Qatar’s first comic book store: A world of Manga, DC, Marvel and more!

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AngelPolacco

Pop culture junkies in Doha, rejoice! Are you a true Westerosi at heart? An Alexandria loyalist? A Marvel or DC addict? Pokémon fanatic? Pander your desires for the latest and greatest in the comic book multiverse of superheroes, villains, and much more at Doha’s first dedicated comic book store.

Located in Qanat Quartier at the Pearl-Qatar, Doha Comics overlooks a scenic view of the Venetian-inspired canals and pastel-colored buildings that this part of the Pearl is popular for. It’s a fairy new establishment that opened recently in April 2017 and is strategically situated in the midst of a number of cool and funky restaurants and cafés. It’s a great spot to hit up after you pick up a cup of coffee, where you can peruse through the different comic books, action figures, products, and popular merchandise that they provide.

Doha Comics was founded by Saeed Al Muhannadi, a young Qatari comic book enthusiast who collects action figures and all kinds of pop culture merch. Al Muhannadi has a team of dedicated staff led by Mohamed Sawaly, the Manager at Doha Comics, who are all well-versed across the comic book and pop culture board.

Doha’s comic book scene

Before opening the store, the founders were concerned that people wouldn’t be as interested in the comic books as they would be in the action figures. “We were kind of worried that the comics might not be a popular thing, but we were shocked to find out that most of our customers are coming for the comics,” Sawaly said. 



According to Sawaly, a lot of customers come for Manga, Marvel and DC comics. People also tend to buy set volumes of comics as well. “Maybe the reason the comics are selling much better than the action figures is because we are the sole provider of comic books in Qatar, whereas for the action figures you can find a few other stores that do sell them,” Sawaly added.

Doha Comics supplies a lot of comics that are older and that are currently ongoing. They’re constantly taking requests for different comic books series, issues, and editions from customers. “People don’t like to watch things through a screen, they like the factor of collecting comics - the physical comic,” said Sawaly. “I mean anyone can go on to the internet and read the comic, but people like to have the comic itself, so we get a lot of requests.”

Some comic series Doha Comics provides include One Piece, New 52, Naruto, Avengers, Justice League, Rebirth, The Walking Dead, Pokémon, Death Note, Dragon Ball and a number of Marvel and DC favorites. 

“People are constantly asking for anything to do with Batman. I’m talking Batman, Joker, Robin and Penguin, any of the above. And then when you talk about Marvel, the most popular I would say is probably Iron Man or Flash,” said Sawaly.

But the most popular requests that Doha Comics receives from customers is for Attack on Titan (AoT) manga, also known as Shingeki no Kyojin in Japanese. They have yet to receive the AoT manga from their suppliers. 

A lot of people have also been requesting for translated mangas into Arabic. According to Sawaly, this is very difficult to find and if they were to find them, they would hardly be in stock. 

There’s also a direct correlation between new releases at cinemas and premieres of tv shows, such as Game of Thrones, and customers’ demand for the relevant merchandise. You can find the popular Pop! products by Funko at Doha Comics as well. You can find Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, Walking Dead, and more Pop! products.


Positive feedback

The opening of Qatar’s first comic book store has received a lot of positive feedback from people. Comic books are not readily available in Qatar, so most people have to travel or order them online to get them.



“A lot of people are so excited that there is a comic book store for the first time in Qatar because a lot of people have had a hard time finding comics,” Sawaly said. “They either had to wait until they travel abroad or they would just order online and it would take a lot of time until [the comics] get here. They would get stopped at customs and also be subject to being damaged.”

Sawaly also added that Doha Comic’s prices are fair. “We pride ourselves by being able to provide these comics at such a good price… so it keeps people coming.”

Doha Comics is a ‘mom and pop store,’ which means that it’s a self-made business. Everyone working at Doha Comics is directly involved in the decision-making process of choosing products and they’re also well-informed about the latest comic books, action figures trends, and hot button topics. “Anyone who comes in here actually feels comfortable, they feel like they’re at home. We are trying to introduce a mini lounge area here where people can buy a comic and sit down and read,” Sawaly said. “We want to actually start introducing that into the culture here because our aim is to be that mom and pop store.”

Local cosplay culture



Cosplay is a huge part of pop culture in the west, particularly cosplay of comics, anime, manga, TV shows, and movies.



In Qatar, cosplay is still a pretty new concept. “We got a few guys come in saying that they had their own social group that all of them do cosplay. They once traveled to Dubai, there was a Comic Con there, they all dressed up and went there,” Sawaly said. “It was a huge event and they asked us if we were interested in sourcing cosplay material and products. So I think there is a small presence for it, but I don’t think it’s that prevalent at this time.”

According to Sawaly, there’s also a small cosplay group of Qataris here in Doha. He sees the culture for it growing in Qatar. 

“Again, the culture here is different than the US in specific. Yes, people do read comics, we were shocked to find out. I mean thanks to our government, thanks to our Emir most of us know English,” said Sawaly. “So people are into comics, but when it comes to cosplay I think people care a lot about being out there, being in front of people doing these things.”

A Doha Comic Con?

There are a number of different Comic Cons that take place annually in the US, the most popular being the San Diego Comic Con. In recent years, there’s also been a Middle East Film and Comic Con (MEFCC), which has always been hosted in Dubai. 


“I think that in two or three year’s time Comic Con will easily come to Qatar,” Sawaly said. “I had a friend who reached out to them a few years ago, probably in 2013-2014, asked them to come to Qatar and they had mentioned that they don’t see that as a feasible thing because they don’t feel like there’s a presence for pop culture here.” 

But that was a few years ago. According to Sawaly, he thinks a Doha Comic Con is completely possible, especially considering how much Qatar has grown over the span of four years. “No one actually expected to see a comic book store here in Qatar. To be honest, neither did I. I never saw myself managing a comic book store in Qatar. So it’s a dream come true.”

Comic book delivery service

Qatar’s climate makes it difficult to step outdoors for more than half the year. In order to make it easier for people to access their store and services, Doha Comics aims to start doing home deliveries soon, once their website is up and running.



“People like the fact that they have direct access to a comic book store. They like the fact that it’s somewhat in their neighborhood,” Sawaly said. “With Doha being so small, they want us to start home delivery.”

Sawaly hopes that as the traffic flow of people to Qanat Quartier increases, traffic to the comic book store will also increase. 

“I think once a big fraction of the population is aware of our presence, our business will be doing much better.”



All images taken by Angel Polacco

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