Creating comics for the Middle East



Message from the Founder: 

The Middle East is a region distinguished by a wealth of history, inspiring heroes, and a diversified culture that appeal to people worldwide. Further more, the Middle East is home to the world’s largest young population with over 150 million people under the age of 29, making the Middle East a region full of potential and promise.

To unleash the Middle Eastern youth’s potential through creative and entertaining media, and modern technologies drove me to found Aranim Media Factory.

Our mission goes far beyond history; it speaks of the future. We are committed to providing the youth with inspiring role models and bring positive change to the Middle East through state of the art creative and entertaining media such as comics, animation, games and film.

As a company, we pledge to uphold certain values that will best serve the interests of our customers and our business partners. These values are creativity, integrity, passion, and organizational effectiveness.

I hope you can join me in my efforts to provide the youth with the inspiration to dream the impossible, and the courage to live it.

February 06 2011

In an interview with our CEO & founder Suleiman Bakhit with Aramram TV he explains the brilliant mission Aranim Media Factory is carrying out, understanding the need for kids and young adults to have Superhero role model. When the world has Superman and James Bond the Arab world does not have a superhero story that is written by the Arab world, for the Arab world.

As comic book art is a powerful, exciting and engaging form of storytelling, Suleiman promises to create comics that tell the stories of inspiring great Arab men, normal regular people who were put in harsh situations and were able to overcome challenges and become heroes, armored with their strong will and belief.

Suleiman is on a mission that goes far beyond history; it speaks of the future. Committed to providing the youth with inspiring Arab role models and bring positive change to the Middle East through state of the art creative and entertaining media such as comics, and games, Suleiman wants to convey the true Middle Eastern image of values, principles and morals to the rest of the world.

Marco Visscher | May 2009 issue

Ever wondered why Superman isn’t popular in the Middle East? “We don’t like our heroes to wear their underpants on the outside,” says Suleiman Bakhit, founder of Aranim Media Factory, a four-year-old firm in Amman, Jordan, that publishes comic books for the Arabic market. The real issue, of course, has nothing to do with costumes. “The problem is that Superman can literally do everything with all the great magical powers he was given,” Bakhit explains. “He hardly needs to put in any effort at all. His stories—and those of Spiderman and Batman—make a clear distinction between good and evil, presenting the world in black and white. We cannot relate to these Western heroes, because they’re so out of tune with our cultural values and our daily experiences.”

Much more popular in the Middle East is the ancient Persian tale of Sinbad the Sailor, the son of a wealthy man who loses his fortune and, during extensive travels in search of wealth, overcomes many obstacles. “Sinbad went through a difficult learning phase and discovered a sense of adventure,” Bakhit says. “Such character development is more complicated and more like our own lives. Such a story is not simply entertainment or a waste of time, but it offers values-based lessons on dealing with adversity and hardship and the importance of determination.”

According to Bakhit, these are the kinds of stories that appeal to Muslim and Arab youth. Young people in the Middle East aren’t looking to leap tall buildings in a single bound, but for the inspiration to deal with the challenges of their daily lives. And through the comics Aranim Media Factory delivers, Bakhit is giving it to them.

To date, the Aranim Media Factory has created about a dozen comic books; Bakhit expects that number to hit 30 by the end of the year. He’s currently working on a modern version of Sinbad, one that’s much closer to the original than the Disneyfied treatment familiar in the West. But Bakhit wants to go further than simply rectifying what, in his view, went wrong in the Disney version. He wants his comic books to temper the extremism he sees in his part of the world by providing local youth with positive role models. His stories are aimed at engineering dreams for young Arabs and Muslims of a bold future they can bring about themselves.

Is there really such a shortage of positive role models in the Middle East? “A shortage?” he asks. “There are few if any public leaders that youth can relate to.”

For Aranim Media Factory’s first book, Bakhit chose the story of Muwaffaq Al-Salti, a pilot who fought an eight-minute battle in 1966 when Israeli fighter jets penetrated Jordanian airspace. “This was the longest dogfight ever,” Bakhit says. “Yet hardly anybody in Jordan knows this legend, so it was an undiscovered gem in our culture. The feedback has been phenomenal. Kids want to be like him.”

With some pride, Bakhit tells of a girl who was 11 when they met, at a school where he regularly involves students in the development of his stories. After she read a comic book about the fictional adventures of the crew of the first Arab space shuttle, the girl told him her secret: She wanted to be an astronaut. “I told her I would include a female captain of a spacecraft in my new book and name it after her if she promised to follow her dreams,” says Bakhit. “Many months later, we talked again. She wasn’t an astronaut, yet, of course, but she had started drawing comics. She had started to unleash her creative potential. She started thinking, ‘Why can’t I be an astronaut?’ That’s how change happens: Someone will think, ‘Why can’t we have democracy? Why can’t I make a difference?’”

Bakhit wasn’t one of those boys who filled his school notebooks with drawings. In fact, he had a very different career in mind. In 1996, he went to the U.S. to become an engineer. After a few digressions, he got a degree in human resource development in 2005. He wanted to return to Jordan where there was no shortage of jobs; in the Arab world, in fact, there are few human resource experts.

But in the years prior to his return, the world had changed—and with it, Bakhit. The terrorist attacks of 9/11 led to a wave of anti-Muslim sentiment in America, including at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, where Bakhit had been studying since 2000. While out one evening, Bakhit was attacked by a group of young thugs—an attack that left scars visible to this day.

Bakhit was furious, but quickly realized that leaving the U.S. would mean his assailants had won. So he decided to dedicate himself to reducing people’s fear of Muslims and the Middle East. He went to local elementary schools and spoke to kids in their classrooms. He told them that not all Arab men with black beards are like Osama bin Laden, just as not all white men are members of the Ku Klux Klan. Students could ask him anything they wanted, he said—about what kinds of clothes Arab kids wear, what school there is like, what TV programs they had: everything and anything.

Then one day a student asked him what the Arab superheroes look like. “We don’t have superheroes,” Bakhit replied, but he didn’t have a ready explanation as to why not. The question remained with him, and when Bakhit found the answer, he decided it was time to publish comic books in the Middle East. “I wanted to change how the Arab world sees itself, and change the way the world sees the Arab world,” he says. He wanted the heroes he would draw to fit in with the culture and inspire kids to work toward change. So Bakhit took up his pencil and drew—something he’d never had the ambition to do.

Not too long ago I published a post about social gaming in the MENA region and mentioned how Aranim Media Factory among other companies who are working on providing the region with relevant social games mostly on Facebook. So I decided to get in touch with the Aranim team and get a little more information about them and the story behind the name. Unfortunately as you can see from the answers below, they didn’t tell us what the name meant, however they gave us some insight on their history, funding and previous work.

Other than their Facebook games Aranim actually has 24 comic books and surprise surprise Fadi Ghandour helped with the Funding! Below are some questions and answers from the Aranim team.

What is Aranim, what does it mean, where did it come from?

Aranim Media Factory is a leading digital content developer in the Middle East specialized in creative media, social games and comic books, striving to create entertaining and outstanding productions to the Arab youth around the world.

Who are the main players?

Founder and CEO Suleiman Bakhit

How long has Aranim been operational?

Aranim has been operational for 5 years now, since 2006

Where are you based?

Aranim is based in Amman, Jordan

How did it all start about?

Aranim originally started as an Arabic comic book production house inspired by Suleiman’s passion to create Arab superheroes, Aranim then evolved into a media factory creating social games, comic books, manga and films. Aranim aspires to become the number 1 social gaming publisher in the Arab world.

Were there any investors that helped you raise the required funding necessary to carry out what you do?

Yes, Mr. Fadi Ghandour

What is your core product?

Core products are Social Games -mainly facebook- and comic books. We have 24 complete comic books.

How do you view the competition in the region? And how well positioned do you think Aranim is to deal with this competition?

We believe in the importance of competition, it brings a compelling edge to the market for higher quality and better products. Aranim is well positioned as one of the very few social games developer in the region, and we will continue working to become the absolute best.