America has been exporting comic books for more than seven decades; nevertheless, there have been few commercially successful comics created in that genre in the rest of the world. Given that there have been several competitions between the United States and Egypt and Arab nations over the last few decades, it is intriguing that attempts at establishing a line of original comic book series were made in the Middle East in the first decade of the twenty-first century. This year, several comic book artists have made the frontline in terms of creating their own series of comic books, and we have to shed the light on one of these successful series, Black Square.
Black Square is a series created by Roshdy Ahmed and was first published online earlier this year. It is described unequivocally as “where your deepest emotions and inner thoughts are.. the shadows you hide from.. the memories you thought were forgotten.. your flaws that no one can see but yourself.. the moments when you feel it’s just you.. Black Square is what you’re terrified of, but once you face, you truly evolve as a human being.”
During this recent 1-on-1 phone interview with Going Deep, artist/producer/creator of Black Square Roshdy Ahmed talked about how the idea of comic book came forth, what he has on his mind for the series, and what he is setting for it in the future.
Tell us about yourself first, how did you become indulged in the comic book field?
Since I was young, I have been in love with animation. I graduated from Fine Arts college, animation department, so I had my mind already keen on that. I worked for a short time for advertising companies but decided to go back to making films.
I produced a number of short movies tackling some serious issues here in Egypt including my first film “Night“ and it was shown at 9 different festivals and received many awards. Went on to make other few films, like “Tarot,” the first film I made after graduation, and “The Unknown Sweet Potato Seller” starring Khaled Aboul Naga and Tara Emad, all of which gave me the chance to travel to Hollywood and Cannes to exhibit some of my films in international contests.
When did you have the idea of creating Black Square?
I had the idea of Black Square for a very long time because I had many societal issues that I wanted to exploit and showcase directly or indirectly. I started by reaching out to some friends to bring people over to talk about their stories. We would sit down with them and let them vent for as long as possible.
Was it hard for you to persuade these people with the idea of Black Square?
Some of them are my friends, so it wasn’t really difficult to get them around. However, they didn’t really understand it at first, but by time they grasped the gist of it. Nabil Issa and Khaled Abol Naga were one of the first people who hopped on board. They also recommended other people for me. Actors and public figures such as Ahmed Malek, Ghida Nouri, and Hany Adel tagged along. The reactions were positive and surprising.
What obstacles did you face along the way?
The biggest problem was the unavailability of these actors due to their tight schedule in Ramadan and Eid. Other than that, everything went smoothly.
Do you mind telling us about the team about behind Black Square?
Well, I’m the illustrator and creator. Nada Khaled is our social media manager and the one who implements the calendar of releasing the stories and volumes. And there is also Allaa El-Amrousy, the reviewer and editor of the comic book.
Any thoughts on the comic book industry in Egypt?
It can go big as long as it is something new and fresh. Sure, it will take some time for the Egyptian audience to adapt to it, but ultimately the majority of them will cope. For example, Ahmed Mourad wrote popular novels that received wide acclaim, but they took their time to hold favorable acceptance among the public. If something is well-thought and organized, it will be welcomed amicably, and imminently reach success.
What do you expect people to think of Black Square?
Honestly, not expecting much. Black Square is not a project I’m patiently waiting for it to be shown everywhere and sold or get an award for. I created Black Square to establish a deviant theme for the Egyptian comic books and to stay available for everyone as long as possible.
What goals have you set for Black Square in hindsight?
I’m looking for foreign actors and figures to appear in the upcoming volumes. I have gotten to know some people from different countries and they are pretty welcoming of the idea. I want to contrive Black Square as a movement, sort of like an umbrella that inspires fellow artists to demonstrate their stories and art. My dream is that Black Square grows its branches to reach the whole world.
Has it occurred to you to publish Black Square as real-life paperback comic books?
Yes, of course. One day, I’m going to do that. I also thought of holding a small exhibition for it where there are copies having signings of the celebrities in the comic book.
Finally, when do you plan on continuing to publish the next stories in volume one?
We stopped publishing new stories because we decided to take a break in Ramadan and Eid but the new story is set to be published very soon. Hopefully, the readers will like it. There will be more volumes after finishing volume one.
Be sure to check out the stories released so far in Black Square and look forward to the release of new stories by Roshdy and his team!