A monthly paper has been launched by the team of TokTok magazine in the most recent of a series of new initiatives the comic industry in Egypt has seen in the past few years. Launched last week the monthly paper Al-Fan Al-Tasea (The Ninth Art) features the latest in the comic book industry.
The paper, however, is just part of a larger project funded by the European Union.
“The fund we received will be ongoing for 15 months,” said Mohamed Shennawy, the manager of the project “and we are looking to organise several events related to the art of comics.”
One of the ideas is the 24-hour comics day, which is an event held worldwide, in which comic artists gather to draw a 24-page comic in 24 consecutive hours. Another event to be held is a drawing concert, in which comic artists draw comics that is projected on a screen during a music live performance.
“We are also planning to hold comic workshops,” Shennawy said, explaining that “currently many comic workshops are being held but the problem is that they do not target a specific audience so beginners, amateurs and professionals end up applying for the same workshops.”
Although the team of TokTok magazine is behind Al-Fan Al-Tasea, many other writers contribute to the paper.
"We have different editorial teams," he said "and we decided to make a separate publication for reviews and articles in order to have unbiased reviews of other comics."
The publication includes information on new releases, comic events and competitions held in Egypt and worldwide. It also includes a column shedding light each month on a different topic related to the art's history as well as interviews, reviews and features.
While graphic novels were almost obsolete in Egypt some years ago, now there is a publishing house titled Comics solely for publishing graphic novels and comic books.
In this context of an atmosphere of a growing comic book scene – despite its amateurish nature – there is a rich material for the new publication to review and discuss.
Shennawy recalled a workshop given by the French comic artist Golo, who relayed his life's experience. Golo has lived in Egypt for many years and has many comics that take place in Egypt.
“Golo said that it was during the student movements in Paris in the sixties that the art of comic books flourished,” Shennawy said. “The form wasn't merely restricted to children's books as it was previously since comic artists started to discuss political and social issues.”
“Golo said that the current situation of comic books is very similar,” he said.
Shennawy also believes that there is improvement in the art of caricature in Egypt, pointing to more young people drawing creative caricatures in newspapers such as Al-Masry Al-Youm and Al-Dostor, adding that they had moved away from the mould of two men smoking hash and discussing something.
“Now people give thought to the drawing itself, recognising that it can transmit the meaning itself without the caption,” he said.
Shennawy is adamant on continuing the project even after the funding comes to an end. “The fund just gave us the starting push.”