It’s just another job for Superman and Wonder Woman: a group of shepherds in the Shimshal region of Pakistan are being menaced by a demigod, until the superheroes show up.
Blue-faced baddy and innocent pastoral types exchange the usual banter: “You are all crushed by your hubris and ignorance.” “Help us, Allah …” As is the accepted format, the dialogue is enclosed within angled brackets to show it is translated speech; however, in this case, the editor’s note in Superman/Wonder Woman Annual #2, released last week by DC comics, tells us the dialogue is “all translated from Pakistanian” — a language as non-existent as Superman’s native Kryptonian.
The caption was met with derision and glee on social media. Pakistani writer Khaver Siddiqi tweeted: “Here’s why @Marvel is winning over @DCComics — the latter thinks we speak Pakistanian”, referring to Marvel Comics having a Pakistani-American superhero, Ms Marvel. “You know, I’m not offended personally,” Siddiqi told the Guardian. “But when you have such a large operation and one Google search ruins your story? That offends me more.”
Pakistan’s official national language is Urdu, though a huge number of people speak Punjabi. English was officially dropped last year as an official language.
There are more than a dozen regional variations and languages — none of them called Pakistanian.
Karachi-based radio host and book reviewer Mahvesh Murad tweeted: “PAKISTANIAN! Fantastic. Someone teach me that too.” Zawad Iftikhar wrote: “Could you help me with my quest to learn ‘PAKISTANIAN’? Can’t find one school that offers it. #DCComics #Pakistanian” while @whyrus_ tweeted: “According to DC comics, Pakistan’s language is Pakistanian. DC comics do have a solid command over American, I must say.”
Some people directed their messages at the Twitter account of the comic’s editor, Andrew Marino, with one user sending the tongue-in-cheek tweet: “Hey, @GLMarino, any editor worth his salt would know: it’s called *Pakistanese*.” “You wonder, with the size of the Superman dynasty, the DC Comics empire, the cultural impact that both have made to the world, why no one thought to Google ‘what language do they speak in Pakistan?’”
London-based writer and diversity campaigner Nikesh Shukla told the Guardian. “Either it’s lazy, which is troubling, or it’s ignorant, which is troubling, or it’s on purpose. Which is troubling. But then again, Starbucks, one of the world’s biggest coffee chains, still has chai tea on the menu, which, as we all know, means tea. Words fail me. As they did DC.” DC Entertainment told the Guardian they would not be commenting on the caption.