CHARACTER CLOSE-UP: Simon Baz
Simon Baz is a fictional comic book superhero appearing in books published by DC Comics, usually in those starring the Green Lantern Corps, an extraterrestrial police force of which Simon is a member. Created by writer Geoff Johns and artist Doug Mahnke, Simon first appeared in 2012 following DC's 2011 company-wide relaunch as part of its Green Lantern story arc "Rise of the Third Army", in which Baz replaces Silver Age hero Hal Jordan as the Green Lantern of Earth's sector. Prior to this, the character made an unnamed cameo in The New 52 Free Comic Book Day Special Edition #1. At the time, Baz debuted to a positive critical reaction and over time gained a sizable fanbase. DC later added Baz to its flagship team-up title Justice League of America in 2013.
Simon Baz was created by Green Lantern writer Geoff Johns and artist Doug Mahnke. He is the first Middle Eastern-American and Muslim member of the Green Lantern Corps. Simon's heritage and home town are both influenced by Geoff Johns, who is half-Lebanese, and a native of Detroit, Michigan.
Fictional Character Biography
Simon Baz was a Lebanese-American child living in Dearborn, Michigan during the events of the September 11 attacks in 2001. Growing up with their family, Simon and his sister, Sira were both bullied and persecuted due to the ethnicity. As a young adult, Simon began to get involved in street racing, and eventually car theft; the former that put his brother-in-law in a coma in the hospital and the latter because of the financial crisis that hit the Detroit area in one of the hardest hit areas of the United States. Simon is fired from his job, and in one night in a moment of desperation, he steals the wrong car, and while trying to evade the police in the stolen van, Simon finds out that there is a bomb in the stolen vehicle. Not knowing anything about it, or how big it is, Simon drives the van into the abandoned car factory he was laid off from, knowing that no one would be hurt in the explosion. The resulting explosion is seen as an act of terrorism by the authorities, as they bring Simon in for questioning. As Simon is being interrogated, Hal Jordan and Sinestro's fused and malfunctioning Green Lantern Power Ring finds Simon, and selects him as the new wielder, flying him away from captivity. With their suspect gone, the federal agents interrogating Simon contact Amanda Waller about the situation, a transmission Cyborg of the Justice League picks up. Cyborg relays the transmission to Batman and asks if anyone has spoken to Hal Jordan, since he quit the League. Meanwhile, Simon lays on the ground, knocked out, while elsewhere, the Third Army begins to spread.
Rise of the Third Army
After waking up and beginning to search for redemption, Simon turns over a new leaf and helps to stop the Third Army. However, he eventually runs into the Justice League, being wrongfully accused of taking Hal hostage. The Justice League eventually track down Simon, but he is not willing to fight them until Batman tries to remove Sinestro's ring from Simon's finger. In doing so, the ring goes into defense mode and attacks the League. In a panic, Baz retreated using his ring and eventually meets back up with his sister. Sira was able to track down the original owner of the van leaving Simon to track down the lead and try to clear his name. After finding who was involved of the bomb plot, the Third Army attacked the house and killed the terrorist, and the FBI agent (who was one of the federal agents interrogating Simon before) and Simon went down into the basement and saw all the guns and bombs the terrorist had. The FBI agent blew the house up with a bomb, and then a Green Lantern squirrel named B'dg came looking for Hal Jordan. B'dg eventually takes Simon to a remote location where Simon is able to finally unwind the dual message left by both Hal Jordan and Sinestro in his ring. Jordan reveals that the Guardians of the Universe have gone insane and are now replacing the Green Lantern Corps with their Third Army that will eventually take over the Universe and that if he is truly gone, to tell Carol Ferris that he loves her. It is soon revealed that Sinestro is truly responsible for Simon's selection as a Green Lantern as he chose someone who was very much like himself, who would do anything to accomplish his goals, and be able to overcome fear in any form. He also wanted his recruit to be the one to finally destroy the Guardians of the Universe. Surprised by his picking, Simon learns how to recharge his ring by retrieving his Lantern in the Coast City Graveyard and then learns from B'dg that his ring might be able to wake his brother-in-law from his coma. They head to the hospital where Simon's sister meets him and after forcing his will into his ring, Simon is able to heal the damage to his brother-in-law's brain, and he awakens not realizing what has happened. Simon then takes off with B'dg to rescue Guy Gardner from prison. After defeating the Third Army that was sent after Guy, they all meet on the moon where Guy is sent to Oa to stop the Guardians and Simon and B'dg enter the Book of the Black and come face to face with Black Hand.
Wrath of the First Lantern
At the end of the "Rise of the Third Army", the First Lantern (Volthoom), escapes with intent on changing reality to his will. Simon, meanwhile, is with B'dg at the Chamber of Shadows, where Black Hand and the Templar Guardians are being held. A battle ensues between Simon and Black Hand and whilst Simon is distracted, freeing the Templar Guardians, Black Hand sucks him into his ring. Simon is transported into the Dead Zone where Sinestro and Hal are trapped. Sinestro tells Simon that he was killed by Black Hand. Hal says Simon can't be dead because he still has the ring on. Sinestro then attacks Simon trying to get the ring. Since the ring is useless against Sinestro, Simon takes out his gun and fatally shoots him. However, Sinestro comes back to life because they are in the Dead Zone. Tomar-Re tells Hal that he believes the ring chose someone like Sinestro, not Hal, and that could explain Simon's brash personality. Simon offers to give Hal his ring but Hal objects, because the ring might reject Hal or think Baz is dead. Sinestro wakes and says he is going to get back at Simon, which makes Simon nervous. B'dg, with the help of the Templar Guardians, tries to retrieve Simon. Meanwhile, Simon's ring starts to split with the new half trying to go to Hal, Sinestro tackles Hal to the ground and shows Hal the First Lantern torturing Carol Ferris. This puts fear in Hal's heart, then the ring goes to Sinestro, and he and Simon swap places with Black Hand. Simon is being strangled by Sinestro, but then he later lets Simon go and teleports to his home planet of Korugar, trying to defend himself. When Simon and B'dg arrive at the planet Korugar's grave and witnessed Sinestro attacking Carol Ferris and White Lantern Kyle Rayner, they stop him. While Simon tells Carol the message that Hal was truly alive in the Dead Zone, Sinestro struggles for Kyle's white ring and attempts to become a White Lantern himself, but it strangely rejected him; the white ring then comes into the possession of Simon, but when he failed to restore Sinestro's home planet; the white ring returns to Kyle's ownership. When Sinestro flies off, Simon and B'dg team-up with Kyle and Carol and are ready to fight against the First Lantern. In the final battle, Simon and the reserve Lantern Corps attacked the First Lantern, and he is finally destroyed.
Justice League of America
Following the events of "Wrath of The First Lantern", Simon Baz was offered the opportunity to join Amanda Waller and Steve Trevor's "Justice League of America" under the pretense that, his criminal charges would be dropped and his innocence publicly declared after FBI Agent Franklin Fed vouched for him.
During the 2013 "Trinity War" storyline, Baz was seen chasing Batman, who was in possession of Pandora's Box, until Superman attacked him. After Cyborg's (Victor) body was mangled by Crime Syndicate member "The Grid", Baz's ring was the one thing preventing Victor from death.
Prior to The Trinity War, Baz was seen by Sinestro and Hal Jordan thanks to visions given to them by the The Book of the Black while trying to find out how the Guardians of the Universe planned to replace the Green Lantern Corps.
During the 2013 "Lights Out" storyline: in need of the Red Lanterns help during the fight with Relic, Hal Jordan promised the current leader of the Red Lanterns, Guy Gardner, his own sector of space. Guy Gardner chose Sector 2814 which contains the Red Lantern's homeworld of Ysmault, as well as Earth. As a condition of the sanctity of the Red Lanterns' policing of Sector 2814, Guy declared that no Green Lantern can enter their sector, including Earth. As an added term, Hal requested permission to keep Simon down on Earth to keep an eye on things and be the Green Lantern Corps' own ambassador.
In the distant future, the Book of Oa says that Simon will be responsible for training the first female Earth Green Lantern, Jessica Cruz. It is also said that he will proceed to unlock potential everywhere he goes and show what the Green Lantern power ring is truly capable of. He is described as "the miracle worker".
Simon Baz's debut in Green Lantern #0 was, overall, met with positive reviews, praising Baz's characterization as well as the opportunities for social commentary provided by his background. Joey Esposito of IGN wrote, "Johns showcases Baz’s strength of character by allowing him to admit that he is, in fact, a criminal (he was stealing a car), and that upon learning the car he jacked carried a bomb on board, he had heroic intentions. Johns is able to rely on the very real climate of a post-9/11 America to let readers infer certain aspects of Baz’s younger years, leaving him ample space for a well-written interrogation scene that reveals more about both Baz and the agents interrogating him," before going on to say "Though it’s only been one issue, I fully expect Baz – if he survives for a while, of course – to become another successful addition to Earth’s Green Lanterns." Doug Zawisza of Comic Book Resources wrote of Baz, "Geoff Johns makes Baz a sympathetic character despite his obvious flaws. Make no mistake, Baz isn't a hero like Hal Jordan, but he also isn't a villain like Sinestro. He's a guy who is trying to get by the best he can and, right now, he's breaking a few rules to do that." He praised his relatability, saying "Baz could very easily be a neighbor I knew when I lived in Dearborn."
Minhquan Nguyen of Weekly Comic Book Review praised Geoff Johns's writing of Baz in the site's review of issue #0. "Sometimes it’s very easy to forget how strong a character writer Johns actually is. Unlike some of the powerhouses in that category, Johns can’t quite pull off outlandish personalities and make them seem believable, but he churns out characters that sound and feel recognizable. We’d be less inclined to tune into Baz, hard as his life circumstances are, if he was disgustingly self-righteous. What makes him a hero is he recognizes his own fault and the logic of his seizure, which is probably why Agent Fed treats him so respectably—until his hands get tied, that is."
However, the character was not without its detractors. Writing for The A.V. Club, Oliver Sava felt that the character was conceptually interesting but marred by a hackneyed characterization. Reviewing Baz' introduction in Green Lantern #0, Sava says: "The idea of an Arab-American being chosen as the Green Lantern because he’s able to overcome great cultural fear is an inspired one, but the majority of sympathy for the character is condensed in two pages so that Johns can set up Baz as a suspected terrorist." Sava comments that Baz shares a lot in common with the "gritty" superheroes of the 1990s, stating: "Baz isn’t so much a character as he is a series of clichés and coincidences." He was also critical of the decision to portray the character with a gun on the book's cover, which he derides as "ridiculous" given its lack of utility compared to a Green Lantern ring, calling it "a cheap move to make the character seem edgy... that fell out of style about 15 years ago."
Baz has a forearm tattoo that reads “courage” in Arabic. However, getting a tattoo is considered “haram,” or religiously forbidden according to most orthodox Muslim scholars. Also, Baz is depicted as black, which can be seen as unrealistic since he is supposedly of Lebanese heritage.
Info from Wikipedia and Wikia.
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