Features and Columns · Movies

Print to Projector: The 99

By  · Published on September 11th, 2010

As the only literate Reject, it’s my duty to find the latest, the greatest and the untouched classics that would make great source material for film adaptations. I read so you don’t have to.

This week, Print to Projector presents the story of a library destroyed, a desperate move to secure the hope of the future, and the 99 superheroes that emerge.


A great library is torn apart in Baghdad in 1258 AD. All of its books are thrown into the river, but before all is lost, a few wise men place the hope and knowledge living in the ink into 99 gem stones, imbuing them with great power.

In present day, Dr. Ramzi Razem is convinced that the stones are the key to changing the world, and his suspicions are confirmed when he meets a hulking giant of a young man who had stone shrapnel lodged in his body after an attack on his family. He grew to his present size and became the first of the 99.

It’s strange how things work out in life. A few people in Florida wanted to burn books today, and because of that, I discovered this comic book (which features the destruction of books in its intro) through a news story on NPR. “The 99” is build on the concept of superheroes based on the 99 attributes of Allah as described in the Quran. Had people not tried to burn that very book, I would have never found and fallen for this comic book.

It’s instantly likable. The art in is a little rudimentary, but the story telling is vibrant and the characters are bold.

Potential Problems

The true problem with the source material is that it’s a serial in the truest sense. Perhaps it would better as a mini-series or a television program (they are planning an animated series soon), but it’s difficult to take superhero stories and cram them into a television show without them looking cheap. Heroes did an adequate job, but it’s limitations were obvious.

With a film, The 99 would be able to breathe deeply, pay for some green screen, and do the super powers with abandon. The cost? It would have to be planned out as a three-part franchise. Fortunately, it would probably have the international appeal to call for something like that.

It might also seem that Americans aren’t ready for heroes based in Islam, but the radical minority doesn’t speak for everyone. Americans are more open-minded and tolerant than the news cycle displays currently, and it’s clear that they’re progressive enough to enjoy a good action flick with strong characters where things blow up and asses are kicked.

The Pitch

Writing: They are both knee deep in projects at the moment as the most in-demand screenwriting pair of the day, but Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman have the big budget mentality to create something elaborate and marketable while maintaining a dedication to story. Their partnership with J.J. Abrams might help as well.

Directing: His last film was Push, which is completely underrated, but Paul McGuigan also directed Lucky Number Slevin and Wicker Park. He has expressed disinterest in the big budget world, but he should be convinced. Push was a great lower-budget attempt at something Heroes-esque, and McGuigan seems like the type who deserves a shot at creating something big and different in the superhero world.


Naveen Andrews as Dr. Ramzi Razem: Call me out for brown-washing an Iraqi character with an actor of Indian heritage, but Andrews has done it before. Despite looking nothing like the drawn character, he has the presence needed to create an intelligent, obsessed, ethically-charged man. I’d bet even money he could carry a film, too.

Arnold Vosloo as Rughal: You might not recognize the name, but Vosloo has been in a ton of movies (the most notable being G.I. Joe as Vartan and The Mummy as The Mummy). He’s also appeared on television, most recently on 24. He’d be a great choice for Rughal – a divided character who sacrifices his body to the stones in ancient times and still somehow shows up in the modern world. He’s ambitious, dangerous, but nowhere close to being a mustache-twirling villain.

Shannyn Sossamon as Hope Mendoza: Although the character is only 21 in the comic books, she’s more adult than most. She works for a relief organization in The Philippines and has the stone power to change the brain chemistry of a person in order to create feelings of love and compassion. She’s, understandably, incredibly persuasive.

Joe Anderson as John Weller: Weller may be the most tortured character of the 99. He is bound to a wheelchair after being his by a drunk driver and obtains a stone from a faith healer. When the drunk driver goes free, Weller discovers the extent of his stone power when he causes the man to have a coma-inducing seizure. It’s true that Anderson should be cast in just about everything, but this would be a particularly appropriate role for his talents.

Daniel Cudmore as Nawaf al Bilali: As a young man, Nawaf is victim to an attack on his family that leaves stones embedded in his skin, causing him to grow in size and strength. Cudmore played Colussus in X-Men: The Last Stand, which as good an audition for this as you can get.

And a cast of a lot more people: About a dozen of the 99 have been revealed, but there will be a lot of long days for the casting director of an ensemble like this.

Who Owns It:

The comic is published through Teshkeel Comics who holds the film rights.

The Projection:

It’s time for a shake up in the superhero world. We’re rebooting Spider-Man? Seriously? We just did it. The people demand some fresh blood and some new characters to root for. This is the kind of property with a strong following that would give audiences something new that feels like something old. Maybe instead of one more superhero, the cinema needs 99.

Feign literary expertise by reading more Print to Projector.

Related Topics: ,

Movie stuff at VanityFair, Thrillist, IndieWire, Film School Rejects, and The Broken Projector [email protected] | Writing short stories at Adventitious.