Sherif Adel: Comics aren’t for kids only

Egyptians are known for their sense of humor, who laughs at almost anything. In many times, this humor is considered a weapon with its own mechanism. That’s what comics and caricature artists do, they put their own ideas and beliefs and ideals into these little dialogue boxes with its unique characters and it’s identical to reality dialogues.

American comics, Japanese manga, and Korean manhwa, all are considered international mediums and are considered an art, a job, a whole new field by itself, when most Arab and Egyptians wouldn’t think that highly of it. But the Internet made people start to understand a bit, that resulted in emerging many talented Arab and Egyptian comic artists whose works as good as an international artist.

One of the artists is Sherif Adel or as he calls himself “Barbatoze Man,” who is a dentist but he started drawing comics, and ended up becoming one of Egypt’s talented comic artists. One can also visit his website for updates and recent works (http://barbatoze.com/). Here’s the interview I had with him:

Barbatoze Man, introduce yourself.

I’m Sherif Adel, an Egyptian human being, works as a dentist and a comic artist.

A dentist and a comic artist, how did you do it?

I’m a dentist since it’s the field of my studies and work, as for drawing, it’s been a hobby of mine since a long time but I never really tried to take it seriously until I started Barbatoze comics.

What made you start drawing comics? Was it a certain even that motivated you?

Ever since my childhood, I always loved comics. I consider it one of the best ways to deliver a certain message or idea across to people. The past couple of years, maybe after the revolution, I think a creativity breakthrough hit Egypt, in many artistic field, and comics is one of them. People started to pay more attention to it and I started to notice a lot of good works made by Egyptian artists. I think this is what motivated me to learn and publish my works.

As a comics artist, what do you think of Egyptian comic artists and their ideas and level?

Most of them are really creative and there are a lot of people whom I follow regularly. The first thing that came to my mind is the “TokTok” magazine. I like it a lot and I’m glad that there’s an Egyptian comic magazine which isn’t directed to kids and it’s got a wide variety of drawing techniques and ideas.

The name “Barbatoze” is special, why did you choose it?

At that time I was choosing from several names. I liked the name “Barbatoze” because I felt it was strange enough that people would remember it easily.

It’s a name people wouldn’t forget easily alright. It’s been almost two years since you started drawing comics, has there been any changes on your personality or your style?

I learned a lot of things literary and technically. I believe that people won’t learn something unless they actually do it, especially artistic works. I think that there are a lot of people whom aren’t satisfied with their works so they’d just say I’ll wait until my works are good enough then I’d start taking it seriously. That’s what I have been doing in the old days, until I discovered that experience comes with practice. Secondly, I started to know more people who work in this field; this also made me learn faster with more enthusiasm.

Literally, my style improved a lot. I read regularly about the art of comics and writing it, and I always try to improve myself.

Compared to international works like the Japanese or American comics, where does Egypt stand?

Unfortunately, our situation is really poor if we got compared, but it’s not because of lack of talent. In the US or Japan, comics are part of their culture. Unfortunately, most Egyptians still think that comics and cartoons are for kids. The Internet could be one of the reasons that this way of thinking started to change a bit. We also don’t have big publishing houses for comics like the US and Japan, here it’s still limited. But as I said the world is changing and more people started to appreciate this kind of art.

Let’s talk about Asian culture, whether was it Manga or Anime, did they affect you and your style greatly?

Yes, in a great way. I started watching Anime during my high school years; I was impressed by this enormous world. I must admit that the way of drawing in Manga/Anime is varied and beautiful. It’s got the power to affect you greatly without being excessive, not to mention the backgrounds filled with details drawn carefully. Secondly, it’s about the plots and stories themselves, when you discover that these mangas aren’t necessarily drawn for kids, or have the usual superheroes plots, it’ll definitely affect you.

I think that Anime and Manga mainly affected the way I think and write my comics, more than affecting my style of drawing itself.

Drawing started as a hobby; do you intend to make a stable job out of it?

I already consider it a stable job; it’s hard to give it up.

In these political and economic conditions, are comics a suitable medium to express our ideas?

Comics, caricature, and graffiti are all ways to greatly express opinions in these conditions. That’s why I see that the revolution created a creative atmosphere that wasn’t there before.

Do you face any difficulties in getting your message across to people?

Mainly no, the comics I do are mostly simple and direct. It could be different with the book I’m currently working on, we’ll wait and see.

Your drawing style is special; were there any elements or artists who affected your style?

Mainly the comics I read when I was young, Egyptian artist Khaled Al Safty in “Flash”, Hakem in “Caricature” magazine, Mickey magazine, Marvel and DC comics.

Can you balance your job as a dentist and as a comic artist?

When I started “Barbatoze Comics,” it was after I decided I wouldn’t choose between them. I could do them both at the same time, it’s hard but not impossible.

Do you have any advices for new comic artists?

Learn by practice, draw a lot and make a lot of people see your works. If you’re not satisfied with your current work, with time and effort you’d reach the level you want.

Finally, tell us about your upcoming work.

I’m working on a comics book (graphic novel) which is about a fantasy story I think it could be labeled a politics-humor work. I’m working on it for a while now and I finished about 1/5 of it. Soon enough, I’ll start looking for a publishing house soon.

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