A few days ago Indonesian comic readers started pointing out that some controversial political messages had been inserted into an issue of X-Men Gold. Well, calling the messages “controversial” is kind of understating it, but “super bigoted” didn’t quite flow in the headline.
Artist Ardian Syaf inserted into the issue two small references which likely went far over the heads of the American editors of the comic — on one page Colossus wears a shirt saying “QS 5:51” and on another page the number “212” is prominently displayed on a building.
You may not know what either of those things mean, but once you do, you’ll see why it’s such a big deal.
These are both references to a hardline, conservative stance against the current Governor of Jakarta. The Governor of Jakarta, Basuki Purnama Tjahaja, is currently on trial for Blasphemy and facing a difficult reelection. Basuki Purnama Tjahaja is a Christian in a majority Muslim nation, and while he is respected and supported by moderate Muslims, the hardliners have had a problem with this.
“QS 5:51” is a reference to a particular verse in the Quran, which in the Indonesian version reads roughly as “Oh you who believe, take not the Jews and the Christians as leaders/advisors.” Now creator of the current Ms. Marvel (and Muslim) G. Willow Wilson takes issue with this translation of the original Arabic, but extremists in Indonesia have used this as an excuse to get rid of Tjahaja. The other insert, 212, is a reference to anti-Tjahaja protests which took place last December 2nd.
The fact that the 212 is placed next to Kitty Pryde, one of the more notable Jewish heroes in comics, should not be lost on people.
ComicBook.com reached out to Marvel, and received the following statement:
he 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.
Originally Adrian Syaf made a Facebook post apologizing for the art, but then later rolled it back and told people to buy the first edition of the book before Marvel can change the art. Both of these Facebook posts seem to have disappeared now though.
No idea what specific actions Marvel is taking against Syaf actually are, but I think it’s safe to assume he won’t be trusted with any of their books any time soon. Frankly, Syaf has essentially killed his career in comics.