Yet another article from your friendly neighbourhood Goatman. Okay; maybe that’s not as cool as my counterpart. In fact, I’ll just stick to Anas.
With the rise in popularity of comic book heroes, you may have asked yourself: wouldn’t it be cool if there were Muslim superheroes? Well, fear no more; “the 99” are here to capitalize on the recent trend. In 2003, Dr. Naif Al-Mutawa developed “the 99” comic book, in an effort to combat the negative image developed of Muslims after 9/11.
As a child, Dr. Al-Mutawa would spend his entire allowance on books. He dreamed of writing as a career but, due to pressure from his parents, was influenced to follow a different career path. He earned a Ph.D. in clinical psychology but, unsatisfied, he decided to complete a graduate program in business at Columbia University in New York. The two realms combined have helped him form the Superhero cast for “the 99”. Now, Dr. Al-Mutawa is an award winning UNESCO author and the 2009 recipient of the Schwab Foundation Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award at the World Economic Forum on the Middle East, Dead Sea, and Jordan.
"The 99" writing team is made up of some industry heavy weights; people who have worked for both DC and Marvel Comics, such as Fabien Nicieza (X-Men, Cable and Deadpool) and Ron Wagner (Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight, The Punisher, G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero).
The comic is based on 99 characters each holding a super power based on one of the ninety names of Allah (SWT) and each of them come from a different nation. The first comic, titled "Origins" is available online for free. Below is an excerpt from the comic's first page, which aptly describes its main storyline:
I am not an avid comic book reader but I did find it interesting; especially how it dated back to the Abbasid Empire for the original source of power. If this is a post 9/11, post-Invasion of Iraq insired effort, I am not wholly surprised that this comic's storyline begins at the fall of Baghdad to the Mongols in 1258.
For those who don't know, Ihe National Museum of Iraq was the subject of a great deal of controversy in 2003, when it was discovered that invading forces had done nothing to protect the artifacts of the Cradle of Civilization. According to the writer Fernando Baez, this was Iraq's biggest cultural disaster since the first fall of Baghdad; which is the starting point of Al-Mutawa's storyline.
In 2003, one million books, 10 million documents and some 14,000 archaeological artifacts were lost in the US invasion. The BBC reported that the White House's cultural advisors had resigned in protest: "Priceless statues, manuscripts and other treasures were taken away in a wave of lawlessness following the collapse of the government of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad last week. 'It didn't have to happen', Martin Sullivan - who chaired the President's Advisory Committee on Cultural Property for eight years - told Reuters news agency. n a pre-emptive war that's the kind of thing you should have planned for,he said."
These artifacts did not just detail contemporary Iraq's history, but also the history of the world's first cilivizations in Sumer, Babylonia and Akkadia. Sumerian civilization spanned about 3000 years, from the 6th millenium BC to the 3rd. Sumer was the birthplace of many inventions that propelled the growth of modern cities; like the wheel, and written language.
The heroes do not pray, as they are meant to have universal appeal. And so far, based on sales, they do. The 99 has also teamed up on missions with the Justice League to save the world. The popularity of the comics has lead to the creation of its very own theme park in Jahra, Kuwait. It is the Middle East's first theme park.
I will surely continue reading to see where this comic series goes next.