By Mike V. Derderian
“Ahla we sahla.”
“How are you Sami?”
“Fine. Zaman 3anak. What about you?”
“All is well. Drawing more and more.”
“Have a seat.”
“So what do you want to drink? How about ginger with lemon? It is quite good!”
This is how Sami Nazer, the owner of WIDE:SCREEN, and my friend greets me every time I pay him a visit. I try not to visit him a lot. Why? I always end up buying a comic book from his impressive and ever growing collection.
You think this shelf is impressive. Wait until you see what the other shelves hold.
I have been meaning to write this blog post about Sami from a long time. Sami is an amazing friend. Let me give you a short background check about Sami – or at least a background check of what I know best about Sami.
Here we go:
One, he graduated from the American University of Beirut (A.U.B) with a degree in Graphic Design.
Two, he founded WIDE:SCREEN a couple of years ago.
Three, he is extremely cool under pressure.
Four, he is awesome.
Five, he knows his books and films.
Six, he gives great pieces of advice. Pieces of advice that I now listen to; or try to.
Seven, he is into photography.
Eight, he is a year younger from the founders of Samandal, a brilliant artsy comic book anthology that gets published in Lebanon. They went with him to the A.U.B.
9, he is a mean designer.
I met Sami four years ago. I met him when I walked into his place in hopes of selling advertising space for WAW Al Balad during my tenure as Managing Editor. It was sometime around 2009.
Launching WAW Al Balad, and producing it from scratch was an amazing experience – plus having an office in Al Balad Theatre was awesome. I produced four issues before moving on.
Now, back to my dear friend Sami. Sami did not place advertisements of his establishment in WAW Al Balad. Instead he came to the three day Marilyn Monroe screening I held at Al Balad Theatre.
Since I got to know him more Sami printed event posters for me, part of a project I was working on – a project that I am still working on it between jobs; made sure I had my fix of comic books; and remained a good friend, who I like to visit every now and then.
Of course going to his place in Swefieh opposite Al Wakalat Street is not just about buying comics. I really enjoy the conversations we have about design, illustrations, comics, his time at the A.U.B, and my background as an English literature student among many things.
How can you not like a man who gifted you Andy Riley’s The Book of Bunny Suicides when he paid your home a visit? To hell with plants; bottles of wine – I meant grape juice; and sweets. Bring me books.
So the answer is no you can’t. Then again maybe he was sending me some hidden messages.
“Here is a book to give you some ideas Mike!” No, he didn’t say that!
By the way Sami, if you are reading this, I really enjoyed it. Hopefully I will be able to produce something as good. Note to self: Take a bromance photograph with Sami the next time you visit him and post it at the end of this blog post.
At WIDE:SCREEN, and thanks to Sami, I finally got to meet Tank Girl, created by Jamie Hewlett and Alan Martin.
Tank Girl started kicking the world’s ass back in 1988. I was nine years old. Back then I was reading Mickey, Majed, Tarazan, Superman, Batman, Tin Tin , Tin Tin (the magazine), Lucky Luke and The Magic Carpet anthologies (a collection of translated Franco-Belg comics).
Tank Girl is kick ass and totally un-pc. She would most probably hate 2013. Then again she wasn’t that much into the 90s either.
I bought all four Tank Girl collections in chronological order. I bought a part every time I finished one.
I now have the complete re-released anthology. I still have one book to buy. Actually a couple of books come to think of it.
These photographs were taken when Ibraheem Alawamleh and I paid Sami a visit.
I called Sami and told him that Ibraheem and I wanted to pass by for coffee. By the way Ibraheem happens to be a very talented cartoonist. He does crazy cartoon mash-ups with very slick lines.
Once we got there Sami ordered coffee for us and we started talking about comics. As our coffee arrived, a man and a woman entered the place and Sami had to look after them.
Ibraheem and I spent the following minutes going through the titles that Sami had just brought in. Nothing beats talking to another cartoonist about the art of cartooning and good comic books.
Chew, written by John Layman and illustrated by Rob Guillory, is one of the awesome titles that you can find at Sami’s place. The idea of a detective solving crimes by munching on dea … you know what? Get the book and read it. I never inserted spoilers in my movie reviews and I am not going to start now ;-})
The best part about going to WIDE:SCREEN is how Sami allows you to go through the titles he has at ease.Whenever I found myself facing a last copy that was neatly wrapped, Sami without hesitation would tell me to tear through the wrapper.
If you get to visit Sami make sure you pick up The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite, written by Gerard Way (My Chemical Romance), and illustrated by Gabriel Bá. It is one of those comics that you have to read.
The moment you enter WIDE:SCREEN you will find yourself leafing through titles from different comic book imprints. You will find yourself turning into the same eight year old, who stood facing a kiosk in Down Town Amman, where hard and soft cover comic books were hung on a laundry line to entice potential buyers.
At Sami’s place you will find Japanese, French, British and American comics. A Japanese comic book of course is referred to as Manga.
Nothing beats reading a well-written and a beautifully illustrated French comic book. If it weren’t for Sami’s place I would have never read the beautifully layered The Professor’s Daughter by Joann Sfar and Emmanuel Guibert; or the surreal You Are There by Jean-claude Forest and Jacques Tardi. My love of French comics dates back to the first time I read Hergé’s Tin Tin, at my cousin’s place. You should try some!
I am not that into Manga. I cannot say that I have read enough to say I love it or hate, but you can give me Osamu Tezuka, Yoshihiro Tatsomi, Shirow Masmune and Hideshi Hino comics any time of the day. You know what forget that first sentence. I fuckin love it!
So there we were , three guys who are into comics, art books and cinema, sharing our thoughts; and here I am sharing with you a friend I so much cherish; a friend who can spend hours talking to you about art, comics, illustration, design and film.
Note to self: Don’t forget the bromance photograph with Sami.
Photographs by Mike V. Derderian (Sardine).
Tank Girl Cover Art by Jamie Hewlett