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April 10, 2017

On That Marvel Artist Injecting Strident Political Commentary As Imagery In X-Men Book

In case you missed it, Marvel over the weekend has removed some political references made by the Marvel artist Ardian Syaf in the art of a recent comic, distanced themselves and the other creators from their meaning and intent, and promised discipline.

It's reported that Syaf inserted two number-reference images into the art of X-Men Gold #1. They concern Indonesian politics. If I'm reading the article correctly -- and this one bubbled up through social media and into sites like this one (I'm sure Bleeding Cool was early if not first) -- the references are nods to the considerable current resistance to the rare election of a Christian governor in Jakarta, accused of blasphemy and subject to an idea lobbed in his direction that the only people elected to major office in Indonesia should be Muslim. The references are numbers relating to a protest date and Koran verse that support these positions.

This seems like a semi-standard incident of an artist putting words or messages into their art, given juice by the fact that the ideas involved are 1) political and 2) seem to work against the inclusive values that fans like to read into the X-Men comics. One of the references is placed in a way to call attention to team leader Kitty Pryde, Marvel's most prominent Jewish character and certainly not a candidate for Indonesian higher office according to the stance in question.

I have no idea what the artist's motivations are. I used to be a young man that liked to do things not like this in a political sense but in the same neighborhood as a practical joke. Looking at the panels in question through the link I wish more time had been spent making them interesting without the messaging. It's hard for me to believe that is the kind of art Marvel would put in a key relaunch. I'm not exactly an expert on superhero art, but I know that when you make everyone the same height in a crowd scene, I'm probably going to put to sleep by your other choices before the comic is through. This is pertinent because the lack of detail in the art made these references really easy to find.

Basically, though, that's a commercial gig, not a slot in a small-press anthology or creator-owned title. Do the job. If you play a prank and get caught, embrace the consequences. Even away from the political implications of the content, that's a shitty thing to do to your editors and a double-shitty thing to do to your artistic collaborators. I wouldn't want to work with that person again, and I'd resent it if I were asked to.

In the end, getting fired from a gig for being a jake is way more generous than being denied political office because of your religion.
posted 11:55 pm PST | Permalink

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