Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is a New York writer focusing on radical Islam.
Superheroes have never been more culturally dominant than they are in the age of the billion dollar Marvel or DC blockbuster and have never been less relevant.
The emotional momentum of the idealism of Superman creators Siegel and Shuster, Batman creator Bob Kane being viciously beaten up as a boy and fantasizing about vigilante justice have died out leaving behind a lifeless cast of familiar characters owned by movie studios going through the same routines, dying and being reinvented just long to become the same thing all over again.
If someone actually set out to reinvent the superhero, to make him relevant to the world we live in today and to give him the emotional investment of classic comics, he would have to be shut out of the marketplace in self-defense. And that’s exactly what happened to Bosch Fawstin over The Infidel.
Frank Miller's Holy Terror was one of the few anti-Jihad comics and DC refused to allow Batman to appear in it. But Holy Terror was a muddled work. Fawstin's Pigman summons up Miller in his prime.
The Infidel #3 (featuring Pigman) is Fawstin's Dark Knight Returns. It's where his ambitious complex story comes into its own as Killian Duke, an ex-Muslim comic creator, faces a legal battle against a CAIR-like group and violent attacks by Muslims determined to silence him, including by his own brother.
Meanwhile his character Pigman, created after 9/11, faces off against Islamic terrorists around the world to the fury and bafflement of a whole range of political doppelganger figures from Obama to Chris Matthews.
The Infidel #3 stirringly moves from violent comic book fights to a courtroom debate about the Koran. Fawstin can show epic battles, but he also makes important points about Islam. Pigman is more than a character; he is the idea of resistance, reflecting his creator's turmoil, his anger and his fight for truth. And Fawstin doesn't shy away from dealing with the rough edges, whether it's a child caught in the middle of a war or the complicated emotions of two brothers following different paths.
Opponents would like to dismiss The Infidel as propaganda, but Fawstin's work isn't just powerful and compelling. It's also surprisingly nuanced about human realities. Duke and Pigman swiftly cut through the apologetics for Islam because they understand what is at stake, not because they think the world is simple or can be easily remade into what it should be without paying a price.
That is the timeless theme of great superhero stories and it's why Infidel's closest parallel is Frank Miller's Dark Knight.
This is a story about more than just fighting Islamic violence; it's about the mindset that it takes to fight it. It's about the fact that killing terrorists, as the US still does, isn't enough without fighting for the truth.
In an industry where Muslims are represented by the narcissistic uncomplicated media-friendly work of Muslim convert G. Willow Wilson, Fawstin, an ex-Muslim, gets at the conflicts about Islam within the Muslim world. G. Willow Wilson sells secular Western liberals an appealing fantasy, Fawstin gets down to the bloody violent roots of a conflict, not just between Muslims and non-Muslims, but in the conscience of Muslims, many of whom have never read the Koran and don’t understand its ugliness.
The Infidel is uncompromising, not only in its violence, but in its refusal to back down from the truth. Duke, and Pigman’s alter ego, Frank Warner, aren’t willing to pretend that Islam can be reformed. Infidel #3 takes on Islam every bit as relentlessly as corporate comic books take on imaginary supervillains. Critics would accuse Fawstin of hating Muslims, but this is a debate taking place among Muslims.
The Infidel’s world, in which Duke Killian is hunted by his Muslim brother, is our world in which Muslim women are honor killed by their fathers and atheist bloggers in Bangladesh are brutally murdered. This is a story about the bloody price of Islam and the bloody price of fighting it. It’s about the moral cost of our choices told in a setting that encompasses a comic book version of our world and the real world.
This is challenging big picture stuff. It's material that most creators wouldn't tackle, not only for political reasons, but because it's so hard to pull off. And yet Fawstin does it. His art is dynamic. He goes from striking action scenes to cleverly paced dramatic moments. You can see echoes of Frank Miller, Eduardo Risso and Mike Mignola in his storytelling reminding you that Fawstin is an Eisner Award nominee. There are great visual storytelling moments here like the crowd tearing at Pigman in Mecca, scenes of Obama on the golf course and the collision between reality and comic book in the cliffhanger ending.
And yet Bosch Fawstin is a pariah, an infidel, in an industry that rewards praise of Islam and punishes blasphemy against it as coldly as any Iranian Ayatollah.
If Fawstin had flipped the script and written the comic from the perspective of an American who converts to Islam and fights against his "racist" American brother's Islamophobic campaign, there would be rave reviews. Instead he writes from the perspective of an ex-Muslim fighting against the real racism and violence of Islam.
At one point, Killian Duke addresses the jury, "If you told me after 9/11 that Pigman would be the only anti-Jihad comic book being published today, I wouldn't have believed it.“ And yet here we are in a world where Muslim superheroes are more acceptable than superheroes fighting Muslim terrorism.
If this were a mainstream comic book, it would be heaped with praise. But since Fawstin has decided to write about Islamic terrorism, The Infidel is an… infidel. Bosch's work was condemned and even his placement on the SPLC's hate list, a designation that has led to violence in the past, only met with muted condemnation from a comic book community normally quick to denounce anything at all smacking of censorship.
And that is the difference between The Infidel and most comics today.
The Infidel takes place in the real world. It addresses real world issues in a way that no superhero programmed to churn out PC spin indistinguishable from the media and the rest of pop culture can.
Every superhero is a liberal these days, pretending to be the underdog, whining about being isolated and outnumbered, while really being part of a ruthless political elite that suppresses dissent.
The heroes of our culture are written by its villains.
Duke's Pigman is an underdog because no matter how many terrorists he kills, his limits are those of his creator who is an underdog in the real world.
Fawstin has faced numerous threats. He has risked his life. And despite being at the center of one of the biggest stories of the year, his award-winning cartoon of Mohammed was censored by the media.
The Infidel #3 isn't just a comic, it's a passionate protest. Muslims have threatened plenty of cartoons that weren't worth it. Infidel #3 is worth it. It's a powerful work of political outrage. Its creator fights Islam with art the way that his creation fights it with his fists.
When Bosch Fawstin gets threats, it's not because he's a "provocateur", it's because he's a truthteller.
Infidel #3 will offend CAIR, not just because it shows a fight over Mecca or Muslim terrorists being ruthlessly hunted down and killed, but because its creator defends his views and exposes theirs.
Pigman kills terrorists, but Killian Duke exposes Islam.
Comic book superheroes are written off as people dressing up in silly costumes with nothing real at stake. In Infidel #3 the stakes are real and real world. Fawstin, like Duke, has been through the wringer. His world in which Muslim terrorists murder Americans and we apologize, in which those who fight back are viewed as the problem and in which our government aids the terrorists to keep the peace, is our world.
The boldness on the page isn’t playacting. It's the work of a man who faces death for his beliefs and who doesn't go into hiding or disappears, but who continues defying the terrorists.
Pigman's boldness, Duke's boldness, Fawstin's boldness are all here. And they deserve our support.
Fawstin's work is up there with the best of them and The Infidel #3 is a gut punch whose art and writing remain compelling up until the end. It's a great comic, but it's also a great assault on Islamic terrorism and on its American appeasers and collaborators.
The Infidel is the only truly relevant post 9/11 comic. And Infidel #3 is on sale now.