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Review: The 99: Futures

Genre television has been around for decades, but the gap in quality has only gotten better in the last few years. I remember as a kid growing up, watching Adam West’s Batman, on the television, just about every afternoon.  It was fun watching the Dark Knight, before he was so dark, he was all business, but family friendly. I also remember watching the Incredible Hulk, a much sedate heartfelt version not only the big Green guy also of Bruce Banner.

As both of these examples still hold a special place in most fans hearts, it is hard for most of those fans to see how unfaithful these shows were to canon of both of these characters. In recent years, a lot of these characters including the Dark Knight, a la Gotham, has their stories told much more in step with what is canon.  This why I am pretty obsessed with The Gifted, as this shows a world after the X-Men, and is pretty close to how the world is, as it was portrayed in X men: Days of Future Past. This is what this particular issue of The 99 reminds me of, entitled Futures.

As the team gets caught up in a trap, Hadya, The Guide, gets seriously injured, Dr.Hamzi, becomes desperate to know what lies ahead. He summons Aleem The All Knowing, to soothsay all the possible futures the team may encounter. As each future is revealed, one direr than the other, and each could be changed with one decision. By book’s end, each team member sees as long as every decision counts.

Overall, a great issue in the series, a mix of Quantum Leap and Sliders. The story by Naif Al-Mutawa and Stuart Moore is funny, and action packed. The art by Joe Rubinstein and Ron Wagner is beautiful. Altogether, a great book, that lets the world see POC characters in spaces that they would otherwise not been seen.

Story: Naif Al-Mutawa and Stuart Moore Art: Joe Rubinstein and Ron Wagner
Story: 8.0 Art: 8.0 Overall: 8.0 Recommendation: Buy

Review: The 99: Beginnings

Hari Kondabolu recently made a documentary about one of the world ‘s recognizable, as well as its most stereotypical characters ever in animation, Apu. The very fact that the character is not voiced by someone of Indian decent, is a tradition, that goes back as old as the artform itself. As some people know that the character of Cleveland Brown on Family Guy is not voiced by an African American actor. The difference between Cleveland and Apu is not that one is more problematic than the other, but it is a matter of quantity.

In Kondabolu’s documentary, “The Problem with Apu,” most the interview subjects who grew up in America, expose the world to what most to of us know, Apu is not representative of any experience by any South Asian American. He also exposes, a systemic issue, one where every South Asian American, growing up, is identified with this character, one where the actor himself, refuses to even be interviewed for. The movie drives home that representation matters and that applies to all art forms. So, when I heard a bout a few years back, of The 99, I was intrigued to read this book about Muslim superheroes.

We are introduced to Dr. Ramzi Razem, who as a child discovered the Noor Stones, and the power they held, while visiting Spain. Years later, he became obsessed with finding al 99 of them, which were spread across the globe, and just each stone carried a unique power, it required a unique individual to possess it and wield its power. The reader gets to find out how each member of the 99 comes to find their own stone, and how they found their synergy with it. By book’s end, Razem, has assembled an awesome fighting force, that has to be ready for the war that is coming.

Overall, a great book that shows diversity matters and that great stories can come form anywhere in the world. The story by Naif Al-Mutawa and Stuart Moore is intricate, adventurous, and fun. The art by June Brigman, Albert Deschesne, Monica Kubina, Roy Richardson, and Dan Panosian is gorgeous. Altogether, a great book to a new universe that looks like the world.

Story: Naif Al-Mutawa and Stuart Moore
Art: June Brigman, Albert Deschesne, Monica Kubina, Roy Richardson, Dan Panosian

Story: 9.0 Art: 8.4 Overall: 9.1 Recommendation: BUY

Broken legs, death threats and fatwas: the trials and tribulations of The 99

The-99-GroupThe below is reprinted with permission by Dr. Naif Al-Mutawa, the creator of the series The 99. The series helps present modern, constructive roles for youth in the Arab world. It’s a shining example of positive engagement. The below discusses some of the attacks he has received due to his creations including a Fatwa, charges of heresy, and death threats. We stand and support Naif, condemning the threats, we ask you to join in and do so as well.

Many years ago, I was the volleyball counsellor at a summer camp in New England. It was 1990 and I was fit for five minutes. It seems there’s always an injury I can blame my (lack of) fitness on. That summer was no different.

Running into the lake, I slipped. My hands instinctively shielded my face from hitting the lake bottom and my elbows jerked back and got caught in the sand, sending my right shoulder out of its socket. I popped it back in. It was painful. I had to rest for a week before seeing a doctor. And then, on the way to the clinic, I had a terrible car accident that meant I completed my journey to the hospital in an ambulance. I’ve had my share of car accidents. Two of them were not my fault. This was one of those. It involved being shunted by a Mack truck while I was stationary at a traffic light.

At the hospital I was told that my shoulder had popped out again and that the boot of my car had been compressed to within inches of my head. I was lucky.

It was there I met an ambulance chaser, which was a first. I got his card. I got his pitch. I told him there and then not to bother: if the lorry driver who had written off my car had money, I reasoned, he would have had brakes too. I also told him I did not want to live my life by taking something away from someone else. I wanted to create rather than destroy. I did not want to be associated with a bottom feeder.

A few weeks later, a six-year-old boy sneaked up on me while I was brushing my teeth and said: “You don’t have a country … you don’t have a country …” A fellow counsellor who had roughly the same intellect as the young boy was hiding behind a tree. He had put the child up to it. It was surreal.

I called my father in Kuwait and he casually explained to me that Iraq’s invasion was a routine matter that would solve itself in a matter of days. It didn’t. The things fathers say.

Now, many years later, I have spent the summer recovering from another painful injury (giving me another excuse to explain away why I’m still not fit).

Last summer, as I was leaving my children’s summer camp in New England, I missed a step on an outdoor staircase and got my leg caught between a step and a tree root. I went in one direction and my leg in another. I broke my leg so badly my bones came out of my body for a breath of fresh air. My surgeon referred to my fracture as Humpty Dumpty. It took several surgeries and months of physical therapy to start to feel normal again.

While I recovered, another bottom feeder made his way into my life, this time forcefully. A man whose view of reality is narrow and violent, sued me for heresy and went around submitting false accusations to various institutions asking for a fatwa on my work with THE 99, a super-hero cartoon series I created based on the 99 attributes of God.

Sadly, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia and the ministry of Islamic affairs in Kuwait did not do their homework and issued fatwas condemning THE 99 based on false accusations and misstatements provided by this ambulance chaser. This is after THE 99 had been broadcast daily for two years all over the world.

The United Nations, the World Economic Forum, world leaders including president Barack Obama, the emir of Kuwait and many others endorsed my work for bridging cultures and tolerance.

In fact, THE 99 has been approved by the ministries of information in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait and was funded by a Saudi Islamic Investment Bank with its own Sharia board.

This accusation opened up a Pandora’s box and led to an avalanche of extremists each trying to outdo one another. It led to fatwas and more recently death threats from Twitter accounts linked to ISIL and Al Qaeda.

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.

My son, who is a summer camp counsellor this year, called me in a state of panic. His friends told him I was dead or that I was going to jail. I tried to allay his fears by telling him it was routine. The things fathers say.

But that is not the end of the story. The early 1990s witnessed Disney releasing their smash hit Aladdin. The opening lyrics of the song entitled Arabian Nights were: “Oh I come from a land, from a faraway place, where the caravan camels roam, where they cut off your ear if they don’t like your face, it’s barbaric, but hey, it’s home.”

Having released it on the heels of Desert Storm, Disney thought they could get away with the lyrics. They couldn’t. Protests led to changing the lyrics on the video and DVD versions. I was among the protesters.

Last week I took my children to watch Aladdin the Musical on Broadway. And as I sat in the audience I couldn’t help wonder should those lyrics have been changed? Should I have protested against them? Isn’t someone trying to cut off my head because they don’t like the way I think?

As I write this I am considering going to Kuwait to answer charges of heresy. The ministry of information has turned a number of production companies over to the public prosecutor for violating the audio-visual media law.

May God bless Kuwait and may the forces of darkness not muffle innovation and creativity. And may the ministries start to understand that in the name of protecting our culture they are responsible for killing it by scaring off the content creators and the content investors.

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? And if we do, then whose fault is that? Perhaps the ministries were not set up to protect our culture after all.

Naif Al-Mutawa is a Kuwait-born, U.S. educated psychologist who created “THE 99,” a comic book about a group of superheroes based on Islamic archetypes. See http://www.al-mutawa.com/

ISIS Calls for the Killing of the Creator of The 99

Dr. Nayef Al-Mutawa has 99 problems and ISIS is one. The creator of the comic/cartoon series The 99 has been deemed “slanderous to Islam” by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria as well as Al-Qaeda. The terrorist group has taken to social media calling for the assassination of the creator. Al-Mutawa has defended the work, even going so far as receiving clearance from sharia scholars who said the comics do not insult Allah or Islam.

Al-Mutawa is taking the threats seriously, going as far as seeking legal action against those behind the Twitter account. The Kuwait Times even said:

The head of the Human Rights Basic Elements Society Dr Yousef Al-Sager stressed that such fatwas must be issued by courts because it is very dangerous to follow fatwas from such anonymous social media accounts.

The comic was created to present a positive portrayal of Muslims, and provide Muslim children positive role models with each character embodying a pillar of the religion.

In March, the series received a fatwa against it and in February the series was highlighted in a positive way by the United States’ State Department. When the series launched it was attacked by the right as a way to indoctrinate children into Islam among other claims.

We hope Al-Mutawa remains safe and sound.

The 99’s Fatwa

the 99Comics have had an interesting role in the Arab and Muslim world, often being used to express frustration with overtly restrictive governments, helping with revolution, or attempting to present a better spotlight on the Islamic faith and its Muslim worshipers. The Daily Beast has reported that Grand Mufti Abdulaziz al-Sheikh issued a fatwa – a legal opinion or advice from the Islamic faith – against the comic book and TV show The 99. The series featured characters who identify with the 99 names of Allah and have been the focus of controversy here in the United States.

Created by Naif al-Mutawa the comic was created to present a positive portrayal of Muslims, and provide Muslim children positive role models. The fatwa issued calls the comics:

…evil work that needs to be shunned…

That’d be the exact opposite of what the point of the comic is. The comic has been praised by the United States, which has highlighted it numerous times.

Naif al-Mutawa vented his frustration talking to The Daily Beast:

We put Saudi super heroes on global television. We are saying, ‘We are the good guys, not the bad guys,’ and these people are saying, ‘No, you are wrong, we actually are the bad guys. Stop spreading lies, Naif!’

With the rise of positive Muslim characters like Marvel’s excellent new Ms. Marvel, it’ll be interesting to see if more fatwas are declared.

Superheroes@State. The US Department of State & Islamic Superheroes

Batman, Superman and… Jabbar the Powerful? These superheroes may have more in common than you think. Check out this webchat featuring David Glanzer, Director of Marketing for Comic-Con International, and Dr. Naif Al-Mutawa, exchange alumnus and creator of THE 99 — the world’s first superheroes based on Islamic culture and society.

The U.S. Department of State has turned to digital diplomacy in the form of their Co.Nx web portal which features video, audio, Twitter and more. It’s a space for an “interactive exchange of ideas” like the above that brought together members of the State Department and some one of the creators of the Mulsim superhero team The 99.

ComiXology and Teshkeel Media Group Join Forces to Launch The 99 App and Webstore

Official Press Release

ComiXology and Teshkeel Media Group Join Forces to Launch THE 99 App and Webstore

Superheroes Based on Islamic Archetypes Spread Message of Peace and Tolerance to a Digital World

President Obama calls THE 99 “perhaps the most innovative response” to America’s expanding dialogue with the Muslim world

November 3, 2011 – NYC, NY / Kuwait City, Kuwait — ComiXology and Teshkeel Media Group today announced the release of THE 99 iOS app and Webstore to sell Teshkeel’s bestselling superhero comic books digitally throughout the world. THE 99 comic series is now available across the comiXology platform — iOS, Android and the Web!

To celebrate the launch, comiXology is offering a FREE introductory issue THE 99 Beginnings, the 72-page story of the origins of THE 99. Also, issue #1 through #6 are now available for sale for only $1.99 an issue on the comiXology platform.  Additional issues of THE 99 will be released on a weekly basis with every three issues being collected into a special issue at a special price.

“All of us at comiXology are proud to be a part of bringing THE 99 to a huge new audience through THE 99 iOS app and Webstore,” said comiXology co-founder and CEO David Steinberger. “These top notch superhero comic books are great entertainment and at the same time teach lessons of peace and tolerance. We’re happy that any comic fan with an Apple iOS device or a computer hooked up to the Internet can enjoy these comics any time and any place in the world”

“We’re pleased to partner with comiXology to help bring the message of THE 99 to digital comic fans across the globe,” said Dr. Naif Al-Mutawa, Teshkeel’s CEO and creator of THE 99. “ComiXology has proven itself the market leader in digital comics and is a great fit to bring THE 99 to a whole new audience.”

Most recently in the news for being the focus of the PBS documentary WHAM! BAM! ISLAM!, THE 99 has been a lightening rod for controversy since creator Dr. Naif Al-Mutawa conceived of the superhero group as a way to spread a much needed message of peace and tolerance to young families throughout the Middle East and the West. Soon after publication began, the comic series was banned for a time in Saudi Arabia and just this past year anti-Islamic fringe groups in the United States helped scuttle the U.S. launch of THE 99 animated television series.

The success of the comic series led to the co-production of an animated television series with media giant Endemol, the world’s largest syndicator of television programs. While THE 99 looks for a broadcast outlet in the U.S., the television series will debut throughout the rest of the world early in 2012.

In 2010, President Obama, a well-known fan of comics, called THE 99 “perhaps the most innovative response” to America’s expanding dialogue with the Muslim world.

About comiXology
Since 2007 comiXology has been developing the technological infrastructure to bring comics into the digital mainstream and expose new audiences to the rich history and culture of the industry. Through partnerships with top comic book publishers including Marvel Comics, DC Comics, IDW Publishing, Archaia Entertainment, BOOM! Studios, Dynamite Entertainment and Image Comics as well as their own mobile and web apps which host over 14,000 digital titles, comiXology has become a leader in digital comic book proliferation. Also focused on creating strong ties with retail stores through its technology solutions, comiXology continues to transform the previously fragmented comic ecosystem into a vibrant and cohesive marketplace.

About Teshkeel Media Group
Teshkeel Media Group (www.teshkeel.com) is the originator of THE 99, a story of modern day superheroes based on Islamic culture and history.  THE 99 debuted in 2006 in comic book form and is now an animated television series scheduled for worldwide release in 2012. THE 99 Village theme park opened is Kuwait in 2009.  In 2011, THE 99 appeared cape to shoulder with Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman in a six-part comic book crossover. American President Barack Obama praised this historic collaboration as one of the most innovative ways to spread a message of peace and tolerance to the children of the world.

THE 99 have been recognized with major awards and tributes from around the world. Recently, THE 99 and its creator, Dr. Naif Al-Mutawa were the subject of a major documentary film titled WHAM! BAM! ISLAM! on America’s PBS network. The film is now available on iTunes.


Haters Gonna Hate on The 99

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We brought you the news first on how the bigoted right’s heads are exploding when it comes to the “Muslim” comic book series The 99.  So much so, one of the close minded, dickless hatemongers wished for my head to be cut off for covering the story and calling them out.  ICv2 is reporting that the cartoon series that was to debut on the new television station The Hub is being delayed and may never get released.

Andrea Peyser of the conservative New York Post, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch and News Corps. the parent company of Fox News, went on the attack after being alerted by the right wing blog post from Family Security MattersThe Street is reporting that this hate-mongering is enough to push the already delayed cartoon’s release into doubt.

Peyser went on her tirade, titled “Trading Cape for the Burqa,” sight unseen.  Her ill-informed rant starts off with a full frontal assault:

Hide your face and grab the kids. Coming soon to a TV in your child’s bedroom is a posse of righteous, Sharia-compliant Muslim superheroes — including one who fights crime hidden head-to-toe by a burqa. These Islamic butt-kickers are ready to bring truth, justice and indoctrination to impressionable Western minds.

Naif Al-Mutawa the creator of the series was inspired to create it after hearing a hate filled Imam.  Al-Mutawa, who’s been praised by President Obama for his positive work, says the series goal is to spread tolerance and understanding:

It is finally time that all of us became more accountable for that which our children will be hearing; tiny differences setting us apart rather than celebrating those positive things that bind all good people together. If we allow small-minded men to spout fear and hate in the name of our religion, we will enable them to brainwash another generation as they did our own. And soon, the next generation will fall into a pit of dissonance. To sit by silently makes us all complicit.

Peyser who defends the objectification of women (she wants more cleavage!) clearly has no fucking clue in what she’s talking about:

How can a secular nation endorse a children’s show aimed at pushing one religion?

A Times of London columnist wrote last year that the show’s mission was “to instill old-fashioned Islamic values in Christian, Jewish and atheist children.”

Then last month, the conservative Family Security Matters think tank published a piece titled “Meet the Muslim Superheroes Who Are Ready to Indoctrinate American Kids.”

Acknowledging Mustawa’s efforts to bridge cultures, editor Adrian Morgan asked, “Are we going to see ass-kicking Christian superhero nuns called Faith, Hope and Charity whooping sinners’ butts and sending Satan into hell? It’s doubtful.”

Well to answer that brilliant and misinformed statement, we already have “Christian” based characters and series such as Veggie Tales, Magdalena, Warrior Nun and so many more are examples than just those.  But don’t let facts stop you from your blind hate and disgust.  And how is this a “secular nation” endorsing a “children’s show”?  It’s a corporation seeing a possible market for a television series.  I thought you right wing folks believed in free markets and capitalism?  Guess not when you disagree with the product.

Peyser’s idiotic rant concludes:

“Muslim superheroes?” asked Rich Pecorella, who lost his fiancée on 9/11. “They’re dragging religion into an area that we don’t drag religion into in this country.”

Now we’re getting a comic book based on a wheelchair-bound Muslim superhero. What’s next?

I have no doubt Muslims are as fast and strong as any Supermen. But we don’t need religious icons masquerading as good guys.

Cancel “The 99” before it starts.

Comic books dipping into religion is nothing new.  Religious iconography is rampant and exists in comics.  If you were to pick one up, you might know that.  I ask is it the wheelchair that bothers her or is it the fact the person is Muslim?  The story behind that brought children of all kinds of backgrounds together and that’s what they came up with.  But again, why interrupt this with facts and actual context.  And no we don’t need religious icons masquerading as good guys, Jesus has that niche covered, we only need blind patriotic “American” characters like Captain America, dipshit.

Expect to see this firestorm hitting Fox News in 3…2…1…

Tea Party Nut Takes on the 99

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the 99Over at Patriot’s Corner, a right wing/teabagger website, “PatriotUSA” takes on the comic book series The 99 and it’s “stealth jihad.”  In an article largely ripped directly off from Family Security Matters, the blog is concerned that the “muslim potus” is crossing the line by “government sanctioning of religious cartoons” to indoctrinate the impressionable youth.

While the blog is right that some nefarious organizations do use comic books and cartoons to indoctrinate the youth, I think this nutcase is a bit off.  Lets break it down on why this person is crazy (overlooking the birther statements) and why he hopefully hasn’t had children to pass on the crazy.

A comic book is something that a child (or adult) elects to read. Pages must be turned, text must be read to make sense of the pictures. Animated cartoons do not require such deliberate behaviour on the part of the viewer. They are there, they move, they have a soundtrack with music, the characters speak, and no-one has to turn the pages

Well, lets start with the above.  I’m pretty sure turning on the television, finding the channel, looking up the time the show is on, these all qualify under deliberate behavior.  Hell, it might be easier to read the comic.  I mean, if it’s difficult to “turn the pages,” it’s a wonder this person can turn on their computer and type on their blog.

Now, onto the 99.

The new media outlet, called The Hub, will officially start airing on October 11, with veteran broadcaster Margaret Loesch running the schedule. And on the schedule of The Hub network will be an animated series called “The 99”, which will bring to life the Islamic cartoon superheroes. This is the first time that I am aware of where a religious cartoon series has been broadcast and aimed at the general viewing public.”

Well, there’s a lot of issues here.  Lets begin with the television network which is being brought to television by Hasbro.  In the beginning of his rant, PatriotUSA claims we need to watch out for the “government sanctioning of religious cartoons” with our tax dollars.  Last I checked, Hasbro was a toy company.  I’m sure they get tax breaks, but aren’t the Teabaggers pro-capitalism?

Next lets go into the whole “religious cartoon” part.  I’m going into the way back machine to a show called Davey and Goliath.  While it wasn’t a cartoon, it was a stop motion animation show aimed at children and created for the Lutheran church by Clokey Productions between 1960 through 1975.  The show aired on some ABC stations and generally had the characters dealing with important topics and overcoming them through their belief and faith in God.  So there goes that whole argument that this upcoming show is a first.

The article then goes on to link to Family Security Matters and their article on The 99 written by the organization’s editor Adrian Morgan.  The organization is a right-wing organization on the hawkish side of things. Dr. Naif al-Mutawa is the creator of the comic book series.  He created it after seeing anti-Western hate up close.  Family Security Matters goes onto praise the comic series:

I am sure Dr. Al-Mutawa is well-intentioned, and his comic books are – of themselves – not designed to promote archaic intolerance. Some of the superhero characters are female, and these do not always wear hijabs (headscarves). In Muslim countries and Muslim homes in America, this is perfectly acceptable, and can not be seen as a bad thing.

Their issue begins with President Obama’s praise for Al-Mutawa.  They claim there should be a separation of church and state.  I hope they are equally outraged at each year’s prayer breakfast, as well as the religious doctrine that drove the previous administration.  The writer seems to miss the fact the President was praising him for doing good in his society and helping to bridge the west and Islam.  The things this same writer at times recognizes and praises.

They continue to cite the recent episode of the censorship of South Park for it’s depiction of Mohammed.  If you can’t make fun of a religion’s leader, why be able to show it in a good light is their point.  Now the humor of this is they themselves by calling for the show now to be shown is censorship.  A bit of a catch-22 and hypocrisy if you ask me.

In Kuwait, the Ninety-Nine has been seen as educational and instructional, and has not been criticised. But it does seem strange that Islam – dressed up in the form of cartoon superhero characters – should be presented on the screen.

Are we going to see ass-kicking Christian superhero nuns, called Faith, Hope and Charity, whooping sinner’s butts and sending Satan into Hell? It is doubtful.

Hmm, actually we do.  There’s numerous comic book series that deal with this.  Anyone remember Warrior Nun Areala or how about the current Magdalena?  The lesson with that statement?  Don’t make stupid comments like that without basic research.

This disparity is one of the worst things affecting society at present. Christianity and Judaism do not get featured in mainstream media, but Islam is not only depicted in all strands of the media, it is being promoted by a president who seems to have forgotten what he swore to uphold when he entered office.

Again, as show by those two comics, and I can go on for a while with more examples, that’s not the case.  There’s numerous vocal Christian characters, Jewish characters (did you know The Thing was Jewish!?) and characters of all faiths and backgrounds.

There are some Christian movie-makers and animators, whose work goes out on cable or on DVD. Would these people’s work be endorsed by the president? Would their handiwork be broadcast in Kuwait?
Everyone is equal under the law. The separation of Church and State was a principle designed to ensure that peoples of all faiths were similarly treated as equals under the law. There is too much bias in America and the West, where Islam can be promoted, but it can never be criticized. This breaks the contract that was established more than two hundred years ago – in the First Amendment – to protect everyone’s religious rights.
Again the lack of actual facts is astounding.  The right, and numerous backers of this organization, espouse the United States is “Christian” founded on “Christian” principles.  The last President leaned heavily on faith based programs and evoked religious imagery.  But, it seems why actually base your final argument on facts when it’s clear that the rest of your article is a work of fiction to begin with.
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