“He’s trained, he’s educated, he’s multicultural. This can be you and that’s a very powerful message.”
Just when you think the debate over ethnic representation in the media has boiled over, here comes a comic book superhero who epitomises one of the most misunderstood religions in the world.
Super Sikh is a comic series jointly created by writer Eileen Alden and venture capitalist Supreet Singh Manchanda, aiming to challenge the status quo of comic book heroes in the US.
The story revolves around an Indian secret agent named Deep Singh, who fights against the Taliban and any other bad guys that come along.
Wearing his turban and aviator sunglasses, Deep Singh also shares his father’s admiration for Elvis Presley – the American ‘King of Rock and Roll’.
Through a hugely successful Kickstarter campaign that has raised over US $22,000 (£14,500) to date, Eileen and Supreet have secured funding to produce the first four print issues of Super Sikh.
It is illustrated by Indian artist Amit Tayal, who specialises in graphic novels and has won several awards at Comic Con India.
Speaking to San Francisco’s CBS affiliate, Eileen describes Deep Singh as a hero with ‘great internal pose of intuition, training, physical and mental strength, not a person who is granted supernatural powers or a mutant transformation’.
Supreet echoes her point in a separate interview, saying: “[Superheroes] have to have this mutation or something of the sort that makes them abnormal and therefore they get some powers.”
He continues: “He’s trained, he’s educated, he’s multicultural. This can be you and that’s a very powerful message.”
Supreet sees Deep Singh as a role model and a symbol of power. Having been a victim of bullying as a Sikh child, Supreet seeks to translate his experience into positive energy through the comic character.
He says: “I’ve always wanted to create a character that was a Sikh, but I never found someone who could write it and conceptualise it. What I needed was Eileen.”
For Eileen, it is the character and social value that draw her towards creating Super Sikh. She believes Deep Singh is a mix between Batman, Gotham’s crime fighter, and Jason Bourne, the fictional CIA spy in Robert Ludlum’s bestselling novels.
She even immerses herself into the Asian culture through learning the written Punjabi language Gurmukhi in order to study scriptures.
The newly-converted Sikh says: “Our story is: you’re presented with this situation, how do you respond as a Sikh?”
While Super Sikh means something different to each of the creator, it ultimately originates from their shared concern over the misrepresentation of Sikhs in the US.
Supreet explains: “Remember, in the British ethos, Sikhs don’t have that same [identity]. They may be victims but there’s a lot of respect. But in the US, there’s no positive foil. There’s no Sikh military, there’s no Sikh policemen and that is only now starting to happen.”
Eileen adds: “So if you see this person, he’s wearing a turban, there’s this immediate association to a terrorist.”
Super Sikh has garnered phenomenal response so far. Not only was it well-received at the San Francisco Comic Con, its intro issue has already been downloaded across the globe.
Supreet and Eileen are currently working on the print issues, which will be available in English at first. They will be subsequently translated into Hindi, Punjabi, Spanish and Mandarin for other audiences.
Following the widespread popularity of Burka Avenger who fights for social justice and children’s rights to education, it would certainly be gratifying to see Super Singh triumph in his admirable cause as well.