Several years ago, two brothers, Adil and Kamil Imtiaz, felt the need to present an alternative to the kind of Muslim one generally hears about in the news. Circling back to the comic books they read as kids, the two were inspired to create a Muslim superhero named Buraaq – a masked superhero by night and a humanitarian named Yusuf Abdullah by day.
The brothers have produced five issues of the comic book and now have plans to produce an animated show on Buraaq to help reach an even wider audience for the hero.
Even though Adil Imtiaz has a full time job, he devoted a lot of time to create the art for the comic books. I recently spoke with Adil about Buraaq, the origins of the superhero, and the character’s future in animation. Read on!
I read on your website that you and your brother grew up reading DC and Marvel comic books. What superheroes do you think helped influence you with Buraaq – who were your favorites?
Our favorite was Superman, of course, He’s the hero that started it all, so to speak. All the heroes came after him were inspired by him.
Buraaq has different powers – he can fly, control the elements, and I even saw a reference of him controlling the gravitational field. What inspired you to give him those powers?
We were thinking of what kind of powers he should have and of course we wanted him to fly as that’s something we were fascinated with. We wanted him to be able to manipulate the elements around him, keeping the storyline we have in mind and the villain we wanted to introduce – he will be interacting with the jinn who have their own dimension and own abilities and powers. And we wanted him to control the gravitational and energy fields around him.
Buraaq first began to dispel stereotypes of Islam that are out there. How do you think your comic book as achieved that and what has the feedback been?
The response has been great. As far as from the Muslim community, they really like the idea of superheroes, one who is also a practicing Muslim. We got really good feedback from non-Muslims too who appreciate the idea that we are doing something different, that we are trying to portray Islam in a better light.
But to be honest with you, the comic book market is mostly dominated by DC and Marvel and especially in the Muslim countries, the comic book culture is not really that popular. So in that sense a comic book is not our end goal. Our idea was to introduce the concept, put the story out there for people to see, and then our real goal is to get into animation and our ultimate goal is to maybe InshAllah see Buraaq on the big screen.
Has your upcoming animated series always been part of the plan then?
Yes, 2-3 years into working on the comics. The comic book following isn’t as big as the animation and movie market so we were definitely thinking that we need to go global, to get into animation, that that’s where the real market and interest is. All of these Disney, Pixar, superhero movies coming out – that’s the direction we wanted to go in, that’s how you can convey your message to a much wider audience than the comic book following.
Besides getting a bigger audience for when you release your series/movie, are there any kinds of stories you believe you can tell in that format that you wouldn’t be able to tell in a comic book?
Animation opens to a lot of possibilities in terms with what you want to show on the screen. You can show worlds that you might not be able to show in comic books. The comic book has to be to the point, the story has to be brief, you have to get your story across in a couple of pages. In animation, you can do a lot. You can expand on ideas, you can really create the environment you want to show, the world you want people to believe in, so to speak. It gives you a lot of leverage artistically. You can show a lot more with a good soundtrack in the background and high quality animation, you can hammer the message home and make an impact on people’s lives.
Speaking of the soundtrack, I saw that you have an Urdu promo out with narration by Junaid Jamshed and a soundtrack by Shahi Hasan. Those are pretty big names in Pakistan, How did you get them involved with Buraaq?
We were able to partner with some gentlemen in the Bay Area who have a background in the entertainment industry so they have contacts. We were honored to work with people like Shahi Hasan and Junaid Jamshed. They really loved the project so Junaid was ready to do the Urdu narration for it so that’s how we ended up recording it. We also want to do an Arabic version and that’s something we’re still looking into.
Buraaq encompasses a lot of Islamic principles in how he conducts himself as Yusuf Abdallah and also as a superhero. Talk about the main villain, his arch nemesis, and the kinds of things they encompass.
As I mentioned earlier, he will be dealing with the jinn world. The theme is eventually that an elite group of people is trying to control the world, trying to control the resources, whether it’s through the media, or control over the food system, essentially, global domination, and they are preparing for their master to come and finally rule over the world. It’s kind of bringing the whole concept of Dajjal into the picture. His main villain is one of the arms of the leaders of the army of the jinn and of course you have high ranking officials and individuals. It’s a mixture of both and the idea is to come up with a storyline that is very intriguing and mysterious, with action and adventure. That’s the plan.
How would you pitch Buraaq to those who are on the fence of whether they should check it out?
There are other characters out there like The 99, Burka Avenger, and Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel. We felt that there’s a solid character that’s missing. Sure you have characters with an Arab or Pakistani background and they are shown to be Muslim but in practice, they are not really doing anything that would reconnect us to our roots. Mostly, they portray this confused individual who is not sure about their identity and he/she is struggling and trying to find their way.
We wanted to change that mindset. We wanted to show someone who knows who he is, he’s confident in his identity, he’s firm in his faith. He’s just doing what he’s supposed to do and hopefully people will be inspired by what he does.
Check out Split Moon Arts for more information on Buraaq, to donate to the animated series, and to download the comic books (there are even some free ones!). Watch the promo of the animated series here.