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New Documentary 'Je Suis Superhero' Examines Stereotypes Through Comics

by Charles Lam /
Stylized illustrations of Singh, Knight, and Alden, the subjects of "Je Suis Superhero".Courtesy of Kaur Films

Do you ever wonder how stereotypes propagate? That's the question filmmaker Harleen Singh wants to answer with her new film, "Je Suis Superhero." The documentary, which started its crowdfunding campaign this week and has already broken 80 percent of its goal, will examine racial and gender stereotypes through comic books.

"Comics are an excellent lens on the society," Singh told NBC News. "They incorporate storylines that reflect the times, but they also propagate stereotypes for their super heroes. It's the perfect back drop for getting the message across about how generalization is not the best thing."

The film follows three comic artists: Vishavjit Singh, known on the Internet as the Sikh Captain America; Keith Knight, a black cartoonist whose work often deals with race; and Eileen Kaur Alden, who co-created the "Super Sikh" comic book.

Alden, who helped Singh conceptualize the documentary, sees the modern comic community as evolving and open, especially compared to the medium's early roots.

"It really makes me feel that we’re in this moment of zeitgeist of concept of comic diversity," Alden told NBC News. "It’s not just about slapping a diverse character into an old trope. I think what people are really craving is really diverse stories, something that’s not quite so focus grouped or old and familiar. It’s crazy to think that not that long ago that comics were this domain of outsiders and now it’s completely mainstream."

In addition to scenes with the cartoonists, "Je Suis Superhero" will also feature analysis from cultural experts, including Arvind Singhal, a professor of communications and director of the Social Justice Initiative at the University of Texas at El Paso; Andrew Farago, curator of the Cartoon Art Museum; and cartoonist and journalist Adam Elrashidi.

"This message of the film is about not generalizing people," Singh said. "[Generalization] is out there in newspapers, it’s out there in the political process. People are talking about racism. We need to look at it clearly and understand each person is an individual and not generalize people."

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