The comic book “The 99” hit newsstands in 2006 in the Middle East, and in 2007 in the United States. Since its inception it has sparked controversy throughout the Western and Islamic worlds.
“The 99” is a comic book that features superheroes and heroines that battle good and evil. Illustrated in Arabic or English, “The 99” follows characters through various trials and often resembles Superman or Batman comics. The comic books feature 99 different superheroes, each with an unique attribute that sets them apart. Each of these attributes are characteristics that are found in Allah, according to the Koran, and each of these attributes makes the character the supernatural being they are.
Naif Al-Mutawa, creator of the series, said in an interview conducted by Tamara Walid of Bloomberg Businessweek that the purpose of the comic book series goes beyond creating a fun read for children, but that it was also to create “positive role models for my kids that are based on our culture but are universal in nature.”
“It doesn’t matter what religion you are, it doesn’t matter if you have a religion — they are basic human values,” Al-Mutawa said in an interview.
In President Barack Obama’s speech at the Presidential Summit on Entrepreneurship, he applauded Al-Mutawa for his comic series and their cross-cultural impact on humanity. However, not all Americans have been so receptive of the comics. Critics in America, including New York Post columnist Andrea Peyser, called out the comics as not being a good source of entertainment for readers.
The lack of tolerance for Islam since Sept. 11, 2001 was another reason for Al-Mutawa to generate a media outlet that allowed readers to view and interpret Islamic culture through a different lens than the mainstream media.
“The 99” is branching out to other media platforms besides their comic books. According to “The 99’s” official website, “‘The 99’ will appear on television screens throughout the world. With its production partner, Endemol UK, the world’s largest syndicator of television programs, twenty-six episodes of ‘The 99’ animated television series are reaching completion. Another twenty-six have been commissioned.”
The comic book can be ordered in either English or Arabic and can be found online at the99.org.