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Good Guys Win: Comics Artist Ibrahim Moustafa


Moustafa says finding Alex Ross' work was key. "That kind of sent me down the rabbit hole."

Moustafa says finding Alex Ross' work was key. "That kind of sent me down the rabbit hole."

April Baer/OPB

The art of Portlander Ibrahim Moustafa is front and center in a special issue of the DC comic “Doctor Fate,” to be published this week.

The plot revolves around Khalid Nassour, an Egyptian-American medical student who comes across a magical helmet — at the Brooklyn Museum — and, with it, acquires the powers of ancient Egyptian gods. Nassour navigates not only his newfound abilities, but also “his father’s Islamic faith, his mother’s Christianity and then where he stands now that all this stuff has hit him,” Moustafa told OPB’s State of Wonder.

He said the series was really fun to draw (not to mention, a chance to work on a character who, like Moustafa, is half-Egyptian) and an experiment in the heroic adventure that was most interesting to him as a kid.

Dr. Fate's artist Sonny Liew set the warm tone of series. Moustafa says he tried to adjust his usual style to keep pace with that tone.

Dr. Fate's artist Sonny Liew set the warm tone of series. Moustafa says he tried to adjust his usual style to keep pace with that tone.

Courtesy of DC Comics

“I’ve always been a goody two-shoes, I think,” Moustafa said. “A lot of my friends give me a hard time because I always liked characters like Superman, Cyclops from the X-Men and Captain America … There’s something so virtuous about the standards those characters uphold. They do the right thing because it’s the right thing and that always has really resonated with me for some reason.”

Moustafa said he drew a lot as a kid. Money was scarce, growing up and his art was a cheap way to entertain himself. Discovering the work of Alex Ross as a teenager, he said, was the doorway to getting more serious about his art and figuring out his path to the industry.

Moustafa is perhaps best known for his work on “High Crimes,” a digital comic penned by Christopher Sebela that Newsarama said “might be the best thriller in comics today.” IGN said “is what comic books are all about.”

For "High Crimes", Moustafa brought a high degree of realism and strong attention to detail.

For "High Crimes", Moustafa brought a high degree of realism and strong attention to detail.

Courtesy of Ibrahim Moustafa

High Crimes tells the story of Zan Jensen, an Olympic athlete turned grave-robber. As the story unfolds, Zan stumbles across information high on Everest that puts her in the sights of government assassins.

Moustafa said he approached the task of portraying the iconic Mount Everest in several ways. In his words, it was “a lot of cobbling together photographs and YouTube videos and GoPro footage of people climbing it … (You) try to depict its size and presence as best you can in the format of a comic book.”

By contrasting scenes portraying small parts of the mountain with panoramic views showing how small the characters were, Moustafa managed to skillfully render one of Earth’s most imposing land forms.

Moustafa says he enjoyed drawing some atypical perspectives for the series, especially scenes in which Khalid is testing the limits of his new-found powers.

Moustafa says he enjoyed drawing some atypical perspectives for the series, especially scenes in which Khalid is testing the limits of his new-found powers.

Courtesy of DC Comics

The comic was originally distributed in digital format by Monkeybrain which Moustafa says added a lot of value for people who don’t live close to a comic book store.

“(It) allowed people who don’t have regular comic distribution to get the book.” He added that being freed from the costs and scheduling normally associated with print comics gave him and author Christopher Sebela the freedom to sell each chapter at an affordable price point.

Moustafa said he’s excited about a title he’s working on for the digital startup Stela, to be released later this year. Stela, which is gathering a hot roster of creators, will produce series designed to be viewed on iOS and Android, similar to the way some creators work on Tumblr, with a high volume of new material online each week.

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