We have grown up with superheroes who never really looked like us. They were fair-skinned, square-jawed and perfect bodied. They came from places we could not identify with.
Umair Najeeb Khan’s superheroes are defying the odds in all shapes and sizes. Khan, who hails from Karachi, has built a name as a visual artist because of his unique take on superheroes.
Khan is an Iqra University graduate and is currently based in Islamabad. He works as a freelance illustrator and has designed posters for feature films such as Pinky Memsaab and Chupan Chupai.
“In 2017, I submitted my thesis which was an animated film for children,” he told SAMAA Digital. “During the screening, one of the judges on the panel asked me why I hadn’t taken inspiration for my characters from within the country. I did not have an answer for him at that time. That sentence stuck with me.”
He is working on a new comic series, Paak Legion, of twelve superheroes the likes you have never seen.
He announced on Twitter this month that the comic book’s first issue will be out in December.
The first hero he started working on was Marvi, a Sindhi teacher and warrior vigilante. She dons a kameez with a traditional Rilli print and is a seeker of justice.
Each character has a unique skill. Sufyan is a low-key nawab and a crime-fighter. He is travelling over two centuries in time to come and save his city.
Bazira is a mischievous and clever 16-year-old tech-savvy student. Using her precognitive visions, she is trying to change the course of what is to come.
Raad are hot-headed twins from Islamabad with electro-kinetic powers. They are reckless and have an extreme dislike for each other.
Afsoon is a local legend who has existed in many different forms over the centuries. After being gone for years, she has resurfaced to take down her arch-rival one more time.
Omran is the 61-year-old sole, the successor of the legacy of ancient earth-manipulators. After fighting for a lifetime and retiring from his duties, he was forced to take his mantle back in the hour of need.
Haajar is a full-time mother and designer. She used to ‘crush’ crime on the streets of Lahore with her team almost a decade ago. After a long hiatus, she is back in the game to lend a helping hand.
Divya finds herself stranded in the deserts of Thar. With no memories of her past and an unstable power to create portals, she is now on a quest to find herself.
The most “sweet and soft spoken” of all the characters, Samaa, can control the wind. She is an engineer who is burdened by the expectations of her people. She has finally given herself wings and is ready to carry the legacy of her tribe.
Azam is a healer and poet from Kashmir. He had spent his life being despised and called a freak until a catastrophe occurred. Using his abilities he must now help the land and his people in dire need of healing.
Khan started drawing when he was 16 years old. “As a child, I was always a huge Marvel and DC fan. I followed all their cartoons, movies and even comic books.”
The 25-year-old artist said that more than 70% of his comic book series was designed on his iPad. He uses ProCreate and Adobe Photoshop for the illustrations.
“I want inclusion for everyone and I really want to break stereotypes that other superhero franchises have created,” he said.
“I want Bazira to appeal to all tech-savvy people and not just the Pukhtun girls. So when I talk about inclusion, I mean that for the audience as well. I want to target everyone out there.”
Khan is self-financing the project. The comic book will be published online and become available for sale in December.