I feel like I’m going back in time, when comic books were becoming popular and critics were saying that the books were going to corrupt our youth. In the modern era, the new threat is that comics will turn our youth into multicultural, happy, well-adjusted individuals. According to Talking Points Memo, conservatives are protesting against a comic series entitled The 99.
The 99 is the brainchild of Naif al-Mutawa, and he recently gave a talk at TED about the origin of the idea. The gist of it is that he was inspired by the positive values imparted by the heroes of Marvel and DC comics. He wanted to create a more multicultural team of heroes who would extend those positive messages to people outside of the U.S., and expose American audiences to a more culturally diverse team of heroes. So here is a New Yorker—inspired by an American art form, who sees no difference between his Muslim and his American values—being vilified by the conservative noise machine for wanting to export those values around the world.
At this point I feel like I should confess that I am a huge fan of The 99. I have been on panels with Naif, and his work is a big part of my current research project. I believe in his vision and think it really can have a substantial impact on the way we talk across cultures. His work is already inspiring others. We will soon be seeing a wheelchair-bound Muslim superhero, the product of collaboration between Syrian and American youth who wanted their voices heard. In Indonesia, comics are being used to counter radicalization. People are also using animation and music to initiate debates in their own countries.
The fact that this work is so successful should be a matter of American pride. For a purely political goal, the theological, national, and security good are all jettisoned. It is shameful. Fortunately, both the Constitution and the free market ensure that we will continue to have access to The 99.
So while the “culture warriors” are propping up zombie arguments from a century ago, I’ll be looking forward to the TV series.