Dubai's First Privately Owned Publisher Talks Goals, Challenges

The fourth annual Middle East Film and Comic Convention (MEFCC) in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates recently witnessed the launch of the country's first privately-owned comics publisher, Domain Entertainment. The brainchild of MEFCC's organizers Ben Caddy and Arafaat Ali Khan, Domain hopes to make a big impact on comics publishing in the region and across the world as it campaigns to bring Emirati talent to the attention of the global comic-reading public.

This move is something of a departure in a country where the production of new comics material is split between government-backed organizations focused on Arab-language comics, such as Abu Dhabi Media and TwoFour54, and a newer, grass-roots self-publishing scene.

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Domain's initial series, "The Armagondas," is due to launch in time for New York Comicon in October, but fans at the MEFCC were given a sneak peek with a 0-issue preview setting up a lot of the mythos of whatEoD pleas creator, Emirati writer/artist Jalal Luqman, hopes will become a 15-volume graphic novel series.

The idea for the high-fantasy world of "The Armagondas," pitched as "Game of Thrones" meets "The Dark Crystal," has been in Luqman's head since the mid-1980s, and draws on the oral tradition that is a part of Emirati culture. Luqman began writing his fantasy down in 2007, seeking out collaborators American comics veteran Mark Sable and Italian comics artist Denis Medri to bring his vision to the comic book page in 2014.

Ahead of the publisher's planned October comic launch, Domain Entertainment's co-founder and co-editor Ali Khan spoke with CBR News about his company's origins and their plans for the future.

CBR News: Domain Entertainment was born and is based in the Middle East, in Dubai. To what extent does this makes it different from other comics publishers?

Ali Khan: There is obviously a wealth of untapped talent in the region, which we hope to develop over the next few years. And that's something that has been in the forefront of the rapid growth of the Comic Con. Great talent, and more than that, the passion and drive that's here in spades. Dubai is a city of creators, entrepreneurs and (sometimes crazy!) visionaries, so we're looking to tap into that and bring that same energy to the new venture.  With the multi-cultural mix here as well, it's going to be interesting to see what stories are out there to be told.

Where did the idea for Domain Entertainment come from?

As with everything we do, it's part business strategy and part passion project -- mainly passion project, most of the time! As huge fans of genre entertainment, and working in the creative industries, we've always wanted to create something of our own and "put something out there." Since the launch of the [MEFCC], it makes perfect business sense as well. Not only do we have access to a huge pool of creative talent, we've also built up some amazing industry contacts over the years as well, not to mention we've got the Con itself as the perfect marketing & research platform.

What are your long-term plans?

We want Domain, over time, to be a globally respected studio known for creating great content across all forms of media.  Initially, comics are a relatively easy way of creating IP, and, of course, where a lot of our personal interests lie. But the trans-media potential with the majority of the projects we're developing is phenomenal, and we aren't restricting ourselves to any particular format.  It's whatever fits best for the telling of that story, or just being selective in what we focus on first.

For example, we have both mobile and video games in mind, toys and collectibles, not to mention animation and even live-action production in the future. Our core focus is to bring creators together that might not have otherwise had the chance to collaborate and produce content that everyone involved can be proud of, regardless of the type of media involved.

What levels of ownership do Domain Entertainment's creator's enjoy?

We aren't looking at a single business model for ownership of a project. Really, it's about what each party brings to the table.  In some cases, it's a simple work for hire arrangement. and in others, there's a share of the intellectual property or profits, etc.  We do believe in letting the creators be "the creative," though, and so far, it's been a very enjoyable collaboration and a "family" environment that we want to encourage.

Domain Entertainment's first series, "The Armagondas," is set to launch at New York Comic Con, Oct. 8-11, 2015.

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