DUBAI: Picture your average female superhero, and she is probably dressed in spandex with long bouncy hair and an illogically tiny waist.
But Emara dons a navy blue headscarf, a green, white and gold costume, a cape lined with red, and golden specs inspired by the burqa.
Born and raised in Dubai, Fatma Almheiri was just 21 when she created the mini-series on YouTube in 2016. She now aims to put Arab female superheroes on the map.
“I’ve been doodling since I can remember. I grew up watching my mum draw and paint, as well as my cousins, so it’s always been part of my life. But I didn’t decide to take drawing more seriously until high school,” recalled the Emirati.
It was then that she transformed her hobby into a career and enrolled at the Cartoon Network Animation Academy in Abu Dhabi.
From there, she interned at the UAE’s Cartoon Network Studios Arabia before working fulltime on her personal project, the five-episode cartoon “Emara: Emirates Hero,” which boasts more than 75,000 subscribers.
“Emara is the superhero alter ego of a young Emirati girl called Moza, who harnesses a special power to fight crime in the bustling streets of the UAE,” said Almheiri.
Why create her own show with a strong female lead? “Representation,” she said. “I tried to create the kind of character I wanted growing up but never got.”
In comics and other areas of pop culture, said Almheiri, representation matters because fictional characters are a mirror to society.
Like Latifa, Saudi Arabia’s first female comic superhero, and Pakistani-American Ms. Marvel, Almheiri said she wants Emara to give a sense of identity to children who, like her, could not relate to traditional superheroes.
The reaction to her YouTube series has been “overwhelming,” Almheiri added. “I didn’t expect so much support, especially not internationally.”
She said: “The female main character is in a hijab. You don’t really see that often in cartoons… It’s the characters that make the show great.”
While Emara is currently discontinued unless it gets commissioned — “animation isn’t cheap and it takes a lot of time” — its creator has her sights set on the big screen.
“I’d like to create my own animated feature film one day,” said Almheiri. “I’d like to see more Arab and Muslim representation from Hollywood.”