12-Year-Old Twin Leaders of Burma’s “God’s Army” Inspired Twin Graphic Novelists

Tomer and Asaf Hanuka fictionalize the Htoo brothers in “The Divine.”

The fictionalized Htoo twins. Tomer and Asaf Hanuka

The Divine, the beautifully rendered new graphic novel from Israeli artist twins Tomer and Asaf Hanuka—creators of the comic book series Bipolar—and writer Boaz Lavie, was born of a photo.

In 2000, AP photographer Apichart Weerawong snapped an iconic shot of Johnny and Luther Htoo, 12-year-old twins who smoked cheroot cigars and led “God’s Army,” a Karen rebel faction, against Burma’s junta. Land mines, lore had it, unearthed themselves at the twins’ approach, and their soldiers were impervious to bullets.

Transfixed, the artists adapted the boys as protagonists. Their Avatar-esque story follows a pair of US mercenaries on a mission to destroy a mountaintop in fictional “Quanlom,” where they encounter a kid wolfpack aided by a dragon spirit. The real Htoo twins are grown-ups now, but “for us,” the authors write, “they will always be 12-year-olds in a photo we’ll never quite understand.”