AUB Libraries Online Exhibits

Mickey and Tintin


ميكي – العدد 69 – مصر: دار الهلال، 1962

Yet another form of "translation" is when an iconic character such as Mickey Mouse crosses the boundaries of its original publication, culture, language and time, and goes on to "travel" across various local adaptations: the Arab Mickey in this panel is adapted from an original Arabic translation, first published in Samir in the 50s: the result is a double translation or crossing, or perhaps better, a commentary on a commentary! The magazine Samir started by featuring (irregular) episodes of the Disney character Mickey, translated into Arabic, beginning with its third issue, in 1956, thus introducing the Disney character to an Arab audience for the first time. It was not until three years later, that a magazine completely dedicated to the Disney character, Mickey, translated into Arabic, appeared. The Mickey magazine, published in Egypt and edited/translated by Nadia Nasha’at, Dar al-Hilal,  also featured additional Disney characters, e.g. Goofy, (Bunduq), and Donald Duck (Battout), etc.


ميكي – العدد 1310 – السنة 1986

Based on the Disney publication by the same title, the Arabic Mickey magazine did not limit itself to a mere translation of the American Disney Comics: Mickey was reinterpreted, and "Arabized", with many local details, manners of presentation, local puns, with occasionally some contemporary Arab issues weaved into the narrative, in order to better allow young Arab readers to relate to the transposed characters. Even though the cover of Mickey seems at first look to be a straightforward and faithful representation of the Disney publication, small details were added to give a more "local" context and platform for the publication: notice the row of "Orientalized" or "Arabized" buildings in the background which suggest an Arab city, and Mickey's clothing which seem very similar to military fatigues worn by the Egyptian army then; Mickey's friends, on the other hand, are wearing Gallabiyyas, but ones with “modern” solid colors. Often, Mickey used such small little "cosmetic" additions or props, or simply emphasized them and displayed them prominently, on the cover page: rarely, attempts at integrating Mickey into the Arab society and context went beyond these "cosmetic" changes, to incorporate a dialogue or line that expressed a more grassroots concern or contemporary issue, but for the most part, Mickey was a transposed translation of the Disney serial.


ميكي – العدد 69 - مصر: دار الهلال، 1962

The Arabic language used and often devised to translate idiomatic expressions which were featured in many comics constitutes a treasure trove for researchers interested in the evolution of modern Arabic language: here we have a perfect example of Egyptian local expressions put in the use of conveying a conversational dynamic, and of an on "the spot" Arabic idiom!

كده! رايح فين؟

 تبقي كبير بالشكل ده و عاقل و تصدق الكلام الفارغ  ....

تان تان-الواحة المشتعلة-برنار برانس-السنة الاولى-العدد 44.jpg

تان تان - الواحة المشتعلة - برنار برانس - السنة الاولى - العدد 44

Looking back at some of the foreign titles that were translated into Arabic during this period, one cannot help but notice another form of "translation" that marked these comics, even when they were authored in their original languages: throughout many of these magazines, cultures, races and ethnicities would be "reworked" and "represented" in often Western-centric ways, thus feeding, wittingly or unwittingly, into a predominant colonial cultural discourse of "othering". This form of "translation" unfortunately plagued many comics, even famous ones produced by talented writers and illustrators. To take just one most famous example, the illustrator of Tintin, Herge, unfortunately often depicted many of the various cultures he described in often stereotypical ways, in spite of his famous ability to draw very clearly (Herge's famous "ligne claire").

The Adventures of tintin-Land of Black Gold-الذهب الأسودHerge-Egmont-2012.jpg

Hergé, & Lonsdale-Cooper, L. (2012). Land of black gold. (The adventures of Tintin.) London: Egmont.

Commenting on how Arabs are depicted in one of Herge's famous Tintin books, Nadim Damluji comments on the creation of a so-called Arab country, named "Khemed":
“It’s this faux-Saudi/Emirates place where all of the guys are in their turbans, they’re all in the desert, they’re really quick to get angry, and they’re always the punchline,” Damluji says. “They never really have three-dimensional qualities.”



1The Adventures of tintin-Land of Black Gold-Herge-Egmont-2012.jpg

Hergé, & Lonsdale-Cooper, L. (2012). Land of black gold. (The adventures of Tintin.) London: Egmont.