|Publication date||August 2007 – September 2013|
|Number of issues||35|
The 99 (Arabic: الـ ٩٩ al 99) is a controversial comic book, published by Teshkeel Comics, featuring a team of superheroes, some wearing burqas, based on Islamic culture and religion. When the comic was first released in 2006, it was initially banned in Saudi Arabia with Al-Mutawa receiving threats from clerics. Not surprising, a columnist from the New York Times warned: “Hide your face and grab the kids. Coming soon to a TV in your child’s bedroom is a posse of righteous, Sharia-compliant Muslim superheroes, including one who fights crime hidden head-to-toe by a burqa.”
The series was a creation of Naif Al-Mutawa, founder and C.E.O. of Teshkeel Media Group. The initial creative team for The 99 was composed of comic book industry veterans such as Fabian Nicieza, Stuart Moore, June Brigman, Dan Panosian, John McCrea, Ron Wagner, Sean Parsons and Monica Kubina although all have distanced themselves from Al-Mutawa, The 99 and Teskheel Media Gorup which has stopped releasing updates on its activities since 2013.
The character cast consists of Dr. Ramzi, a scholar and social activist, the 99 youngsters (some of them children), with special abilities conferred to them by "Noor" gemstones, and a set of evil characters led by the power-hungry Rughal, who seeks to steal the power of the Noor stones and their bearers for his personal benefit. The storyline pits the 99 led by Dr. Ramzi in their pursuit of social justice and peace against the forces of chaos and evil.
An Origins Preview was first published in the Middle East in May 2006, followed by a US reprinting in July 2007. The 99 #1 was printed in September 2006 in the Middle East and was published in the US in August 2007 as First Light. The 99 only ran five issues in printed form, but both Middle East and USA editions continued to be published electronically until September 2013, with the final issue being #35. Indonesian and Indian editions were also produced.
The 99 are ordinary teenagers and adults from across the globe, who come into possession of one of the ninety-nine magical mystical Noor Stones (Ahjar Al Noor, Stones of Light) and find themselves empowered in a specific manner. All dilemmas faced by The 99 are overcome through the combined powers and capabilities 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, as viewed by Dr. Al-Mutawa, universal in nature.
The concept of The 99 is based on the 99 attributes of Allah. Many of these names refer to characteristics that can be possessed by human individuals. For example, – generosity, strength, faithfulness, wisdom are all virtues encouraged by a number of faiths.
In compliance with Islamic tradition, the Arabic version of the aliases of each of the 99 is written without the definite article "Al-", because use of this precise form is exclusive to Allah. This serves to remind that The 99 are only mortals, and sets them as human role models, with their qualities and weaknesses. Many of these are considered against Islamic beliefs (e.g. Baqi and Bari) since they are attributes exclusive to Allah (God).
In other media
The first of five planned 99-based theme parks opened in Jahra, Kuwait in March 2009. An animated series has been produced and Teshkeel Comics signed a multimillion dollar deal with Endemol to produce the series (which was later banned by Kuwait).
In a religious decree carried by Saudi websites, the clerics ruled the series blasphemous because the superheroes of its title are based on the 99 attributes ascribed to Allah in the Holy Quran. The Grand Mufti, Abdulaziz al-Sheikh, The head of the Permanent Committee for Islamic Research and Issuing Fatwas said "The 99 is a work of the devil that should be condemned and forbidden in respect to Allah's names and attributes." The original comic strip version, first released in 2006, had already run into opposition from Muslims not only in Saudi Arabia but also in neighboring Kuwait, where it was created and produced by media executive Nayef al-Matawa.
Another controversial aspect of the series are the hyperbolic statements made by Al-Mutawa and his company about the public and financial success of The 99 that are in no way matched by available and/or objective sales reports in the countries where Al-Mutawa claims The 99 series is bought and read by hundred of thousands of children. Al-Mutawa continues to refuse to comment on this discrepancy.
- BBC NEWS | World | Middle East | 'Why I based superheroes on Islam', BBC, July 2, 2009
- Origins Preview at the Comic Book DB
- First Light at the Comic Book DB
- Ash, Roger (February 2010). "The 99". Back Issue! (TwoMorrows Publishing) (38): 44.
- Islamic Superheroes Going Global - TIME, Time, August 5, 2008
- "World's first Muslim superheroes, the 99, are headed for British television screens". The Daily Telegraph. August 20, 2009. Retrieved September 14, 2009.
- The 99 at the Comic Book DB
- Official website
- The 99 Animation
- Video of an 18 minute talk at TED by Dr. Naif Al-Mutawa
- Piney Kesting, The Next Generation of Superheroes, 2007, Saudi Aramco World
- Wham! Bam! Islam! site for Independent Lens on PBS
- The Islamic Superheroes
- THE 99: Changing stereotypes through Muslim cartoon characters, Forward Magazine, May 20, 2010
- Superman, Spiderman... Jabbar, Gulf News, Aug 20, 2010
- Comics to Battle for Truth, Justice and the Islamic Way, The New York Times, January 22, 2006
- Superheroes Powered on Islam, The Washington Post, February 8, 2006
- Muslim (not Marvel) superheroes, The Guardian, March 27, 2006
- Holy Superhero!, The Gazette, May 6, 2006
- Previewing Teshkeel's The 99, Newsarama
- Reinventing Superman FLYPMedia.com
- Kuwaiti Entrepreneur Hopes to Create the Next Pokémon, Wall Street Journal, November 25, 2008
- It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's 'The 99' Newshour, March 20, 2009
- Merica, Dan. "Muslim superhero comics meet resistance in U.S.." CNN. October 5, 2011.