‘I am not Latifa’: Meet the first female Saudi superhero

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Fahad Al-Saud, CEO of Na3am and creative director of Latifa.
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Stan Berkowitz, co-writer of Latifa, at Na3am’s booth at Saudi Comic Con. (AN photo by Lulwa Shalhoub)
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Updated 08 April 2017
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‘I am not Latifa’: Meet the first female Saudi superhero

Her name is Latifa (meaning “kind” in Arabic), yet she is ruthless and vindictive, living in a revolting future world.
Latifa, Saudi Arabia’s first female comic superhero, and her dystopian universe are the brainchild of Fahad Al-Saud, CEO and creative director of award-winning gaming and transmedia incubator Na3am (New Arab Media).
“Latifa was born, and it just kind of developed from there. I’m seeing her come to life now. I feel like my child has just graduated from high school,” Al-Saud, who co-writes the comic book with Stan Berkowitz, told Arab News.
“She accepted herself as a warrior and she’s committed, so I wanted her to talk to people who feel there’s a war beside them and are scared to come out.”
Latifa was introduced to audiences at the recent Saudi Comic Con in Jeddah, at which the turnout exceeded expectations.
“The fusion of Marvel and Na3am next to each other (means) you’ve got the outside example and the local example, so it’s a historic moment not just for Saudi and for Comic Con being here, but also for Saudi to receive and welcome its first superhero,” Rozan Ahmed, the editor of Latifa, told Arab News.
Al-Saud said the world of comics accompanied him from his childhood to his adulthood, and he decided to turn his passion into a profession. His favorite superheroes are the X Men, Psylocke and Storm.
The Stanford University graduate majored in mechanical engineering and studied management science, humanities and art history, which set a strong foundation for him. He said it taught him problem-solving skills and made him view the world differently.
“I grew up reading comic books. I learned English from reading comic books,” he said. “In every single comic book or video game with a female character, she has been my favorite. I think that whole experience just turned my hobby into my profession.”
Latifa, with her talking sword, is the first comic from the Saudi Girls Revolution (SGR) universe.
She is illiterate, always questioning her surroundings, and is on a mission to help those who are struggling around her. The concept of justice is strongly highlighted in her story.
Al-Saud said it was important for him to make stories about women that are not centered on a man, but he also wanted to keep a balance.
The sword Al-Faisal is robotic with male energy, and is a metaphor for her father, whom she lost as a child.
“The narrative is essentially about one big prison break. Latifa isn’t in the prison. There are other characters outside the prison who will get to know the people breaking out of the prison,” Berkowitz told Arab News.
“There seems to be an effort in the camp to change women. The women are only brought there if they’re rebellious. They’re delinquent, trouble-makers, free-thinkers and the plan is to make them docile citizens,” said Berkowitz, who also wrote for the “Justice League,” “Batman Beyond” and “Superman.”
For Al-Saud, the prison in the story can be seen from the readers’ perspective as limitations in the community or environment, limitations we impose on ourselves, or our fears. “This is a piece of art, and I’d love for people to interpret it in their way,” he said.
Al-Saud’s use of the word “revolutions” was his way of reclaiming this “buzzword” and giving it a different meaning.
He said the word has been charged with so much negativity, and he wanted to go back to what it actually meant.
It can be “changing something, evolving it into something better and challenging the status quo, but of course not for the sake of pushing back, for the sake of moving forward,” he said.
“The concept of revolution here is: Each girl in her own personal growth is going through a revolution. It’s a spiritual one, an identity one, a political one, a societal one, depending on that girl’s story.”
He added: “The revolution I wanted to start is having us reclaim our own identity, giving an opportunity for Arab women, and Saudi women specifically, who globally have been put into a box of oppression and regression.
“I wanted to change the narrative and rhetoric around women in comics, but also have the ones who are pioneers of change, stories of Saudi women who globally, for the last decade or so, have been seen as oppressed. I wanted to challenge that, so that’s what this revolution is about.”
Latifa’s world is 100 years in the post-apocalyptic future. About five years ago, when the project started, Al-Saud wondered what the world would look like in the future.
“The best way to see something is to imagine it in the future, to push us to an environment that’s completely different but also still similar,” he said.
“The work I’m doing with SGR is a way to creatively solve problems that I feel exist in our world today.”
The project is the result of a collaborative team effort. “The first thing I did was to collaborate with Stan,” Al-Saud said.
“There are people who are more skilled than me. It’s important for this project to reach the quality I intend, to release the ego and bring in experts and collaborate with them throughout the process, which is working out so far.”
The intention is to create something Saudis, Saudi females and global audiences are proud of. “I’m hoping to present audiences with so many options rather than just Latifa (in the future),” he added.
Saudi Comic Con also saw the newly launched Bedouin Blade game mobile phone app. “It’s Latifa’s first video game, and we’re also looking at a feature film,” said Ahmed.


Kangaroo on the menu for Harry and Meghan Down Under

Updated 18 October 2018
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Kangaroo on the menu for Harry and Meghan Down Under

  • The pair will only spend a few hours in Melbourne, but had a jam-packed schedule that included a meal featuring native Australian foods
  • Meghan was inundated by flower bouquets and baby gifts following their announcement

MELBOURNE: Chargrilled kangaroo was on the royal menu Thursday as Prince Harry and his pregnant wife Meghan arrived in Australia’s second-largest city Melbourne, where they were greeted by thousands of screaming fans.
Clutching flowers and waving flags, the crowds turned out to welcome the pair, who were delayed in traffic after flying in from Sydney on the third day of their tour Down Under.
The pair will only spend a few hours in Melbourne, but had a jam-packed schedule that included a meal featuring native Australian foods and a trip to a beach.
“I love everything they stand for. As a human being you have so much to look up to with them,” one young fan who had been waiting since before dawn told national broadcaster ABC as the pair mingled with the crowd.
A teenage girl cried tears of joy and threw her arms around the prince as she clutched a hand-written banner with the words: “Been here since 4am. Loved you since I was eight.”
“You’re gonna get me in trouble,” Harry joked as he embraced her.
Meghan was inundated by flower bouquets and baby gifts following their announcement on Monday that Meghan was expecting their first child.
The US-born royal also put on a dinosaur pasta necklace made by a five-year-old boy, who was wearing his favorite pilot uniform outfit, for the rest of her walk.
“I made it with pasta and dipped them in gold paint and threaded the string through,” he told news.com.au.
The Duchess was wearing a tan trench-coat, believed to be by Paris-based Australian designer Martin Grant, a navy dress by the breakthrough star of local fashion Dion Lee, and holding a Gucci Sylvie clutch.
The loved-up husband and wife mostly mingled with the crowd separately, but when they were together, they held hands and the Duchess periodically stroked Harry’s back.
After the public meet-and-greet, the couple spent some time with the Victorian Governor Linda Dessau in an official reception at Government House, where the Duchess of Sussex stole the hearts of local sports fans by handballing a football used in the Australian Rules game.
They then headed to a restaurant that mentors indigenous chefs with chargrilled kangaroo and wild boar on the menu, according to broadcaster Channel Nine. They will visit a school before finishing up at South Melbourne beach.
The couple will also follow in the footsteps of Harry’s grandmother Queen Elizabeth during her 2011 visit by taking a tram ride in Melbourne.
They are due to return to Sydney later this week for the opening of the global sports championship the Invictus Games, which was set up by Harry for wounded military personnel after his decade of service in the army.
The couple’s more-than-two-week official visit will take in multiple stops in Australia, Fiji, Tonga and New Zealand — all parts of the Commonwealth, a group of predominantly former British colonies.