A group of Islamic superheroes will move their battle against the baddies from comic books to a US cable network this year, its Kuwaiti creator says. The 99, based on a group of ordinary people who discover superhuman powers and are influenced by messages from the Quran, will air a 26-episode series on the US cable channel The Hub, said Naif al Mutawa, the chairman and chief executive of Teshkeel Media.
"From day one it's a for-profit company, but it's a double bottom-line business," Mr al Mutawa said. "It's to benefit both the social bottom line as well as the financial." The 99 TV show is produced through a joint venture between Teshkeel and Endemol, the Dutch production company known for its series of reality television programs such as Big Brother and Deal or No Deal. The Hub is a new cable network, a joint venture between Discovery Channel and the toy maker Hasbro, which will start broadcasting on October 10 into 60 million US homes. The 99 is one of six original programmes on the network.
Mr al Mutawa declined to comment on what the deal was worth but said he expected it to produce a profitable line of merchandise in partnership with Hasbro. "The more successful we are, the more you can actually measure it by the amount of comic books sold, the number of people watching the animation or the number of toys sold," he said. "That tells you that you've made some kind of impact." Since launching in 2006, The 99 has been praised for reinforcing positive Islamic messages. It is published in eight languages and a theme park opened in Kuwait last year.
The series received an endorsement from Barack Obama, the US president, last month in a speech on improving relations between the US and the Arab world through entrepreneurship. Mr al Mutawa said the animation in The 99 would "set the bar of television animation globally", while a preview of the show reveals it will use a new 3D technique. "For too long, we've been focused in the Gulf at being the first or biggest in something, but that's irrelevant," he said. "The standards need to be global and we can and will achieve that."