Having caught the imagination of comic lovers in West Asia and America, The 99, the superheroes with Islamic values, are set to make their debut on television in an animation series that will be developed partly in India.
Entertainment company Endemol, creator of the Big Boss format, has tied up with the creators of The 99, Teshkeel Comics, to develop the TV series. While Endemol International will make India the animation centre for The 99 or The Ninety-nine, Endemol UK will handle the production and post-production.
In India, the publishers of Chandamama have a tie-up with Teshkeel Comics to print and distribute The 99 series. The central characters of the series portray Islamic values, though their religion is not made explicit so as to promote their universal appeal. Each superhero depicts one of the 99 attributes of Allah.
Comic lovers seem to have taken to the new series with almost the same enthusiasm as its Judeo-Christian predecessors.
The credit for having successfully walked this tightrope goes to the creator of The 99, Naif al-Mutawa, the 36-year-old CEO of Teshkeel Comics, who has a doctorate in clinical psychology and an MBA from Columbia University.
“When I was training at Bellevue Hospital, I met many army men, mostly Iraqi soldiers, who came with a notion of a hero. For some, Saddam Hussein was their hero. I wanted to create another idea of a hero,” Mutawa told DNA. The Kuwaiti national thought of the concept in December 2003 and it took him a year to get the first financier in with $8 million.
Mutawa brought top professionals on board including writer Fabien Nicieza, who has scripted the Power Rangers and X-Men comics. The 99 editor Marie Javins is known for her work as editor at Marvel Comics.