Marvel Entertainment has announced that, less than one week after the launch of new flagship comic book X-Men: Gold, the series’ main artist Ardian Syaf has been fired from the comic — and the entire company. The reason for the termination? Syaf’s inclusion of anti-Christian and anti-Jewish political propaganda in the background of his first issue.
The first issue of X-Men: Gold — which leads the RessurXion relaunch of both Marvel’s X-Men and Inhumans lines of comic series — caused online upset last week when fans noticed multiple references to protests against Jakarta’s governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama throughout the issue.
Ahok is the first Christian governor of the majority Muslim city in Indonesia, has been under fire (and, indeed, legal action for blasphemy) since his election. The governor faces five years in prison for allegedly insulting the Quran during a campaign speech. He referenced the passage Surah 5:51 — partial translation, “do not take the Jews and Christians as allies” — and blasted strict adherents to that tenet. Despite later apologizing for his comments, the statement provoked protests in the region throughout November and December.
One such protest took place on December 2, or 2/12 — a number that appears on a storefront in the X-Men: Gold issue. The Quran verse is also referenced, with the hero Colossus wearing a shirt that reads QS 5:51. Other hidden messages in the comic have also been suggested, such as character placement that implied that Kitty Pryde, a Jewish member of the team, was being hit in the head by a baseball bat.
This weekend Marvel pulled the issue from digital outlets and released a statement saying Syaf’s references were “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 read. “This artwork will be removed from subsequent printings, digital versions, and trade paperbacks and disciplinary action is being taken.”
While details of the disciplinary action were being awaited, Syaf seemed at first defiant.
“Making friends [with Jews and Christians] is okay. Who said it’s forbidden? I have a lot of Jewish and Christian friends. [But] choosing a non[-Muslim] as a leader is forbidden,” in an interview with the Jakarta Post, “That’s what the verse says. What can I do as a Muslim? If I worked at DC, I could put [the messages] in a Superman comic book”
He later apologized in a Facebook post.
“My career is over now,” he wrote. “It’s the consequence what I did, and I take it. Please no more mockery, debate, no more hate.”
Marvel confirmed Tuesday morning that Syaf’s contract had been terminated. His artwork will appear in the already-completed second and third issues of X-Men: Gold, but he will be replaced in future issues with an as-yet-unnamed artist. The second issue is due for release April 26, and the series is expected to continue on a twice-monthly schedule, according to Marvel.
As should sadly be expected, Syaf’s termination — and the fact that future versions of the story will feature retouched artwork — have turned the first printing of X-Men: Gold #1 into a collectible, with copies already selling for more than ten times its original cost. Buy them while you can, we suppose.