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Batwing: an African superhero for an American audience

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David Zavimbe is a young policeman in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and he harbours a secret. He is Batwing, a member of Batman Incorporated, the Dark Knight’s army of bat-like superheroes spread across the world. Having faced the wrath of rogue generals who recruited him to be a child soldier, he now battles a corrupt police system, as well as Massacre, a machete-wielding super villain hell bent on destruction. With Batman’s guidance, a high-tech bat suit, an underground lair, and a longtime friend Matu, Batwing fights Massacre in his own eponymous series by DC Comics.

Batwing was first introduced within the Batman Incorporated series, and his story follows very closely on themes made familiar by Batman’s own epic battles in Gotham City. Tinasha, the city in DRC where Batwing lives and works, is about as real as Gotham is. Batwing has the largesse of his mentor Batman, just as Bruce Wayne himself has a vast family fortune backing him. Both battle improbable super villains. Both have secret lairs, and both must carefully manage the tension of having real lives within a corrupt system, and alter egos that operate outside of the rules and norms of normal people.

David has been "Africanized" by DC Comics. His parents both died of HIV/AIDS while he and his brother were very young. They were kidnapped from the orphanage where they lived by General Keita, and press-ganged into his Army of the Dawn – a fictional militant group echoing the very real Lord's Resistance Army – as child soldiers. Both David and his brother showed an exceptional talent for taking lives, which saw them gain quick prominence in General Keita’s army as assassins. After an assassination attempt goes wrong (David and his brother are required to execute an entire village of women and children to get to the enemy general inside of it) and the brother is killed by General Keita, David escapes to a rescue center for former child soldiers before eventually making his way to the DRC police force.

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