An Indonesian comic book artist has generated controversy over the inclusion of several references to a religious and political conflict within his home country. Ardian Syaf, currently the artist for X-Men: Gold, has been criticized for including the images, which have prompted Marvel to issue a statement saying that he would be disciplined and that upcoming reprints of the book will be altered.
Written by Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow writer Marc Guggenheim, X-Men: Gold #1 hit stores earlier this week. Shortly after its release, Indonesian readers began to point out that Syaf seems to have hidden in some political references in the background of several panels:
Bleeding Cool explained in a post that the numbers 212, 51, and QS 5:51 relate to a series of protests against the Christian Governor of Jakarta, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, who is currently running for reelection. Last September, Basuki was widely criticized after a speech in which he claimed that Muslim groups were using a verse from the Quran to oppose his candidacy. While Basuki later apologized for his remarks, he’s been charged with violating blasphemy laws, and has prompted mass protests in November and December. The number 212 has come to represent the protests, which have been spurred on by Islamic groups such as the Islamic Defenders Front, a hard-line organization known for its violent rhetoric and hate crimes. Bleeding Cool noted that Syaf appears to have added the numbers after attending the marches.
QS 5:51 is a reference to the passage that Governor Basuki had complained about in his speech. The inclusion of the numbers — linked to protests backed by these hardline groups — has raised alarm from members of the comic book community. Ms. Marvel writer G. Willow Wilson pointed out on her blog that the “verse is subject to a truly fantastical amount of bullshittery in the modern era. And that bullshittery takes on a particular flavor depending on the agenda of whoever is translating the verse.” She writes that the Indonesian translation of the verse reads as “Oh you who believe, take not the Jews and the Christians as leaders/advisors,” and that verse has been used to push anti-Jewish and anti-Christian agendas.
Bleeding Cool also reported that Syaf has since commented on his Facebook page, saying not to believe everything on social media, while a Reddit thread posted a translation of an apology that has since been deleted.
The inclusion of the references have sparked widespread criticism from Syaf’s colleagues, and prompted Marvel to issue a statement stating that the artist would be disciplined and that the art will be altered in upcoming printings:
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.
It’s not clear what actions Marvel will take. Syaf is the artist for X-Men Gold #2, and is expected to be involved in future issues. This level of controversy has prompted many artists and authors to predict that it could kill his career. We’ve reached out to Syaf for comment.