Wednesday, February 02, 2011

International Heroes

Some time back I became turned on a Kuwaiti comicbook company that initially entered into the US marketplace by licensing Spider-Man to publish in Arabic for the Mid-East. Teshkeel Comics then moved into a new area by introducing their own characters, The 99. The comic (written by Fabian Nicieza) centers around a group of teenagers who have certain aspects of their personality “augmented” by bonding with several “enhanced” Noor gem stones that have been imbued with one of The 99 special traits of Allah, and then passed these traits each of the individuals. If this sort of sounds a little like the X-Men it is probably because Fabian is a former writer of that team.
Given this double connection to Marvel, it sort of makes the next part of this post even more interesting. The 99 Have recently teamed up with the JLA. Yep, DC’s Justice League of America. Now I’m not sure why this first team-up happened with DC, and not Marvel, but — on some level — I really don’t care, so long as these very cool characters become introduced into the American Audience.

It is one of the goals of Dr. Naif Al-Mutawa (a UNESCO award-winning author and the creator of the 99) to present a positive image of the Arab world and Islamic beliefs, and both the comic itself and his editorials in each issue reflect that approach. Dr. Naif was quick to point out that there is no overt religious message in The 99, nor is he attempting to present a religious image of either Allah or Islam, as that would be something to difficult to attempt. Rather, the comic should be viewed as a typical superhero comic that just happens to take place with a cast of characters that is largely Islamic.

As of yet, I haven’t read the JLA/99 series (for of the planned six issues have already hit the stands), but I’m looking forward to doing so as I have read the first 12 or 13 issues of The 99. The team-up is co-written by Fabian  and Stuart Moore.

Personally, I can only think that this kind of inter-company team-up can be beneficial to both companies by introducing the characters of each to the readers of the others. To be sure, the DC characters are more widely known, but it certainly couldn't hurt to have them favorably introduced into the largely Islamic audience that reads The 99, nor would it be bad for the primarily U.S. audience to get a more favorable understanding of non-threatening Islamic characters.

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