Got superhero fatigue? Bored by yet another sequel or reboot of your favorite franchise? Well, then Dr. Naif Al-Mutawa has got some original comic book superheroes for you.
In 2006 the Kuwaiti psychologist created a series, The 99, in which the supermen and -women were inspired by the 99 attributes of Allah. Al-Mutawa’s work features an international cast of characters, including Widad the Loving, a Filipina who can induce happiness in others; the Saudi Arabian Jabbar the Powerful, who is super-strong and invulnerable; and Jami the Assembler, a Hungarian electronics and engineering genius. They not only fight crime, but also stereotypes about Muslims and negative images of Islam. The series promotes peace and positive role models for children in the Muslim world, but The 99 is also a cross-cultural bridge meant to appeal to anyone who likes comic books.
Al-Mutawa’s collaborators include artists and writers who were involved in the X-Men, Spiderman, Power Rangers and Iron Man comics. And in October 2010, Al-Mutawa’s 99 superheroes even teamed up with DC Comics’ Justice League (which include Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, etc.) for a six-issue crossover series.
Al-Mutawa is coming to Haverford on Feb. 15 to give a lecture about his comic creation in conjunction with Visiting Associate Professor of Art History Carol Solomon’s course “Contemporary Art of the Arab World, Iran and Turkey.”
Al-Mutawa, founder and CEO of Teshkeel Media Group, which distributes The 99 and in 2006 licensed Arabic-language Marvel Comics for the Middle East, has long been involved in the world of publishing. A father of five, he has authored children’s books, including To Bounce or Not to Bounce, which was a finalist for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) prize for Children’s Literature in the Service of Tolerance in 1997.
Al-Mutawa was invited to speak about The 99 (and mainstream American comic book’s religious imagery origins) at the 2010 Global TED talk in Oxford, England, and President Obama even praised him for being innovative and spreading tolerance with his creation in a speech given at the Presidential Summit on Entrepreneurship.