Egyptian comic book ‘Autostrade’ launches

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Whether you’re a die-hard fan or totally new to the world of speech bubbles, Division Publishing’s (DP) recent launch of comic book publication “Autostrade” is certain to catch your eye.

The comic anthology is a collection of literary and artistic works gathered and edited by the DP team. This first run of “Autostrade” compiles a total of 12 English and Arabic stories created by 20 different artists and writers.

Cairo’s graphic art devotees gathered at Bikya Book Café in Nasr City on Monday for Autostrade’s launch event which featured live music and a book signing with contributing writers and artists.

It was an evening filled with music even more quirky than its comic crowd. Fayek Helmy tickled the audience with a unique opening performance of electronic music produced on his Gameboy.

Later in the evening comedic band ZeKhodz performed several songs infused with social commentaries about Egyptian culture.

Marwan Imam and Mohamed Reda opened Division Publishing in early 2011 with the purpose of publishing “Autostrade” while also building and nurturing emerging artists and writers.

Marwan Imam told Daily News Egypt, “This is our first publishing venture and first book. We created the company [DP] dedicated to comics versus independently publishing ‘Autostrade.’ We wanted to not only publish our own work but more so the work of others, reinvigorating the idea of comics in Egypt.”

“Autostrade,” a bimonthly publication, derives its name from the major Egyptian highway and seeks to act as the figurative highway for people to take to get into the comic scene.

“People are very interested in comics in Egypt,” Imam added. “The problem was, there was a void between the people who are in the craft of comics and the available outlets [in Egypt]. We’re looking to fill that void while reviving the industry in the region.”

Bikya Book Café, which opened in March, was the perfect backdrop for the launch event; its intimate setting allowing guests to mingle and meet surrounded by the common interest of books.

Co-founder of Bikya Book Café, Rana El Faramawy said, “Many of the contributors [to ‘Autostrade’] hang out in Bikya. They met here, collaborate, and create.

“There is definitely a big market for comics, the fan base is huge. In Egypt, the fan base isn’t as large yet, but it will be — Egyptians are having more of a curiosity towards locally made art and writing. It’s like we’re more nationalistic now and more accepting of our own creations.”

The bi-monthly comic acts as breeding ground for creative types and literary folk alike to collaborate and complete each other’s vision of storytelling.

“For this first run, we gathered a bunch of writers and artists, some amateur and some seasoned veterans like Magdy El Shafie and gave them a 12-page slot for a published story,” Imam said. “Readers will go on our website and vote for their favorite. The most popular one turns into a regular series.”

The book is filled with traditional comic themes teeming with fantasy, folklore and ancient Egyptian myths, giving the readers a plethora of stimulating story lines.
One such story, “Diety,” written by Adham El Khorazaty with artwork by Omar Omar, is a stunning marriage of styles clearly suffused with the politics of the times.

El Khorazaty said, “Diety revolves around the four mythical figures in the world — Egyptian, Japanese, Nordic and Greek. These gods needed to step down from the light and let people find their own way. One of the fractions decides they don’t like the decedent direction of the world and wants to mobilize a change.”

“I’m really happy about the launch of ‘Autostrade,’” he added. “It’s the first actual Egyptian comic publication on its kind. Finally we have a legitimate means to show [the industry] that the Middle East can create more than just comics of camels and turbans.”

“‘Autostrade’ is just the beginning,” Reda said. “This multi-contribution book will lead to separate personal series, graphic novels and more. It’s endless really.”

“Autostrade” can be found for sale at Bikya Book Café in Nasr City and will soon be available in major bookstores through out Egypt.


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