Can a fictional hero change our perception of people in the real world?
Naif Al-Mutawa, the creator of the multi-ethnic comic series “The 99,” explored this idea in a speech he gave in Anspach Monday night. He was invited to speak as a part of Central Michigan University’s Superheroes Week.
“I have personally never read his comics,” Program Board President Miranda Endres said. “I can only speculate that they show a part of Islamic society that many people don’t get to normally witness.”
Al-Mutawa, who was born in Kuwait, came up with the idea for “The 99″ after the events of Sept. 11. His goal was to create strong Muslim role models for children to counteract the negative images of Islam caused by radicalism.
He also pointed out that many comic books are based on Judeo-Christian archetypes and that he hoped to bring a new perspective to the genre with “The 99.” The themes of the series are built on principles of the Muslim faith that are also universal virtues, like generosity and wisdom.
“’The 99′ is about diversity, about everyone finding their place in the universe,” Al-Mutawa said.
Al-Mutawa’s speech covered his earlier literary work as a children’s writer, how he developed the idea of “The 99,” and the formation of his production company, Teshkeel Media. He also talked about the pitfalls he has faced in making the comic and television show. An episode of “The 99″ animated series was also screened before the speech.
Sophomore Jonathan Forrest said he is a fan of comic books and he wants to read the series after hearing Al-Mutawa’s speech.
“I think a diverse team of superheroes is an interesting idea,” the Lake Orion native said.
President Barack Obama congratulated Dr. Al-Mutawa for the success of “The 99″ franchise and its impact on popular culture in his Summit on Entrepreneurship in 2010. The series also had a crossover with DC’s Justice League that same year.
The comic series and TV show tells the story of people from all over the world who gain extraordinary powers after coming into contact with powerful artifacts called The Noor Stones. The idea of “The 99″ Noor Stones has its origins in the story of the Mongol invasion of Baghdad in the thirteenth century.
“I thought he was really cool,” Clarkston freshman Kayla Mick said. “I would definitely like to watch the show when it comes out here.”
The show, which is aimed toward a family audience, promotes acceptance of other cultures and faiths, though it never deals with religion explicitly. It has aired in a number of countries around the world, but it has not been shown in the United States.
“There is good news,” Al-Mutawa said. “’The 99′ will be in America. I can’t tell you where or when, but it will happen.”