Kapow! Kaboom! Have You Heard About “The 99”?

Forget about Spiderman, Batman and Superman. In the comic book world, there’s a new kid on the block. But this time it’s a consortium of superheroes (99 of them!) from all over the globe who work to promote tolerance and understanding.

The group includes a multi-cultural bunch of very different men and women, including an autistic guy from Hungary called “The Assembler” who is the tech wizard of the bunch, a burka-wearing gal from Yemen who protects the team from danger through her power to make people invisible, a femme fatal from Portugal called The Destroyer and Bari The Healer from South Africa.

Their powers come from mysterious gemstones that somehow come into their possession at one point or another during their lives and are imbued with ancient knowledge. The superheroes can only succeed, however, when they work together in teams. Thus, the spirit of cooperation is born and celebrated in each issue.

They fight the bad guys, as all self-respecting superheroes must, but leave politics and religion aside. Instead, they tackle formidable current problems that plague the world like elephant poachers in Africa, land mines in Cambodia, and global warming. In a recent issue they faced-off against “Death Merchant” who was attacking an international relief agency in the Philippines.

In their down time they also shoot the breeze with each other about some not-so-typical superhero subjects like contemplation, spirituality and the importance of mathematics. What!? Come on! You gotta love this stuff!

“The 99” is the brainchild of Kuwaiti clinical psychologist Naif al-Mutawa, who divides his time between New York and Kuwait. The father of five boys, he wanted to do something that made a difference in the world and that would have a positive impact on the hearts and minds of children all over the world.

Following the tragedy of September 11, Mutawa was concerned that his faith was being hijacked by fundamentalist fanatics and that the true messages of peace and brotherhood were being lost and misrepresented. “99” refers to the 99 different international superheroes but also to the 99 characteristics that Islam attributes to God — things like strength, trust, generosity and love.

“They’re superheroes inspired by Islam,” says Mutawa. “They’re based on values that Islam shares with the rest of humanity.” Mutawa has used his comic books to create positive role models for Muslim youth and to show that cooperation, rather than violence, is the way to get things done and make the world better.

And the word is getting around. Mutawa and “The 99” have even been noticed by President Obama, who praised his work at the recent Presidential Summit on Entrepreneurship in Washington D.C.

The comics are being distributed all over Europe, America, the Middle East, China and India. They are printed in 8 languages, including Arabic and English.

“The 99” comics have already spun off a theme park in Kuwait and just to keep things exciting, there will soon be an animated television show featuring the coolest superheroes around.

To meet them all and see them in action, you can check them out online.

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Ellen and Rachel are two old friends and “expert” mamas—one a pediatrician and one a family therapist—with fifty years of parenting experience between them.

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