7 Artists Who Are Keeping Comics Alive in Egypt

10/03/2016

It lately seems like the American economy could survive on movie adaptations of comic books alone, what with Batman vs. Superman, Deadpool, Captain America: Civil War, Suicide Squad, X-Men: Apocalypse, and countless others that can be listed to you chronologically in one breath by your Kryptonite-dwelling friends. So why is a country that's more Gotham-esque than Bruce Wayne's hometown without an industry of its own? Especially that our social media timelines prove that talent is all over the place?

"The comics industry in Egypt is in an unfortunate place to say the least," says Sherif Adel, the Clark Kent to Barbatoze's Superman. "The demand is there, the readers are there, the creators are there, but the publishers and establishments aren't."

The same sentiments are echoed by another comic artist, Ahmed Saad: "We have few printed comics because of the publishers who dont have the guts to encourage the young comic artists, to support and print their projects." 

This leads aspiring artists to resort to self-funding or, at best, receiving grants from art support organizations. And that is not a very maintainable strategy for those passionate enough to venture into it, as they often have full-time jobs and can't afford the time or effort to manage a regular and consistent output.

via Ahmed Saad

One of the biggest stigmas that need to be abolished for the comic scene to prosper is that comic books are only for kids. This perception, whether held by the publishers, who are wary of investing in anything other than established and profitable names, or the public, for whom comics are bound within the confines of the likes of the kid-centric Mickey and Maged, is problematic for artists trying to break into the industry.

"Sure, they can be for kids, but they are not only for kids," says El3osba's Ahmed Raafat. "Over the past few decades comic books have proven that they can cater for a very wide demographic and they can address very serious social issues. Some comic books are geared towards adult audiences only, and comic books have been used as a commentary on social stigmas such as prejudice against minorities (X-Men), drugs (Green Arrow, Iron Man) and domestic abuse (Antman). The medium has been used to discuss everything from politics to religion to much more." 

via TokTok

These constraints have pushed creators into the open arms of the online realm, which has provided a haven for the vagrant comic community.

"Several comic artists, including myself, use Facebook as a platform to publish our projects online, because it's free and easy to reach," says Ahmed Saad.

However, despite this shift of media, the situation is still unrainbow-like for Egyptian artists.

"Here in Egypt, online shopping isn't quite popular yet," says Ahmed Raafat. "A lot of people are skeptical about using their credit cards to pay for things online, and there are those who don't even have that kind of facility. The way I see it, right now you must be present in both domains in order to succeed, print and digital; they cater for different kind of audience and one cannot replace the other."

So, as we're huge comic fans here at the Glocal, we wanted to support some of those fighting the good fight. 

1. Barbatoze

A dentist by day, a comic magician by night, Sherif Adel (Barbatoze) is so established in the comic scene it's somewhat a surprise that he started taking his art seriously only four years ago, which is about the same time he launched his eponymous blog . He is also the creator of the sci-fi comic book series, Pass By Tomorrow- فوت علينا بكرة, which imagines an Egypt of the distant future.

Pass By Tomorrow is available at Virgin Megastores, Kryptonite, and online on Comics Gate.

2. Ahmed Saad 

With 42,000+ Facebook followers, Ahmed Saad's witty (and slightly dark) comics have a cult-like following on social media.

3. Mohammed Nasser

The Engineering student has dabbled in doodling since childhood, inspired by animated cartoons and Mickey. His influences are evident in his youthful comics which often name drop Cartoon Network references and regularly target university life.

4. Ahmed Raafat

Another (telecom) engineer bitten by the comics bug since early youth, Ahmed Raafat started working with the co-creators of El3osba, John Maher and Maged Raafat, when they were on the lookout for a talented illustrator in 2014.

El3osba is available at Bikya and Falak bookstores.

5. Hicham Rahma

Rahma, a founder of comic magazine, TokTok, also flirts with political satire.

TokTok is available at Virgin Megastore, Alef, Shorouk, Diwan, Sufi, and several other bookstores.

6. Aly Galal

Aly Galal's Alycature blog is renowned for its surreal (yet somehow relatable?) comics.

7. Hatem Aly

The Egyptian-born, Canada-based artist's gorgeous work varies from kid-friendly illustrations that have been featured on BBC cbeebies' Driver Dan's Story Train, to comics that slyly wink at social debates, and everything inbetween. (Yeah, he may not technically be in Egypt, but we're too in love with his beautiful designs to dwell over minor georgraphical details.)

So support your local artists by getting their comics from Virgin or Kryptonite (or any of the stores listed above), or by joining their social media armies. And, hey, maybe one day we'll have our own comic book blockbuster screen adaptation! (Can someone call Fifi Abdou's agent ASAP, please? Just in case.)

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