Could you imagine a world in which Superman is a young boy found in a field in Karachi, Pakistan instead of Kansas, America? Introducing Kahlil, a re-telling of the legendary D.C. comic-book superhero Superman, Kumail Rizvi reimagines Superman as a Muslim Pakistani boy, growing up in the world in the midst of the war on terror.
Rizvi’s portrayal of Karachi and Pakistan is one of democracy, in which the media runs free and anyone can be elected to become Prime-Minister. People from various backgrounds are mingling with everyone and are free, just like the founder of Pakistan, Quaid-e-Azam, would have visualized his country to be.
“A couple years back, I remember seeing this report done by a group of independent journalists covering every U.S. drone strike in Pakistan, and the numbers of civilians and specifically children killed in those attacks, and it was staggering and sad. I made an off-hand comment to a friend saying something like, “If Superman was Pakistani that just wouldn’t happen”, said Kumail Rizvi in an interview with Newsarama.
Religion is placed as a symbol of unity, rather than a means of separation between different faiths and backgrounds. Karachi is envisioned to be a city striving to be filled with equity and a unifying force between eclectic beliefs and different cultures.
Envisioned as a Muslim, brown superhero, Khalil becomes a symbol for ethnicities when he saves civilians from drone attacks and the city of Karachi from organizations involving terrorism. When he stops bomb blasts from occurring, he goes on even further towards rescuing more innocent civilians.
Like all superheroes, he also attempts to hide his secret-identity and his powers from his friends and even his newly-made enemies. This becomes rather difficult as the story progresses, when his lightening-speed movements gets caught on camera and his super-strength become more of an imminent threat.
Another point worth mentioning is the usage of Islamic mythology to help understand Kahlil’s heritage. Religion is placed as a symbol of unity, rather than a means of separation between different faiths and backgrounds. Karachi is envisioned to be a city striving to be filled with equity and a unifying force between eclectic beliefs and different cultures.
It is important to remember what Superman essentially stands for: Hope. Within all the violence, destruction and chaos Kahlil encounters in his life, living in his young years, the symbol of hope is not restricted to simply one of Pakistani ethnic origin background, but to one of every ethnicity.
“Symbols matter. They carry weight, history and meaning. Superman’s symbol literally means hope. It means more to say that Superman could just as easily be African, Arab, Indonesian, Chinese, or even Pakistani. He’d still be Superman. He’s a universal idea which means he doesn’t have to be limited to being a Kansas farm boy fighting Doomsday in Metropolis,” stated Rizvi.
Rizvi also uses themes such as friendship, finding yourself, and goes through several psychological elements as well, such as identity crises Kahlil faces throughout his time, regarding his powers. Is he just a boy, or something more?
Kahlil, with the help of an ancient crystallite uses his powers to know his true identity- to understand his birthplace- Krypton, from where he descended upon on Planet Earth. Kahlil faces many difficulties within fitting in into his school within his peers and classmates as a normal boy. Finding new friends dawns upon on Kahlil as he battles his inner powers, while also deals with the troubles of teenage hood.
You can read Kahlil, the comic-series here