(photo credit: )
The article below appeared in d'ash magainze - The Jerusalem Post's magazine for English speaking young people around the world
Despite being mostly underground and non-conformist, Israeli comics are entering the mainstream.
Comics are finally gaining popularity here. What's especially interesting is that local tastes run the gamut. There's a market for The Fantastic Four, Batman, The Hulk, Mad Magazine, The Simpsons, Asterix, TinTin and graphic novels for adults. And in the teenage marketplace there's also a yen for Japanese manga comics.
The community that takes comics seriously is exploding and only partially because of the rage for comics-based movies. Last year the Museum of Caricature and Comics opened in Holon Â one of only a handful of such museums in the world. And the eighth annual Festival of Comics, Caricature and Animation held in Tel Aviv last month has grown from a half-day affair to a sold-out week.
Comics from almost anywhere are now widely available, which suits the surprisingly cosmopolitan tastes of this small country.
The local comics industry is still small, with a market mainly focused on the alternative-underground. Our non-conformist bent is certainly reflected in our output. And while our homegrown efforts are modest, they are as innovative as comics anywhere.
Take Erez Zadok. At 22, Erez is already an established comic-book artist, caricaturist and mural painter. His standalone Zoola is already out and he recently finished a period of 12-hour workdays to meet the deadline for his second work, Max, published last month. His dream is to create a full-length animated film.
Zoola is a modern-day take on the Ugly Duckling story: Freud, the hero, is the Ugly Duckling. But unlike his counterpart in childrenÂ¹s stories, he does not turn into a gorgeous swan; instead his family disowns him. He ends up living on the street and becoming a rap artist. As the story opens, he finds himself entangled with the criminal underworld.
The evil boss-cat, Catamon, catches Freud breaking into one of his nightclubs and forces him to retrieve a golden egg which can be found on the tongue-piercing of a dragon in a far away cave. Then the plot thickens.
Max is more generic: A young mischievous boy moves to a new neighborhood, falls for the prettiest girl in school and gets into trouble with schoolyard bullies.
Back in the Â¹90s when comics weren't mainstream here, Erez was introduced to them by his 5th-grade school teacher. He grew enamored of the art work and tried his own hand at it, deriving inspiration from Disney animation and such American artists as Scott Young, Alberto Ramos and caricaturist Joey Bloom.
Erez really got going when he was in the army and managed to work on his art during off-hours as the supervisor of a base armory. "Since I was base-bound during most of the week, I turned my office into a semi studio," he confides.
Mainly self-taught, when he was about 13 Erez approached the local newspaper in his home town Netanya about featuring his comic-strip. It ran for over a year. His real break came three years ago when he went to a comics festival, showed his work to veteran Israeli comics artist Uri Fink who was impressed and offered him a three-page section in his own popular publication Zbeng that features cover-to-cover comics, puzzles and games. That's where Zoola was born. It came out in monthly installments, until Erez decided to bind them together into one standalone comic.
Of his style he says, "I'm a perfectionist. I pencil, ink, color, panel, write, script and storyboard the comic and then go on working on it until I'm absolutely satisfied with the end product."
Of the comic scene in general, Erez says that "things are on the upswing, though comics are still not mainstream enough to grab mass interest. IÂ¹m pleased to say, though, that more and more schools are offering workshops on comics and comics and animation are popular these days in many local media."
Erez Zadok's webpage: www.freakco.co.il