An Indonesian artist has sparked controversy online with anti-Christian and anti-Semitic messages in his artwork for a recent Marvel X-Men comic, prompting Marvel Comics to say it would take disciplinary action against him.
Prominent Indonesian artist Ardian Syaf, who has worked for several American comic book publishers including Marvel and DC Comics, hid the messages as Easter eggs in the X-Men Gold #1 comic, which was released on Wednesday (April 5).
Comic readers picked up quickly on the hidden references, with a post on social news aggregator Reddit on Saturday (April 8) saying that the comic was "being used as a tool to spread religious bigotry by an Indonesian comic artist".
In one scene, Jewish character Kitty Pryde speaks in front of a crowd about becoming the new leader of the X-Men. On one of the buildings in the background, the number "212" can be seen, The Jakarta Post reported on Monday (April 10).
Ardian reportedly said on his Facebook page that the number "212" referred to the day when a huge protest was conducted in Jakarta last year, calling for the arrest of incumbent Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, a Christian of Chinese descent, over allegations of blasphemy.
In another scene, X-Men member Colossus plays baseball in a shirt that reads "QS 5:51", which is a verse in the Quran.
The verse reads: "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."
Ardian said on Facebook that he decided to include the message in his work after he participated in the "212" rally.
"QS 5:51 is the verse (Ahok) mocked. This is very special to me. I want to put it in my work," Ardian said. "That page was drawn after I got back from the '212' rally."
In exchanges he had with Facebook users on his page, Ardian reportedly said that he has "a lot of Jewish and Christian friends", but that choosing a non-Muslim as a leader is forbidden.
Jakarta Post reported that he said on his Facebook: "What can I do as a Muslim? If I worked at DC, I could put (the messages) in a Superman comic book."
Ardian's Facebook page has since been made unavailable.
Marvel Comics released a statement shortly after the outcry online, saying that it would remove the controversial artwork from subsequent print run s of the comic and take disciplinary action against Ardian.
In its statement, reported by comics news sites, Marvel said: "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."
Responding to the controversy, Ardian told the Jakarta Post on Sunday (April 9) that Marvel had approached him for an explanation.
"They asked me personally for an explanation behind those numbers after they read a news report," Ardian said.
It is unclear what disciplinary actions Marvel will be taking against him.