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Showing posts with label John McCrea. Show all posts
Showing posts with label John McCrea. Show all posts

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).

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.


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