The series gained a wide audience in 2010, when it worked with DC on a six-issue crossover that teamed the "The 99" with The Justice League of America.
Johns, who also has written stories starring Superman, The Flash and Teen Titans, said going diverse only works if there's a good story, and he believes he found that with Baz. But don't mistake him for a hero in the beginning: Baz disappoints both devout Muslims — his forearm tattoo that reads "courage" in Arabic is considered "haram," or religiously forbidden — and broader society by turning to a life of crime.
"He's not a perfect character. He's obviously made some mistakes in his life, but that makes him more compelling and relatable," he said. "Hopefully (it's) a compelling character regardless of culture or ethnic background. ... But I think it's great to have an Arab-American superhero. This was opportunity and a chance to really go for it."
Of course, Johns hopes Green Lantern fans accept Baz, who joins other humans who have been "chosen," including Hal Jordan, John Stewart, Guy Gardner and Kyle Rayner. The overall relaunch has been good for DC, which has seen a solid gain in sales and critical reception — as well as some expected grumbling — since coming out with the "New 52" last year.
Johns also sees the debut of Baz as a chance to reconnect with people in his home state: He's scheduled to visit Dearborn this weekend for events related to the release that include a signing Friday at a comic book store and a free presentation Saturday on his career and characters at the Arab American National Museum. He worked with museum staff to make sure he got certain details right about his character and the Arab-Muslim community.
"It doesn't completely define the character but it shapes the character," he said. "My biggest hope is that people embrace it and understand what we're trying to do."
Associated Press Writer Matt Moore contributed to this report from Philadelphia.
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