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‘My career is over’ says X-Men artist, admitting to hiding religious messaging (update)

Marvel dragged into another white-hot controversy

Illustrator Ardian Syaf has apologized on Facebook for including two panels he drew in X-Men Gold #1 that made references to a Koranic verse sometimes interpreted as having anti-Christian and anti-Jewish meanings, and a controversy surrounding it in Indonesia.

In the details of a panel, Syaf, an Indonesian, Muslim artist, had included a reference to a verse in the Quran that is linked to a blasphemy investigation of the governor of Indonesia’s capital. The verse referenced has been used by some to argue that Christians and Jews cannot be trusted. Last year, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, who is Jakarta’s first Christian governor, spoke against the verse in a manner viewed by some as disrespectful to Islam.

There is a second reference to an anti-Basuki protest, the appearance of the number 212 on a storefront in the background. And in a third panel, Kitty Pryde — a Jewish super-hero — stands with her back to the viewer, and a jewelry store sign in the distance frames her with the letters J-E-W.

X-Men Gold #1 is being heavily promoted by Marvel as a resurgence of its long-running mutant franchise. The full breakdown of each hidden reference and what they mean can be read here.

“My career is over now,” Syaf wrote. “It's the consequence what I did, and I take it. Please no more mockery, debate, 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’s actions upset many within Marvel’s creative family, including G. Willow Wilson, best known for writing Ms. Marvel. Wilson, who is also Muslim, tweeted angrily about Syaf after hearing the news. She later published her more in-depth thoughts on the translation of the Koranic verses he referenced on her personal blog.

On Saturday, Marvel released a statement about the controversy to saying Syaf’s views are not shared by the company. Marvel added that the artwork will edited to remove from all future publications, and others will be disciplined.

“The mentioned artwork in X-Men Gold #1 was inserted without knowledge behind its reported meanings. These implied references do not reflect the views of the writer, editors or anyone else at Marvel and are in direct opposition of the inclusiveness of Marvel Comics and what the X-Men have stood for since their creation. This artwork will be removed from subsequent printings, digital versions, and trade paperbacks and disciplinary action is being taken.”

It’s the latest in a series of embarrassing controversies Marvel has faced. Many fans were offended by the company’s decision to essentially make Captain America the leader of a neo-Nazi organization — especially in light of the fact that the character’s co-creator, Jack Kirby, is Jewish. Things got worse last week when David Gabriel, the company’s vice president of sales, remarked that the company’s efforts to make their characters more diverse tanked sales at the end of last year. He later retracted the statement.

X-Men Gold #1 published just weeks before the final round of elections in Jakarta. Basuki, who is ethnically Chinese, is running for re-election. More information about the issues occurring in Jakarta can be read here. The first issue of X-Men Gold can not currently be purchased through digital retailers.

Update: Marvel has released a statement to Comic Book Resources announcing it was terminating its contract with Syaf. It can be read in full below.

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.

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