Political messages in comics aren’t new and especially so when involving the X-Men, but Marvel fully believes that Ardian Syaf crossed a line when including subtle hate messages in last week’s ‘X-Men: Gold‘ #1. Syaf introduced a couple of controversial references to the current political climate in Jakarta, Indonesia, and the company will be editing the artwork in re-releases of the book and from the digital formatting as well as additional “disciplinary action.” Marvel has been vague about what that means for the future of this freelance artist working for the company though I suspect his time illustrating anything at Marvel might be coming to an end.
So, what exactly happened that caused this backlash? Over the weekend, readers from Indonesia started pointing out specific panels. There are two particular ones being cited which we will include below that I will explain immediately after.
The first is of Colossus’ shirt which sports “QS 5:51.”
The second is Kitty Pryde with who is known for being Jewish with “212” directly above her head.
Now, if you aren’t familiar with what is happening in Jakarta, Indonesia at this time, this will likely mean nothing to you. However, “Jakarta’s Governor Basuki Purnama Tjahaja, better known as Ahok, is currently on trial for blasphemy while also battling to keep his seat in a runoff election.”
Last year a video was shown of Ahok stating that his opponents were using the Quran verse of “QS 5:51” (mentioned above on Colossus’ shirt) to lie to them. The translation of it can be taken as “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.”
This is one of those verses which can be taken in many ways that has been used by this faction as to why non-Muslims shouldn’t be allowed in the government.
Factor that in with the second image of Kitty mentioned above which is a direct reference to the largest most recent charge of blasphemy which occurred on December 2nd, 2016.
Marvel was pretty quiet on the matter only issuing the following statement:
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.
While some may see this as censorship, it is the publisher’s comic to do with as what they see fit and not Syaf’s who inserted these references without permission.
When speaking about it, Ardian Syaf was pretty clear on his views where he confirmed that the numbers directly referenced the December protests and the alleged blasphemy. He also followed that up by saying “I told all Marvel the truth [sic] meaning of the number, let’s see how Marvel will act.” Well, at the very least removing the imagery in future issues is a start and I suspect that his talent in art won’t be used by the company for the foreseeable future.
Do you think sneaking politics messages into corporately owned comics is the way for a freelance artist to get their personal beliefs across, hateful or not? What do you think that Marvel will ultimately do with the artist? Share your thoughts below True Believers!
Stuart Conover is an author, blogger, and all around geek. When not busy being a father and husband he tries to spend as much time as possible immersed in comic books, science fiction, and horror! Would you like to know more? Follow him on Twitter!