"Justice League": Exploring How Superman Returns (Again)
Film, Comic Books
Creators | In a new profile of Naif Al-Mutawa, the creator of the Islamic superhero comic The 99 addresses the death threats made against him by ISIS and the fatwa issued against the animated adaptation in Saudi Arabia, and reveals he recently met with Kuwaiti police “to answer the charges of being a heretic.” Mutawa also blames pressure from “a handful of conservative bloggers” in the United States for The Hub not following through with plans to air the animated series. He said that after President Obama praised his work in 2010, attacks on him escalated in the United States, where he was painted as a jihadist “intent on radicalizing young kids to make them suicide bombers. And here [in the Gulf] I became an apostate Zionist. My mother told me growing up, be careful who your friends are because you end up inheriting their enemies. And that’s what happened: I don’t know President Obama. I’m very honored he called me out. But the hate became magnified after that.” [Al-Monitor]
Creators | In an article translated from an Arabic newspaper, The 99 creator Naif Al-Mutawa discusses what life has been like since a fatwa was issued earlier this year in Saudi Arabia against the animated adaptation of his comic: “You can imagine the call I had with my parents and my children when the front page of Kuwait’s leading daily newspaper quoted various death threats. ‘Look on the bright side,’ I told my parents, ‘This shows the impact of The 99.'” He ends on a chilling note: “Why would anyone invest in media content if the producers can be sent off to the public prosecutor’s office and potentially serve jail time? Isn’t it just easier to keep dubbing Turkish, Mexican and American dramas? And if we keep doing that, aren’t we diluting our culture?” [The Beat]
Censorship | The Hartford Courant published two of the most influential editorials of the great comics scare of the 1950s — one was reprinted by Readers’ Digest — so it’s appropriate that David Hajdu, author of The Ten Cent Plague, will visit the city next week during Banned Books Week. This article includes an interview with Hajdu and an excerpt from a 2008 interview with former managing editor Irving Kravsow, who wrote one of the scare pieces. [The Hartford Courant]
The Kuwait Times reports that in a series of tweets, the group accused Al-Mutawa of mocking the 99 names of Allah, and offered a reward for his death. “Who can kill Nayef Al- Mutawa who makes fun of Allah’s names?” was posted by one ISIS account while another said, “Whoever finds him, kill him, and he will be rewarded.”
Growing out of al-Qaeda in Iraq, which has since disavowed the group, ISIS has of course been in the news for its military gains in Syria and Iraq, where it seeks to establish an Islamic emirate. BBC News has a solid primer on the extremist organization.
Al-Mutawa, who said he will take legal action against those behind the account, defended himself on his own Twitter, writing, “My work has glorified Islam from the U.S. to China for the past ten years. I really do not believe in ISIL and Qaeda … I don’t care about them.”
Publishing | In the wake of the ban in Saudi Arabia of the animated adaptation of The 99 comic, creator Naif Al-Mutawa writes about what he had to go through in the first place to get approval in that country for the Islamic superheroes (one of the steps was the sale of Cracked magazine at a loss so his company would be sharia-compliant to the satisfaction of an Islamic bank). He looks at what led to the fatwa, and concludes by seeking one of his own, posing questions for the clerics who issued the decree. [The National]
Publishing | As part of its five-year anniversary celebration, Multiversity Comics surveys such industry figures as Eric Stephenson, Rachel Deering, Tom Spurgeon and Gina Gagliano about the biggest changes that have taken place during that time, and where comics are headed. [Multiversity Comics]
Legal | The creator of the Islamic superhero comic The 99 says he hasn’t been officially notified of a reported ban of the animated adaptation of his comic in Saudi Arabia. “Nobody ever contacted me, nobody ever asked me any questions,” Naif Al Mutawa says. There have been numerous Twitter campaigns against me for a while now and so for me it’s not new. Maybe it is true this time, but I find it very difficult to believe that a group as influential and high profile as them [Saudi Arabia’s Permanent Committee for Scholarly Research and Ifta] wouldn’t recognize the good that The 99 has done for Muslims around the world.” He adds that the comic has been available in Saudi Arabia for seven years, while the cartoon has been airing for two and a half years, making the timing of a ban “a bit weird.” [Gulf Business]
The government of Saudi Arabia has banned the animated adaptation of the comic The 99, saying its representations of Allah’s names and attributes cannot be tolerated.
Based on Islamic concepts but intended by creator Naif Al-Mutawa to promote universal values, the comic features 99 ordinary teenagers and adults from across the globe who become imbued with magical powers. The title and premise refers to the 99 names and attributes of Allah.
According to Dubai’s Gulf News, Saudi Arabia’s Permanent Committee for Scholarly Research and Ifta issued its decision in response to a complaint about the series’ broadcast on the Saudi-owned television channel MBC3.
Superheroes will move into the diplomatic spotlight Wednesday morning in a webchat hosted by the U.S. Department of State.
Called Superheroes@State, the live event will feature a discussion about comics and superheroes “as they relate to shared values in countries around the world,” with Comic-Con International’s David Glanzer joining Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs Evan Ryan in the CO.NX studio. Dr. Naif Al-Mutawa, creator of the Islamic superhero comic The 99, will participate remotely from Kuwait, while artist Dan Panosian will select his favorite submissions from an earlier contest.
CO.NX is a digital diplomacy team with the State Department’s Bureau of International Information Programs designed to engage audiences worldwide through webchats.
Superheroes@State is scheduled for Tuesday at 7:30 a.m. ET.
In addition to its flagship Comics reader and single-publisher apps, comiXology has a number of iPad apps devoted single properties, such as Scott Pilgrim and The Walking Dead. Now the Islamic superhero series The 99 joins the ranks with their its iPad app and webstore, both powered by comiXology. Interestingly, while comiXology has created several dedicated iOS apps for different properties, this is only the second time company has created a single-property webstore.
The 99 was created by Dr. Naif Al-Mutawa as a way to promote peace and understanding; the title refers to the 99 names of God, and the characters are envisioned as role models embodying Islamic values that are shared by other cultures. We asked comiXology CEO David Steinberger to talk to us about this new addition to the line.
Robot 6: I know you have done single-property apps before, like Scott Pilgrim, and publisher and retailer webstores, but is this the first single-property webstore?
David Steinberger: We did a Transformers dedicated Web Store a few months back, but that’s the only other one. In that case, it was starting a new relationship. For this one, it’s that this is a special property — the only one from Teshkeel — and together we determined it should be sold directly on their site.
Passings | Veteran inker Mike Esposito, who teamed with childhood friend and frequent collaborator Ross Andru on such DC Comics titles as Action Comics, Wonder Woman and Metal Men, passed away Sunday at age 83. To conceal his Marvel work from DC, Esposito used the pseudonym Mickey Demeo, inking John Romita Sr. on The Amazing Spider-Man and Jack Kirby on The Hulk. Andru later joined him at Marvel on Spider-Man. [Mark Evanier]
Publishing | Kuwaiti entrepreneur Naif al-Mutawa, whose Muslim-superhero comic The 99 recently met with absurd, manufactured controversy, is profiled just as DC Comics prepares to debut a crossover with the Justice League: “It seems likely that a media firestorm is brewing. On forums last week, DC comics faced accusations of ‘Muslim pandering’ and ‘treachery,’ but that’s the salient feature of The 99, not just that they’re superheroes from four continents fighting crime wherever they find it, but that they – and Mutawa – have to fight enemies and overcome resistance from both the east and the west. ‘One of the tough things is that people always think I’m working for someone else. In America, it’s like, “Sure, they’re private investors.” Back home, they think I’m working for the Americans and here they think I’m working for some sort of Islamic agenda’.” [The Observer]
At Comics Alliance, Andy Khouri has penned a vigorous defense of the comic series, The 99 which sets out to provide positive role models for Islamic youth but is raising objections from commentators who claim it is really part of a sinister plot to brainwash our children and impose Sharia, Islamic law, across the country. Khouri starts by pointing out that this entire argument is nonsense.
In reality, Sharia is not a by-the-books law but more of a set of social and political beliefs practiced by Muslims around the world, who differ on the details depending on where you go and who you talk to. What’s generally true across the board is that Sharia is about being culturally conservative, behaving very modestly with respect to sex and money, and practicing a high level of courtesy and reverence for one’s neighbors.
But even by this most unspecific definition of Sharia, “The 99’s” connection to Islamic law seems tenuous at best. The reality is that Superman himself operates in a way that would be very agreeable by most mainstream interpretations of Sharia, and it is with pronounced irony that conservative Americans, particularly those in favor of living life like we’re all Boy Scouts, react so hatefully towards Muslims, who are truly their allies in this regard
Khouri, who grew up in Abu Dhabi, also points out that indoctrination isn’t as easy as all that. It’s an excellent, thoughtful piece and well worth a read, even though he ends by pointing out that while the cartoon may be harmless, it also isn’t very good.
More than a year ago DC Comics announced a JLA/The 99 crossover, featuring DC’s flagship team meeting up with Teshkeel Comics’ Muslim superheroes. Now DC’s The Source blog has revealed not only the cover to the first issue–hey, check out the new threads on Wonder Woman– but also the creative team and the release date. The first issue of the six-issue mini-series, by writers Stuart Moore and Fabian Nicieza with art by Tom Derenick, comes out in October.
Legal | A Belgian court will rule next week whether Herge’s 1931 collection Tintin in the Congo will be banned because of its depictions of native Africans. The decision, originally expected today, following a nearly three-year-old effort by Bienvenu Mbutu Mondondo, a Congolese man living in Belgium, to have the book removed from the country’s bookstores, or at least sold with warning labels as it is in Britain. [Guardian, Mail Online]
Libraries | Robot 6 contributor Brigid Alverson reports on a C2E2 panel devoted to helping librarians deal with public challenges to graphic novels. On a related note, she also talks to Jeff Smith about a Minnesota mother’s attempt to have Bone removed from libraries in her school district. [Publishers Weekly]
DC’s The Source blog announced today that the Justice League will meet Teshkeel Comics’ The 99 in an upcoming mini-series. Fabian Nicieza, who is no stranger to either set of heroes, will write the book (CBR spoke with Nicieza about the project back in 2007). The release date and artist will be announced at a later date.
THE 99 team, which debuted in June 2006, was recently identified by Forbes Magazine as one of the “Top 20 Trends Sweeping the Globe.” Not too shabby, huh? In THE 99 — created by Naif Al-Mutawa — are a team of superheroes, including Jabbar the Powerful and Noora the Light who must collect 99 gems encrypted with the wisdom and power of the ancient Dar Al-Hikma library of Baghdad, which are spread across the globe.
They even have their own theme park, and a cartoon is in development.