Growing up, I wasn’t a comics fan, but like most people, I wasn’t exactly able to avoid exposure to them. Who didn’t know Superman, Batman, and the recently re-popularized Green Lantern? My most lasting memories were the evenings I spent watching Wonder Woman. She was smart, independent, strong, and oh so cool with her golden lasso, bullet deflecting bangles, and invisible plane. I wasn’t conscious of the social implications of this role model who fought crime in a bustier, underpants, and boots. Apparently neither was my mother, because she allowed me to watch it. I suspect however, that my mother, like many women in those days was just glad to see a woman superhero for a change, let alone the fact that she was practically naked.
Now, more than thirty years later, with children of my own, my greater appreciation for comics and animation is strongly tempered by my expectations of the industry, that they will create positive, lasting, and inclusive tropes. This means that I am far more discerning than my mother was, and as so much of comics and animation isn’t always the clean family fun many adults assume it is, my options are sometimes greatly limited.
I recently learned of a new comic called The 99, the brainchild of Dr. Naif Al-Mutawa, based on Islamic culture and principles; principles that are, contrary to media representations, pretty much the same as most people’s. Check out this video of Dr. Al-Mutawa at a TEDtalks event.
Dr. Naif Al-Mutawa recently agreed to take a moment out of his hectic schedule to grant me a brief interview.
As Salaam Alaikum Dr. Al-Mutawa, thanks so much for agreeing to visit my humble site. I’ll keep my questions brief.
1. Why do you believe that creating The 99 was important, not just to you, but for everyone?
The only way to beat extremism is through secular arts and culture that are inspired by a religious foundation. That is what happened in Europe with the Reformation and the Renaissance. And that is what THE 99 is an example of. I went back to the same sources that violent men have linked to their messages and offered messages of peace and tolerance in their place. So, if my religion can inspire both, then surely the problem is not the religion, it is the interpreter or the middle man that sets the course, and the religion is no longer implicated. I wanted to first and foremost reposition Islam to Muslims.
2. I know that in addition to the comics, there is a The 99 animated series. Where are the full episodes available? If not in the US, when will they become available?
They have been sold all over the world to channels like Cartoon Network in Asia, MBC in the Middle East, ABC in Australia, the HUB in the US, etc… They will be out on TV in 2012 but no dates yet though the broadcasters have received 26 completed episodes and a second 26 are currently in production
3. Looks like there are about 19 issues of the comic available in English right now. What is the release timeline? Is there a conclusion in mind, or will this series continue indefinitely?
There should be more than 19 issues. Some are numbered. Some are specials. The total should be over 30. Please check THE 99 Comics App on iTunes. There are also another 6 that have THE 99 working cape to shoulder with the Justice League of America (Batman, Superman, etc…) The release timeline is about 6-8 a year.
I really appreciate your time Dr. Al-Mutawa. I hope you’ll agree to come back in the future.
I think this is all pretty cool. Even cooler yet is the fact that President Obama has publicly recognized the series and Dr. Al-Mutawa’s effort.
What do you think?