Have you heard of Marvel's newest Middle Eastern superhero?
You've heard of Iron Man, Spiderman and Captain America, but have you heard of Marvel's newest Arab superhero, Habib? Neither had Rob Michaels or Fady Ghali, and that's why they created him.
Friends since highschool, Michaels and Ghali run a Youtube sketch comedy channel together called Wishful Genies, where they write, film and create original sketches to share online.
"We've known each other for 14 years. Back then, we both had an itch to pursue acting and comedy, but neither one of us did because we were pressured by our parents to get real jobs'," says Michaels.
"It was only after working those corporate 'real jobs' years later and being unhappy in them that we decided to just go for it."
Ghali says when brainstorming a name for their channel he suggested something to do with genies because of their association with Middle Eastern culture, however they also wanted a name that had a funny meaning behind it.
"So we settled on Wishful Genies. The idea is that we're genies because we're creating content, back then the pitch was: 'We're gonna make magic, man!' But we're also nobodys wishing to get discovered," says Ghali.
Since launching their channel in 2018, Michaels and Ghali have put out a number of sketches, most recent being their fake movie trailer for Marvel's first ever Arab superhero, Habib.
The trailer shows the origin story of Habib (Michaels), a superhero trying to save the world from evil villain Wahish (Ghali), all while battling with the burden of his parents' disappointment that he isn't a doctor.
The idea for Habib came to Michael's when speaking with a friend about the lack of representation in the superhero world and his friend suggested they should just make one themselves. Michaels initially laughed off the idea thinking it would be too difficult to pull off.
"A few hours later I was thinking about the idea again and a thought occurred to me: 'I bet that even if I was a superhero, my parents would probably still prefer I was a doctor.' The idea of an Arab superhero saving the world, but still having his parents prioritize getting his degree really made me laugh, and I immediately called Fady and said I wanted to do a sketch about an Arab superhero," says Michaels.
The video has been well received online, with over 70,000 views on Youtube and over 600,000 cumulatively on Tik Tok.
The trailer even garnered a retweet from Scott Derrickson, the writer of Dr. Strange and positive feedback from soon-to-be Marvel superhero Simu Liu. The future Shang-Chi star commented that the video was "highly enjoyable," after it was posted in a BIPOC TV & Film group on Facebook.
"We've had so many people from different countries tell us that the video's been forwarded to them from people we don't even know," says Ghali.
"The best part is honestly how many people have asked us to make it a real movie. It shows that there's truly a demand for this kind of content. Funnily enough, we've also had people reach out to us asking us to do interviews closer to when the film premieres, thinking it's actually a real movie."
However, with the positive comments have also come the negative.
"Most of the comments have definitely been positive, but we've also seen a lot of ignorance," says Michaels.
"The worst part is that we honestly expected ignorant and racist comments to show up eventually. However, we're hopeful that if there actually was an Arab superhero in mainstream media or just more representation in general, these negative associations would slowly disappear."
Racist and ignorant commentary is precisely why Michaels and Ghali wanted to create Habib in the first place, as they say they "wanted to send the message that Arabs can be heroes too".
"We're mostly depicted in the media as terrorists or refugees, but we wanted to show that we can be the good guys and the leads as well. We have loving families with good intentions, we live normal lives, we have a sense of humour, and we have unique and relatable stories to offer the world," says Michaels.