X-Men Gold Recap and Response
If you’ve been reading any comics news for the past few days, you are undoubtedly aware of the controversy surrounding the recently released Marvel title X-Men Gold. The penciler for the book, Ardian Syaf, abused his position to hide religious and political remarks within the art, which have been interpreted as Anti-Christian and Anti-Semitic. The discovery of these messages, which originated in Syaf’s home country of Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, and spread through Reddit and social media. In response, many people have been taking personal action against the book. Individual readers are either boycotting the book or speculating on its value and buying up all they can. Shops are either selling them to speculators, sometimes at a higher price point, or taking them off the shelves, offering full refunds, and taking orders for Marvel’s second printing. Marvel spoke out against the remarks hidden in their comic, stating that they were unaware of the issue and the messages would be immediately removed from the digital and subsequent print version of the book. Whatever your reaction, the consensus is that it was wrong of Syaf to hide these exclusionary messages in a collaborative book without the knowledge of his partners or employers. While Marvel, and comics media as a whole, has often been political, exclusionary and offensive messages are not the political or social stance Marvel stands for.
It finally appears that Syaf, though it is reported that he bragged about his messages in X-Men Gold on his personal social media accounts and did not at first appear remorseful, has finally realized the gravity of his mistakes. As many readers anticipated and even demanded of Marvel, Syaf’s career is over. As he stated on Facebook earlier:
My career is over now.
It’s the consequence what I did, and I take it.
Please no more mockery, debat, no more hate. I hope all in peace.
In this last chance, I want to tell you the true meaning of the numbers, 212 and QS 5:51.
It is number of JUSTICE. It is number of LOVE. My love to Holy Qur’an…my love to the last prophet, the Messenger…my love to ALLAH, The One God.
My apologize for all the noise. Good bye, May God bless you all. I love all of you.
Syaf may not have had completely negative intentions with his inclusion of these messages. Gail Simone, who has worked with Syaf in the past, shares that he was shy, and a pleasant partner to work with. However, being a nice person is no excuse for the severity of this mistake and the nature of the views he has chosen to express on a public forum. As G. Willow Wilson so artfully states in her blog response to the incident, he can keep his offensive views out of our comics:
“This is all to say that Ardian Syaf can keep his garbage philosophy. He has committed career suicide; he will rapidly become irrelevant. But his nonsense will continue to affect the scant handful of Muslims who have managed to carve out careers in comics. From what I can deduce off of Facebook, it appears he is trying to claim the Charlie Hebdo defense…ie, he doesn’t mean anything by it; we just don’t understand the nuance and subtly of the local bigotry. Much good may it do him. Goodbye, Ardian Syaf. We hardly knew ye, which is just as well.”
Syaf Officially Fired
Marvel, too, finally came to a decision regarding his indiscretions. They announced today that he will be removed from the book immediately, though he was originally slated to work until at least issue 5 of the series. Here’s the official statement from Marvel:
“Marvel has terminated Ardian Syaf’s contract effective immediately. ‘X-Men Gold’ #2 and #3 featuring his work have already been sent to the printer and will continue to ship bi-weekly. Issues #4, #5, and #6 will be drawn by R. B. Silva and issues #7, #8, and #9 will be drawn by Ken Lashley. A permanent replacement artist will be assigned to ‘X-Men Gold’ in the coming weeks.”
We can commend Marvel Comics on taking swift and serious action once these messages were discovered. Artists are famous for sneaking their friends into the backgrounds of crowd scenes, or their childhood, home, or inside jokes. These offensive remarks are a different matter entirely. It is especially ironic and unfortunate to find these sentiments hidden in an X-Men book, which has always been a team focused on fighting for diversity and inclusion. We can hope that this example, and the dissolution of Syaf’s promising career because of his offensive views and hateful choices, and the passion of a fan base who demands action against this behavior, can serve as a warning for the future.