A NEW COMIC SERIES that delves into the myths and folklore of Middle Eastern tradition has launched. Jinnrise, which sees mythical genies emerge as humanity’s only hope against a race of savage alien invaders, was first introduced to regional audiences at the inaugural Middle East Film & Comic Con in Dubai last year. The first issue of the series, the brainchild of attorney-turned-radio host-turned-comic-book creator Sohaib Awan, went on regional and international sale in January, with the second installment due out this month.
Awan fell in love with movies and comics at an early age. Growing up in Virginia to an Indian mother and Czech father, he found solace at the theater, and in the pages of his favorite titles. “It was the Seventies,” Awan says. “Pretty much the only means of escape were films and comic books. I saw Star Wars on my fifth birthday and I’ve been a fan ever since. The only other means of escape I had was comic books.” As his legal career flourished – he’s the head of his own firm – Awan indulged his passion by starting a talk radio show called Fictional Frontiers. “It covered everything; film, television, comic books, you name it. And what I recognized in my many years of conducting interviews with these top talents was that there was a dearth of entertainment based on, or inspired by, myths from the Middle East. So I thought, ‘Let me try my hand at it, because I’ve gained quite a bit of experience and a lot of contacts through my years working on [the show].’ I started Jinnrise as a result of that.”
The concept for the book came from a conversation Awan had with his brother in 2010. “We were chatting about what we’d like to see in a comic series or film, and I said, ‘Genies versus aliens. Wouldn’t that be great?’ And then I thought, ‘Yeah. That would be pretty great.’” Awan worked on the project in secret, before showing it to Ben Caddy, the director of the Middle East Film & Comic Con. “He was blown away, and that gave me the confidence to consider a full-time career in the comic industry.”
Utilizing the contacts he’d made, Awan assembled a team to help him make Jinnrise a reality. He reached out to Chris Ryall, the editor-in-chief at IDW Publishing (whose co-authoredZombies vs. Robots series was optioned by Michael Bay’s production company in 2011) and founded his own company, Jabal Entertainment. Artist Tony Vassallo, colorist Timothy Yates and letterer Ed Brisson signed on, and the team are currently in the process of working on the fifth and six issues. And Jinnrise is merely the first installment in Awan’s quest to bring readers together by unearthing a treasure trove of traditional stories. “What we find in visiting these myths is that, at the end of the day, so many of these stories are very much akin to one another. It’s just the nuances that are unique. It’s allowing people to recognize that, at our core, we’re pretty much the same wherever we go. Let’s celebrate those unique sensibilities, those unique cultural heritages and traditions as best we can, through the wonderful means of storytelling that are made available through comics, animation and film.”