Marvel has had a bit of controversy lately. First it was Marvel’s vice president of sales, David Gabriel, stating that diversity had hurt sales. After walking back his statement amid nuclear levels of criticism from social, but also from Marvel writers themselves, including the very Muslim author the new Ms. Marvel, Kamala Khan. Now, today, an artist has been fired for including some messages deemed controversial.
Ardian Syaf, the now-former artist of X-Men Gold, Marvel’s attempt to reboot the X-Men as a significant property within the Marvel Universe, has been fired for included references to material that is controversial. Per Vox, Syaf snuck in several easter eggs that many readers and professionals found offensive, notably G. Willow Wilson, the aforementioned author of Ms. Marvel. Syaf was immediately fired by Marvel and posted a statements on Facebook and Twitter before deleting his public Facebook page.
As for the allegations against Syaf, there are a couple. The first of which is the number 212 — itself a New York area code — on a building in a scene with Kitty Pride giving a speech with her back party covering up the word “Jewelry” on a building so that it looked more like the character was turning her back on the word “Jew.” As for the 212, what most wrote off as a New York area code turned out to be something so much more complex and nuanced.
Unless an individual was familiar with Indonesian politics, they would not be aware that 212 was also the name of a protest held in December of 2016 against the Christian and still present governor of Jakarta, the Republic of Indonesia’s capital city. Nearly 200,000 Indonesians marched against Basuki Tjahaja Purnama because of alleged blasmpehy against the Quran during one of his speech’s.
Syaf also made reference to an Islamic scripture by placing it on Colossus’ chest during a softball game. The scripture was QS 5:51, which stands for Quran Surah 5:51. It’s similar to the Judeo-Christian practice of saying “chapter and verse.” CBR published the full scripture, as taken from the Quran.com on their recap of the incident:
“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.”
G. Willow Wilson did the best she could to explain the situation from an Islamic and scriptural point of view, but condemned Syaf because “his nonsense will continue to affect the scant handful of Muslims who have managed to carve out careers in comics.” Wilson also pointed readers to a scholarly interpretation of the scripture and highlighted that it is one of those scriptures which can be interpreted in a number of different ways by a number of different cultures.
Wilson also points out that most Muslims do not read the Quran in its original Arabic, but rather through a translated version of their country’s official language. In other words, each region will have a different translation meant to suit the native-speaking population rather than forcing them to learn an ancient language, similar to how most Bibles are produced in English here in the States rather than the original Hebrew and Aramaic.
For their part, Marvel acted swiftly and without quarter. Syaf was fired as soon as it made its way up to the level of termination and a public statement was issued on the new plans for the comic. No significant mention of religion was made, but it’s clear that Marvel understands the gravitas of the situation by how quickly they acted. They’re even retroactively pulling the art from the digital comics and future physical copies will see the art removed. In some senses, the first issue of X-Men Gold just became a collector’s item for all the wrong reasons. Marvel statement follows:
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.
Marvel has terminated Ardian Syaf’s contract effective immediately. ‘X-Men Gold’ #2 and #3 featuring his work have already been sent to the printer and will continue to ship bi-weekly. Issues #4, #5, and #6 will be drawn by R. B. Silva and issues #7, #8, and #9 will be drawn by Ken Lashley. A permanent replacement artist will be assigned to ‘X-Men Gold’ in the coming weeks.
On Facebook, Syaf defended his message as one of peace and love. The message was posted in English, although somewhat broken, but conveyed ownership of the incident, an acknowledgement that his career was over, and wished for him to stop being the story and for people to focus on love and harmony instead.
As for why Syaf said his career was over, most people speculate that he will be blackballed within the industry. How fair that may seem is up to reader interpretation, but he knew his days at Marvel were numbered at the very least. Syaf’s statement from Facebook follows (the author’s statement is given in whole, mistakes and emphasis included):
Hello, Worlds… My career is over now. It’s the consequence what I did, and I take it. Please no more mockery, debate, no more hate. I hope all in peace. In this last chance, I want to tell you the true meaning of the numbers, 212 and QS 5:51. It is number of JUSTICE. It is number of LOVE. My love to Holy Qur’an…my love to the last prophet, the Messenger…my love to ALLAH, The One God. My apologize for all the noise. Good bye, May God bless you all. I love all of you. — Ardian Syaf
There are a lot of layers to this story and I am not the person to tell anyone how to feel. The key takeaway from this is simple — people are always watching and you may have to answer for things you say, write, draw, do, or hint around these days. Nobody is safe from the panopticon of social media. Whether you support Marvel or you support Syaf in this situation, it’s pretty clear that there are repercussions for every political or religious action these days. Just ask Colin Kaepernick, he’s looking for work too.
Written By Josh Webb