Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the recent release of Diary of the Astro-nudes! For those who may be unfamiliar, how would you describe the series’ premise, and what was its inspiration?
Ahmed Raafat: Thank you! I like to describe DIARY OF THE ASTRO-NUDES as Marvel Strange Tales meets My Favourite Martian meets '60s nudist camp films! The series is about two inter-dimensional explorers who come from a parallel Earth where clothes don't exist, and crash land on an Earth very similar to ours, circa 1950s. As they go about fixing their ship, they learn about this Earth, and explore our complicated relationship with nudity and our human bodies.
The series started life as illustrations I was posting online, then evolved into a series of short stories (or strips, no pun intended!) that I started publishing in December 2020. With this print edition, I am collecting the stories that ran online, together with new material that connects the overall narrative together.
I've been what you may call a casual nudist for a long time, and I've always wanted to explore the topic in comics form. I'm also a fan of '60s comics, and I've always wanted to do something with that aesthetic, but never got the opportunity to, and it seemed perfectly suitable to the kind of films/shows/comics I was drawing inspiration from. So, it was a lot of different things that I like, all blended in one place! It's really my love letter to nudism, comics, and retro!
BD: What can you tell us about your creative process in balancing the writing and illustrative duties of to bring this story to life, and what (or who) have been some of your creative influences?
AR: Astro-nudes was my first writing project, before that I have never written comics before - I have worked as artist with other writers, at most suggesting story outlines or beats but never writing a script. And the way Astro-nudes evolved is close to how I evolved as a writer, starting off with one page stories, then 2, then longer stories as I went along. I am still pretty methodical in the way I approach the story: I start with a full script, then go to pencils, inks, and then colours, etc. Although being both writer and artist there is a bit of flexibility, as in I can change what's written in the script while drawing if I see that the page works better this way, or trim the dialogue a bit if I find that it's too much to read.
My creatives influences are usually all over the place, but for Astro-nudes specifically, I was looking at a lot of romance comics from the '50s, Archie comics, EC comics (especially for the Halloween segment) - I was trying to replicate the same look and feel, not just visually but also in terms of story.
BD: Do you have a certain number of issues planned for the first story arc of the series?
AR: At the moment, I have 2 more issues planned - one of which takes place on the Earth where the Astro-nudes come from, with the hosts from our Earth joining them, a bit of a reversal to what has been explored in the first issue. But I wouldn't mind doing more, if I can come up with new stories to tell, I enjoy drawing these characters!
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
AR: Aside from more Astro-nudes (I have started working on issue #2 already.), I don't have anything specific planned - but I have 2 other on-going series, El-Osba (Arabic for The League), an Egyptian superhero series, and Gorilla My Dreams, a noir "light" series about a talking gorilla detective, both of which I have co-created (as artist) and am a regular artist on, so I am sure there will be more of these as well to come!
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about Diary of the Astro-nudes and your other work?
AR: I am active on Twitter and Instagram, my handle for both is @theahmedraafat.
I also have a dedicated Twitter for Astro-nudes where I share a bit more about the process, inspiration, and sneak peeks: @Astronudescomic
Diary of the Astro-nudes will launch on Zoop this March, and there is a registration page for those who want to keep up to date for when the campaign launches.