By ZEINAB NAJM
DEARBORN — The latest character to join the Marvel Comics universe, Amulet — also known as Fadi Fadlalah — is a superhero from Dearborn brought to life by writer Saladin Ahmed and illustrator Sara Alfageeh.
In March, Amulet will travel from Dearborn to New Jersey to make his debut with Kamala Khan in Magnificent Ms. Marvel #13 and play a role in the comic for months to come.
“Magnificent Ms. Marvel #13 was a great place to bring in an Arab-American character,” Ahmed said. “We kept with the superhero naming theme in Marvel comics with both the first and last name of Fadi Fadlalah starting with he same letter.”
A Dearborn native, Ahmed attended Fordson High School before moving to New York City and now back to the metropolitan Detroit area where he writes two comics a month for Marvel.
Ahmed spent his time writing fiction, poetry, essays and other independent work including the comic book “Abbott” he released in 2018. The year prior he made his Marvel writing debut with the “Black Bolt” comic series.
“About three-and-a-half years ago, Marvel approached me to work with them and it was a no-brainer because I have been a fan or Marvel comics all my life,” he said. “Ever since I started at Marvel I wanted to introduce a character from Dearborn, and Marvel was supportive from the beginning.”
Amulet is being introduced in what Ahmed says is a relevant time because there are not a lot of positive Arab or Muslim characters in pop culture.
Also, Ahmed wanted the character based in Dearborn to carve out a corner for the area where he is from since most of the characters in the Marvel universe are New York City-based.
“When I was an Arab American kid growing up in Dearborn and reading Marvel comics there was no one where I was from or looked like me,” he said. “It’s great kids can see a character reflecting them.”
When it came time to pick an illustrator, Ahmed selected Alfageeh for her talent and special ability to understand characteristics of Arab Americans.
“Saladin informally brought up the idea to me first of how he knew he wanted to introduce a new Arab character and knew he wanted me to pull it off,” Alfageeh said. “Saladin is a mentor of mine and we always knew we were going to collaborate eventually.”
Marvel gave Ahmed and Alfageeh a lot of freedom to develop the character as they pleased.
“It isn’t often in any American entertainment you get Arab creators getting a chance to work on an Arab character for a mainstream stories,” Alfageeh said. “We knew we wanted to subvert expectations for Arab characters, and let Arab readers know we were able to talk directly to them.”
As a huge superhero fan, Alfageeh recalled her favorite aspect of working to bring Amulet to life as a character.
“It was really fun creative problem to do something different for the design and deciding to use the Nazar symbol as the basis of the design,” she said. “I wanted to take this giant, hulking character and ensure he was instantly recognizable as a good guy. Challenge all expectations people would have for a guy of that size.”
The powers given to Amulet are based on the Nazar, or evil eye protection symbol, which is popular in the Middle East.
“Though often dubbed as ‘the evil eye,’ the ocular amulet is actually the charm meant to ward off the true evil eye: a curse transmitted through a malicious glare, usually one inspired by envy,” according to BBC.com.
“Saladin let me have a lot of fun with this concept,” Alfaggeh said in a Marvel press release. “We talked about his defensive-style powers and how they tied into his background as a Lebanese kid. The blue and white color palette and the circular design were pulled from the Nazar, a symbol that pops up all over the Middle East that protects the wearer from the evil eye — the harmful intentions of others. A bit of a historical, supernatural touch.
“We tend to associate sharp corners and edges with evil, and rounded designs and circles with good. This character is a gentle giant, so I wanted to make sure that even with his size he was shaped like a friend.”
Although the Amulet character won’t be introduced until March, Ms. Marvel, who is a Pakistani American from Jersey City, N.J., has been a face for Muslim fans to connect with since she made her appearance in Captain Marvel #14 in 2013.
Releasing in March, Magnificent Ms. Marvel #13 was written by Ahmed with art by Minkyu Jung. For updates on the comic release go to www.marvel.com.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected])