Dr. Naif A. Al-Mutawa is founder and CEO of Teshkeel Media Group, and creator of The 99. A Al-Mutawa received his PhD in Clinical Psychology from Long Island University (2004), completed a Masters in Clinical Psychology from Long Island University (1999), a Masters in Business Administration from Columbia University (2003) and a Masters in Organizational Psychology from Teacher¹s College (2000), Columbia University. He earned his undergraduate degree from Tufts University (1994), where he triple majored in clinical psychology, English literature and history. In short, he’s way smarter than most of us.
Nicholas Yanes: There are only a few Middle-Eastern/Muslim people in American Comic Books. The X-Men has Dusk, and Captain Britain and M13 has Dr. Faiza Hussain. How do they differ in presentation when compared to The 99?
Dr. Naif A. Al-Mutawa: I’m not familiar with all these characters. The 99 is co – written by top tier talent that has worked on X-Men and Iron Man. At their core The 99 were created for a global audience.
Nicholas Yanes: What stories, movies, or TV shows did you draw from when developing The 99?
Dr. Naif A. Al-Mutawa: All of them. None of them. I believe that we are the sum of out parts and my parts were a lot of novels growing up.
Nicholas Yanes: How do you feel when The 99 is described as a ‘Muslim comic’? Is it even possible for a comic book to be ‘Muslim’?
Dr. Naif A. Al-Mutawa: If the concept was The 99 or The 101 we wouldn’t have received the attention that we did. It’s a mixed bag and a fine line to walk.
Nicholas Yanes: Do you envision The 99 or any of Teshkeel’s future properties becoming television shows or films?
Dr. Naif A. Al-Mutawa: I will be announcing a deal this month.
Nicholas Yanes: Teshkeel has two locations: New York and Safat, Kuwait. What is it like to have a presence in Kuwait?
Dr. Naif A. Al-Mutawa: I grew up in Kuwait… It’s like.. well.. it’s like home!
Nicholas Yanes: Can you share a few words about the comic book culture in Kuwait?
Dr. Naif A. Al-Mutawa: I really spend too much time travelling to be able to shed light on it.
Nicholas Yanes: Viral marketing is becoming a large part of the comic book industry and I’ve noticed that there is a fan page dedicated to The 99 on Facebook. What does Teshkeel plan on doing to raise awareness about The 99 that is different from other companies?
Dr. Naif A. Al-Mutawa: We’re learning as we go along. Going the theme park route this early in the property’s development is certainly something that others have not ventured into – so we’ll see!
Nicholas Yanes: As someone who taught a college level course on comic books, I am aware that comic books are becoming more and more common in university classes. What kind of courses do you see The 99 appearing in?
Dr. Naif A. Al-Mutawa: It has already appeared in a few. I was invited to hear presentations at the American University Of Kuwait where students studied The 99 for a semester. I think it’s hard answering this question without appearing like I am bragging. It’s best answered by someone like you…
Nicholas Yanes: The art style for The 99 is rather similar to standard comic book artwork. Is there a reason why you choose this style?
Dr. Naif A. Al-Mutawa: The reason is access. I spent many years in the US and am connected here to those who would be able to produce this type of work.
Nicholas Yanes: Finally, what advice would you give to people who want to become a comic book creator or establish their own company?
Dr. Naif A. Al-Mutawa: Dream big and start small. And above all, let the market decide how much to invest in the initiative (time and money.)
- For more information about The 99 click here.
- To read part one of this interview with Doctor Al-Mutawa about The 99 – click here.
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- Nicholas Yanes is a comic book expert who has written two theses focused on graphic literature: “X-Men as a Reflection of Civil Rights in America” and “Graphic Imagery – Jewish American Comic Book Creators’ Depictions of Class, Race, and Patriotism.”
By Nicholas Yanes