The Silver Scorpion Bridges Many Worlds
Liquid Comics announced the launch of a new comic book at the beginning of May. But this wasn’t just your average comic book. Beneath its mild-mannered cover lurked a comic book of unusual power and a mysterious past. OK, not that mysterious, but an intriguing past none the less. You see the Silver Scorpion isn’t just a superhero, he’s a superhero with a disability. And he isn’t just a superhero with a disability, he’s a superhero with a disability who was created out of an international collaboration.
In August 2010, Liquid Comics joined with the Open Hands Initiative in Syria to participate in the Youth Ability Summit that brought together American youths with disabilities with their counterparts in Syria. Across the cultural and language divides, this fantastic group of young people came together with comic book professionals and disability experts to create a superhero that reflected their shared experiences. Bashir is an Arabic teenager who suffers a tragic accident as a result of gang violence near his home. In the process of coming to terms with this he meets a mysterious mentor who gives Bashir his power of controlling metal.
The initiative was set up as a diplomatic tool to bring the youth of the West and the Middle East together. During a three day conference in Syria, this group of young people worked together and formed friendships that have continued. They overcame their differences and created a character that showed that, as Sarah Funes, one of the American teens, put it, “…no matter if you are in Damascus or Des Moines, at the end of the day, we all share the same hopes and dreams.” Disability experts talked about the universality of the disability experience and how, as Dr. Valerie Karr stated, “A dedication to the rights of people with disabilities is the most fundamental expression of shared values one can find.”
This is truly an inspirational group that have produced an artistic creation that may indeed help to bridge the diplomatic divide. But it also made me wonder about how disability had been portrayed in the past in comic books. What I found after doing some quick online research is that comics have actually been relatively progressive in their portrayal of people with disabilities when compared to other mediums like TV and film. There are quite a few characters with disabilities gracing the pages of comic books, from the blind Daredevil to the wheelchair using Oracle who helps Batman with her intellect and technological skills.
All of these characters, including the Silver Scorpion, learn to adapt to their disabilities and focus on their abilities. However, there is an additional interesting similarity that I wonder if the Silver Scorpion will try to confront in future issues with the introduction of new characters. One of the few complaints that comic book aficionados and disability advocates did voice about the graphic novel treatment of disabilities was that these heros are always people who became disabled later in life. There were very few characters that were born with disabilities and then developed super powers. I will be interested to see if future issues of the Silver Scorpion tackle this challenge or stay on the safe ground of what has gone before. Regardless, Silver Scorpion is definitely worth a read and a continued watch in the future.