The 99: Superheros from the Islamic world
What first appears to be an average American-style comic book, on closer inspection is far from it. Yes the hero’s in The 99 wear tights and sport massive, well-defined muscles; but each of the characters are superheros from the Islamic world, representing the ’99’ qualities of Allah. The series is a creation of Naif al-Mutawa, a Kuwaiti businessman and former writer who wanted to “focus on a concept that has core human universal values.”
Also trained in psychology, al-Mutawa first thought about the ‘modern day hero’ whilst in New York, treating child torture victims from Iraq. Reflecting on Saddam Hussein’s hero-esque statues during his regime, al-Mutawa questioned what children were taught to aspire to. The comic includes characters from different cultures which embody the very “human” attributes of Allah, like ‘Jabbar’ The Powerful and ‘Hadya’ The Guide, is printed in both Arabic and English and is stocked in eighteen countries worldwide.
Aside from the regular merchandise that often accompany action heroes, The 99 is the theme of six soon to open amusement parks throughout the Middle East. Despite its success, the comic book has met some difficulties representing Allah-related content, initially banned in Saudi Arabia with claims that the strip contained “un-Islamic content”. The ban has since been lifted and al-Mutawa has always been careful to keep his comic free from any sacrilege.