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  • A comic book based on the 99 virtues of Allah runs up against unexpected opposition.

    A comic book based on the 99 virtues of Allah runs up against unexpected opposition.

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  • Behind the scenes with Isaac Solotaroff

    Behind the scenes with Isaac Solotaroff

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  • A girl in Kuwait reading THE 99 in her school's library

    A girl in Kuwait reading THE 99 in her school's library

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  • Naif Al-Mutawa signing a comic for a young fan in Jakarta

    Naif Al-Mutawa signing a comic for a young fan in Jakarta

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  • Students at Kuwait University reading THE 99 the week it was launched in the Middle East

    Students at Kuwait University reading THE 99 the week it was launched in the Middle East

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  • A rendering of the official who banned THE 99 in Saudi Arabia

    A rendering of the official who banned THE 99 in Saudi Arabia

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  • Indonesian girl coloring in a sketch of Noora The Light

    Indonesian girl coloring in a sketch of Noora The Light

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  • Naif Al-Mutawa speaking to a class of 6th graders at a madrassa in Jakrta

    Naif Al-Mutawa speaking to a class of 6th graders at a madrassa in Jakrta

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  • Naif Al-Mutawa holding a comic rendering of himself illustrated by a fan in Jakarta

    Naif Al-Mutawa holding a comic rendering of himself illustrated by a fan in Jakarta

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The Film

In 2003, Dr. Naif Al-Mutawa — Kuwaiti psychologist, graduate of Columbia Business School and father of four young boys — had an idea: create a comic book series with roots in Islam and Islamic culture. Al-Mutawa came up with the concept of The 99: a team of superheroes, each one exemplifying one of the 99 attributes of Allah. His motivations were both entrepreneurial and idealistic — The 99 would exemplify the Islamic virtues of compassion, understanding, and tolerance – qualities not often associated with Islam by the West. Within the Islamic world, Al-Mutawa hoped these new role models would counter the growing tide of political and religious extremism.

As a business, it was a daunting task — comics were relatively unknown in the Arab market and those that existed were all Western imports. Al-Mutawa managed to raise $7 million in initial capital from 54 investors across four continents and brought together a team of comic book veterans to create The 99. The first issue was released during Ramadan 2006 and although it enjoyed widespread critical success, The 99 immediately came under suspicion from religious leaders. The comic was banned in Saudi Arabia and there were threats of a fatwa forbidding The 99. As Al-Mutawa battles the cultural gatekeepers (both anointed and self-anointed) to a draw Al-Mutawa becomes a forceful advocate for an Islam based on open-mindedness and individual thought.

However, Al-Mutawa faces an even more vexing nemesis: the global marketplace. With the comic missing its projected sales numbers in the Middle East, Al-Mutawa turns to theme parks and animation with the hopes that through these more lucrative platforms he may save his fledgling superhero property. Realizing that The 99 will not survive if focused solely on the Middle East, Al-Mutawa must now target an international and predominately non-Muslim market. However, in doing so, is Al-Mutawa abandoning the underlying social principles for creating The 99 to make them financially viable?

The Filmmakers

  1. Isaac SolotaroffDirector
  2. Katharyn Bond MárquezProducer