Comic books, like any other medium, are a powerful tool for expressing various beliefs and ideas.
These ideas differ amongst the various intellectual properties owned by Marvel, DC, Dark Horse and other smaller companies.
For example, Superman is often said to represent “truth, justice and the American way.” Spider-Man is associated with the phrase “with great power comes great responsibility,” and Batman represents what a mentally disturbed man with a lot of money can do.
But it would be impossible to talk about the representation of ideas in comics without bringing up the X-Men.
Initially created in the sixties by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, the X-Men have been some of Marvel’s most well-known and successful creations, second only to Spider-Man.
The X-Men are a superhero team of mutants, beings who, in the Marvel Universe, are born with superhuman abilities.
However, due to fear and a lack of understanding, mutants are feared and hated by the non-powered populace.
This dynamic is often said to reflect the real-world conflicts experienced by minority groups in America and other countries.
One particular conflict portrayed is anti-semitism and religious intolerance. Many storylines feature mutants being rounded up and forced into “camps,” akin to concentration camps in World War II.
In fact, Magneto, the X-Men’s sometimes enemy and ally, is a Holocaust survivor and often likens the plight of mutants to that of the Jewish people in Nazi Germany.
That’s why many fans considered it outrageous that a recent X-Men comic contained several hidden anti-Christian and Jewish messages.
The comic, X-Men Gold #1, by the creative team Marc Guggenheim and Ardian Syaf, hit the stands last Wednesday.
In it, Syaf not-so-subtly hid the numbers “212,” “51” and the symbol “QS 5:51,” in the background of various scenes in the comic.
The “212” refers to a Indonesian protest that occurred back on Dec. 2, where according to CNN, several hundred thousand Indonesians marched in the streets of Jakarta to protest governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama.
The people were protesting a speech that Purnama, also known as Ahok, gave where he is said to have blasphemed the Quran.
For background, according to the Pew Research Center, as of 2010, 88 percent of the population of Indonesia is Muslim, while Ahok is a devout Christian.
The blasphemy in question is his interpretation of the verse Al Maidah 5:51, which Syaf alludes to with the “51,” which translates into English as “O you who have believed, do not take the Jews and the Christians as allies. They are, in fact, allies of one another. And whoever is an ally to them among you – then indeed, he is one of them. Indeed, Allah guides not the wrongdoing people.”
However, the Indonesian translation goes more along the lines of “Muslims should not appoint the Jews and Christians as their leader.”
This quote had been used by many of Ahok’s opponents to prevent the devout from voting for him.
So, in a speech last year, Ahok claimed that the verse was a “lie,” and that the true meaning of the verse did not say that he couldn’t be voted for.
This caused a massive outcry amongst Indonesian Muslims, including Syaf who is an Indonesian native.
And so, in order to protest Ahok, Syaf decided to insert slightly hidden discriminatory messages in a comic whose entire foundation is anti-discrimination.
Does anyone else see the irony in that?
Humor aside, the proliferation of this idea by Syaf is highly troubling, and it would be so no matter the culture or religion the quote came from.
There is nothing wrong with adhering to one’s religious beliefs, but doing so becomes tricky when it is done in such a way that it infringes on others.
The world is becoming increasingly interconnected, and to divide and discriminate only serves to breed conflict.
This sort of attitude is somewhat understandable when it comes to mutants in the Marvel Universe, they’re people born with dangerous abilities such as the controlling minds, having retractable claws and the ability to shoot energy blasts from their eyes.
But it’s difficult to comprehend having this attitude when the only difference is the color of someone’s skin or what religion they adhere to.
Q Russell is sophomore journalism major from Charlotte, North Carolina