Marvel has “terminated” penciler Ardian Syaf after the artist stealthily inserted controversial political and religious references into the debut issue of X-Men: Gold.
Syaf placed the numbers “212” and “5:51” into panels of the comic, referencing a current controversy surrounding Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, the first Christian and ethnic Chinese governor of Muslim-majority Jakarta, Indonesia. Last September, the governor publicly stated that his opponents are lying when they say the Quran tells Muslims not to choose non-Muslims as their leaders. Since making that comment, Purnama has been charged with blasphemy by the Indonesian government and could face up to five years in jail.
Syaf’s insertion of “212” on a nondescript storefront was a reference to Dec. 2, a now-infamous day of mass anti-Purnama protests. “5:51,” found on the character Colossus’ shirt above, is a direct reference to the Quran verse about which Purnama allegedly misspoke (the governor—who is currently seeking reelection—has since apologized).
Here’s the company’s statement regarding Syaf’s firing:
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.
Here is Marvel’s initial statement upon learning of Syaf’s inclusion of the divisive political rhetoric:
The mentioned artwork in X-Men: Gold No. 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.
Syaf has since released an official apology via his Facebook page. He writes:
My career is over now.
It’s the consequence what I did, and I take it.
Please no more mockery, debat, 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.