How Batman changed this man's life

How Batman changed this mans life

Dubai - Illustrator and comic fanatic Saeed Arjumand talks to City Times about the growing comic book community in Dubai and the importance of superheroes

By Maan Jalal

Published: Mon 5 Jun 2017, 9:00 AM

Last updated: Sat 10 Jun 2017, 1:26 PM

This might sound surprising to some, but if we ever want to get a real glimpse into the psyche of society, bypass literature, films and documentaries. Pick up a comic book instead. They shouldn't be underestimated.

From post apocalyptic futures, modern day fantasy, bizarre alternative realities to the absolutely fantastically horrific and to your more traditional world of super heroes and super villains, the comic book has proven itself to be an important archive of society's alter ego. More than pages filled with panels of illustrations and speech bubbles, the varied, rich and multi dimensional stories that have appeared in comics don't only echo some of the greatest narratives of human kind, but have also fed into the growing and diverse world of pop culture while creating universal images and tales which almost anyone can connect with.

Comics have been and still are a catalyst to introduce young people to the most important skills they will ever learn. Reading and story telling.

The world of comics is diverse, never ending and doesn't end solely on the page. From a multitude of movie franchises to the plethora of TV shows, figurines, collectables, cos-playing, it's astonishing that all of it sprang from the minds of comic book creators.

We here in Dubai have seen how Comic Con has brought together comic book lovers, fanatics and the curious to share their thoughts and interests in a much greater scale than anyone imagined. For those of us who thought Dubai only cares about food, fashion and the Burj Khalifa you are wrong. Dubai and the greater region has a genuine and growing interest for the world of comics. Just ask Saeed Arjumand.

Saeed is an illustrator and now owner of Comic Stop, a comic book store based in Dar Wasl Mall.

"I never opened this place with the intention to sell a lot," Saeed told City Times. "I opened this place with the intention that I really love comics and really want to provide these comics that I really love to people."

City Times made a stop at Comic Stop to have a chat with Saeed about the growing community of comic book lovers in Dubai, which comic book character changed his life and what are his top comic book picks.

Why did you decide to open Comic Stop?
I've always wanted a comic store in Dubai. Since I was born in Dubai until the point when I finally opened this place and realised it's happening, it just didn't feel like it was happening until we had books on the shelves. I spent my whole life going to cities like London, New York, I lived in San Francisco for five years and I was just a freak of comic books. I loved getting my hands on issues, volumes, some toys here and there but I really cared about the books. Me and my best friend used to go to Choithram all the time and they would get in one single issue and then we would wait three months and we would get issue eight but we had issues six and we were missing an issue! But we didn't care, it was just gold to us. So this is like for the little guy in me and my best friend who always wished we had a comic book store and hopefully we can inspire a new generation.
How would you describe the world of comics in Dubai and the region?
I think it has really grown. When Comic Con first happened here, I wasn't in Dubai, I was studying and my friends went and they said there were quite a few people. The response was so well that they  grew and grew and then I finally got to attended Comic Con as an artist and I didn't know what to expect. It ended up being sold out. And I was shocked. A lot of people in the Comic Con community were very welcoming to me, they were promoting me as a local artist. They were even supportive when I told them I was opening a store.

Do you think comics have become more popular because of all the recent movies and TV shows?
Exactly! Marvel has actually seen an increase in sales cause of the movies, and they are trying to make the characters in the comics look more like their movies now. Because they know that people recognise the characters from the movies and not the old way they were being drawn.

Is there a comic book or character that has had a real impact on you?
Definitely Batman. That's why we have the Batman mural in the store. The two things that influenced me most in my life are Batman and Star Wars. Throughout  my life I keep getting that flashback moment of seeing Luke Skywalker when he was watching the two suns setting, the point where he knows he's going to go on a journey. Every time I go on a journey I think of that moment. And Batman. I grew up having dyslexia, which was really difficult, then one day I found a Batman comic. Batman just had a certain appeal to me. I love the Tim Burton movies - they are fantastic.

So, comics helped with your dyslexia?
As a kid with dyslexia, its difficult . when my mum found out she really didn't know what to do and I didn't realise how much she did for me in terms of dyslexia and I can't be more grateful. When I picked up a comic and I was looking at it, she looked at me and she saw that I was trying to read. I mean for me it was the pictures. I was looking at Batman jump and hunt down the joker - for me that was appealing. I'd watched the cartoons but I realised looking at the comics that there was so much more material. Then my mum told my dad, 'we need to get him more comics.' So they took me to all these comic book stores and got me more comics. Obviously I thought that was great, but I didn't realise that, to them it wasn't about me getting comic books, it was about me reading. Batman really helped me at a time in my life when things were really difficult and Star Wars was something, that encouraged me for the rest of my life.

Tell us how come you chose to have Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia on the wall?
Because all of us really, really miss her. She had a huge impact not only on guys growing up watching Star Wars but a lot of girls who learnt that a woman could be strong so I felt like that was perfect. The guys had a crush on her but she was the first strong woman in the media of this sort before there was any Marvel or DC super heroes that stood out for people. Princess Leia stood out more at that time as much as Wonder Woman, of course. So we had to do Princess Leila.

What do you hope Comic Stop will become?
I would love this place to be a community for the comic book scene. I've met many people, many amazing new people being in this business. I come here as much as I can, I love speaking with the people and I noticed that people make connections here over comics. It doesn't matter to me that people buy more comics I love seeing the community grow, that's what matters to me. That's why we do things like we take orders, from our suppliers and if it's not a title we carry then we bring it in because we just want you to have the comics. At the end of the day we try to have the best selection of comics and we are trying to make sure everyone gets what they want.

Are you working on your own comic?
I am working on a full graphic novel and I think I want to get it done by next Comic Con so we can debut it at Dubai Comic Con and then bring it over to the US Comic Cons. It's about a supernatural problem. It's about a super heroic  problem but more a real world situation rather than like a super hero problem.

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