Comics and Graphic Novels Emerge in the Middle East

Publishing perspectives has an article called Undiscovered Art: Comics and Graphic Novels Emerge in the Middle East. It is interesting overview of graphic novels in the middle east, few of which make it into English.

While comics have long been popular among children in the Arab world (two of the biggest series are the venerable “Mickey Mouse” and the Egyptian-based “Aladdin” comics), there is a new spark of interest in adult comics in the region. “In the last two years, there’s been a kind of synchronicity in Egypt, Lebanon, and Emirates for graphic novels,” says artist and writer Magdy El Shafee. In March, for example, the young Emirati author, Qais Sedki, won the prestigious Shaykh Zayed Book Award for his graphic novel Siwar al-Dhahab (Gold Ring), the first Arabic-language manga comic.

Samandal Inspires Others

Also participating in the Cairo workshop was one of the leaders of Lebanon’s growing field of comics authors, Fadi Baki (who goes by the moniker “the fdz”.) He is one of the publishers of the Beirut-based Samandal, which bills itself as “a multilingual comics magazine” with the aim of “produc[ing] a comic book revolution that will herald a new era of peace and understanding between cultures in the Middle East and the rest of the world.” On a more practical level, Baki and his co-editors see Samandal as “a showcase for comics we find interesting…We hope that this gallery will coalesce into a distinctive identity with serialized stories and returning artists and thus become a conduit between them and a wider public thirsty for comics that speak their realities.”

Baki cheekily describes himself as a product of “a childhood rife with comics, telly, and Nutella,” and like his co-editors, he is a graduate of the American University of Beirut. Samandal publishes comics in Arabic, French and English in each issue: with sections switching between left-to-right and right-to-left scripts, they hit upon the innovation of what they call a “flippy page” — a page instructing the reader to flip the magazine upside-down to continue reading the next section.

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