Spearheading the return of comic book culture in Cairo, Sherif 'Barbatoze' Adel and his motley crew of Sci Fi addicts speak to Eihab Boriae about Pass by Tomorrow - a brilliant new monthly comics set in the not-so distant future...
Long before there were PlayStations, the internet or smart phones, Egyptians young and old used to bury their noses in comics books as an escape from the cacophony of the Cairene life. With the rise of technology, the passions for comic books faded but were not forgotten. Determined to bring back this medium to cultural light is Sherif Adel with Egypt’s newest Arabic satirical Sci Fi comic book series, Pass By Tomorrow.
There was a time when all ages raced to their local vendors to get a copy of Mickey. The beloved comic was first issued in 1959 by Dar Al-Hilal and was the first Arabic edition of Disney’s Mickey Mouse Series. Over the decades, the series grew into a phenomenon reigning as the number one selling comic book in Egypt. It wouldn’t be until the 90s that this iconic part of Egyptian culture would see its downfall.
The death of Egyptian Mickey came at the hands of his Disney handlers who listed a series of demands that Dar Al-Hilal could not meet. This resulted in the last issue being published in 2003, only to be miraculously resurrected a year later. According to Pass By Tomorrow project manager Marwan Imam, “I remember finding Mickey issues going back to the 70s kicking around my mother house growing up. It was its popularity that led Egyptians into publishing which created opportunities for the medium to grow.” However, as Mickey, faltered a new set of Sci Fi novellas were introduced to the market which ultimately inspired Sherif Adel’s Pass By Tomorrow.
“I was inspired by little novellas that were famous in 90s called Malaf el-Mustaqbal (Future Files) by Dr. Nabil Farouq,” he explains. The Future Files debuted in 1984 and ran until 2009 releasing 160 titles in that period and solidifying itself as the only Egyptian Sci Fi offering on the scene. Set in 2000, the not-so realistic, but always imaginative series followed the tales of the fictional Egyptian Scientific Intelligence Agency. According to Adel, “They got me into science fiction and painted a very positive and optimistic view about Egypt, where organised and forward thinking Egyptians were called upon to save the world hundreds of times.”
Inspired by the series, Adel set out to create his own vision of the future filled with all the humour of present day Egypt. “How I imagined the future is that it would still be a bit like it is now. Disorganised with crazy things happening all the time and from that picture I wanted to add funny satirical ideas about how Egyptians would deal within it,” describes Adel. Adel’s writing and illustrations manage to walk a fine, albeit funny, line in predicting how Egyptians would deal with an alien invasion through the eyes of series' main character, Fahmy. Without giving too much away, Adel hints "that aliens are coming to Egypt, and while the world’s media is baffled as to why Egypt… Egyptian media spreads the news that it is because Egyptians are the most intelligent.“ With clever writing and wonderful illustrations, Adel achieves at creating a space-time wormhole between today’s reality and the twist-filled futuristic world he has created.
Although Pass by Tomorrow is the brain child of Sherif Adel, it took the help of others to turn Sci Fi dreams into printed and distributed comics. Helping share Adel’s vision of the future is Garaad Media’s Moustafa Zakaria who explains that “Garaad is a content studio and incubator in Cairo, which supports projects through development in a variety of mediums that include film, tv, web series and channels.“ With the infinite Sci Fi void that exists in Egyptian culture, Pass By Tomorrow instantly caught Garaad Media’s attention. Zakaria believes that "people are eager to see Sci Fi come out of Egypt. We may be far, far away from a movie, but a comic book is a step in the right direction."
Judging from the turnout at the debut issue launch this past Friday at the Rawabet Theatre, Zakaria is right; people are eager for Sci Fi. In a night that was filled with music and art, it seemed that there were plenty of Egyptians hungry for this exact kind of culture to flourish here. Fans queued in long lines for the chance to get a signed copy from the creative mastermind of this refreshing series. Adel promises to deliver a new issue on the first Wednesday of every month that can be found in a variety of locations including Alef, Shorouk, and Diwan bookstores.
If Sci Fi genre is to successfully launch in Egypt it will take the help of everyone in the community to spread the word, which leads to ideas, which become the inspiration to the next generation of intergalactic dreamers. The future is always uncertain but with passage of time one can be certain that Pass By Tomorrow will be one of the pods that leads to a great Egyptian Sci Fi Film, and who knows maybe even one day Egyptians Smoking in Space.
Keep up to date with Pass by Tomorow Faebook page here.
Or visit the Creators website here.
To learn more about Garaad visit them here.