Inside a sparkling, pristine shop in New Cairo, two men were having a lively debate, their elbows resting on a pile of comic books. The two had read an article about a woman who had forced her husband to sell his Lego collection. Mahmoud Maklad was aghast. “I would never give up my hobby for a girl,” he said.
Maklad is so passionate about his collecting hobby that he co-founded a store to help others start collecting, too. The shelves of the store, called Super Stash, are stocked full of vinyl records, comic books, and tabletop war games. It is the first store of its kind in Egypt, and one of the only places in the country you can find absolute editions of graphic novels or a Johnny Cash vinyl Record.
“Things are difficult to collect in Egypt,” Maklad said. “We have a good culture of collecting but people always want to go abroad. We want to cut out the middleman.”
Maklad founded Super Stash with his brother Omar Maklad and two close friends Mohamed Fadel and Mohamed Hazem. Not everyone shared an equal love of comic books at first, but, Maklad said, one visit to a comic book store won the naysayers over.
“They enjoyed the arguments, the culture and the community feel,” he said.
Super Stash aims to be more than just a venue to buy and sell; it wants to be a hub for this culture to grow, Maklad said. Customers can come to browse, buy, or sit down for a tabletop war game.
The store also hosts weekly discussions on topics related to comic books. For each debate, of course, Super Stash has “the comics to back it up,” Maklad said.
“Next week, we will discuss Ben Affleck’s casting choice as the new Batman,” Maklad said, adding that the store’s “ultimate goal is to host Egypt’s first comic con”.
Super Stash is collaborating with a publishing house to help get local comic book artists into print. Local artist Marwan Imam, who writes a comic called 24 hour Comic, where the premise is a new comic every day, has his work on the shelves at Super Stash as a result of the partnership. Another local comic, titled Autostradt, is on its way to the store.
Maklad and his team have taken special pains to make sure their crew members can help everyone who comes in.
“I test their knowledge with impossible questions to make sure they know what they are talking about and can help someone get into collecting comics as well,” he said. “If you come in and you do not know who Batman is, I want them to be able to help you.”
While the frugal may scoff at spending hundreds of pounds on a comic book, Maklad argues that collecting can be an investment. For example, two years ago, Maklad purchased a first edition single issue, “Death of the Family”, for $4. Now, he said, the book is worth $1,500.
“Some of the first issue editions appreciate greatly in time if kept in mint condition,” he said. “The first ever issue of Batman, even if in poor condition, sells for $4m.”
For this reason, Super Stash has chosen to focus on single issues, he said. Not only are they more affordable, but they are also more likely to appreciate over time.
“A single issue is an inexpensive investment if you want to start reading comics,” he said. “It also encourages the culture of anticipation and waiting every month for a new issue.”
For Maklad and the rest of the founders, collecting is an important part of one’s legacy: something they will leave for future generations.
“This is something my children will thank me for, when our icons are replaced by new ones,” Maklad said. “I think if you’re going to waste time, waste it doing something useful.”