Ardian Syaf is an Indonesian comic book artist. He has worked for DC Comics, Marvel Comics, and Dynamite Entertainment.
Syaf was born in Tulungagung, East Java, Indonesia. He first developed the desire to draw comics in his youth, after his father bought him his first comic.
He embarked upon a career as a professional comics artist in 2003, deciding that leaving his interest in drawing comics and working in a conventional job was not something he was willing to do.
Syaf started his career in 2007 with Dabel Brothers Publishing, illustrating The Dresden Files for 11 issues.
At one point Syaf met an Irish screenwriter named Catie through Dabel Brothers, through which began to get work with Marvel Comics, his earliest book assignments involving the sharing of penciling duties with other artists, such as Jorge Molina on X-Men: Manifest Destiny: Nightcrawler #1 (May 2009), and Leonard Kirk on Captain Britain and MI13 #13 and 14 (July, August 2009).
His earliest work for DC Comics was “The Origin of Congorilla” a backup story written by Len Wein that appeared in Justice League: Cry for Justice #1 (September 2009). He shared the art duties on Justice League of America (Vol. 2) #34 (August 2009) with Eddy Barrows, but its quality was decried by critics.
In 2009, he signed a two-year exclusivity contract with DC. That contract ended in September 2011, though he indicated that it would be renewed, and that he would be drawing the Batgirl series as part of the company’s 2011 reboot of its books, The New 52. Syaf drew the eight of that series’ first nine issues, receiving generally positive reviews from critics.
When asked in a 2011 interview what projects he would like to work on, Syaf responded that he would like to draw Wolverine, as that is a character that he adores. He also stated that he would like to do a Tomb Raider story set in Indonesia, which would involve the superstitious beliefs of his home country.
Syaf is known to engage in the practice of hiding Easter egg references to political figures in the backgrounds of his artwork. In Batgirl (Vol 4) #9 (July 2012), for example, Syaf included a storefront sign that referenced the President of Indonesia, Joko Widodo, although the text that accompanies the image of Widodo is covered by a caption in the final published issue.
In April 2017, Syaf was at the center of controversy for including multiple Easter eggs in X-Men Gold #1 that referenced the November 2016 Jakarta protests against Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, the governor of Jakarta, which were viewed by readers as anti-Semitic and anti-Christian.
On the double-page spread of Pages 10 and 11 of X-Men Gold #1, in which the Jewish X-Man Kitty Pryde appeals to a crowd of people for tolerance, Syaf’s art places Kitty’s head next to the word “Jewelry” on a storefront awning in the background. The number “212”, a reference to the 2 December protest, is prominently placed on another store’s awning.
The number “51” is seen on the baseball cap of one of the people in the crowd, and on the shirt of another, a reference to the Quranic verse 5:51 at the center of the Indonesia protests. In the second panel of Page 12, the X-Man Colossus wears a shirt prominently displaying the text “QS 5:51”.
The verse, Quran Surah 5:51, or QS 5:51, is commonly translated in Indonesian as:
“O you who have believed, do not take the Jews and the Christians as allies. They are [in fact] allies of one another. And whoever is an ally to them among you – then indeed, he is [one] of them. Indeed, Allah guides not the wrongdoing people.”
This led to an outcry on social media on Saturday, April 8, three days after the book’s publication, by readers who viewed the verse as support of intolerance towards other religions.
Marvel Comics released the following statement in response to the controversy:
“The mentioned artwork in X-Men Gold #1 was inserted without knowledge behind its reported meanings. These implied references do not reflect the views of the writer, editors or anyone else at Marvel and are in direct opposition of the inclusiveness of Marvel Comics and what the X-Men have stood for since their creation. This artwork will be removed from subsequent printings, digital versions, and trade paperbacks and disciplinary action is being taken”
Syaf also released a statement via his Facebook:
My career is over now.
It’s the consequence what I did, and I take it.
Please no more mockery, debat, no more hate. I hope all in peace.
In this last chance, I want to tell you the true meaning of the numbers, 212 and QS 5:51.
It is number of JUSTICE. It is number of LOVE. My love to Holy Qur’an…my love to the last prophet, the Messenger…my love to ALLAH, The One God.
My apologize for all the noise. Good bye, May God bless you all. I love all of you.
On April 11 2017 Ardian Syaf was released from his contract with Marvel comics.
“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.”