Sudanese cartoonist Khalid Albaih says the Malian migrant who scaled a building to save a child in Paris is the kind of superhero the world’s migrants need.
As a child growing up reading translated DC and Marvel comics in Sudan, I believed in superheroes – but I didn’t understand why none of them looked like me, or had stories that people like me could relate to.
Maybe that’s why I decided to become a cartoonist.
All my childhood feelings came to the surface on Tuesday when I stumbled across the viral video showing a man selflessly scaling four storeys of a building in less than 20 seconds in Paris, the French capital.
He went on to save a young boy hanging dangerously off the edge of a balcony.
‘Better than Black Panther’
Furiously refreshing my Twitter feed, I began to receive bits and pieces about the identity of the mystery man dubbed the #ParisSpiderman.
His name was Mamoudou Gassama, an illegal immigrant from Mali.
“In particular, it was interesting to note that his religion was not mentioned”
This was a much better and more realistic plot than the Marvel blockbuster Black Panther, I thought to myself while refreshing the social media site in a bid to find this new hero’s origin story.
In particular, it was interesting to note that his religion was not mentioned – usually among the first details to be revealed in click-bait headlines and hashtags when an immigrant does something negative.
In only a few hours, the headlines changed: #ParisSpiderman was invited to meet the French President Emmanuel Macron, who had decided he was going to grant him citizenship for his heroic efforts.
It was typical zero-to-hero intro to a superhero story.
What his feat highlights is the stereotypes – black, struggling, poor, lives in a ghetto – and a quick fast-forward to the acceptance scene, where the unknown underdog saves the child in a public spectacle and POW!
There you have it, the introduction of the new “minority” hero – the new addition to the all-white superhero line-up.
But in fact scaling that building was probably one of the easiest things Mr Gassama had done in years.