The collection opens with a comic titled “The Beginning,” which talks briefly about the history of the genre—ancient Egyptians were surely graphic novelists—and depicts Rania’s struggle to produce a grown-up work in the medium. Early in the comic, the fictionalized Rania shouts: “الكوميكس فن للكبار أيضا!” (Comic art is for grown-ups, too!)
Rania’s apparent frustration echoes what Division Publishing co-founder Marwan Imam also said, “The whole idea of Division spurred from the fact that we as comic artists and writers were frustrated from publishing houses dealing with us as crazy people trying to sell them kids’ books.”
Rania and her co-conspirators ended up funding the project on their own, although it’s published by Dar al-Ain. I certainly hope the book is selling, as there is tremendous, belly-warming charm in many of these short pieces. I was delighted by the final image in Sally Abd el-Aziz’s anti-romance “Badreya,” where the dumpy woman and the muscled man find love. Mohammad Tawfiq’s “Bike” may not be complex literature, but it is sheer visual and auditory delight.
Although the collection is للكبار (for adults), many of the comics would be interesting to teenagers as well, and Rania’s own autobiographical work is meaningful for anyone who wants to live their life off the tracks.
The founding of Division Comics, the first three issues of TokTok, and this gem—Out of Control—show off enormous graphic-novel talent and graphic-novel appetite in Cairo, and I very much hope that these authors and artists can defy the publishing wisdom that graphic novels are for kids, are too expensive to produce, and so on. The next step is definitely graphic-novel novels, graphic-novel memoirs, and graphic-novel nonfiction. Publishers: I will be elbowing my way through the crowd to buy them.
Meanwhile, for those outside of Cairo, Top Shelf Comics is offering a new compilation titled Tahrir, which will be shipping in November 2011.
It features work from Egypt’s Magdy El Shafee, the acclaimed Lebanese graphic-novelist Mazen Kerbaj, revolutionary cartoonist Ahmed Nady, and others.
According to Top Shelf, “WORLD WAR 3 ILLUSTRATED #42 is dedicated to the possibilities for liberation around the world and here in the U.S.”
Also, a few images from the launch of TokTok3, which should prove that if you’re missing the graphic-novel scene, well, you’re missing the graphic-novel scene: