Arabic-language Readers ‘Starving’ for Comics

Or, if you prefer, “graphic novels”: The new publication in question—which sold out its initial print run in two hours—is definitely for grown-ups. The magazine, called TokTok, is apparently stamped with the advice: “Keep out of reach of children.”

The new publication also has fairly highbrow elements, including a graphic-novelized version of a story by celebrated author Ibrahim Aslan.

TokTok had its much-anticipated Townhouse Gallery launch last week.

The new magazine works in somewhat the same space as four-year-old Samandal, but is whole-heartedly Egyptian. It’s also not too highbrow to appeal to a mass of readers. Founding graphic artist Andil told Al Masry Al Youm: “…we decided to make a product, not make work that was too personal or intellectual to easily fit the audience.”

The group says of themselves, on their website, that, “TokTok…is a monthly review that aims to produce a bustling mass of comic strips in a free, contemporary spirit, drawn and edited by its own artists.”

You can flip through a few pages of the 44-page Issue 0 on their website.

From the magazine's launch.

The magazine was founded by Andil and four other young, established graphic artists, and was a year in the making.  It is self-funded, which—creators say—gives them control over their editorial and artistic vision.

Wassim Maouad, a Lebanese contributor to the magazine, told Al Masry Al Youm that the world of adult graphic-novel lovers in the Arabic-reading world is “a starving audience.” For the benefit of hungry readers, a reprint of the magazine is apparently underway. It should be available soon at Cairo’s major bookstores.

This is the first major graphic novel for grown-ups to appear on the Egyptian market since Magdy al-Shafee’s Metro was published in 2007. Metro was protested, snatched by authorities, and banned.  Currently, the graphic novel is only available in Italian translation, although al-Shafee has said that he will try publishing in Arabic again.

Al Arabiya reports that TokTok is set to appear quarterly until “response from readers” pushes the group to make the magazine available more frequently.

Other developments in the comic/graphic-novel world:

The first-ever Middle East ComicCon will be held at Abu Dhabi’s National Exhibition Centre April 29 and 30.

If you’re in Abu Dhabi, go to an NYU Abu Dhabi talk titled “Middle Eastern Comics and their Place in the 21st Century” on Jan. 25 at 6:30 p.m.

The National reports on a new graphic novel set in Palestine, The Novel of Nonel and Vovel, by Oreet Ashery and Larissa Sansour.

If you’ve never seen Metro, you can find a few pages translated into English, by Humphrey Davies, on the Words Without Borders website.

Harvard University’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies has a new blog about graphic novels in the region.

In Paris, the First Salon on African Graphic Novels was held, although it looks like these were, predictably, French-language publications.