Legendary Arab poet Antara rises as comic book superhero

SHARJAH (UNITED ARAB EMIRATES): In a crimson cape, darkish hair blowing within the wind, he crosses the dunes beneath a blazing sun: Antara, the famed 6th century Arab poet born a slave, is now a superhero.

A pre-Islamic poet, Antara is celebrated within the collective memory of Arabs in addition to in popular culture — a kid born to a tribal leader and his Abyssinian slave who rose as a warrior-poet to loose himself and insist his father recognise him as his son, and a loose guy.

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

The tale of Antara breaks across the class and race strains that steadily 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 revealed via Kalimat, a publishing house based totally within the UAE emirate of Sharjah which specialises in Arabic translations of Japanese manga and US cartoonist Nick Seluk's collection, "The Awkward Yeti" and "Heart and Brain".

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

Antara casts off the shackles of his early life to rise as a warrior and claim his rightful place because the son of Shaddad, leader of the Banu Abs tribe.

But the details of Antara's life stay unclear: one story holds that Antara ibn Shaddad al-Absi was born to an Ethiopian princess; another more standard story holds that he was born to a dark-skinned Abyssinian slave.

Antara's father, a tribal chief from what is as of late western Saudi Arabia, refused to recognise his son, who was thus born a slave.

Antara rebelled towards his status as a slave when, after valiantly defending his tribe, he was given most effective part the compensation granted to warriors.

He went into self-imposed exile within the desert and refused to take part within the defence of his tribe — until he was sooner or later known as on to return to the help of his other folks.

Legend has it that that was how Antara earned his freedom.

The comic strip narrates "the beginning of his life as a slave, mistreated by his tribe because of the colour of his skin and the status of his mother, to become a hero on the frontline," Hilmi says.

Antara's energy is matched most effective via his poetry, which has two major themes: his wartime exploits, and his love for his cousin Abla, the daughter of a tribal sheikh.

Whether Antara and Abla's love tale had a happy finishing, or led to tragedy, no person is aware of.

But Antara's famed poetry remains to be taught in curricula across the Arab world, along with his "Mu'allaqa" — a part of the pre-Islamic canon of Arabic poetry — hung within the holy town of Mecca and nonetheless the supply of many a catchphrase in pop culture.

"Often I've defended/the women of Amir/ their legs slim/and tender as stalks/ from the onslaught of armed raiders," reads an English translation of Antara's "War Songs", revealed via NYU Press.

"I will not be able/to outrun Fate/when she comes.

"Cowards run. I stand/my flooring."

Antara has served as the inspiration for artists and musicians around the world, with 19th century Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov dedicating a symphony in four movements to his tale.

The creators of the "Antara" comic strip believe the legend will resonate with trendy audiences both within the Arab world and across the globe.

"This tale has universal enchantment," said Hilmi, particularly because it offers with racism.

"We included illustrations of what we alleged to be Antara's childhood, when he first faced discrimination and mistreatment by the hands of his friends and his father."

The cause of Antara's demise could also be a question of dialogue, with some saying the warrior died of natural reasons and others pointing to proof that he was killed via a poisoned arrow.


The comic strip does no longer offer answers.


While it leaves questions of Antara's life and demise striking, the creators' center of attention is rather clear.


In a face-off along with his father, a bearded Antara clenches his fist and stands tall: "I want nothing but what each and every child wants of his father.


"Tell me, am I slave or son?"
Legendary Arab poet Antara rises as comic book superhero Legendary Arab poet Antara rises as comic book superhero Reviewed by kailash soni on October 10, 2018 Rating: 5
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