In the television series “The 99”, Islamic comic heroes fight against evil forces in the world. Western critics warn against religious propaganda – unjustly, says Jannis Hagman
It’s the year 1258. Panic grips Baghdad: Mongol leader Hülägü, grandson of the feared Genghis Khan, besieges the capital of the Islamic Abbasid Kingdom with his troops. Hülägü’s plan: destruction. First and foremost of the large library, the world-famous Dar al-Hikma. He wants to hit Baghdad, the “centre of scholarship and knowledge in the civilized world”, right at its heart. After all: “knowledge is power”.
This is the start of the comic “The 99”, which can now be seen in its television series format for the first time in the Middle East and Australia. The children love them, the 99 super heroes who today – seven centuries after the Mongol invasion, fight for what Hülägü sought to destroy: the accumulated knowledge of Abbasid high culture.
“Accumulated knowledge of Abbasid high culture”: Jabbar the Powerful To make it brief: Hülägü razes Baghdad to the ground, storms the library, thousands of books end up in the Tigris. But the conquered Muslims – here we depart from historic facts – do not give up: they submerge 99 prepared gemstones in the river and simply absorb all the knowledge that’s been dissolved into the water. The Noor stones have been created, the stones of light – imbued with the wisdom of Islamic civilization.
Wusp! Rughal turns evil
Three knights bring the 99 stones to Andalusia, to Islamic Spain, where a young, inquisitive scholar named Rughal has a clever idea: He guides rays of moonlight through the stones, merges them into a gigantic laser beam, shines this beam onto himself – and: “WUSP!”, as it says in the comic, the plan backfires. There’s a terrible crash, Rughal turns evil instead of clever. And … fast-forward, we’re in the 21st century.
This is where the story of “The 99” is essentially set – a story that can be summed up in just a few words: good versus evil. Good is represented by the 99 superheroes. Distributed throughout 99 nations of the world, each of them possesses one of the knowledge-saturated Noor stones, which gives them superhuman talents.
Evil is represented by their adversaries, who have set their sights on the powerful stones. First and foremost: Rughal (yes, he survived the centuries, but anyone who thinks that’s a crazy story should remember Superman, who came from Planet Krypton).
Drawing on Islamic sources