Comic culture

Sohaib Awan, creator of the internationally acclaimed Jinrise comic book series and CEO of Jabal Entertainment, shares his thoughts on why this year’s Middle East Film and Comic Con (MEFCC) is the place to be this season

Vision: You previously premiered your comic book series Jinnrise at the first Dubai Comic Con event in 2012. Do you think the MEFCC is a good platform for aspiring Middle-Eastern comic artists? 

Sohaib Awan: The MEFCC is a melting pot of fans, industry leaders, and accomplished talents, so one couldn’t ask for a better venue to experience the totality of modern pop culture. The Con offers attendees a chance to share ideas and gain a better understanding of audience expectations.

Four years ago, I shared artwork and a digital version of Jinnrise at the event. International acclaim and attention followed, which in turn lead to the publication of Jinnrise by IDW Publishing (one of the world’s largest comic book publishers) and the development of an animated television series. Is the Con a good platform? The proof, as they say, in the pudding.

Tony Jaa
Tony Jaa brings his martial arts prowess to last year's Middle East Film & Comic Con

The Middle East Comic Con has sought to bring a renaissance to popular culture in the MENA region, is this something you have seen increase over the years? 

SA: Because of the ubiquity of the Internet, the stories we enjoy are no longer region specific.  From Japanese anime to modern classics like Star Wars, those seeking diversion and escape now have a global catalog to enjoy. The Con celebrates this mythmaking. This celebration has, in turn, led to inspiration. What I’m seeing is that MENA region fans are no longer satisfied with just enjoying these stories…they want to tell them as well.  This is the nature of art, and I believe this trend will continue.

You have said your comic series Jinnrise aims to bridge the cultural gap between East and West, by incorporating the ‘Jinn’ myths from the Middle East into the Western art of comics. Do you think comic books and popular culture help to unify different cultures together? 

SA: What popular culture does so well is remind us of our common humanity. As evidenced by comic books like Jinnrise, honor, respect, and friendship are not culture specific concepts. The protagonists of these series often represent the best of noble character, and, as a result, “their” heroes become “our” heroes. Rather than a nation or ethnicity, we come to understand that heroism is defined by who we are or who we choose to become. That’s what ultimately creates the ties that bind.