Right-wing Complaints About Muslim Batman Bemuse French

In What's the Buzz by Olivia Snaije

By Olivia Snaije

The British Batman writer, David Hine, has invented a French superhero before the French could get to it. His name is Bilal Asselah aka “Nightrunner” and he was selected by Batman in the December issues of DC Comics Detective Comics Annual and Batman Annual to fight crime in Paris. Nightrunner is from the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, is a Parkour runner and a Muslim, of Algerian origin. The creation of this character has sparked an uproar among conservative right-wing bloggers in the US who are scandalized by the choice of a Muslim as a superhero but also as a Frenchman.

David Hine recently explained his decision to create Bilal Asselah as a character on Emma Houxbois’ blog:

“Rather than use the obvious choice of The Musketeer as the new French Batman, I wanted to come up with the kind of hero I would want to see in a comic book if I were French. The process of developing a story is complex and there are all kinds of things I looked at. The urban unrest and problems of the ethnic minorities under Sarkozy’s government dominate the news from France and it became inevitable that the hero should come from a French Algerian background. The Parkour element was maybe a little obvious, but it fitted very well with the concept of a hero from the streets. Clichy-Sous-Bois, as you point out, is the flashpoint for rioting in Paris, so again was the obvious location for Bilal.”

The French are rather bemused by the affair.

This is nothing new for extremist Americans, comments Radio France’s Washington correspondent, Fabienne Sintes. “Those who think that every Muslim in France spends their time burning cars…”

A few comments from bloggers in France are revealing:

“Why get enraged about a comic book character?”

“Bravo Mr. Hines, judging from the reactions, I might start to read comics, since yours is apparently so upsetting.”

“Is Batman a Christian? Or are Superman, Spiderman and Wonder Woman Christians for that matter?

About the Author

Olivia Snaije

Olivia Snaije is a journalist and editor based in Paris who writes about translation, literature, graphic novels, the Middle East, and multiculturalism. She is the author of three books and has contributed to newspapers and magazines including The Guardian, The Global Post, and The New York Times.