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Marvel Cancels X-Men Gold Artist’s Contract Over Hidden Political and Religious References


Over the weekend, our Marykate Jasper wrote an in-depth examination of the controversy surrounding X-Men Gold‘s Ardian Syaf. Two days later, Marvel has taken its promised “disciplinary actions,” and officially canceled Syaf’s contract, effective immediately.

Start with Marykate’s article if you’d like to know more about how the matter began and to get a look at the art in question. In short, Syaf drew references to Indonesian politics and Qur’an verses into X-Men Gold #1, where they went unnoticed until the book hit Indonesia. Then, as Marykate put it, “To many Indonesian readers, these references read like coded support for the conservative, Muslim-leaders-only, anti-Ahok stance.” Syaf’s blithe responses to the controversy, declaring that his issues would become rare collectibles, didn’t help.

Now Marvel has decided on what actions to take, and it is a contract termination. Here’s their official statement from

Marvel has terminated Ardian Syaf’s contract effective immediately. ‘X-Men Gold’ #2 and #3 featuring his work have already been sent to the printer and will continue to ship bi-weekly. Issues #4, #5, and #6 will be drawn by R. B. Silva and issues #7, #8, and #9 will be drawn by Ken Lashley. A permanent replacement artist will be assigned to ‘X-Men Gold’ in the coming weeks.

As Marykate and several of our readers pointed out in the comments, Ms. Marvel creator G. Willow Wilson, herself a Muslim, had an even more decisive take:

This is all to say that Ardian Syaf can keep his garbage philosophy. He has committed career suicide; he will rapidly become irrelevant. But his nonsense will continue to affect the scant handful of Muslims who have managed to carve out careers in comics. From what I can deduce off of Facebook, it appears he is trying to claim the Charlie Hebdo defense…ie, he doesn’t mean anything by it; we just don’t understand the nuance and subtly of the local bigotry. Much good may it do him. Goodbye, Ardian Syaf. We hardly knew ye, which is just as well.

Wilson’s post is well worth reading, as she goes into the meaning of the Qur’an references in-depth. And her prediction came true—Syaf’s career, at least with Marvel, is over. His work will still be seen in X-Men Gold #2 and #3, but after that, his name will likely fade from the mind of readers—except, of course, as a cautionary tale of what not to do to succeed in comics.

(via, G. Willow Wilson’s blog, image: Marvel Comics)

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Kaila Hale-Stern (she/her) is a content director, editor, and writer who has been working in digital media for more than fifteen years. She started at TMS in 2016. She loves to write about TV—especially science fiction, fantasy, and mystery shows—and movies, with an emphasis on Marvel. Talk to her about fandom, queer representation, and Captain Kirk. Kaila has written for io9, Gizmodo, New York Magazine, The Awl, Wired, Cosmopolitan, and once published a Harlequin novel you'll never find.