Nov 14, 2008

Teshkeel Comics - The 99 #0-4 | 2008

We have a new entrant to the Graphic Novels Biz, and this time it is neither from the American Stable, nor from the European/Franco-Belgian stables or Japanese Manga.  It's from the Middle-East. Surprising, as it may sound, it's a first worldwide attempt from a comics creator from Kuwait, Dr. Naif Al-Mutawa, founder and CEO of Teshkeel Media Group.

Naif al-Mutawa with his sonsTeshkeel Comics is the brainchild of Naif al-Mutawa, a 36-year-old Kuwaiti comics fan. He grew up in the US where he fell in love with Marvel and, after training as a psychologist, wrote kids' books on prejudice. He thought up his superheroes during a cab ride across London in 2003, with his sister.

The 99 are a quasi-spiritual version of the X-Men or the Fantastic Four.  The plot of the series, drawing on stories and history familiar to most Muslim youths, involves the great wisdom and learning that characterized the Muslim world at its apogee, when it reached from northern Pakistan to southern Spain in the late Middle Ages.

The writing for the series is at present managed by Naif Al-Mutawa himself, accompanied by Fabian Nicieza, known for his work on Marvel titles such as X-Men, X-Force, New Warriors, Cable and Deadpool, and Thunderbolts.

The 99 #0
Origins of The 99 Series
The 99 #0: BackCover | Pages: 64
Size: B5 | Color | SoftCover | Price: INR 30
99 #00 Cover1 99 #00 Cover2

The epic plot is based, Da Vinci Code-style, on a pivotal moment in Islamic history - the sacking of Baghdad by the Mongols in the 13th century. The wisdom, tolerance and spirituality of the Baghdad caliphate are coded in 99 gemstones just as the barbarians are at the gate, and in the intervening years they have been scattered around the world. The heroes' job is to find them before the bad guy does.

"To create the new, you have to tap into the old," Mr. Mutawa says of the deep historic connections in the comic. "The real goal is to teach kids that there's more than one way to solve a problem."

Although, as only God is allowed to possess all 99 characteristics, Mr.Mutawa is likely to peak with around 70 caped crusaders (so far 20 characters have been announced for the The 99 series, in which 16 have been revealed in the series released in Middle-East).

99_characters
Five of "The 99," from left: Mumita (speedy), Dr. Razem (a gem expert), Rughal (mystery powers), Jabbar (expandable) and Noora (sees truth)

The characters in "The 99" are not all Arabs, but Muslims all over the world.  For example, Jabbar is from Saudi Arabia, Mumita is from Portugal, Noora is from United Arab Emirates.  There is even a character which wears Burkha.

But, as explained by Mr. Naif to New York Times, "There is where religion stops and Mythology begins.  I don't expect Islamists to like my idea, and I don't want the ultra-liberals to like it either".  So far, he has managed to get Kuwait's censors to approve the early mock-ups. But to keep the orthodox at ease, he has included women in head-scarves and plays it by the book as far as religion goes. 

The 99 #1
1. Of Light and Dark | Artist: John McCrea
2. First Steps | Artist: Steve Yeowell
The 99 #1: BackCover | Pages: 40 
Size: A4 | Color | SoftCover  | Price: INR 30
99 #01 Cover1 99 #01 Cover2

But what gives Mr. Naif the biggest edge is a seasoned team, including writers like Fabian Nicieza, who wrote for X-Men and Power Rangers comics, and a group of managers and advisers who are old hands in the industry.

In addition, "The 99" will piggyback on a distribution network Mr. Mutawa is setting up for a parallel project, publishing all manner of other comics in the Middle-East region. Teshkeel has signed on with Marvel Comics to translate and distribute their comics in the Middle East, and will soon begin publishing Arabic versions of Marvel's Spider-Man, Incredible Hulk, X-Men and others (Much like the Spiderman-India franchise created by Gotham Comics for the Indian/Asian markets).

The 99 #2
1. No Pain, No Gain | Artist: John McCrea
2. The Origins of Rughal, Pt.1 | Artist: Ron Wagner
The 99 #2: BackCover | Pages: 36
Size: A4 | Color | SoftCover  | Price: INR 30
99 #02 Cover1 99 #02 Cover2

Mr. Naif also briefs that he is in talks with Archie and DC Comics for similar deals. He says that Teshkeel has attracted $7 million from investors, based on the promise that he will turn his company into the largest comics publisher in the Middle East.

Last year, Teshkeel also bought Cracked, a defunct competitor of Mad magazine (Indian comic fans will remember that Gotham Comics tried to bring the MAD venture to India, in a failed attempt), which he plans to resume publishing, pitched to a more mature audience in the United States. He hopes those publications will encourage other media companies to take him more seriously and back his Muslim Super-Heroes concept.

The 99 #3
1. Problem Solving | Artist: John McCrea
2. The Origins of Rughal - Pt.2 | Artist: Ron Wagner
The 99 #3: BackCover | Pages: 36
Size: A4 | Color | SoftCover | Price: INR 30
The 99 03 Cover1 The 99 03 Cover2

Teshkeel Comics has tied up with Chandamama, to bring their The 99 Series to India, and South-East Asia.  So far there are 4 Issues which have been released in consecutive months in 2008.  We earlier covered the legacy of Chandamama, a well-known children's magazine of India, referring to their Collectors Issue. So this a good attempt from them to establish themselves on the Graphic Novel Biz, which I feel they missed out while being on top of the Children's magazines for so many decades.

The 99 #4
1. Shadowboxing | Artist: John McCrea
2. Baggage | Artist: Ron Wagner
The 99 #4: BackCover | Pages: 36
Size: A4 | Color | SoftCover | Price: INR 30
The 99 04 Cover1 The 99 04 Cover2

Overall, I believe that "The 99" offers a different kind of view from the traditional American, Euro/Franco, Japanese storylines, as it tries to break a new ground, with its roots from the untouched Islamic facts and figures, yet not going overboard in preaching or siding with any religion.  Mr. Naif has to be commended for that effort. 

But, all said and done, I still feel that the storyline could be little more interesting if it tries to establish a strong foundation and benefiting out of it, rather than concentrating on action-packed sequences, which are best left for the American genre, which thrives on it.

Also, I couldn't see the great dedication towards the artwork, compared to what was witnessed in the Origins issue.  It could be helped by the fact that there were a team of Artists (including Jeff Jhonson, and Ron Wagner) who were involved for the special Origins issue, and now the artwork is wholly in the hands of John McCrea and Ron Wagner, who have different styles, but fail to complete the background information in some panels.

Credits & Copyright Info Poster-1 : The 99 #0
The 99 04 Credits 99 #00 Posters1
Poster-2 : The 99 #0 Poster-3 : The 99 #0
99 #00 Posters2 99 #00 Posters3

Hopefully, the coming issues would be dealing with that, as they round-up their introduction of Super Heroes.  As of date, they have gone up to #14 with their Middle-East releases, so we are in for a continued release of this series in India, if Chandamama can promote their existence, and make a profit out of it with their Indian releases.  I am planning to cover them in batches, as their monthly release far outnumbers my group blogging regularity :-).

The packaging of the comics, is real value for money.  At Rs.30 INR, with A4 Size; 35+ pages; and waxed paper-quality, where the artwork really stands good; are a bargain.  Though, I would prefer the size of the Origins issue, which is easy to maintain as a collectible, at the same time not sacrificing the luxury of witnessing the artwork.  A4 Size magazines are little difficult to maintain.

The Credit Page lists down the team behind 'The 99' franchise.  It also carries the subscription details for 'The 99' in India.  As of now, they are available in major book store chains across country, like Landmark and Odyssey.  They are also at all places where the Chandamama used to be available, which includes Petty Shops, to small book-stores.  Thanks to the power of Chandamama's Distribution Network (Thanks to Dr.Satheesh for the info).  So catch them to witness a new form in Comics.

Hope you have enjoyed the cover-scans and some of the posters from the Origins issue, found along with this post, which carries some fine-piece of traditional artwork (not the computer graphics generated cover-arts which have become a de-facto standard with American counterparts).  As a bonus, The origins issue could be downloaded for free from the official website of The 99, to get you started with the series.  So grab it while it is still available.

13 ComiComments:

hi rafiq,

nice post on teshkeel comics. i bought a special 5th issue & found the storyline interesting. but the treatment being typically american turned me off.

the comics are actually available at all shops where you buy your regular chandamama. i actually bought mine at salem bus-stand.

they're pretty cheap for the quality, color & size @ rs.30/-. but the content leaves a lot to be desired. aping american comics seems to be the way around the world except europe & japan. sad thing indeed.

தலைவர்

அ.கொ.தீ.க.

Well,from what you say it sounds pretty affordable & interesting.Not being bound to any religious sentiment,what with majority of American comic books siding with Christianity or the Far East,I am open to anything which is a decent read.Maybe when there is nothing left to read,then.....but you said that back issues are not to be found,that can be a problem.Also they are not available in CROSSWORD Mumbai,which is accesible easily to me in comparision to LANDMARK Mumbai.So,it'll have to be wait & watch.I think I'll download the Origins issue & see.

Hi,

I Vividly remember calling Dr Sathish some months back on seeing this magazine in a News Paper shop. later on, i bought the origins issue. However, the naming of the characters Like soora noora put me off a little bit. Hence i couldn't continue buying this series.

For those who want to buy this book & the old issues of this series, kindly contact Mr Ravishankar (ravishankar.tn@chandamama.com) or call in this number in office Hours: 044 - 2432 2101.

Aalok, i too found out that that they are not available in Crossword. However, you can also subscribe them by logging on at www.chandamama.com

Happy Reading.

King Viswa.

Dr.7: Yes, American way seems to be the de-facto standard for all new ventures, for instance in the case of Virgin Comics, Vimanika Comics, etc. Hopefully, there would be more players who can bring the niche sense in the market. By the way, I picked up the #5 issue too, and will blog about it soon.

Aalok: As Viswa pointed out, it's indeed pretty easy to obtain the back-issues, as Chandamama has an office virtually in every State in India. Please check the Credits Page scan in the post for more details on the same.

Viswa: Hopefully, I will also be part of those intimate comics calls you and Dr. get involved with :). Thanks for your visit and comment. I hope you will maintain your numero-uno position in the Top Comic-Commenters race, by posting your regular review and comments like ever.

Pretty good though I do think the comic lacks alot from the other major comic industries such as Marvel and DC that could be improved to show the full potential of the 99.

I am sometimes confused with the powers when reading my first issue with Noora getting her power. What does she actually have.What does the disabled guy have. Is he telepath or pshycic, and becoming good was a complete and random change of character even if Noora helped. Why would not Noora do that to all bad guys and what does light even have to do with that. People in my thoughts are always filled with darkness or sin so how is one fully lighted. If one is they would not be human. Marvel and DC are the best all the way but this is new, original, and interesting to read. If not busy is a good comic to waste time with.

A may sound like I am telling you this comic sucks, but im actually just over excited that it has so much potential that is wasted. Great in learning about Islam for a muslim like me, by getting the 99 attributes of Allah.

nice review of Teshkeel comics-- I just got to know about it because there was a copy at the local supermarket in coimbatore where i live. by the way, i run a Comix Discussion Board of iNdIa (CDBi),

http://www.number21pix.in/cdbi/index.php --

a forum for comic artists/writers . please check it out and contribute...

Anony: Your comment shows your deep reading onto The 99 series. I agree that the series is at is infant state, so yet to match up the legacy set by Marvel. But instead of focusing on imitating the success of the bigger brands, if they can make their versions stand out in quality, that will keep them in good stead. They seem to have the concept for the same, only need a better application, which we may get to see in the upcoming issues. Good to know that you being a follow Muslim, taking the good things out of the series, rather than counting it off as offensive. I felt the same, and good to see someone sharing the feeling.

Do visit and often and record your comments. And I will be happy if you could also leave your name, so that I recollect you when you visit next. Happy Reading.

Actionist: Good to meet another fellow comics fan and enthusiast. I had earlier briefed through your Discussion Board, but I am no Writer/Artist and thought that it is reserved for that cult. Nevertheless, I will make my presence in the discussion board shortly.

I also did not like this series and did not buy any of them.

@ ERB: Well, I should admit I didn't like the storyline or the way of art that much. But for the collection sake, I have been grabbing the monthly editions whenever I visit the bookshops.

So far 11 Editions have come out, and a couple of specials to add to that. A post on them is pending for long, which I would do by the coming month.

Sometimesyou must be similar in character will have suffering enough from the stern still ploughing and foaming through the press, take things calmly. I liked reading this. I bookmark your blog. Keep up the good work. I am sure you will get some thumbs up :) & give your valuable feedback on http://limosbusesjets.com

Sometimesyou must be similar in character will have suffering enough from the stern still ploughing and foaming through the press, take things calmly. I liked reading this. I bookmark your blog. Keep up the good work. I am sure you will get some thumbs up :) & give your valuable feedback on http://limosbusesjets.com

Pretty good though I do think the comic lacks alot from the other major comic industries such as Marvel and DC that could be improved to show the full potential of the 99.

I am sometimes confused with the powers when reading my first issue with Noora getting her power. What does she actually have.What does the disabled guy have. Is he telepath or pshycic, and becoming good was a complete and random change of character even if Noora helped. Why would not Noora do that to all bad guys and what does light even have to do with that. People in my thoughts are always filled with darkness or sin so how is one fully lighted. If one is they would not be human. Marvel and DC are the best all the way but this is new, original, and interesting to read. If not busy is a good comic to waste time with.

A may sound like I am telling you this comic sucks, but im actually just over excited that it has so much potential that is wasted. Great in learning about Islam for a muslim like me, by getting the 99 attributes of Allah.

hi rafiq,

nice post on teshkeel comics. i bought a special 5th issue & found the storyline interesting. but the treatment being typically american turned me off.

the comics are actually available at all shops where you buy your regular chandamama. i actually bought mine at salem bus-stand.

they're pretty cheap for the quality, color & size @ rs.30/-. but the content leaves a lot to be desired. aping american comics seems to be the way around the world except europe & japan. sad thing indeed.

தலைவர்

அ.கொ.தீ.க.

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