Tagged: Wolverine

Marc Alan Fishman: Dear Marvel and DC…

Dear Marvel and DC,

It’s been too long since I’ve written you, and for that I am very sorry. I’d think it awkward, given that I was once a weekly reviewer of your monthly publications, but I’ve essentially all but given up on them over the last six months. And it’s not because of financial concerns, or even a matter of proximity. Certainly sparing ten to twenty bucks a week for a decent load of your wares from one of the fine comic shops mere blocks from my office was once a weekly delight. But over time, my pull list dwindled and dwindled. Each book in your respective repertoire began to feel repetitive, dull, or forced. And as insult to the injury… the shop I frequented only carried indie books they “knew would actually sell” unless I specifically sought them to be ordered and held. It was a dark time, and I flew a white flag.

I’ve done this in the past. Like a jilted lover, sometime absence makes the heart grow fonder. I figured I’d soon see the new announcements stemming from successful dalliances on TV and the multiplex. With a growing fan-base learning about Hydra and Kree maps, or hearing the name Black Adam whispered with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson being cast, there was no doubt in my mind you knew that the world was set to look at your publishing ventures as potential incubators for those next great ideas.

And then, as if you’d not learned from past mistakes, you started announcing one major-huge-epic-don’t-miss-it-or-by-Rao-you’ll-be-out-of-the-loop-for-decades event after another.

I believe in tough love. It’s never easy to swallow, I know. In my life, it’s always followed by a period of reflection and growth. My high school art teacher said I couldn’t draw my way out of a paper bag. I went to art school and learned how. My college professor said I’d only get out of my art what I put into it. In response, I completed an 8′ x 10′ woodcut with a 1mm gouge. My first employer after graduation said I’d never amount to an art director. I’ve been one now for going on eight years. So trust me when I say that this comes from a place of kindness:

Your events, by and large, really suck.

Yeah, I know you’ve got sales data to prove me wrong. But you know what I have? I have an informed opinion. Civil War was cool. How did The Initiative do for you shortly after? Identity Crisis was excellent, until it got rapey. Fear Itself was novel for a hot minute until I realized it was a D&D campaign from 1996. Flashpoint, Countdown to Final Crisis, and yeah Final Crisis were worth more as toilet paper than as solid fiction. Oh, I’m sorry, I was supposed to read them in 3-D, and backwards because Grant Morrison said it’d make more sense that way? I said the same thing when I tried to convince my wife sweatpants were a viable option for date-night.

And here with both of you announcing and announcing cryptic apocalyptic coinciding crises sometime in the spring? It’s reminiscent of The Producers. I mean, how many dancing Charlie Xaviers will we need before we start guessing it’s all one big joke to you?

The fact of the matter is no amount of adjective-dropping will entice me away from my most glorious hibernation. You’ve both cried wolf far too many times now. Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me thirty-two times with multiple X-Men deaths and rebirths, time-bullets, time-vampires, ret-conned continuities, and multiple-multiverses… shame on you. You seem to forget that after every one of these universe shattering events comes fallout. Canceled series of stalwart brands. Bold new books that will be canceled long before their given a chance to find a rhythm and fan base. Not to be lewd about it, but guys, you can’t shit the bed and then expect us to clean it up with a smile.

I don’t care if Tony is going to be a power-sharing super-douche. Or that Alexander Luthor never really died. Or that Wolverine is dead until Shadowcat phase-pulls his rotting corpse out of his statue-self followed by a trip back through time using Booster Gold’s leftover suit. I don’t even care if you’re exploring new What-If universes with Spider-Gwen. It doesn’t get me hot and bothered that you’re potentially ret-conning away the New52. No matter your proposed gimmick, I’m not buying it.

At the end of the day, I smell your desperation a mile away. It wasn’t like this when Mark Waid was batting 1000 on Daredevil. It wasn’t like this when Geoff Johns was expanding the Green Lantern and Flash mythos without traveling outside the borders of their respective books. You know you can be better than this, but instead are trying to win over everyone with a grand sweeping motion. It’s just not necessary.

And when you realize that? I’ll be back in the shop with my money in hand.


Marc Alan Fishman

Ex-Pat. Indie Creator. Bridge Burner.

Marvel Reveals Canada Themed Variants for DEATH OF WOLVERINE!

He is many things to many people. Hero. Teacher. Friend. X-Man. Avenger. But above all else, he is one – Canadian. Today, Marvel unveils “Canada Variants” for all four issues of the highly-anticipated DEATH OF WOLVERINE series. Charles Soule & Steve McNiven explore the untimely end of the Great White North’s most well-known mutant hero. Each cover features stunning cover art rendered by Steve McNiven that proudly displays the Maple Leaf flag of Logan’s proud home and native land of Canada.


Marc Alan Fishman: “Why Are You Here? No Math!”

That li’l headline quote came courtesy of the fine gentleman who sat across the aisle from me at my orientation survey in art school. The line got him a ton of applause from the student body. It made me sad.

So, why the anecdote today? Well, it’s ‘cause I’ve got math on the brain. Math, not meth. Meth is next week. At the Indy Pop Con last weekend, amidst a crowd that could best be described as ther, and ready to spend absolutely nothing, Unshaven Comics made strides in becoming better friends with another staple to the artist alleyways we’ve been haunting in recent past. Jim McClain and his Solution Squad comic have been making their way from Jim’s middle-school math problem solving class to the hallowed hallways and conventions since April, 2013. As Jim was so nice as to gift us with his extra badge (because the fine folks at Pop Con seemed to misplace the money we so nicely spent on the extra badge for our third member), I returned the favor by staffing his booth during his panel.

It brought me back to the genesis of Unshaven Comics. Our first jaunt into the indie scene was an “Edu-Tainment” piece entitled The March: Crossing Bridges in America. Selling it at our very first Wizard show felt like arm wrestling Superman after having the flu. Trying to sell something rooted in education to an audience hungry for mutants, gore, sex, and zombies makes for a hard sale nearly every time. And as I sat at the Solution Squad booth with passersby glancing long enough to read Math and immediately look elsewhere… it was a veritable time warp to five years ago. That is, until the pitch found my one and only sale for the hour.

A gentleman stopped by the table. With no quizzical look denoting he was lost, I was aghast. “Can I tell you about The Solution Squad?” I beamed. He nodded quickly. I pitched the book – a team action-adventure story that also happens to teach you something by issue’s end – and he plunked down his money without question. “I’m a teacher,” he said with a knowing grin. He went on to tell me that while he himself was a social studies teacher, he recognized that the book would be a great find to bring back to his school. Soon thereafter, Jim returned from his panel reenergized by his attendees, and I took myself back to the land of immortal kung-fu monkeys and zombie cyborg pirates in space.

And here I sit, days later, with math still on my mind. Jim recognizes that he more than almost anyone else in the alley, is at a critical disadvantage in distribution. Indie publishers have a hard enough time selling their wares amidst the competition. Adding in a niche audience of middle-school math students is akin to selling Wolverine to season ticket holders at the opera. But in that fact comes the inspiration and beauty of both Mr. McClain’s mission and the state of our independent scene. The fact that the Solution Squad exists is tribute to the ideology that comics can be a positive tool for education, so much so that Jim himself uses the book – which meets both Indiana state educational standards as well as the nefarious Common Core we all resent on Facebook – to start lessons in his classroom. He recognizes that from his comic he can capture the attention of the ADD-riddled post-millennial generation born into social media and smartphones. Better still, Jim recognizes he (alongside the Reading With Pictures crew) is knocking at the door to a real revolution.

Comics help break down the barriers to entry for students. Perhaps long associated with kitsch more than anything else though, it’s taken decades of amazing works hitting the shelves for the public at large to exit the caves when it comes to adoption and acceptance. But for every “I learned to read with comics!” retort I’d been privy to from the passing trolls at Wal-Mart, so too comes a “Maus and A Contract With God moved me to tears” from synagogue members when I was 13.

Gentlemen like Jim McClain recognize this fact and makes strides from the trenches to locate those educators roaming the convention floor in hopes of snagging his clientele from the bottom up. All while targeting administrative contacts with partnerships for webcomic distribution and shared lesson plans for a top-down approach. In other words, leave it to a teacher to school a guy like me in proper networking and audience building.

Beyond the semantics though, the fact that our indie scene, complete with digital distribution channels and our one-off printing models build to the greater good. Never before in our industry was it so easy for a person with a plan (and a ton of work) to transition to a person with a product. With each passing year, our economy and market will continue to divide and shrink. While great denominators like blockbuster movies and professional sports will still dominate the consumers’ GDP… niche market leaders will find viable business in wholly segmented markets. In layman’s terms: there’s an audience for literally everything being made today – it’s just a matter of finding it. In the mean time, it’s all about rolling up those sleeves, and sinking money, time, and love into being that lone math teacher next to the anime-sexpot-hack-gore print seller.

Sure Unshaven Comics may leave a convention loads lighter than Jim perhaps… but we know that at the end of the day The Samurnauts will linger as a passing love; the Solution Squad may lead the next generation to solve the great equations of life itself.

And that kiddos… is one lesson that adds up to me.

For more information on the Solution Squad, including purchase information for classrooms, simply visit www.solutionsquad.net.


Tweeks: Days of Future X-men Fans

X-Men-Days-of-Future-Past-character-photo-Jennifer-Lawrence-as-MystiqueFangirls love Jennifer Lawrence and Theatre Kids love Hugh Jackman, so the question The Tweeks had to ask themselves is: Will our kind love X-Men: Days of Future Past even if we haven’t kept up on the X-Men franchises?  Will we be able to enjoy the CGI if we’re too busy being confused about who’s who in the movie?  The answer?  Watch the review & see how X-Men fans are made.

Box Office Democracy: “X-Men: Days of Future Past”

Bryan Singer was making watchable superhero movies when no one else was and because of that I want to give him a lot of slack.  I’ve even mostly forgotten Superman Returns ever happened.  I liked more about X-Men: Days of Future Past than I didn’t but there’s a nagging doubt in the back of my mind that if this were a movie by a less famous director I would be ripping it apart instead of trying to patch the pieces together.

The plot is so much of a continuity nightmare that I spent a fair amount of time wondering if it was a bizarre homage to mid-90s X-Men comics.  I’m not sure anything in the first two movies holds up at all anymore and I’m quite curious when exactly Mystique decided she wanted to look like Rebecca Romijn instead of Jennifer Lawrence as most people are pretty much done changing physically in their late 20s.  An awful lot of characters that act like they have no history at all in the first X-Men film had apparently been hanging out regularly for some 30 years before it started.  I understand this is the consequence of a movie series lasting 14 years and starting before every superhero franchise had to be a well-crafted franchise but I can’t ignore that this movie now exists in a world with those well-crafted franchises in it and it just all feels so unpolished.

There are also some insane contrivances in service of the plot.  Charles Xavier doesn’t have his psychic powers because he’s hooked on Hank McCoy’s mutant heroin that lets him walk.  I’m not bringing external baggage with that heroin comparison as it is absolutely dripping off the screen.  I could have lived and died without needing to see Professor X tying off a vein.  Wolverine is also incapacitated by a traumatic flashback during a scene where he could have easily fixed everything that goes wrong and sets up the third act.  The Wolverine I know and love from the comics isn’t quite so delicate and I’m really not buying that time travel makes someone so consistently portrayed as hard this emotionally vulnerable.

X-Men has the most star power of any film franchise and the cast really shines in this one.  James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender are, again, amazing as Xavier and Magneto and watching them have more and more emotionally charged scenes as their friendship moves toward the enmity that will define their relationship going forward.  Hugh Jackman has to carry a lot of plot in this one and he does it while still managing to radiate Wolverine in that way he’s done so much.  While rebooting the series might clean up some of the continuity and put them on equal footing there’s something about having people like Jackman (and Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan and even Shawn Ashmore) inhabiting these roles for a decade and a half that serves the belivability of a movie about people who can walk through walls and turn in to metal.

Spoiler: Like every movie that involves time travel, X-Men: Days of Future Past ends with a scene where the main character comes back to see the changes he’s made.  In this movie one of the first ways Wolverine knows that he’s in the good future instead of the bad one is that Bobby Drake is dating the person he’d rather he be with.  A touching moment but also a shout out to the ‘ship culture of the Internet I thought.  A moment of “hey, Wolverine is just like us” thrown in to what is otherwise a bit of a soft reboot.  It’s not good or bad it’s just interesting and that is, unfortunately where a little too much of this film ends up.


Travis Miller: Costuming Our Suspension of Belief

If there is one thing that sets the superhero genre apart from its cousins – science fiction, detective/mystery, fantasy and mythology – it is the garish costumes our heroes and villains wear. The practice dates back to the inception of superheroes, even in western comics like The Lone Ranger, to bring in young readers with heroes (typically in primary colors) and the bad guys who started off as mobsters then became such foes and fiends as the Joker and Doc Ock in secondary and tertiary colors… grab a color wheel guys I’m getting deep here… to help the young heads full of mush differentiate and keep their attention throughout the book…

Now, Let’s fast forward to today, and leave the past, which is always prologue behind.

Why are some of our beloved “superheroes” still wearing primary colored laden tights when it goes against the very fiber of the well established character that we have come to know over the past 50 years? Superman, I get that. Captain America? Yeah. Not a costume but a way of wearing Old Glory mixed with some armor. The Punisher wearing a big white skull on his chest, perfectly reasonable way to draw enemy fire towards the body armor he’s wearing. I can buy that. The Batman, as it has been explained over and over and over again is also wearing body armor mixed with a “flair for the dramatic” to “instill fear” into a “superstitious and cowardly lot.” It’s a stretch, but I’m still on board. The many Green Lanterns are wearing the Crops uniform.

Where my suspension of belief stops is Wolverine. Logan. James Howlett.

I can believe in all the fake science. As Denny O’Neil famously said, it’s fake, but it’s ours. I can believe Logan’s two hundred years old. I can go along with almost every nuance and minutia over the character. Until we get to that costume. It does not compute.

I understand that Wolverine was created, in the comics, to lead Canada’s superhero team. Fine. However, that was many years ago, both in real life and in comics continuity. So, are we going to continue with the idea that a guy that has killed more people that can be counted, used to smoke cigars (until someone took charge at The House of Ideas put a moratorium on smoking) and drinks like a fish, has been trained as a samurai, has fought in every major war since (well it varies, but we will go with) the American Civil War is going to put on skin tight yellow and blue spandex suit because Professor X told him to?


Can we look at the character again? This dude would look Professor X or General Patton himself in the face and laugh, light a cigar and go on his merry day to the nearest non-smoking bar. And, maybe stab a ninja or two on the way just for kicks.

Grant Morrison changed this dramatically, and generally fanboys (I’m a fanboy, too) booed and hissed and bemoaned the change. Larry Hama and Adam Kubert did a great run with Wolvie outside of the costume after the Fatal Attractions storyline. The point being, there are plenty of heroes that don’t wear costumes, that stick to their character and it works for them. Shouldn’t we look at our heroes and villains and see which ones work in “costumes” and more specifically which ones don’t? Don’t we owe it to a guy that we love like Wolverine to let him stop dressing like a clown and let him just be who he is?

That hair is bad enough, right?

REVIEW: Wolverine: Weapon X – Tomorrow Dies Today

MKWolvXCover300dpiThere have been so many titles featuring Wolverine and so many stories told about him that writers find themselves forced time and again to dip into parallel realities or alternate futures to find fresh sources of conflict. There was the well-received Old Man Logan by Mark Millar a little while back and before that, there was Jason Aaron’s Wolverine:” Weapon X storyline “Tomorrow Dies Today”. The latter has been adapted as part of the Marvel Knights line of motion comics, released on DVD this week from Shout! Factory.

Marvel_Knights_Animation_Wolverine_Weapon_X_Tomorrow_Dies_Today_still_7The story is adapted from Wolverine: Weapon X #11-15 and predominantly features Captain America with cameos from a variety of X-Men. The primary antagonist is Deathlok, who has been around since 1974 and is only now become well-known thanks to his appearances on ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. With Wolverine in X-Men Days of Future Past next week and Agents having its season finale tomorrow, the release is incredibly well-timed.
A major fault in this particular adaptation is that it makes tons of references to previous events in the Marvel Universe comic book continuity without explanation to the non-comic fan. We open with Logan and Steve Rogers going out drinking to celebrate Cap’s return from the dead in the wake of the Civil War storyline. Cap talks about Logan’s role with the Avengers and so on but mass audiences expected to watch this have no clue what is being discussed. More context from the screenwriters would have been nice.
Marvel_Knights_Animation_Wolverine_Weapon_X_Tomorrow_Dies_Today_still_13While they’re out drinking, a host of Deathloks has been sent back in time to eliminate targeted people who will either give birth to or grow up to become super-villains that will ruin life as we know it. Roxxon, the ever-present evil corporation whenever Oscorp isn’t available, has been responsible for this and one by one, Marvel’s mightiest heroes have fallen except Wolverine, who still wants to fight despite the loss of his hands. Linking the two eras is Miranda Bayer who has been receiving psychic warnings from her future self.
There’s a lot of fighting and things blow up. We see various heroes come to Wolverine’s aid and all sorts of Deathloks appear indestructible. And of course, the story reaches its climax, another potential future threat is resolved and life goes on as usual.  A key problem with these stories is that we have seen so many alternate futures for the mutants, starting with Days and continuing for the last 30 years is that they have lost their sense of urgency. Solve this future and some other dark, deadly future will be presented whenever the writers get stuck for an idea.

Marvel_Knights_Animation_Wolverine_Weapon_X_Tomorrow_Dies_Today_still_11Aaron does a fine job in the comics making this work and his pacing is fine. On the other hand, the 64-minute motion adaptation leaves out sub-text, characterization, and just feels written by the numbers. The story arc was illustrated by Ron Garney and was transformed into a motion story by Canada’s Atomic Cartoons. Maybe they were rushed or the budget was cut but the work here is choppier and more static than earlier offerings. Additionally, the same action is shown for several seconds as characters talk to one another, the worst sin even 2-D animation can commit.

The vocal cast is also limited meaning people have to perform multiple roles and it shows, further weakening the storytelling.

The story is accompanied by a bonus feature, 14 minutes of Ron Garney talking about his work on the storyline and seeing it adapted and opening his eyes to the possibilities of motion comics. Interestingly, he admits to talking 5-6 weeks to draw a story which finally explains his inability to remain on a monthly for long. His extolling the virtues of a motion comic also sounds like a testimonial and doesn’t sound entirely convincing.

Marc Guggenheim Takes Aim at the X-Men

X-Men_18_CoverThis August, comics superstar and Arrow Executive Producer Marc Guggenheim (Amazing Spider-Man, Wolverine) takes Marvel’s mutants into space for an explosive new mission for a brand-new 4-issue story arc kicking off in X-MEN #18!

High above the Earth in the floating space station known as The Peak, extraterrestrial threats are monitored by S.W.O.R.D. – the planet’s alien counterterrorism and intelligence agency. From the cold reaches of space, a familiar face returns. The ferocious Shi’Ar warrior Deathbird has landed on their doorstep, gravely wounded and inches from death. Unable to identify the who or what that caused her life threatening injuries, the X-Men are called in to investigate!

Speaking with Paul Montgomery at Marvel.com, Guggenheim shared where the idea for his upcoming arc originated: “The idea really came from the fact I’d been jonesing for an X-Men in space story as a reader. I’d been re-reading the Brood Saga and it reminded me how much I love that concept of the X-Men in outer space. It’s a milieu that suits them really well.”

What horrible dangers await Rachel Grey, Storm, Jubilee, Psylocke and Monet in the cold, lifeless vacuum of space? And are they equipped to handle it? Don’t miss the start of an epic sci-fi horror tale as Guggenheim takes the reins this August in X-MEN #18!

Marc Alan Fishman: Wanted, Dead or Alive … Not Both.

Wolverine Potato HeadSo I guess when the AV Club is reporting on the future death of Wolverine, the cat is out of the bag, eh? In yet another PR stunt, the mainstream comic houses show their full hand in hopes mega media attention will somehow garner a boost in pulp sales. I’m reminded of that saying concerning the definition of insanity. And surely this is a topic we, the snarky columnists of any number of media outlets, have covered… well… to death. It’s still worth another look though, so indulge me, kiddos. It’s time to beat a dead horse.

Isn’t it a shame when the knee-jerk reaction of your most dedicated fan-base upon hearing about the death of a beloved character comes with an audible snicker and eye roll? Suffice to say when I’d read the newswire piece it didn’t come as a shock, as much as a continual reminder that my favorite medium was often regarded as kitsch. And truly, no other medium comes to mind – save perhaps for soap operas or pro wrestling– where the announcement of a significant loss bares no bitter fruit as much as it comes complete with scoffs from the peanut gallery.

Wolverine to be stripped of his healing factor and killed. Peter Parker’s mind is destroyed, only to be inhabited by Otto Octavius. Batman banished forever in time by the impact of some Omega beams. Superman dead. Thor dead. Professor X dead. Steve Rogers dead. Jean Grey dead. Colossus dead. Hell… Bucky Barnes dead. Phil Coulson dead.

Feh, I say. Feh! In each instance of the leaked announcement, I immediately retort “…until sales drop, or a movie comes out.” And if you’re a betting man, you’d be smart to go all in each time. I think though, that ranting and railing against something you could count on as easily as the tide coming in, is a waste of negative feelings.

What sits at the root of all of these stabs into the mainstream ether is the soul-crushing realization that our beloved cape-and-cowl crowd are all for-profit entities, each built to harness the dollars and cents of a loyal customer base that has proven more often than not to continually purchase product even while loudly protesting it. Simply put, one need not sweat the wrath of the fanboys and girls until they leave you high and dry at the checkout counter. And as attendance at comic conventions continue to swell, and the multiplex becomes choked annually with blockbuster after blockbuster… there’s little need to fear that our ink-and-paper rags are going away while the licenses need to be coddled.

And what would you do if you were the EIC of a major comic book publisher? You’d keep hitting your cash piñatas until they stop dropping Tootsie Rolls. One can’t simply let their comic character live and die with the times. They must constantly be in a cycle or dramatic repartee with one another. They must converge on mighty battlegrounds. They must make odd alliances. They must recalibrate, reinvent, and redefine their very being every few months. The moment they stop, the attention is drawn elsewhere. Even to let a mortal man, like Frank Castle – a character whose very mission is clearly drawn in severe black and white terms – die a hero’s death, is really just another way to bookmark him for a new series later. One cannot simply let a comic character die… not when there’s a bloodstone to find and money left on the table.

To learn of Wolverine’s impending dirt map should not actually be met with a scoff, and an upturned nose. As in nearly all my aforementioned examples of re-re-retconned demises… in their immediate wake came some of the best stories I’d ever read concerning that character! When Batman was time-bulleted away, Scott Snyder’s Detective Comics gave me the Dick Grayson I’ve always wanted to read. When Dan Slott took the leap to let Otto drive as the friendly neighborhood wall-crawler, he opened up a fantastic object lesson in proactive versus reactive heroism. And when Wolverine bites the big one, it will be less about ending his story as it is opening up a new chapter in the plethora of X-books that will no doubt be touched by the loss. Death, as it were, is then less about the loss specifically of the character in question, rather, it’s about the aftermath that needs to be considered.

It is sad to me that we must accept this as fate; that our heroes and villains are merely pawns in a never ending churn and burn of story arcs and universe resets. In the time since its inception, the Marvel Universe (the 616), and the DCU (whatever we call current continuity since it’s neither new, nor 52) have relegated themselves to reinvention at every turn of the corner. Unlike a soap or the WWE, where fictional characters can eventually die in real life… or even Doctor Who, who remains the same alien in spirit, but purposefully reimagined to coincide with the times – mainstream comic books must remain forever in Neverland. While DC tried hard to create legacies with a few of their major heroes (The Flash and Green Lantern, most of all), they too eventually succumbed to a massive PR stunt (the still-absolutely-unbearable Flashpoint), in order to move the zeitgeist back into its clutches.

So mourn not for James Howlett, folks. Let no tears stain your mutton-chopped cheeks for his once robust form. For now, he will join any number of other X-Men at the famed Marvel Island. He’ll enjoy the umbrella drinks, and free bacon… as the 616 spins out of control.

Because let’s face it, a world with Wolverine leaves a roster spot open on at least 1,246 different teams. And that is why we mourn.

Mike Gold: Fatwa In Four-Colors

It’s possible you’ve heard about the superhero comic book series The 99. According to the Grand Comics Database, it ran for a total of 19 issues between 2007 and 2011, plus a six-issue mini-series crossover with the Justice League of America.

Despite its professional credits and its careful design, it was unsurprisingly clear that here in the United States a series about Muslim superheroes who derived their team name from the 99 names for Allah would be a tough sell. Even Superman and Batman couldn’t help. PBS did a documentary, and it was cover-featured in Newsweek – back when Newsweek actually had covers. President Barack Obama, a former comics reader himself, praised the series: “His comic books have captured the imaginations of so many young people with superheroes who embody the teachings and tolerance of Islam.”

The “he” in “his” referred to the series’ creator, Kuwaiti psychologist Naif Al-Mutawa. Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, Al-Mutawa wanted Muslim children to have Muslim heroes who selected a path different from the suicide bombers and jihadists.

Sadly, to no avail. It was a noble effort, one that was successful in places like Saudi Arabia – it even spawned a television series. But success can bite you on the ass, and the laws of Newtonian physics apply to politics as well as to apple trees.

The 99 is now the subject of a genuine Saudi Arabian fatwa, issued by grand mufti Abdulaziz al-Sheikh and his council because the comics and the television show are “evil work that needs to be shunned.” Good grief, I’ve worked on comics that received bad reviews, but nobody said they needed to be shunned.

For the record, a fatwa is defined by Merriam-Webster as a decree handed down by an Islamic religious leader. It is not a death sentence per se, although with organized religion one has to take into consideration how the zealots might react.

But what the fatwa does do is effectively end The 99’s commercial prospects. Unless the fatwa is lifted the teevee show, which is off-season, is unlikely to continue. The comic books face the same fate.

There really isn’t that much difference between a fatwa in Saudi Arabia and an undeclared boycott of The 99 in the United States due to its pro-Muslim content. Despite solid promotion here in the States and the aforementioned exposure from both PBS and President Obama, people simply did not sample the series to see if it was to their liking.

To those of us who vest our first amendment fantasies with a zealot’s enthusiasm, both actions are repulsive. I wish Dr. Al-Mutawa well, and I hope he’s got a great idea for a Wolverine mini-series.