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Last Updated: Thursday, 31 March 2005, 12:39 GMT 13:39 UK
US army to produce Mid-East comic
The US military is planning to win the hearts of young people in the Middle East by publishing a new comic.

Jalila, a brainy Levantine scientist and fighter for justice
The army comic may encounter competition from Arab superheroes created by an Egyptian publisher
An advertisement on the US government's Federal Business Opportunities website is inviting applications for someone to develop an "original comic book series".

"In order to achieve long-term peace and stability in the Middle East, the youth need to be reached," the ad says.

"A series of comic books provides the opportunity for youth to learn lessons, develop role models and improve their education."

'Psyops'

The comic is to be a collaborative effort with the US Army, which says it has already done initial character and plot development.

It will be based on "the security forces, military and police, in the near future in the Middle East" and is being produced by US Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg in North Carolina.

Fort Bragg is home to the army's 4th Psychological Operations Group, known as "psy-op warriors", whose weaponry includes radio transmitters, loudspeakers and leaflets.

The unit, whose slogans include Win the Mind - Win the Day and Verbum Vincet (The Word Conquers), is schooled in marketing and advertising techniques.

In the past few years, its soldiers have been deployed during conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan dropping leaflets and cartoons urging surrender and broadcasting pro-American messages via radio and television.

Marketing

A spokesman at Fort Bragg told BBC News website that the initiative for the comic-book project came from the US Department of Defense's Central Command, which is responsible for US security interests in 25 Middle Eastern and Arab nations.

According to the advertisement, the successful applicant will ideally need to have experience of law enforcement and "small unit military operations" - along with a knowledge of Arab language and cultures.

The aim is to involve the ministries of interior of some of Middle East countries.

The army is aiming to test initial comics on focus groups and based on their success or otherwise, will either be developed further or dropped completely.

The US army's comic could see competition from a new Egyptian publishing venture which has created what it bills as the first Arab superheroes: Zein aka the Last Pharaoh, Rakan, a hairy medieval warrior in Mesopotamia, Jalila, a brainy Levantine scientist and fighter for justice and Aya, a North African described as a "vixen who roams the region on her supercharged motorbike confronting crime wherever it rears its ugly head".

AK Comics says its goal is "to fill the cultural gap created over the years by providing essentially Arab role models, in our case, Arab superheroes to become a source of pride to our young generations."




SEE ALSO
Middle East gets first superheroes
07 Mar 05 |  Middle East



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