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Ahmed Raafat's nude frontier
Exploring the Egyptian comic book artist's illustrated nudist odyssey "Diary of the Astronudes" for National Comic Book Day
Ahmed Raafat is an artist who is highlighting naturism with his original retrofuturist comic series, Diary of the Astronudes. This isn't just another indie comic; it's a social commentary on body freedom and societal norms, packaged in vibrant comedic sketches and compelling illustrations. What sets Raafat's work apart is the way it brings nudist themes to the comic book format, offering fresh perspectives that resonate not just within the nudist community but also among a broader audience interested in art, society, and the human form.
Raised in Egypt, Raafat was first captivated by comics at a young age, developing an early love for DC Comics. While pursuing an engineering degree, he continued to nurture his passion for art. He also developed an interest in nudism as a teenager, though did not have his first socially nude experience until age 25.
Ahmed’s move to the UK in 2016 at age 32 provided the space to integrate his technical and artistic skills,1 leading to his current innovative approach that draws from a rich well of personal and cultural experiences.
The spark for Diary of the Astronudes came from an amalgamation of sources—ranging from an Ironman and Mr. Sensitive showdown in a nudist "colony" featured in X-Statix, to an Eisner-winning anthology called "Get Naked."
Recalling the eureka moment that led to Diary of the Astronudes, Raafat told Planet Nude, "I’m a nudist, I make comics, I should be the one drawing those stories!"
He took inspiration from several sources, including early naturist magazine imagery and the nudist camp films of Doris Wishman. “I have a fondness of the look and feel of those films and their kind of idealised, almost utopian depiction of nudism.” Raafat says that even his title, Diary of the Astronudes is a direct homage to Wishman’s 1961 cult classic, Diary of a Nudist.
“The first sketch I did was the one that ended up being Astro-nudes,” Ahmed says about his early inspiration. “It was really meant as a parody of 60s Strange Tales sci-fi covers but instead of a monster or aliens stepping out of a spaceship, it’s naked people. And one thing led to the next.
“In hindsight,” Raafat continues, “I’m glad this is the idea that I went with, as it turned more into a critique of how society frames nudity as opposed to a manifesto about nudism.” He points out that the Astronudes are not nudists, since they come from a planet where everyone is nude—it’s through their eyes that we see the hypocrisies of societies views around the nude body.
The series doesn't just stand as an artifact of counterculture but serves as a critique of societal attitudes towards nudity. This framing forms the crux of the comic’s satirical strength, inviting readers to question deeply ingrained double standards surrounding nudity.
When it comes to depicting the human body, mainstream comics often veer toward idealization and exaggeration. Raafat's style, however, is more grounded, opting for a "less exaggerated, somewhat simplistic style." He notes that with just two main characters, he didn't have much “space to include more diverse body types," but assures that this is an area for future development. The comic thus becomes a vehicle for challenging not just societal norms, but also the norms within the comic book industry itself.
To that end, Ahmed is very intentional in his depictions of nudity. Censorship and prudish regulations across various platforms pose all kinds of challenges for sharing and promoting work. As Raafat points out, "A lot of [comic book] conventions have a no nudity rule for what you display on your table." Furthermore, Ahmed’s strategy of releasing the comics first in online strips to start building a fanbase to support the project meant finding a common denominator between the notoriously inconsistent rules of various online social media platforms.
Despite the obstacles, Raafat has navigated restrictions skillfully by making use of implied nudity and strategic self-censoring to maintain the integrity of his work without running afoul of platform policies. Far from feeling contrived, the artistic framing-out of graphic nudity keeps the art and stories approachable and keeps the focus on the narrative devices at play.
“It’s certainly a tough territory to navigate,” Raafat says. “On one hand you want to be able to promote your work wherever and whenever you can, but on the other hand there’s [only so] much self-censoring you can do before you sacrifice the idea or the art. I like to think I struck a good balance.”
With much of his art created but in need of a way to finish and distribute his work, crowdfunding provided a turning point for Diary of the Astronudes. “I had already built a little following from the nudist community from the strips I published online, and when I launched the campaign everyone was very helpful and supportive with backing it and spreading the word about it,” says Raafat. "But also there was an equally positive reception and support from the comics community as well… The campaign funded on the first day, and we broke through the first stretch goal!"
The future of Astronudes
Looking forward, Raafat has big plans. "The Astronudes story is far from over," he assures. With multiple arcs planned for the series and a host of other projects in the pipeline that will further explore nudism and body freedom, Raafat is committed to expanding our conversations and understandings of these crucial issues. He even hints at the possibility of an autobiographical comic that could delve into his personal experiences as a nudist from Egypt. By integrating nudist themes into a popular format like comic books, Ahmed Raafat is fostering an important dialogue about body freedom and societal norms. 🪐
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Altaeb, Malek. “Ahmed Raafat: The Egyptian Comic Book Artist” November 28, 2021. Libyan Wanderer. https://libyanwanderer.com/ahmed-raafat-the-egyptian-comic-book-artist/