Friday, April 28, 2006

Ready, Set, Go!

There's a fascinating interview up at Newsarama with Dr. Naif al-Mutawa, CEO of Teshkeel Media Group, the publisher of the upcoming comic title The 99.

Some choice excerpts:
As detailed with the preview, the concept of The 99 is based on the 99 attributes of God in Islam. Many of these names refer to characteristics that can be possessed by human individuals. For example - generosity, strength, faithfulness, and wisdom are all virtues encouraged by a number of faiths.

Members of The 99 are ordinary teenagers and adults from across the globe, who each come into possession of one of the 99 mystical Noor Stones and find themselves empowered in a specific manner. Dilemmas faced by The 99 will be overcome through the combined powers of three or more members. Through this, The 99 series aims to promote values such as cooperation and unity throughout the Islamic world. Although the series is not religious, it aims to communicate Islamic virtues, which are universal in nature.
NRAMA: But still, as you’ve explained it, that was something of the source of this – of what you’re looking to accomplish through The 99 – to try and conquer the almost nihilistic view of the future that can serve as the impetus to push them toward more militant forms of opposition, wasn’t it?

NA-M: Exactly. That part of the world is kind of in an intellectual purgatory. Some things are taboo because they are coming from the outside, and therefore cannot be incorporated into long-held beliefs, and meanwhile, the materials that are coming from the inside is coming from people who were selected through negative selection. The people who end up wearing scowls all the time, and the people who we here in the United States see as shouting about fire and brimstone and the end of the world – the equivalent of those people are dictating content.

The idea was multi-fold – they don’t want Westernization, fine. But at the same time, we cannot afford to allow these people to set the agenda. We – me and others – have to step up.
[W]e have 99 characters, half male, half female, which, to my mind represents the pluralistic, multicultural community that was present in the Golden Age of Islam. And you know what? Some of the female characters will have more “masculine” aspects given to them. The girl from Portugal will be one of the physically strongest of them all, for example. This is not about stereotypes. Of the half that are female characters, five or six will cover their hair, and do it in a way that reflects their individual cultures.

We have one character, Batina, whose attribute is “The Hidden,” so she’ll wear the cover from top to bottom. The other 30-plus female characters will show their hair. Because as much as some would like you to believe that there is only one way to interpret that law, there isn’t.

NRAMA: But again, no religion or mentions of the Qu’ran?

NA-M: Nothing. Not a Qu’aan, no prayer, nothing.

Man, that's a fascinating interview, well worth reading in its entirety.

When I first read about this project, my immediate thought was, how can I possibly get my hands on copies of this title? Well, it seems that the answer is almost at hand; I saved the choicest information from the Newsarama piece for last: Teshkeel is in active negotiations for a US distribution deal and hope to announce something soon.

In the meantime, those of you as excited by this as I am can get more information at The 99 website, which provides bios of selected characters, as well as information on the creators, the publisher, and his company.

I ask you: how can one not like a comic that's got as one of its heroes a young woman named Mumita the Destroyer?

I'm very much looking forward to this comic.
Yeah, me too. I hope they sign that deal for US distribution soon.
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