‘The 99′ is an Islamic-based comic book that first appeared some five years ago. Its popularity has grown in a variety of Islamic countries and has been made into an animated TV cartoon in Europe and perhaps soon to be appearing on American TV screen. ‘The Atlantic’ magazine has an article about the struggle of the cartoons to find a place in the hearts and minds of children around the world.
In the discussion, an interesting point is raised. Traditional ‘superheroes’ tend to be individuals, with individual talents, that form models to which children aspire. One critic notes that by having 99 superheroes, the effect is too dispersed. There is no one to emulate because all of the various qualities are divided out among the group.
On especially thick and gritty days in Kuwait, everything must be done indoors—in cars, malls, hotels, or office buildings. Often, it’s not until you’re in one of those violently air-conditioned high-rise office buildings that you can take in the whole of Kuwait City: urban cylinders of silver and black improbably growing out of nothingness. It’s a strangely drab backdrop for the hyperkinetic Naif al-Mutawa, who sat in a nice tan suit on a couch, and spoke with great enthusiasm and speed. On the walls of his office hung drawings of multicolored characters from his brainchild: The 99, a comic book rooted in Islam that has recently been recast into an animated television series, which may debut in the United States this fall.
“When I gave the direction to the writers in Hollywood for the animation series,” he was saying, “I told them, ‘Only when Jewish kids think these heroes are Jewish, and Christian kids think they’re Christian, will we have achieved something—which is universality.’ Too many people find differences and fight about them. Not enough people are talking about the things that are the same.”