11 April 2017
Comic book artist in suicide attack on own career
Ardian Syaf had just landed a plum assignment for an ambitious comic-book artist. After making a name for himself at DC Comics, the Indonesian penciller was now working at Marvel Comics as the penciller for X-Men Gold, a new title that's part of a relaunch for Marvel's ever-popular mutant line. The first issue appeared last week. Today, Syaf states on Facebook that "my career is over" because he was caught -- by readers, though not by his editors -- inserting "easter egg" references to Indonesian sectarian politics into a superhero comic. This comic-book news site explains exactly what Syaf did and how it's relevant to issues in his own country. Some of these references would have sailed over most readers' heads, but when a comics artist puts specifics words, letters or numbers in his art, some people are going to want to know what they all mean. In Syaf's worst offense, he drew one character sporting a shirt that referred to sura 5, verse 51 of the Qur'an, which in one translation 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." This verse served as a slogan for opponents of Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, the Christian governor of Jakarta, Indonesia's capital, who led the first round of voting in his re-election campaign earlier this year but has been accused of blaspheming Islam because he'd accused his opponents of using the verse in question to deceive voters. Of course, you don't have to know jack about Jakarta or Indonesian politics to be offended by a verse described just about universally in reports on the Syaf scandal as anti-Christian and anti-semitic. Denunciation from Syaf's peers appears universal, including a diatribe from a Marvel colleague and fellow Muslim G. Willow Wilson, the writer of the popular Ms. Marvel book, who denounces Syaf's "garbage philosophy" while claiming that twice-removed translations used in reporting the story miss the sura's actual meaning and historical context. An Indonesian colleague used Facebook to politely call Syaf a bonehead for imposing his pictorial commentary into someone else's script and intellectual property. In all likelihood, the remaining issues of X-Men Gold Syaf has already finished will be his last work at Marvel, though his own report of his career death may prove exaggerated. That only leaves the big question many comics consumers are asking themselves now: Does this make X-Men Gold #1 a collectors item?