Sandstorm – a brand-new studio for comic books – was launched today in response to the needs of the UAE creative community for an outlet to express their creative passion as part of Abu Dhabi’s AED30bn Culture and Creative Industries (CCI) Strategy. Sandstorm, the UAE’s first dedicated comic book studio, provides an inclusive support system to offer guidance and professional development to comic book creators with a promise to bring authentic local stories to the world through international partnerships.

Aspiring creators can submit their pitches for comic books or graphic novels spanning any genre, theme or style. Sandstorm will select the most promising ideas to turn them into a world-class comic book that has the potential to be internationally published. The programme will connect the authors to publishers and mentors from world-famous studios, who will help to coach individuals to help create high-quality final products.

HE Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman of the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi, said: “Abu Dhabi is making bold strides in accelerating the growth of its culture and creative industries, empowering people to follow their passion and share their creative vision with the world. The capital is keen to grow this highly strategic sector by creating more opportunities that enable local talent to build a sustainable career in the creative fields.

“This pioneering initiative will not only further solidify Abu Dhabi’s rapidly progressing CCI scene, but will also provide society with a powerful platform to express and share their ambitions, dreams and thoughts,” he added.

Mo Abedin, an Emirati comic book author and an industry leader, has been appointed to lead Sandstorm with a vision to put Abu Dhabi on the global map of the comics industry and build the region’s comics ecosystem right from the heart of the UAE.

Mo Abedin, Head of Sandstorm, said: “I am truly excited about the much-awaited launch of a fully dedicated comics studio in Abu Dhabi that realises the exceptionally talented storytellers who call the UAE home. Having been in the comics industry for over a decade, I have met incredible local talent who cover the full spectrum of the comics industry but lack the industry support. With Sandstorm’s inclusive ecosystem and the local and regional community’s potential, the future of Abu Dhabi’s comics industry is truly promising. We cannot wait to show the world what our creative community is capable of.”   

International industry veterans Matt Hawkins and Kuo-yu Liang have also been hired as content advisors for Sandstorm. Hawkins has a long-standing experience of over 20 years in the comic books sector, having created and written over 30 new franchises for Top Cow and Image Comics, including Think Tank, The Tithe, Necromancer, VICE, Lady Pendragon and Aphrodite IX. Similarly, Liang is a global pop culture advisor who has held executive roles at Penguin Random House, Diamond Comic Distributors, and ReedPOP.

Situated at Yas Creative Hub, Sandstorm will form a key component of the emirate’s collaborative ten-year Culture and Creative Industries (CCI) Strategy. The global comic book market size is projected to reach $4,69 billion by 2026, from $3,87 billion in 2020, at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 3.3%, according to an industry study by Market Watch.

In Abu Dhabi, comics sit naturally alongside other thriving creative industries, such as film & TV production, gaming and esports. Sandstorm will help aspiring comic creators tap into the synergies that the success of these sectors has already created, enabling collaborations with the world’s best storytellers, established and aspiring artists and experts and visionaries from across the spectrum of the culture and creative industries (CCI).

The first open call cycle of the commissions programme opens today via this website, and any UAE national or resident can apply. Applications must include a logline, a concise plot summary, three to five concept artworks and further information, with acceptance being on a rolling basis.

Sandstorm will be prominently featured at the upcoming Middle East Film & Comic Con on 4-6 March, where visitors will be able to learn more about Sandstorm and have the opportunity to meet internationally renowned comic book artists and experts, including Matt Hawkins.