Marvel Comics has been battling low sales of its comics, and much of it may do with writers baking political correctness into their narratives, and also retiring established characters for new, more “diverse” faces. But now one of its artists, Ardian Syaf, has been revealed to have hidden anti-Semitic and anti-Christian messages in the pages of the newly released first issue of X-Men Gold.
The Indonesian Muslim artist — who was responsible for the issue’s artwork — included coded references to the ongoing religious strife in his home country, references in support of the country’s hardline Islamist movement. It is comparable to referencing “14/88” in support of the white supremacist movement.
Largely ignored by the international media, the Indonesian turmoil involves the Governor of Jakarta, Basuki Purnama Tjahaja (also known as Ahok), who is currently on trial for blasphemy. Ahok is Jakarta’s first Christian and ethnic Chinese person to hold the position in over five decades. Despite his popularity among moderate Muslims and non-Muslims, conservative Islamists from the Islamic Defenders Front argue that Muslims cannot be led by a non-Muslim.
Citing the Koran, the Islamists invoked verse QS 5:51, which basically states that Muslims are forbidden from allying with Jews and Christians, much less led by a non-Muslim. The verse reads:
“O you who have believed, do not take the Jews and the Christians as allies. They are, in fact, allies of one another. And whoever is an ally to them among you – then indeed, he is one of them. Indeed, Allah guides not the wrongdoing people.”
Referring to the verse, Ahok says that his political opponents are citing the Koran to deceive his supporters. For saying so, Ahok was accused of criticizing the Koran and now faces charges of blasphemy. He has since apologized for his statement, but to little avail as widespread protests broke out in the nation’s capital demanding his arrest and incarceration.
The largest of the protests occurred on December 2, 2016—which has become known as “212” (the day and month). The Marvel artist referenced the number in one of the comic panels, prominently displaying it on a storefront. The same panel also includes a portion of the word “Jewelry,” presumably a reference to Jews.
A character in the crowd (who has his fist clenched and a disapproving snarl on his face) can be seen wearing a shirt with the number “51” on it as he listens to a speech by Kitty Pryde who talks about being the new leader of the X-Men. She is of Jewish descent.
Syaf is proud of his work, and posted an uncolored panel on Facebook to advertise the comic. Responding in Indonesian, some of the commenters said they appreciated his talent, but were perplexed by his decision to force his politics into the comic book.
“Agama [Religion] is a garbage topic, easily played and used for getting attention,” wrote one of his fans. “I mean come on dood [sic] your art is amazing, no need to be a sensationalist. You already got exposure.”
In another panel, the X-Man Colossus is wearing a shirt with the letters “QS 5:51” in clear reference of Syaf’s political stance.
Marvel has now issued an official response to Comicbook.com following complaints from Indonesian comic book readers and other X-Men fans who caught on to his coded messages.
“The mentioned artwork in X-Men Gold #1 was inserted without knowledge behind its reported meanings. These implied references do not reflect the views of the writer, editors or anyone else at Marvel and are in direct opposition of the inclusiveness of Marvel Comics and what the X-Men have stood for since their creation. This artwork will be removed from subsequent printings, digital versions, and trade paperbacks and disciplinary action is being taken.”
It’s unknown what form of disciplinary action will be taken against Syaf, who freelances for the publication. The X-Men comic book series was originally created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, both of whom are Jewish.