X-Men Gold artwork removed

The first issue of X-Men Gold has created an uproar in Indonesia, where readers say the comic contains anti-Christian and anti-Semitic messages.
The first issue of X-Men Gold has created an uproar in Indonesia, where readers say the comic contains anti-Christian and anti-Semitic messages.PHOTO: MARVEL/ INSTAGRAM

NEW YORK • The X-Men have battled evil mutants, killer robots and alien invaders, but now, one of the most venerable franchises in the Marvel universe has found itself embroiled in a new conflict: the religious and political tensions in Indonesia.

Last Saturday, Marvel said it would remove artwork from the first issue of X-Men Gold, part of a reboot of the X-Men franchise, after readers in Indonesia raised alarm bells on Reddit and elsewhere on social media about what they said were anti-Christian and anti-Semitic messages in some panels of the comic.

The messages that jumped out at the readers appeared to refer to political friction there over Mr Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, who is the first Christian governor of Jakarta in more than 50 years and up for re-election this month.

Some images in the comic appeared to refer to hard-line Islamist opposition to Mr Basuki, who is also known by the nickname Ahok. Others seemed to have to do with anti-Semitism, the critics said.


The artist who sneaked the messages into the images was Ardian Syaf, an Indonesian citizen.


The uproar added to headaches for Marvel, which was criticised in recent weeks after one of its executives seemed to blame a sales slump on reader disdain for female and non-white characters.

The company seemed surprised that references to religious intolerance had appeared in the pages of X-Men Gold, the reboot of one of its biggest properties. In a statement, it said the artwork "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," the statement added. "This artwork will be removed from subsequent printings, digital versions and trade paperbacks and disciplinary action is being taken."

Marvel did not specify what disciplinary action it would take against Ardian, a freelance artist who has been pencilling comics for Marvel and other companies since 2007, according to his personal website.

Marvel mentioned him in promotional materials for X-Men Gold before it debuted last week and in an interview published on Marvel.com last month, he said the job was "like a dream come true".

He did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment on Sunday, but he addressed the controversy in a since-deleted Facebook post, according to ComicBook.com, a website that closely follows the comic-book industry.

It quoted him as writing "I don't hate Christian or Jew" on Facebook and also saying that he has spoken with Marvel about the references he sprinkled throughout the issue.

Those references were specific to the tension in Indonesia.

In one panel of the comic, Colossus, an X-Men character, is wearing a shirt with "QS 5:51" on it. Indonesian readers said that was a reference to a verse in the Quran that Mr Basuki's opponents have used to argue that Christians and Jews cannot be trusted. Last year, he was charged with blasphemy for speaking of that verse in a way that some viewed as disrespectful.

In another panel, a high-profile Jewish superheroine called Kitty Prydeis stands in front of a jewellery store sign so that the letters "J-E-W" were displayed next to her head.

G. Willow Wilson, the writer of the Marvel series Marvel, which stars a superpowered Muslim- American teenage girl, criticised Ardian's actions and apparent political beliefs in a post on her personal website.

"This is all to say that Ardian Syaf can keep his garbage philosophy," she wrote. "He has committed career suicide."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 12, 2017, with the headline 'X-Men Gold artwork removed'. Print Edition | Subscribe