradict teachings in both Islam and science, but Young Justice addresses this directly in his featured episode, where he is voiced by Muslim and Pakistani actor Usman Ally. In an absolutely stunning scene scripted by Muslim writer Nida Chowdhry, Khalid faces his insecurities regarding these contradictions head on, resulting in a visual integration of self as he prays, and asserts his call to heroism, mysticism, science, and Islam as his “Jihad” (meaning his determined effort to do good), and it’s gratifying to hear that word reclaimed as a good in such a popular show. Khalid Nassour is another groundbreaking character, and he deserves more stories in a Young Justice season five (renew it already please HBO Max!), comics, and other media far into the future. (HBO Max)
Delphis of Young Justice
Created in the comics by Jay Scott Pike, and reimagined as Indian by the creators of Young Justice and voiced by Indian-American actress Tiya Sircar, Delphis is a supporting character who still makes an impression. Kidnapped by villains and saved by Kaldur’ahm/Aquaman, she finds out that she’s a metahuman with powers alike to Atlanteans, and subsequently lives there when Kaldur offers her refuge. She endured great hardships on her surface life in Mumbai, and embraces her new home in Atlantis while becoming a hero alongside Kaldur, Lagoon Boy, and their allies. It seems like there’s more story to her, and again, we’ll hopefully see it explored in Young Justice season five.(HBO Max)
Summer Zahid/Black Ice of DC Comics’ Teen Titans Academy
Teen Titans Academy creators Tim Sheridan and Rafa Sandoval brought us Pakistani-American and Muslim teen Summer Zahid, an absolute gem of a character and one of the absolute best of the new DC generation. Having received strange ice powers that cause her to take an icy black form when she uses them, Summer finds refuge at the newly established Teen Titans Academy, where she makes fast friends with virtually everyone there. She’s vivacious, bright, loves adventure, and proudly wears her Muslim faith with her hijab, only taking it off when she must use her Black Ice form. She’s also a natural leader, rallying the team against Gorilla Grodd when they unexpectedly face him while on summer vacation. There’s so much to love about Summer, and even though Teen Titans Academy has come to an end for now, her potential for stories in DC Comics and onscreen media is limitless.
Kiran Singh/Solstice of DC Comics’ Teen Titans
Created by J.T. Krul and Nicola Scott, Kiran is an Indian superhero from Delhi, the daughter of archaeologists Vijay and Rani Singh, who was part of the Teen Titans. She has the ability to manipulate light and create energy blasts from it, as well as use it for flight. Interestingly, in the post-Flashpoint universe (aka the New 52) she had a “black smoke” form whenever she used her abilities. Unfortunately, she’s not appeared as much in the comics recently, but there’s always room for a comeback. I also find it rather fascinating that both she and Summer Zahid have seemingly parallel powers (warm light vs. cold ice) and similar forms when they use their powers to their full potential. We need a Desi team-up with these two, please, DC!
Meena Dhawan/Fast Track of The Flash
Created by Joshua Williamson and Neil Googe, and making her live-action debut in The Flash TV show portrayed by queer Pakistani-Bengali-American and Muslim actress Kausar Mohammed, Dr. Dhawan has often been a chaotic neutral in her storylines with the Flash and the Speed Force, often leaning towards the heroic side. In the 2016 comics storyline where she debuted, she was one of many new speedsters gifted with Speed Force energy, and helped Barry Allen train the new generation of speedsters. However, she later comes under the control of Grodd before the Flash frees her, and proceeds with research on the Speed Force. On the TV show, she gains access to the Speed Force as part of her research into finding a way to use it for speed healing, and sharing that with the masses. The Negative Speed Force nearly overwhelms her, but with the help of the Flash and his allies, she’s able to pull through. Hopefully in more stories on the TV show and in comics, she’ll be able to do some more saving on her own, and we’ll see the full range of what this awesome speedster can do. (The CW, Netflix)
Simon Baz/Green Lantern
A Lebanese and Muslim-American born and raised in Dearborn, Michigan, Simon Baz is one of the latest of the several Green Lanterns to hail from Earth, but the first Muslim and West Asian person to do so. Created by Geoff Johns and Doug Mahnke, Baz made his debut in 2011 in a very brash way. He was a troubled and desperate character hit by the 2008 financial crisis, ultimately having him resort to stealing cars and selling them for parts. When he accidentally stole a car filled with explosives, he was arrested on suspicion of being a terrorist due to his background, and nearly sent to Guantanamo Bay. It was at this moment the Green Lantern ring chose him, and he became a protector of the universe. The ring took mercy on this troubled soul, giving him a second chance, and he rededicated himself to doing good with it. Among the Green Lanterns, Simon curiously has the extremely rare “Emerald Sight” ability that allows him to receive glimpses of the far future. Working with his partner Green Lantern Jessica Cruz, Simon now fights to protect the innocent. It’s been rumoured that he’ll appear in the upcoming Green Lantern TV series on HBO Max, and it will hopefully be a landmark to have a Muslim Lebanese-American in such a high-profile role. No matter what though, Simon will have a bright future in the DC Universe.
Dr. Faiza Hussain/Excalibur of Marvel Comics
Created by Paul Cornell and Leonard Kirk, with creative input from Muslims Mona Bayoumi, Safiya Sayed Baharun, Farida Patel, and Sohere Roked, Dr. Faiza Hussain is a Pakistani-British Muslim medical doctor who first appeared in 2008 Marvel comics. Like her fellow Pakistani-Muslim Kamala across the pond, she’s a fangirl of superheroes, and soon finds herself with superpowers once the Skrull Invasion occurs and she is hit by one of their weapons. Instead of being harmed, she finds she has the ability to manipulate living organisms. After she and other heroes defeated the Skrulls, she becomes the wielder of the legendary sword Excalibur, and becomes Black Knight’s squire. Brown and Muslim kids growing up in Western countries often wish we could be part of the legendary stories of those countries. While we should of course have more stories and adventures inspired directly by our heritage, there’s room for both, as Dr. Faiza’s adventures and amazing books like Stone Sword Table make clear. Dr. Faiza is a healer, a warrior, and an all-around badass that happens to be South Asian and Muslim, and it would be so gratifying to see her in more comics and onscreen media in the Marvel Universe. (Captain Britain, MI:13 #1 comics)
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