Move over Batman and Superman; the most popular comic book in the Arab world today is The 99, tales of Muslim superheroes based on Islamic culture. It was created by Naif al-Mutawa, a 36-year-old from Kuwait, who has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from New York’s Long Island University and an M.B.A. from Columbia. As a boy, he devoured the Hardy Boys mysteries and Marvel comics. Now, he has successfully developed a series of comic book superheroes whose powers are based on the concept of Allah’s 99 attributes, as taught in the Koran.
FRONTLINE/World reporter Isaac Solotaroff follows al-Mutawa as he runs his publishing enterprise in Kuwait and markets his comics throughout the Middle East, hoping to spread a moderate, modern image of Islam. But not everyone in the Muslim world is a fan: al-Mutawa has encountered the threat of fatwahs, and his comic books are currently prohibited in Saudi Arabia. The 99 represents the latest chapter in Islam’s struggle between modernism and tradition.
I am glad to see a Muslim moderate create a piece of modern culture for fellow Muslims and Middle Easterners. It's about time we see beautiful art from the Arab world take prominence in the Western media instead of images of hatred. I can't wait till the 99 becomes available in the States!
I was down at the local comic store today and noticed a book on the rack called The 99: Origins, with a price tag of Free. I didn't know a thing about it, but I figured I'd give it a shot.
I'll freely admit that I don't know much about Islam, but I do know what entertains me, and The 99 fits the bill. This issue had a solid story, good art, and I had fun reading it. If I end up learning a bit about another culture, so much the better.
This free issue was pretty much story set-up and introduced a couple characters. An ad mentioned the regular series goes on sale Stateside in October. I'll be buying at least the first few issues to see if it continues to deliver.
Very nice writing & art, I have already talked to my comic store to have this on my pull list. Will this be sold in English & Arabic in North America?
Hickory Hills, IL
Your story on The 99 was excellent. As a high school ELL program director with a large Muslim student population, I was intrigued by the possibilities of how this comic could increase our students' interest in reading.
This is a fascinating piece. I look forward to seeing the longer documentary and hope that news of this very creative endeavor spreads.
This piece made me smile. I think we,young Muslims, grew up with Mickey,Spiderman,Falbala and mangas,just as much as kids in other parts of the world. I've never heard of the 99 but I definitely think kids should have access to a variety of comics. Naif's idea is great! Now, what I don't get is: why a political science professor to give the "other" opinion? An Islamic Studies professor would have been more appropriate. Oh and,please,less praying shots at the beginning of pieces in the Muslim world,so so cliché!
East Falmouth, MA
The segment on the 99 comic book was wonderful! It's an intriguing subject and timely. I watched it with my teenage son who is a MAJOR comic book fan. He was aware of 99 but learned a lot from this segment. I was especially depressed by the statement from the hard-core fundamentalist who seems to think that God/Allah doesn't act through people, and was encouraged to encounter the comic's creator who seems to be a real Islamic moderate. Great stuff! I'll be eager to hear more about the extended project.
J. K. Mann
New York, NY
The 99 heroes may be a case of "too little, too late" but it is brilliant as was your all-too-short piece on it. Please reprise it in a longer form. Your website piece on The 99 is a much richer, better offering than the short video you provided.
FRONTLINE/World's editors respond:
We are glad you like our Web site offerings. Often, it turns out, one can do more on the Web than on a broadcast. But we may well return to a longer version of "The 99" on TV next season. We appreciate your interest.
Good show and congratulations on your sucess. Old traditions are hard to break. But you are going in the right direction. Must capture the minds of the young at heart. I too am trying to break tradition as well, be on the look out for Universal Football coming soon to a video screen near you.
New York, NY
Really interesting and a good antidote to Islam bashing. But this is complex and I would like to see more than the short video Frontline aired. Where can I get more?
FRONTLINE/World's editors respond:
The reporter is working on a longer version of the story and he hopes to release a feature version sometime in 2008.
Great idea! Kudos to the good Dr and his team.It struck me while listening to those who are planning to fight against the comic that if the heros' powers were attributed to a gift from Allah rather than natural to the characters, it might relax some of the objections. I am not Muslim and have no Muslim friends -- yet but I hope this reaction is not contrary to doctrine.