Marvel To Discipline X-Men Gold Artist For Controversial References To Indonesian Politics

Image: Marvel Comics. X-Men Gold #1 art by Ardian Syaf, Jay Leisten, and Frank Martin.

Marvel has announced that it will remove some artwork from X-Men Gold #1, as well as take unspecified disciplinary action against artist Ardian Syaf, after it was discovered that he included coded references to an ongoing religious and political conflict in Indonesia.

Over the weekend, some Indonesian readers started pointing out how a few panels in the debut issue for the new comic series featured references to a currently political situation involving the Governor of Jakarta and the region's conservative Islamic population. Specifically, Colossus's shirt seen during a baseball match between the new members of the X-Men team, which read "QS 5:51," and a building labelled "212" above new X-Men leader Kitty Pryde's head (her character is one of the most prominent Jewish heroes in Marvel Comic's roster, a factoid that will become important shortly).

X-Men Gold #1 art by Ardian Syaf, Jay Leisten, and Frank Martin.

The current political situation in Jakarta, Indonesia, is very complicated, and not one that's been widely covered in the United States. Currently, Jakarta's governor Basuki Purnama Tjahaja, better known as Ahok, is currently on trial for blasphemy while also battling to keep his seat in a runoff election.

Tjahaja, who was elected in 2014, is Jakarta's first non-Muslim governor in 50 years (he's Christian) and the first ethnic Chinese person to hold the position. He's been relatively popular for his stance against corruption, including among the nation's moderate Muslim population. However, some conservative Islamists, largely led by the Islamic Defenders Front (also known as FPI), have argued that the world's largest Muslim-majority nation should not have a leader who isn't Muslim.

They tried to block Tjahaja from becoming governor on the basis of his faith, and they have been accused of committing vigilante acts against religious minorities since the group's founding in 1999.

Last year, everything snowballed after an edited video surfaced of Tjahaja telling voters that his political opponents were using QS 5:51, a verse of the Quran, to lie to them. One translation reads: 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.

The verse, much like some controversial verses in the Judeo-Christian Bible, has been interpreted in different ways. (Update: Ms. Marvel co-creator G. Willow Wilson has offered some insight into the verse's various translations and interpretations.)

The FPI, specifically, has cited that Quranic verse in the past to defend their views that non-Muslims should not be leading their government. But, despite different interpretations of the text or the situation, many conservative and moderate Muslims agreed that Tjahaja had criticised the Quran.

X-Men Gold #1 art by Ardian Syaf, Jay Leisten, and Frank Martin.

Tjahaja has since apologised for his statement, but large-scale protests from the country's conservative Muslim population have called for his arrest on charges of blasphemy against Islam. The biggest one was on December 2, 2016, hence the term "212." There are fears these recent actions could put the country's secular government and overall foundations of pluralism at risk.

In a public Facebook post, Syaf acknowledged the references to 212 and the Quranic verse in the comic book, and indicated he put them in after attending a 212 rally in Indonesia. (Update: In a later post, he didn't apologise for his actions, and encouraged people to buy the first edition of the comic book).

Following today's discovery of Syaf's messaging in his artwork for X-Men Gold #1 io9 reached out to Marvel Comics early Saturday morning for comment, but did not receive a reply — however Marvel has now released a statement to regarding the issue in the wake of reactions to the news on social media:

"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 unclear whether Syaf, who is a freelance artist, will continue his working relationship with Marvel. We've reached out to Marvel to clarify what kind of disciplinary action will be taken.


    It is not complicated, at its core it is fundamentalists disliking that they are losing power.

    It takes mad mental gymnastics to make this out to be anything other than what it is.

      It is, though. Jakarta, and Indonesia more generally, have never been hardline Muslim areas. Sure, there have been pockets where religious fundamentalism was more prevalent (eg. Aceh in the late 90's) but for the most part the nation is far more progressive than, say, Saudi Arabia.

      Religious fundamentalists have never really been in power in Jakarta. Prior to Ahok it was Jokowi, who mainly kept religion out of his campaign, and who recently spoke out about the separation of religion and politics (mostly because of the Ahok situation). Traditionally the military has been much more powerful in Indonesian politics than religious organizations.

        You are kidding right? A country where purity tests for women in the military plus whipping women in public is an occurance and you are going to try to tell me their society hasn't been fundamentalist for ages? Ok.

          I specifically mentioned Aceh as an area where religious extremism was more common, but sure, let's take a town of 200k people and use it as a stereotype for a nation of ~250 million.
          That's like making assumptions about Australian culture because you spoke with someone from Reclaim Australia.

          Also, the purity tests are more a sign of general conservatism rather than religious extremism.

          I mean, you might be right. What would I know? I only lived in Jakarta for 15 years, regularly keep in touch with my many friends still living there, visit regularly, and have travelled all over Indonesia. I'm sure you must have much more experience in the country than I do to have a better idea of what life is generally like in Indonesia?

            Judging by this reply and the ones bellow, you seem pretty compromised. I am sorry if you feel people are attacking a country you are attached to, but their poor seperation of church and state is a good example of why you should be able to be critical of them.

            It is completely ok to form opinions about Australia based upon what you have heard or seen. I love my country, but we are not perfect; no country is.

            The big difference is that in Australia religion isn't a driving political force, if anything it is the lingering pressence of yesteryear.

              Stuck in moderation forever - yay!

              Last edited 10/04/17 5:45 pm

              "The big difference is that in Australia religion isn't a driving political force,"

              Thats utter crap. If it was true Gay Marriage would have passed already. Instead we have hardcore christian conservatives like Cory Bernardi, That fat sack of crap George Christensen and alike. Conservative Christians are a very big driving political force in the conservative right.

                Hyperbole to the max, there is a big difference between our political climate and theirs. Conservatives have seats, but even the Liberal party isn't that conservative any more, they are just shills for corporations.

                  My other comment got stuck in moderation, so here goes...

                  The big difference is that in Australia religion isn't a driving political force

                  Of course, that's why we have a completely rational approach to marriage equality. No sir, no Christian motives behind that one. No way would we let our politicians compare homosexuality to beastiality.

                  Is Indonesia perfectly secular? No, of course it isn't. There are pockets of extremism and fanatacism, just like there are in any country. I don't claim that Australia is a den of racism and hatred just because I've seen Pauline Hanson spew her drivel on the news; A recognize it for what it is - I hateful but vocal minority, and not representative of the wider population.

                  Anyway, the point I'm trying to make is that, contrary to what you said, it is a deeply complex issue. You seem to completely have overlooked the fact that Ahok is ethnic chinese, and there is a deep-seated mistrust of indo-chinese in the wider Indonesian population, particularly on Java. And then there's the political angle - Even the President Jokowi has hinted he believes this unrest has been fermented by political opponents who want Ahok removed from power for their own political gain.

                  But sure, if it's easier for you to just fixate on the religious aspect... go for gold, mate.

          Whipping women in public is not a common occurrence. I grew up in Indonesia and I left the country because I didn't like it there for other reasons. But public whipping is something that only somebody ignorant would claim is a common and accepted event.

          The hardline muslims don't like Ahok because:

          1. They idolise arabs who have never really done anything for Indonesia
          2. They hate the chinese who they blame for everything, even though China has actually helped Indonesia out quite a lot over the years
          3. They hate anybody who is different to them

          The radical Islamic groups are really gaining a big foothold in that corner of the world. But this is nothing new, Indonesia, The Phillipines, Bangladesh, Pakistan and even parts of southern China are becoming battle grounds for secular vs hardline Islamic rule. And Sharia is not a easily categorized because just like the bible or the Quran it is interpreted differently by many. But I think most secular westernized people would agree that the standards in Indonesia are far from tame. Just because they're not flying the black flag of Isis does not mean their brand of Islam is tolerant. They practice many many terrible acts against women and Christians or actually anyone not a Muslim.

      Yes I agree, this is so very one dimensional. Whenever a religious majority start to lose their stranglehold they get sore butts. This isn't about "blasphemy" it's fear and ignorance. Why is this artist even working for Marvel?

    is currently on trial for blasphemy
    Religion - still crushing free speech and progress the world over.

    The FPI, specifically, has cited that Quranic verse in the past to defend their views that non-Muslims should not be leading their government. But, despite different interpretations of the text or the situation, many conservative and moderate Muslims agreed that Tjahaja had criticised the Quran.
    Wait a sec. So he's on trial for blasphemy because he claimed the FPI were using a particular quote from the Quran to deligitimise his position... which they absolutely did do?
    What the heck?

    Last edited 10/04/17 10:56 am



          How is it "religion"?

            How is it not religion?

            Lemme guess, no true Scotsman?

            Last edited 11/04/17 8:18 am

              What I meant was, the first person said 'Religion.', to which the other person said "religion", as if to imply that Islam was not a real religion. I was simply asking him to clarify.

              Also, I outlined it in more detail above, but religion is just one piece of the puzzle here. Racial tension and political maneuvering are just as important, if not more so.

              Last edited 11/04/17 11:42 am

      It's been interpreted as him critizing that passage, rather than critizing the FPI for their interpretation of the passage

    "The mentioned artwork in X-Men Gold #1 was inserted without knowledge behind its reported meanings."
    How the hell did something get put in without notice? Does Marvel not proof anything before sending it off to the printers? Quality Control, do you do it Marvel? Obviously not!

      Read again. Of course somebody saw it. But they didn't know what it meant. Why would they know? Most Americans still think Africa is just one country as opposed to a big continent with many many countries. Heck a good amount of Australians still refer to Africa like it's just one big country.

      Marvel, in their ever fevered exploitation of comic book fans, is too busy creating yet more silly and convoluted messes they shamelessly pimp out to anyone listening. They just grind out more and more crap everyday, re-makes, re-imaginings, re-boots, re-vamps, tie ins and crossovers. Suck it Marvel, you deserved a hard slap to wake you up.

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