“Opportunity knocks,” says Sohaib Awan when asked how his landmark comic book series ‘Jinnrise’ came into being.
The founder and CEO of Jabal Entertainment is host of American radio show Fictional Frontiers, discussing films, novels, comic books, games, and more, racking up more than 600 interviews and meeting a number of contacts.
So when he saw a gap in the market, he used his experience to fill it.
“Through the radio show it became clear that the stories out there that travel around the world are universal. But they are generally from a western viewpoint, which is OK, but when it comes to the myths of the Middle East, it’s not authentic. That gave us the opportunity to add something to the pop culture mix.”
And so, in February 2012, Jabal Entertainment was born, with the aim of telling universal stories with regional twists, and building bridges between communities using common themes.
“These stories resonate around the world. Stories about elevated human condition, such as ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Lord of the Rings’. We thought we could bring people together through storytelling and comics. We just needed a story to tell.”
‘Jinnrise’ tells the story of Andrew Marcus, an international student whose world is torn apart when interstellar forces, the Kibrani, invade earth. As humanity faces its doom, one final hope lays with a long-despised race — the Jinn.
Awan says authentic readings of history and mythology are vital to creating a viable story.
“Everything we bring to the mix has to have some sort of academic component. We need to be respectful. So I made an effort to study the cultural side of things.”
The global comic book industry is worth as much as $5bn annually, and its popularity in the region is growing, as emphasised by the first ever Middle East Film & Comic Con in Dubai last year welcoming more than 15,000 people through the door.
Awan hopes to help grow the medium in the UAE but also unearth and nurture home-grown talent.
“One of our ultimate goals is to grow talent in this region, to help them tell stories that will be enjoyed by the world. There are certain points of view that can only come from a specific place.
“As a matter of fact, our second series is planned and it’s been written by somebody in the UAE. She’s written something that’s going to be so well received — I can’t wait for it to come out.
“There are talented people in the UAE and those talents can rise. We will also hopefully have people get in touch with us — people with the ability who might not have been given the chance they need.
“We’re excited by the opportunity. Not just for us, but for people in the UAE to avail themselves of a global audience. It’s a great opportunity for artists and writers to match, if not exceed, the quality that’s already out there.”