AUB Libraries Online Exhibits

Arab comics and Translation


الرجل الوطواط (باتمان) – المطبوعات المصورة

With an active booming market, and an increased interest in comics across the international scene as well as within the Arab world, a publishing house entitled  "المطبوعات المصورة" took on to translate into Arabic and publish many popular Western comics titles including: Superman, Tintin, Bonanza, Batman, etc. 


لولو الصغيرة وصديقها طبوش - المجلد الأول - بيروت: دار المطبوعات المصورة، 1966

Yes, it's a translation! Little Lulu debuted in 1935 in the American weekly, The Saturday Evening Post, as a single panel, featuring the mischievous and resourceful little girl who can get away with just about anything. Little Lulu was translated into several languages, (including Arabic, starting in 1966), and contributed to influencing many generations of little girls across the globe! Lulu tried to tackle, even if shyly, questions of gender politics, equality, and feminism.




تان تان - دانى المستقبل - السنة الأولى – العدد 1

Often, the printing quality of these translated comics was not very high, but the interest was there, and growing: publishers and editors got away with publishing crude translations from the original English (or sometimes French), with very few changes, and often retained the same images with very minor, "cosmetic" changes. Occasionally, the name of the Comics hero would be "Arabized": Clark Kent became Nabil Fawzi; Batman's companion became "Zakkour", Donald Duck was renamed "Battout", etc. The "global comics" phenomenon was born, and was taking root in the Arab world!


الدشمة، إعرف حقوقك - العدد 3 – في الحكاية المصورة – رسوم الان مور و دايفد لويد ؛ ترجمة محمد ربيع - القاهرة: مركز هشام مبارك، 2012

A different form of translation can take place when a classic is revisited, and its content and protagonists recast to express a "new" reality, within a different context. In the newly published comics serial from Egypt, al-Dushma, characters from classic graphic novels such as "V for Vendetta" and "Persepolis" are recast in novel ways. Using a tongue-in-cheek- cross temporal and cross contextual language and graphics, a commentary on the military take-over of Egypt in the wake of the Egyptian revolution in 2011 is driven through powerfully. In this panel, V confronts his lover Justice about her engagement with "those who wear the uniform" and Justice's betrayal of their love; as a conclusion, V decides to leave Justice for a new lover, Anarchy. The subtext seems to imply that when Justice is in the military's hands, Anarchy is the solution!


الدشمة، إعرف حقوقك – العدد 3– عادي في عالم غير عادي – القاهرة: مركز هشام مبارك، 2012

Other forms of "translation" happen when a concept, a whole page of content (such as Dr. Seuss' featured panel, "Oh, the Places you will go!"), and style of illustration is lifted from its original, and plugged onto a different publication: "borrowing" or translation, the effect is nevertheless powerful! Boundaries shift, and an inter-cultural, contextual and temporal dialogue begins!