Where to catch comic book illustrator Liam Sharp in Dubai
Comic geek Saeed Arjumand gives us the lowdown on the special edition Wonder Woman cover illustrated by Liam Sharp
What do superheroes do when they want to take a break? They crawl into the pages of a comic book waiting for the next wide-eyed reader to open them. And then they spring back into action. The world of comic books and comic heroes are only limited by one's own imagination. Saeed Arjumand, the owner of Dubai's first standalone comic bookstore, Comic Stop at Dar Wasl Shopping Mall, knows this best. As a child struggling with dyslexia, it was comic books that rescued him from his dark days by offering up a world filled with superheroes. It is this same world that he opens up for like-minded fans with his one off store. On Feburary 12, the store will be hosting renowned comic book illustrator Liam Sharp, who will interact with local fans and showcase the special edition cover, commissioned by Arjumand, for the 750th issue of Wonder Woman comics.
On social media, fans have been going absolutely crazy over the exclusive cover of Wonder Woman #750. What's striking is that Wonder Woman looks absolutely strong and powerful yet feminine. In today's world women generally are forced to pick between one of the looks! What was your reaction when you first saw it?
I thought the cover looks beyond stunning. Like you mentioned Wonder Woman looks both feminine and powerful and I think Liam Sharp does this very well in his interpretation of Wonder Woman. That's why when we got the opportunity to do this cover I thought of no one else but Liam Sharp. I knew he would deliver Wonder Woman in her true form and make it unique and breathtaking. It really embodies power and at the same time there's a peacefulness to it. I am very proud of what Liam Sharp did and so happy that Comic Stop gets to share this exclusive cover to the world.
Liam Sharp is of course coming down for a personal signing session. Were you always a fan? What is it about his work that sets him apart from other illustrators in your eye?
I was always a fan of Liam Sharp's work dating back before he started working on Wonder Woman, but when he tackled Wonder Woman it is his interior comic pages that really made me go 'wow'. He's done some amazing work with the environment and scenery around Wonder Woman's world. Specially in a comic titled Brave and the Bold: Batman and Wonder Woman - it's perhaps one of the most beautiful comic books I've ever seen. The way he draws nature really impresses me, its almost more like a painting rather than comic book illustration. This I feel really sets him apart from other artists who focus more on buildings and structures for their backgrounds. But Liam Sharp I believe really focuses on nature and life. Not to forget his attention to details is out of this world. For example look at the Sword and Gauntlet on Wonder Woman on our exclusive cover. That alone is art.
You are an illustrator yourself. Your Insta feed is filled with your amazing work. What is it that you like best about putting ink to paper?
My favourite thing about doing art myself is the process of using inks or brushes on my art. There's more of a relaxation in this technique than people think. For me it's like passing time in the best possible way. My favourite things to draw is the anatomy of a human being or creatures.
Why do you believe comic culture should be encouraged? What is the relevance of comic books in today's world, according to you?
The Comic culture is a place of joy. It's passed down from generation to generation. I have many fathers who bring their kids to the store because they introduced comics to them and now the kids are in love with the same thing their parents loved. It teaches them to read, pick up books and more. A lot of people may not see it but its a family experience, it brings people closer together out of a thing they are passionate about and deeply care. And you can clearly see it by how much these movies nowadays are making at the box office too. It's not just kids going to it, it is adults, teenagers, parents with their children and so on.
You mentioned in an earlier interview with us that Batman helped you through a very difficult phase of your life. How would you promote reading per se and comic book culture in particular to a generation that is just starting to read?
I sadly grew up with the struggle of dyslexia , and it's something that never entirely goes away but you can help or learn to help. I had to go to many classes and sessions to help me learn to improve my reading and spelling mainly. I was very upset and depressed as a kid because I knew I was different and the other kids were better than me. But Batman comics changed that; I used to pick up comics because I was so interested in the idea of Batman and this superhero world, so I wanted more and more comics. So unlike many kids, when I was growing up, my parents encouraged me to buy comics because it helped me learn to read better.
Do you ever fear that the popularity of DC and Marvel movies might adversely effect the sale of comic books?
Not at all, I think movies help sell the comics all the time. People learn about new characters and want to come in and read more, or learn more. These movies make you want more of the character and the only other way to get more of them besides waiting for the next movie is through comics. This is why Comic Stop exists.
Lastly what can fans expect from the session on Wednesday at your store? Is it going to be like a mini Comic Con?
Fans can of course expect to meet and greet Liam Sharp as well as get any of his works autographed, including our exclusive cover and selfies. The shop will have a comic-con like vibe. This will be the first time a comic book store in Dubai will have a meet-and-greet with a popular comic book artist. This type of engagement with fans is a huge part of the culture in the USA and UK, and it is my mission to evolve the comic book culture in Dubai by hosting artists in my store more often, thus promoting a truly legitimate comic book store experience. I can now proudly say that we have the first true Comic book store in Dubai, and I hope this will inspire a growth in the pop culture scene in the Middle East.
The Special Cover
The exclusive cover drawn by Liam Sharp, commissioned by Comic Stop, is for the anniversary issue of Wonder Woman celebrating her 750th issue! The cover has been drawn by Sharp specially for Comic Stop and is only available through the outlet. Saeed tells us that it is the second time his store is doing an exclusive DC Comics Cover, the first being a Batman cover last year. But it is for the first time that they are bringing down an artist to sign the comic. Fans are invited to attend the signing session from 6pm on Wednesday, February 12, at Comic Stop where they can interact with the artist.