Sandstorm to live up to its name as Abu Dhabi’s first comic book studio - GulfToday

Sandstorm to live up to its name as Abu Dhabi’s first comic book studio

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Characters in an illustration out on a walk.

Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer

Abu Dhabi has announced the launch of a brand-new comic book studio with the aim of harnessing local talent in the UAE, to develop a regional comic book industry that could ultimately compete on the international stage.

Called Sandstorm, it is calling for submissions from aspiring comic book creators in the emirate and wider UAE, with the entity ready to provide expertise, support and professional guidance.

The ultimate aim is to share locally-sourced stories created by Emiratis or UAE residents with the rest of the world, through international partnerships.Part of Abu Dhabi’s Dhs30bn Culture and Creative Industries (CCI) Strategy, Sandstorm seeks to attract aspiring creators submit their pitches for comic books or graphic novels spanning any genre, theme or style.


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Sandstorm will then select the most promising ideas to turn into world-class comic books, with the potential to be internationally published.

The studio will connect the authors to publishers and mentors from world-famous studios, who will coach them to help create high-quality final products.

Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman of the Department of Culture and Tourism — Abu Dhabi, said: “Abu Dhabi is making bold strides in accelerating the growth of its CCI, empowering people to follow their passions and share their creative visions with the world.

“Sandstorm will contribute to this vision by offering opportunities that enable homegrown talent to build sustainable careers in the comic book industry, and providing the local community with a powerful platform to express and share their thoughts, dreams and ambitions.”

Mo Abedin, Emirati comic book author and an industry leader, has been appointed to lead Sandstorm with a vision to put Abu Dhabi on the global map of the comics industry, and build the region’s comics ecosystem right from the capital of the UAE.

He said: “I am truly excited about the much-awaited launch of a fully dedicated comics studio in Abu Dhabi that realises the exceptionally talented storytellers who call the UAE home.

sandart 1  A hero faces peril.

“Having been in the comics industry for over a decade, I have met incredible local talent who cover the full spectrum of the comics industry, but lack industry support.

“With Sandstorm’s inclusive ecosystem and the local and regional community’s potential, the future of Abu Dhabi’s comics industry is truly promising. We cannot wait to show the world what our creative community is capable of.”  

International industry veterans Matt Hawkins and Kuo-yu Liang have been hired as content advisors for Sandstorm. Hawkins has long-standing experience of over 20 years in the comic books sector, having created and written over 30 new franchises for Top Cow and Image Comics, including Think Tank, The Tithe, Necromancer, VICE, Lady Pendragon and Aphrodite IX.

Similarly, Liang is a global pop culture advisor who has held executive roles at Penguin Random House, Diamond Comic Distributors, and ReedPOP.

Located at Yas Creative Hub, Sandstorm will form a key component of the emirate’s collaborative ten-year CCI Strategy.

In Abu Dhabi, comics sit naturally alongside other thriving creative industries, such as film and TV production, gaming and esports. Sandstorm will help aspiring comic creators tap into the synergies that the success of these sectors has already created, enabling collaborations with the world’s best storytellers, established and aspiring artists and experts and visionaries from across the spectrum of the culture and creative industries.

The first open call cycle of the commissions programme has opened, and any UAE national or resident can apply. Applications must include a logline, a concise plot summary, three to five concept artworks and further information, with acceptance being on a rolling basis.

Sandstorm will be prominently featured at the upcoming Middle East Film & Comic Con (Mar. 4 — 6), where visitors will be able to learn more about it and have the opportunity to meet internationally renowned comic book artists and experts, including Hawkins.

Sandstorm is an open invitation to UAE-based original storytellers and content creators who aspire to turn their imaginative ideas into world-class comic books!

It addresses some of the biggest challenges facing the MENA region’s comics industry, including a lack of industry support and infrastructure.

The pioneering initiative aims to establish a dynamic comic book industry in the UAE, through providing industry support to talented storytellers, building an inclusive comics ecosystem and developing comics talent.

The global comic book market is projected to grow from USD9.21 billion in 2021 to USD12.81 billion in 2028, at a compound annual growth rate of 4.8 per cent during the 2021-2028 period.

Comic books have been popular for decades and continue to rise in popularity worldwide. Besides serving recreational and entertainment purposes, they help readers enhance vocabulary.

They are also helpful for children with learning difficulties. For example, kids with autism can learn to identify emotions through visual representation.

To capitalise on the constantly increasing popularity of comics, brands are focusing on developing new books with fascinating stories and attractive graphics.

Collecting comic books is also a popular hobby. Some ultra-rare and highly coveted comics in good condition have fetched hundreds of thousands — or even millions — of dollars at auction.

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