Legendary Arab poet Antara rises as comic book superhero

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In a red cape, dark hair blowing in the wind, he crosses the dunes under a blazing sun: Antara, the famed 6th century Arab poet born a slave, is now a superhero.

A pre-Islamic poet, Antara is celebrated in the collective memory of Arabs as well as in pop culture — a child born to a tribal leader and his Abyssinian slave who rose as a warrior-poet to free himself and demand his father recognise him as his son, and a free man.

Now, he stars in his own comic strip, reimagined as a shield-wielding, cape-wearing superhero by Egyptian writer Mumen Hilmi and renowned Indian illustrator Ashraf Ghuri.

The story of Antara breaks across the class and race lines that frequently dominate society, the “perfect example of what it means to be a superhero,” writer Hilmi says.

“Arabs like the exaggerated personality traits of heroes, and we thought why not transform Antara into a superhero like those you see in the US, Europe, Japan.”

“Antara” is the first comic strip to be published by Kalimat, a publishing house based in the UAE emirate of Sharjah which specialises in Arabic translations of Japanese manga and US cartoonist Nick Seluk’s series, “The Awkward Yeti” and “Heart and Brain”.

The story weaves a tale of bravery, slavery, freedom, loyalty and love — and co-stars his beloved Abla, daughter of a tribal sheikh and object of Antara’s undying affection.

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