CAIRO: The 11th issue of Tok Tok, the first independent self-published comic magazine in Egypt, was released last week in an event in downtown Cairo.
“Other comic artists and myself always had ideas in mind of what we wanted to do, but nothing got serious until I went to a comics festival in France and saw a number of independent comics magazines,” said Mohamed Shennawy, Tok Tok’s founder.
Tok Tok debuted in 2011, and won second prize in the best independent comic magazine section at the International Festival of Comics in Algeria the same year. It includes satirical comics and graphic short stories, and its cover page contains the warning “to be kept out of the reach of children.”
In 2010, Shennawy and his fellow artists Hisham Rahma, Andeel, Makhoof, and Tawfeek, started looking for publishers after they spent time working on the content and logo of the magazine. “We could not find publishers, so I did it myself” Shennawy told The Cairo Post.
Tok Tok is self-distributed, and its quarterly issues sell for 10 EGP ($1.40) in bookstores mainly in downtown areas.
He said that the important thing was to ensure the quality of the work produced, since all artists cooperating in the production of the comics are either professional cartoonists or graphic designers.
The team was sponsored by the cultural fund of the European Union for two years: 2012 and this year. “This fund provides us with a sufficient amount of money to help us produce the magazine with the quality we dream of, and without interference from publishers regarding content or anything else,” he added.
“Ever since I was a kid, I have always been obsessed with comics. When I was younger, I was able to contribute to well-known comic magazines like ‘Alaa el Din’.” Shennawy said, explaining that however, he still thought that comics in Egypt mostly didn’t have much “guts”.
Though not entirely political, the magazine still has a political and social sarcastic humor.
Shennawy explained that when they started working on Tok Tok, he had a few main ideas he wanted to work on, but many things came out after brainstorming with his colleagues.
“We wanted the theme to be random jokes and stories, like the ones told on Egyptian local cafes and conversations in the streets about more social issues like sexual harassment for instance” he said.
“Each of the artists creates comics of his own style openly, without being restricted to certain topics or regulations,” said Ahmed Saad, who works in advertising.
Saad said that in the past, there were well-known comic magazines and books like “Flash” and the work of Nabil Farouk, that were presented by major publishers. Tok Tok, however, managed to grab the attention of the crowd despite its not being affiliated with a big production. Many readers associated with the January 25 Revolution, he said, adding “perhaps that’s one of the reasons why they felt connected to the magazine.”