Future of storytelling for comics announced at Stan Lee Super Con in Jeddah

Special Future of storytelling for comics announced at Stan Lee Super Con in Jeddah
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The cars from Reactor 2042, which is like Fast and the Furious meets Tron as defined by the writer and artist Mike Bundlie.
Special Future of storytelling for comics announced at Stan Lee Super Con in Jeddah
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Reactor 2042 is like Fast and the Furious meets Tron as defined by the writer and artist Mike Bundlie.
Special Future of storytelling for comics announced at Stan Lee Super Con in Jeddah
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GenZeroes cover showing a glimpse into the fantastic universe.
Special Future of storytelling for comics announced at Stan Lee Super Con in Jeddah
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Artwork in American Carnage by Clive Standen, Pencils by Alex Konat. Ink by Joseph Weems. Color by Rex Lokus.
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Updated 23 June 2022

Future of storytelling for comics announced at Stan Lee Super Con in Jeddah

Future of storytelling for comics announced at Stan Lee Super Con in Jeddah
  • Creators behind ‘Reactor 2042,’ ‘American Carnage’ and ‘GenZeroes’ take center stage
  • Fans in Saudi Arabia are just as ‘crazy and wonderful’ as in other parts of the world, creative team say

JEDDAH: Three comics that will shape storytelling for the form were announced at the Stan Lee Super Con in Jeddah. 

Arab News spoke with the brilliant minds behind these comics — Mike Bundlie, Clive Standen and Aleks Paunovic, who respectively worked on “Reactor 2042,” “American Carnage” and “GenZeroes.”

The team decided that they wanted to announce the release of the comics in Jeddah as fans marked Stan Lee’s 100th birthday at the Super Con. 

“Given that Stan and his projects were so intrinsic to movies, it seemed only natural to do it at the Stan Lee Super Con,” said Mike Bundlie, co-founder of Super Con and the creator of “Reactor 2042.”

Bundlie said that announcing the news at a forum that is relatively quieter than the Comic Cons in the US also made sense to them. “The Jeddah fans were so happy and eager, the response was just unbelievable. The Saudi fans are not as jaded, too, because there is not so much hitting them as in the San Diego Comic Con.”

He described the Super Con as a place where people discover new things. To elevate the stage for the Saudi convention it was necessary to let the world discover projects with international scopes through Saudi Arabia, he said. “The way to do this is to have the Stan Lee Super Con be a platform where big news happens.”

Each project announced is created with the intention of making it into a TV show or a movie. 

Standen, who starred in the hit series “Vikings” as the axe-wielding Rollo and the lead actor in the TV series “Taken,” came up with the graphic novel “American Carnage.” He explained how his fascination with the American West culture of cowboys and Indians sparked the idea to flip the history of America.

Set four years in the future, the plot is located in a world where a nuclear war has been waged on America and the US has lost. Mexico, Cuba and Columbia form a coalition and attack the South to reclaim the land of Mexico. “What has happened to America in the plot makes the Chernobyl incident look like a science experiment,” he said. 

Standen said: “For me, it’s all about originality, I really feel like I have come up with an original thing. I mean nothing is really original these days, you take the best bits from things, but I did get really bored of doing the same old same thing and even if it is good, it’s a copy. What I am really looking forward to is someone going, I have never seen anything like this before.”

The other two comics announced alongside “American Carnage” have a preexisting fan base as they are an extension of two NFT Games and support those storylines. 

NFT in gaming allows the gamers to use non-fungible tokens to own certain parts of the video games. It also allows people to play games as an investment.

“Reactor 2042” is the exciting first comic series based on the sold-out hit NFT 2022 release “Reactor Motors,” with the artwork and storyline developed by Bundlie and released by Abstract Comics.

Bundlie describes the plot as “‘Fast and Furious’ meets ‘Tron’.” The story follows a young geologist who discovers crystals that react with metal and energize it. “So instead of just racing, now you have real emotions behind it and now the world will belong to characters that you care about.”

“GenZeroes” is set 200 years in the future when the world is attacked by aliens who come to rob the earth of its resources. Humanity is divided into 10 factions and players can choose which one they want to join. 

According to Paunovic, the team involved in the creation of the NFT space is passionate about giving back to their community. “It is not just images, it is utilities, it is a story, it is characters, and falling in love with the characters.”

Paunovic, an actor and producer, is known for his roles in series such as Marvel’s “Hawkeye,” “Van Helsing,” and “Snow Piercer.” 

“NFT space is so artistically driven, it is something that is next-level from anything I have experienced so far,” Paunovic told Arab News.

The creators and team of “GenZeroes” hold regular podcasts to see what the fans need, and work to incorporate that into the storyline. 

With an existing passionate fanbase, developing the storylines can be quite a challenge for the creators. However, that was not the case for Bundlie and Paunovic.

Bundlie said: “The audience is very critical of every part of it, and I love that because it pushes us on every aspect to do the best possible. The way we see it is that their pushing of it is not to put down the property, it is them wanting to keep it going.”

The three comics will propel storytelling forward toward the future of comic writing.

Bundlie said: “When these comics were announced Stan Lee would have been 100 years old, and these three comics represent the future of where the comics are going; it is no longer just making comics and then maybe it will become bigger.”

The Stan Lee Super Con showed that fans in Saudi Arabia are just as “crazy and wonderful” as in other parts of the world. In addition to that they are also polite, passionate and loving, Bundlie said. The creative team are ready to carry the love they received in Jeddah to other places of the world, he said. 


Impact BBDO and Havas Middle East win big at Cannes Lions 2022

Impact BBDO and Havas Middle East win big at Cannes Lions 2022
Updated 24 June 2022

Impact BBDO and Havas Middle East win big at Cannes Lions 2022

Impact BBDO and Havas Middle East win big at Cannes Lions 2022
  • Leading awards program announces this year’s winners

CANNES: The award winners for this year’s Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity have been announced.

This year saw 25,464 entries from 87 countries competing to become the global benchmark for excellence in creativity and effectiveness.

“This is always such a pivotal moment for us because the work entered provides a compelling insight into the global creative marketing landscape,” said Simon Cook, the festival’s CEO.

The Middle East region bagged more than 20 awards, including two Grands Prix for the UAE. “The Election Edition,” a campaign by Lebanese newspaper An-Nahar and Dubai-based marketing communications group Impact BBDO, won the highest number of trophies in the region.

The campaign, which won eight awards, including a Grand Prix in the print and publishing category, had “the kind of genius simplicity that we often see in Grand Prix-winning work,” said jury president Natalie Lam, who is Publicis Groupe’s chief creative officer for Asia Pacific, the Middle East and Africa.

“The irony is that it’s a Grand Prix in print and publishing when there was no printing at all — something that shows that the power of an idea can transcend design,” said Dina Richa, the CEO of Impact BBDO.

Havas Middle East Dubai followed closely with seven trophy wins, all for Adidas. The campaign “Liquid Billboard” won a Grand Prix, one gold, two silver and one bronze in the outdoor category as well as a silver trophy in the media category.

The agency also won a silver trophy in the Entertainment Lion for Sports category for Adidas.’ “I’m Possible Billboards” campaign.

Horizon FCB Dubai’s innovative use of a new technology resulted in the campaign “Breakchains with Blockchain” for the Children of Female Prisoners Association, which won three silver trophies in the digital craft, media and creative commerce categories.

In Egypt, thousands of women are sent to prison every year for being unable to repay loans often worth only a few hundred dollars.

Working with global artists, the agency and the association created non-fungible tokens, each designed to tell the story of why a woman was sentenced to prison and priced at the amount it would cost to free them.

Other winners from the region include TBWA\RAAD Dubai for its “Chickenstock” campaign for KFC, which won a silver trophy, the UAE Government Media Office for “The Warm Winter Livestream” campaign, which won a bronze trophy, and VMLY&R Commerce MENA Dubai’s “Twitter Feminine Arabic” campaign for Twitter, which won a silver trophy.

Carla El-Maalouli, head of marketing for Twitter in the MENA region, said the company was honored to be recognized at the festival for a campaign “that captures our ethos of inclusivity.”

“As a company, Twitter is continuously exploring new ideas and projects to ensure the platform is representative of the diverse voices that shape the conversation and the Arabic Feminine language setting is a continuation of our work around inclusive language,” she added.

The special awards of the night included:

Creative Company of the Year (previously Holding Company of the Year): WPP

Network of the Year: Ogilvy

Independent Network of the Year: Serviceplan Group

Agency of the Year: Dentsu Creative, Bengaluru

Independent Agency of the Year: We Believers, Brooklyn, USA

Creative Brand of the Year: Burger King

The Regional Network of the Year for Europe, Middle East and Africa was awarded to Publicis Worldwide.


Netflix lays off 300 employees in cost-cutting drive

Netflix lays off 300 employees in cost-cutting drive
Updated 24 June 2022

Netflix lays off 300 employees in cost-cutting drive

Netflix lays off 300 employees in cost-cutting drive
  • After the subscriber drop in the first quarter, Netflix has forecast even deeper losses for the current period.

LONDON: Netflix Inc. said it laid off 300 employees, or about 4 percent of its workforce, in the second round of job cuts aimed at lowering costs after the streaming giant lost subscribers for the first time in more than a decade.
The move mostly affected its US workforce and came after the company cut 150 jobs last month.
“While we continue to invest significantly in the business, we made these adjustments so that our costs are growing in line with our slower revenue growth,” Netflix said in a statement on Thursday.
The world’s dominant streaming service has come under pressure in recent months as inflation, the war in Ukraine and fierce competition weigh on subscriber growth. After the subscriber drop in the first quarter, Netflix has forecast even deeper losses for the current period.
To arrest that downtrend, the company plans to introduce a cheaper, ad-supported subscription tier for which it is in talks with several companies.


SRMG concludes Cannes Lions outing with talks on digital well-being, and a night of art, NFTs and music

SRMG concludes Cannes Lions outing with talks on digital well-being, and a night of art, NFTs and music
Updated 25 June 2022

SRMG concludes Cannes Lions outing with talks on digital well-being, and a night of art, NFTs and music

SRMG concludes Cannes Lions outing with talks on digital well-being, and a night of art, NFTs and music
  • The importance of digital wellness was a hot topic of discussion at the SRMG Experience at Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity
  • The festival concluded with leading global media players reflecting on innovations in the media industry

CANNES: The Saudi Research and Media Group (SRMG) concluded its participation in the Cannes Lions Festival for International Creativity on Thursday with an impressive night of art and music and panels on digital well-being and connectivity. 

SRMG partnered with the region’s leading music platform, Anghami, to organize a special night called ‘MENA Night’ which was attended by many talents, creators, media experts and award winners of the Festival.

“Celebrating the creative talents who represented the MENA region at the Cannes Lions Festival is a unique opportunity to showcase their incredible talent and innovation to the world,” said Jomana Al-Rashid, CEO of SRMG. 

“At SRMG, we are delighted to host the talents that represented the MENA region at the Cannes Lions Festival, and as one of the most respected and largest media groups in the Middle East, we always, and will continue to, embrace the best and brightest talent from the region and the world.”

Various rising stars from the Middle East attended the event, including Bird Pearson, Lush and Samee’ Lamee’ from Saudi music entertainment company ‘Middle Beast.’

Guests also had an exclusive look at NFT artworks from regional artists and creators including Faisal Al-Khuraiji, Alaa Balkhi, Amr Boughari and Rex Chouk. 

The show was organized by Nuqta, the first collaborative, mobile and web app, which invites the public to post images of Arabic calligraphy and typography as they experience it anywhere.

The media powerhouse hosted a series of interactive panel discussions and a virtual experience in a dedicated pavilion at the festival throughout the week.

Al-Rashid outlined SRMG’s digital transformation strategy and its vision to upgrade from one of the largest and most influential media groups in the MENA region into an integrated global media giant.

In one panel moderated by Haifa Al-Jedea, managing director of SRMG Think, the media group hosted Larissa May, founder and executive director of #HalfTheStory, in conversation with Abdullah Al-Rashid, founder of Sync Summit and director at Ithra.

The panel discussed the importance of raising awareness of the negative impacts of 24/7 connectivity on our health and well-being.

The panelists called on digital platforms to prioritize the digital well-being of young people by incorporating ethical design principles.

May said that the role of #HalfTheStory is to empower the next generation of consumers to “thrive online and in life,” and to set boundaries for their digital use.

“We often don’t step back and notice how our devices have infiltrated our lives — especially those of us who work in the media industry,” she added.

Meanwhile, Abdullah Al-Rashid said that Saudis are among the world’s top users of YouTube, Snapchat and Twitter in some metrics. He asked guests: “The majority of our population are connected all the time and have only ever experienced that way of life. What does that mean for them?”

In another panel, Riad Hamade, director of business news at Asharq Business with Bloomberg, a subsidiary of SRMG, was joined by Rebecca Bezzina, SVP and managing director at R/GA London; Per Pedersen, founder and global creative chairman of by The Network; and Laurent Thevenet, head of creative technology at Publicis Groupe APAC and MEA.

The panel explored how technology is creating new ways to tell stories and disrupt the communications industry.

SRMG, one of the largest media and publishing groups in the Middle East, owns more than 30 major media outlets in the region, including Arab News, Asharq Al-Awsat, Asharq News and Sayidaty.


UN says Al Jazeera journalist killed by Israeli fire

UN says Al Jazeera journalist killed by Israeli fire
Updated 24 June 2022

UN says Al Jazeera journalist killed by Israeli fire

UN says Al Jazeera journalist killed by Israeli fire
  • Palestinian-American journalist was killed on May 11 while covering an Israeli army operation in Jenin camp
  • UN finds no information suggesting presence of armed Palestinians in vicinity of journalists

GENEVA: The United Nations said Friday that its findings showed that the shot that killed Al Jazeera TV journalist Shireen Abu Akleh on May 11 was fired by Israeli forces.
The Palestinian-American journalist, who was wearing a vest marked “Press” and a helmet, was killed on May 11 while covering an Israeli army operation in Jenin camp in the northern West Bank.
“We find that the shots that killed Abu Akleh came from Israeli security forces,” UN Human Rights Office spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani told reporters in Geneva.
“It is deeply disturbing that Israeli authorities have not conducted a criminal investigation.
“We at the UN Human Rights Office have concluded our independent monitoring into the incident.
“The shots that killed Abu Akleh and injured her colleague Ali Sammoudi came from Israeli security forces and not from indiscriminate firing by armed Palestinians, as initially claimed by Israeli authorities” she said.
She added that the information came from the Israeli military and the Palestinian attorney general.
“We have found no information suggesting that there was activity by armed Palestinians in the immediate vicinity of the journalists,” Shamdasani said.
In line with its human rights monitoring methodology, the UN rights office inspected photo, video and audio material, visited the scene, consulted experts, reviewed official communications and interviewed witnesses.
The findings showed that seven journalists arrived at the western entrance of the Jenin refugee camp soon after 6:00 am.
At around 6:30 am, as four of the journalists turned into a particular street, “several single, seemingly well-aimed bullets were fired toward them from the direction of the Israeli security forces.
“One single bullet injured Ali Sammoudi in the shoulder; another single bullet hit Abu Akleh in the head and killed her instantly.”
UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet has urged Israel to open a criminal investigation into Abu Akleh’s killing and into all other killings by Israeli forces in the West Bank and in the context of law enforcement operations in Gaza.


CNN Academy Abu Dhabi returns with expanded training program for journalists

CNN Academy Abu Dhabi returns with expanded training program for journalists
Updated 24 June 2022

CNN Academy Abu Dhabi returns with expanded training program for journalists

CNN Academy Abu Dhabi returns with expanded training program for journalists
  • Following the success of last year’s inaugural event, the number of participants has been increased, as have activities and events, which will include an innovative simulated newsroom
  • Senior CNN journalists, content creators and production specialists will share the organization’s best practices in news gathering, verification of sources and content production for various platforms

DUBAI: Applications are being accepted for the second round of the CNN Academy Abu Dhabi journalism training program, which will begin in September.

The inaugural program, which began in January 2021, offered a full-time, five-week course featuring a combination of online learning and in-person workshops at CNN’s offices at twofour54 in Abu Dhabi.

Now it once again is offering a hybrid, intensive training program that includes workshops, this time at Yas Creative Hub, along with online webinars presented by senior CNN journalists, content creators and production specialists who will share the organization’s best practices in news gathering, verification of sources and content production for its various platforms.

“Participants in this year’s CNN Academy Abu Dhabi will go through a very clear student-learning journey,” Alireza Hajihosseini, the director of CNN Academy, told Arab News.

The class size has been expanded to accommodate 25 students, he added, and the number in-person activities and events have also increased.

During the initial stages, the participants will complete 10 courses covering core topics such as ethics in journalism, writing for TV news, and mobile storytelling and editing. They will also have the opportunity to attend the Global Media Congress alongside delegates from CNN.

Alireza Hajihosseini, the director of CNN Academy. (Supplied)

CNN Academy “wants to empower the next generation of global journalists,” which means equipping participants with the tools “they need to succeed in a digital-first news ecosystem,” said Hajihosseini.

“Among the most important of those skills is the ability to gather and verify news via social media,” he added. “To do this effectively, you must combine traditional journalism skills with digital technology.”

With this in mind, the program includes courses on mobile storytelling and multiplatform storytelling. “We are living in a golden age of content production, where more people have access to a wider array of tools to tell the stories they want,” Hajihosseini said. “Most of us have smartphones, which have effectively removed the barriers to the production and dissemination of content.”

The mobile storytelling course will teach participants how to film and edit engaging content using a smartphone, which is especially useful when producing stories for social media, or for field reporting during a breaking news event, he added.

“Online formats provide a huge range of opportunities and affordances to storytellers, so journalists need to understand the tools they have at their disposal to present their work,” said Hajihosseini.

The multiplatform storytelling class, he added, will consider questions such as: What are the foremost considerations for writers to ensure that users engage with their content? And how do you structure and design new digital platforms, such as newsletters?

During the final week of the program, the participants will take part in the first CNN Academy Newsroom Simulation at Yas Creative Hub, which has been designed in consultation with CNN journalists from around the world and Professor Rex Brynen from McGill University in Montreal, Canada.

This competitive challenge will require participants to investigate and report on a fictional breaking news story that puts their journalism skills to the test in a realistic, fast-paced setting. Each element of the scenario has been tailored to reinforce the journalistic best practices they have learned in conjunction with the broader CNN Academy curriculum.

“It is a week-long event where participants will work in teams to get to the bottom of a fast-developing story with multiple characters and sources,” said Hajihosseini.

The simulation will also include a specially developed, artificial social media platform “that will introduce challenges such as how to filter out the noise and avoid going down rabbit holes of misinformation,” he added.

At the end of the challenge, participants will produce video reports that will be judged by a panel of experienced CNN staff.

Several graduates of the first CNN Academy Abu Dhabi have gone on to establish a career in the media, including five who worked for CNN through paid internships, fixed-term positions or full-time roles.

Mohammed Abdelbary. (Supplied)

Mohammed Abdelbary, for example, took part in the academy last year and subsequently joined CNN Abu Dhabi as an associate producer on the show “Connect the World with Becky Anderson.”

“CNN Academy opened my eyes to the type of journalist I could be,” he told Arab News.

He came from a marketing background, with no academic or work experience in journalism, and said he found the program unique in that “it was made for anyone and everyone to experience. The program positions itself for storytellers, not just journalists.”

He added: “I started the program with no experience in the world of journalism but came out with the tools to get my foot in the door. I can honestly say CNN Academy fast-tracked my career by at least two to three years.”

Applications for CNN Academy Abu Dhabi are being accepted now and must be submitted by July 15. It is is open to UAE nationals and residents over the age of 21 who have a background and/or interest in media and multiplatform storytelling.