The Jakarta Post
On Apr. 11, Ardian Syaf was fired by Marvel for the religious references he had inserted in the illustration of X-Men Gold #1—a comic released on Apr. 5. (ardiansyaf.com via kompas.com/File)
Following his dismissal by Marvel Comics, illustrator Ardian Syaf says he does not want to drown in sadness.
“I am very sure that there is an unknown blessing behind this event,” Ardian said at his house in Tulungagung regency, East Java on Thursday, as quoted by Antara.
On Apr. 11, Ardian was fired by the publisher for religious references he had inserted in illustrations he drew for X-Men Gold #1—a comic released on Apr. 5.
The father-of-one drew “QS 5:51” on a character’s shirt and wrote the number “212” on a building in another picture. The numbers reportedly refer to, respectively, a verse in the Quran and the Dec. 2, 2016, rally, a protest event against Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, who is accused of blasphemy. In a statement issued to comicbook.com, Marvel stated that it was not aware of the meaning of the references and that it would remove them from the comic’s upcoming batches.
The visual communication design graduate of Malang State University said he did not want society to think he was traumatized by being fired by the publisher, “[Let] this be a lesson for me. Hopefully other [comic artists] will not do the same thing if they're not ready for this kind of risk.”
Ardian said that he initially drew the “QS 5:51” and “212” for fun. Prior to drawing the illustration, Ardian had just participated in the Dec. 2 rally, which had left a deep impression on him. This then led him to include the references in the X-Men Gold #1 comic.
This was not the first time Ardian inserted references to Indonesian politics in his drawings. In 2012, Ardian reportedly inserted a reference to President Joko Widodo in the Batgirl #1 comic. For this 'Easter egg', Ardian did not get into any trouble, he even received compliments.
However, such was not the case with his recent illustrations. The references he inserted created controversy and provoked discussion on social media.
“When the controversy arose, I realized that it might lead to a critical situation [and] that it would lead to being fired by Marvel,” he said.
Despite deliberately inserting the religious references, Ardian denies he is a racist, anti-Christian or anti-Semite. “Truthfully, I did not have any other intentions besides keeping the memory of 212 rally inside my work,” he said.
Ardian also said that he didn’t think that the references would cause a controversy and that it would lead to him losing his job with Marvel Comics. “If I knew, I would not have inserted [the references],” he said.
Ardian is currently taking a break from drawing comics, but he has received offers from local and foreign publishers. Among the interested publishers are medium and small-sized publishers in the United States and publishers from the Middle East. Ardian said his manager had been repeatedly contacted by publishers, but he had not accepted any of the offers. He said that he wanted to take a short break to calm down. He has not specified when he will be returning to work.
Many collectors have also shown an interest in Ardian’s original pencil-drawn illustrations for the comic that contain the QS 5:51 and 212 references. Despite the rising offers, Ardian has not replied to any of the collectors either.
“My manager suggested selling the illustrations for US$ 3,000 each, but I have not decided on anything,” he said.
Ardian wants to keep the work as memorabilia, as a story to be told to his children and grandchildren in the future. (mas/asw)