Superhero powerhouse Marvel Comics has been forced to apologize to fans and remove several pieces of artwork from a publication after it was found that an Indonesian artist had included subliminal anti-Semitic and anti-Christian messages in the publisher’s latest comic book release.
The “X-Men Gold #1” comic was released just four days ago, but it didn’t take fans long to spot a number of curious numerical references in the illustration and take to Marvel’s dedicated online fan forums where the meaning of the secret messages was quickly deciphered.
The most obvious reference was on the T-shirt worn by the character Colossus reading “QS 5:51,” referring to the Qur’an Surah [Koranic passage] 5:51. That passage, according to the Muhammad Sarwar translation of the Quran, reads: “Believers, do not consider the Jews and Christians as your intimate friends for they are only friends with each other. Whoever does so will be considered as one of them. God does not guide the unjust people.”
— SuperbiaDR (@SuperbiaDR) April 8, 2017
In the scene, Colossus is playing baseball with Christian character Kurt Wagner, otherwise known as Nightcrawler.
In a second illustration, Jewish character Kitty Pryde can be seen addressing a crowd with one participant wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with “51,” and the number “212” prominently featured on a building in the background. Another building with the word “Jewelry” on it is cut off by Pryde, so that the word “Jew” can be seen next to her.
— detikcom (@detikcom) April 9, 2017
In addition to “51,” referencing the same Koranic verse as in the previous illustration, the number “212” appears to refer to Muslim protests in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta on December 2, 2016, against the city’s Christian governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, accusing him of blasphemy.
Purnama’s troubles began in September when he accused his rivals in the race to lead Jakarta of trying to sway voters to oppose him by using the Koranic verse of 5:51.
An edited video of his speech went viral online, sparking widespread anger. At those protests, demonstrators were seen holding up signs saying “51” and “212.” Ardian Syaf, the illustrator of “X-Men Gold #1,” took part in those protests and wrote about them on his Facebook page.
Upon discovering the secret messages, and following the outrage of many fans who took to social media to protest the comics, Marvel apologized, saying that the company was not aware of the numbers’ meaning.
“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,” the publisher said in a statement provided to ComicBook.com.
“This artwork will be removed from subsequent printings, digital versions, and trade paperbacks and disciplinary action is being taken,” the statement added.
In May last year, Marvel upset some fans when it revealed in its latest issue, “Captain America: Steve Rogers #1” that the eponymous character is in fact a secret operative of the evil, formerly Nazi organization, Hydra.
The dramatic twist happens right on the last page, as Captain America prepares to throw his supposed ally, Jack Flag, off an airplane, presumably to his death, and exclaims, “Hail Hydra!”
— CNN (@CNN) May 26, 2016
Some fans interpreted the twist as a slight to the character’s Jewish creators, Joe Simon (born Hymie Simon) and Jack Kirby (born Jacob Kurtzberg).
Captain America was conceived in 1940, while World War II was raging in Europe and the United States was still staying out of it. For Simon, creating Captain America was consciously political. He was disgusted by the actions of the Nazis in Europe and wanted the US to intervene.
The first issue of Captain America showed the title character punching Adolf Hitler. It sold nearly a million copies.
Many of Marvel’s iconic superheroes were created by Jews. Spider-Man, the Hulk, the Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Thor and the X-Men were all created by Stan Lee, who like Simon and Kirby, is the son of Jewish immigrants. Kirby co-created the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, and the Hulk.
Raoul Wootliff, AFP and JTA contributed to this report.