Regarded as the Middle East’s first psycho-thriller comic book, Wayl follows the tale of Sufyan El-Taher who returns to Amman, Jordan only to find his hometown riddled with crime and corruption. Features writer Ferdinand Godinez chats with its creators to discover what inspired the project and their genre of choice.
Tell us more about Wayl…
Zaid: The story developed as a social commentary about greed and corruption, set within a combination of realistic and superhero universes. Its tagline – ‘When avarice is everything, even the most reluctant must act’ – is a call to action for the quieter members of society to stand up against corruption or face dystopia. As an actual plot, Wayl is set in what could be called an alternative universe of Amman, Jordan.
How did the idea for the project come about?
Zaid: It stemmed during the resurgence in popularity of comic book-based movies with the introduction of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy and more intellectual literary work such as Alan Moore’s Watchmen.
For most of the latter part of the 20th century, anime and comic-based television series were highly popular among Arab children as they were translated and dubbed from Japanese and English to Arabic.
With comic book culture beginning to rise based on Western media rather than Far Eastern anime, I felt that there was a gap being ignored in both contemporary and past comic and film culture, which was to portray a stereotypical image of the average Middle Easterner as horse-riding Bedouins or malicious terrorists.
There needed to be a story that is relatable in various cultures as well as being able to shatter stereotypes.
Why did you choose the psychological thriller genre?
Zaid: There’s a lot more room in psychological thrillers to create supernatural events that both entice the readers and keep the plot interesting and intense enough. As a former filmmaker whose passion is the core of storytelling, I owe a lot of my influence to directors such as David Lynch [Twin Peaks, Eraserhead]. Their non-linear structures, use of plot twists and natural symbiosis with their settings and atmosphere make for more engaging stories that push their messages effectively and with style.
How did you guys incorporate regional elements both in the story and design?
Yasser: Technically, we start with visual references. Zaid shared with me several photos of different types of people who might inspire the look of different characters within the story. Along with my own character references and inspiration, character designs were born. As for the setting, I’ve never been to Jordan. So, the real challenge was capturing the city, which is a character in the story all on its own. Surprisingly, I found some similarities in mood and look with my own birth city of Jeddah.
How do you see the UAE’s comic book scene?
Yasser: The [local] comic book scene is growing but still has a long way to go. There aren’t a lot of local players, and those who try to get their work distributed give up after a while due to limited support.
The art form is still not viewed as a category of communication with a vast roster of genres that target various demographics and psychographics.
Also, local publishers are still hesitant to take on comic books that don’t target young children, as they may feel unsure about how the market will respond to such content.
Yet, from our observations at local conventions, the public is ready and hungry for rich stories told in sequential art.
Wayl is available at Virgin Megastore, Yas Mall. Visit: waylcomic.com