The hustle and bustle around Dec. 2 protest staged in Jakarta by groups of Muslim hardliners against incumbent Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, has inspired famous Indonesian artist Ardian Syaf who was hired by American comic books publisher Marvel to illustrate the first edition of X-Men Gold.
The artist native to Tulungagung, East Java, has caused an outcry among netizens after he revealed several controversial references in X-Men Gold #1 on his Facebook account on Wednesday (05/04). On some pages, there are scenes depicting Jewish mutant Kitty Pryde standing in front of a crowd next to a sign “Jewelry,” which some interpret as reference to her ancestry.
On the same panel, Adrian drew a building with number “212,” in which netizens saw a hint to the anti-Ahok rally.
In another scene of the X-Men, where a group of mutant superheroes play baseball, Adrian, whose “Welcome to the Jungle” hardback graphic novel was nominated for Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story in 2009, drew superhero Colossus wearing a t-shirt with “QS 5:51” on it.
QS is an abbreviation of “Quran” (Koran) and “Surah” (chapter).
The allusion is clear, as Ahok is currently standing trial on blasphemy charges, since several hardline groups reported him to police after he had referred in a public speech to verse 51 from Surah 5 of the Koran, which says non-Muslims should not become the leaders of Muslims.When some commented that Adrian tried to cause controversy, the artist remained calm.
In this scene, Kitty is talking about being the new leader of the X-Men.
The X-Men were created in the 1960s by Jewish artists Stan Lee and Jack Kirby and writer Marc Guggenheim.
ComicBook.com has secured a statement from Marvel, in which the publisher said it will remove some scenes from the comic and will take unspecified disciplinary measures against the Indonesian artist.
“The mentioned artwork in X-Men Gold #1 was inserted without knowledge behind its reported meanings,” Marvel said, as quoted by ComicBook.com, an independently owned media company focusing on all things pop culture.
“These implied references do not reflect the views of the writer, editors or anyone else at Marvel and are in direct opposition to 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,” Marvel said.
The Indonesian artist defended his decision to put a hidden message in the drawings by saying on his Facebook page that “I don’t hate Jews and Christians… I have a many good friends [among them] too.”
But he also said the numbers in his drawings might carry an additional meaning.
It is not the first time for Adrian to insert hidden messages in his works. Earlier, he delineated President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s participation in Jakarta’s gubernatorial election in 2012 and presidential race in 2014, in one of the editions of Batgirl comic book.
It is unclear whether Ardian will continue to work for Marvel.
It seems, however, that he has already completed his work for X-Men Gold #2, which will be released on April 19.