A Comic Book Superhero With a Kyrgyz Flavour

As of March next year, Kyrgyzstan will have its own superhero called Barsbek. Barsbek will be produced [ru] first as a comic, then as a series of cartoon films. According to the author of the graphic novels, Kunai Medetkhan, the main hero's character is taken from a real life person, the popular Kyrgyz dancer Atay Omurzakov. But netizens see another inspiration behind the figure of Barsbek – Spider-Man.

Author Kunai Medetkhan and dancer Atay Omurzakov present initial sketches of Barsbek.

“Barsbek” tells the story of a boy named Atay, who survived many hardships from a young age. At one point, much like his American comic book counterpart, he becomes endowed with a unique super-human strength. But unlike Spider-Man, who owes his agility and dexterity to the arachnid world, Atay becomes Barsbek due to the force of Snow Leopard, an endangered species that is emblematic of the Central Asian region.

Nevertheless, as Barsbek prepares to fight fearlessly with criminals, protect the weak and solve social problems, he has already attracted criticism for being “too American”.

The news about upcoming comics on the first Kyrgyz superhero raised many different opinions among citizens.

On Limon.kg's coverage of the comic's release, one user, Truecommented [ru]:

Американщина пошла полная… Люди почему америка для нас эталон а? Почему мы постоянно за Америкой? Теперь и комикс Барсбек… Теперь наши дети будут деградировать еще сильнее… не читать а смотреть картинки.

This is completely Americanized … People, why is America a gold standard for us? Why are we constantly [imitating] America? Now the Barsbek comics … Our children will now deteriorate even more rapidly, looking at pictures rather than reading.

Others, such as user ‘6796’ said the drawings had inspired [ru] them to create their own works.

у меня тоже есть зарисовки, думаю приступить к изготовлению комикса, сюжет конечно у Барсбека однотипная похожую на аналогов Человека-паука и т.д. и т.п. а то что выпускаются и распространяются безвозмездно это классно…

I also have sketches; I am thinking about making comics. Barsbek's story, of course, is similar to its counterparts like Spider-Man etc. But the fact that it is to be produced and then distributed free of charge is awesome…

In Kyrgyzstan the comic book sphere is underdeveloped, but Western comics and Japanese manga are popular among young people. Anime.kg is a site where anime and manga fans can discuss their favorite stories and heroes, and come together to organize anime events and roleplaying games in Bishkek.

But Barsbek has come under fire as an insult to Kyrgyz history as well as a blunt copy of Western comics. Barsbek, after all, was the ruler of the Kyrgyz in Enisei, who kept people united in the face of the encroachment of foreign empires during the 8th century. One netizen, using the name ‘1’, complained [ru] of the improper use of the hero's historical name:

Барсбек это историческая личность, а не мальчик с комиксов. Авторы, вы представляете если бы   российские авторы придумали бы комикс о Грозном или Лермонтове?

Barsbek is a historical figure, not a boy out of comic books. Authors, can you imagine what would happen if Russian authors came up with a comic book about [the sixteenth-century tsar Ivan] the Terrible or [the nineteenth-century writer Mikhail] Lermontov?

On Facebook, Kyrgyz users shared their opinions about an image of Barsbek poised over Bishkek's Ala-Too square.

Barsbek looks out over Ala-Too square, the site of two revolutions in the last eight years. Image by Kloop.kg, used with permission.

Jazi Fleur wrote [ru]:

костюм какой-то непонятный….

His suit is certainly strange….

While Jumgal Amangulov echoed [ru] a recurring concern: 

Что очень похоже на человека паука :))

He looks too much like Spider-Man :))

And Symbat Baetova commented [ru] cynically:

Супергерой в образе снежного барса, оба вида предназначены для любования и грёз; внесены в красную книгу. Ни того, ни другого не видать в реальности

A superhero epitomizing a snow leopard – both things are the stuff of fantasies and dreams; one included in the Red Book [a Soviet institution designed to list and protect endangered species], but neither visible in reality.

Meanwhile, Atay Omurzakov, the dancer-hero behind the comic book hero, offered [ru] his support for the project:

Мне очень нравится идея комикса. Я счастлив, что стал прообразом главного героя. Многих ребят у нас воспитывает западный шоу-бизнес, но всегда мечтал участвовать в подобном национальном проект

I really like the idea of the comics. I am happy that I became the prototype for the main character. Many guys here are raised [in the spirit of] Western show business, but I always wanted to participate in some kind of a national project

This post is part of the GV Central Asia Interns Project at the American University of Central Asia in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.


Join the conversation

Authors, please log in »


  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.