Categories
50s to 90s Mags & Books

The story behind Wizr, Kuwait’s Greatest Driver

wizr

Back in October I wrote about Keith Wells, a British journalist who was living in Kuwait back in the 70s. Keith used to work for Arab Times and in his spare time he also used to write books about Kuwait, including a witty series on a character named Wizr who was Kuwait’s greatest driver. Between 1979 and 1984, Keith released three Wizr books which I’m lucky enough to own all three. A few days ago Keith got in touch with me and I asked him if he could tell me how it all started. This is what he shared with me:

I originally wrote the stories for the Arab Times which became very popular. Then I met Peter McMahon at a party, and he hadn’t read any of the stories and asked, “Who is this Wizr character?” “I said, he’s the young, trendy Kuwaiti guy with the scarlet Transam with the eagle decal on the bonnet.’ So Peter picked up a sheet of paper,scribbled away for a minute or two, then held it out and asked “Him?” It was perfect. Thereafter we became close friends. I’d write a story, take it to his flat every Friday, and he’d give me the cartoon from the week before’s story. He somehow drew exactly what I’d imagined. The combination became very popular indeed and after a month or two we were approached by Tony Jashanmal, who owned a department store on Fahed Salem St, and Bashir Khatib, who owned the Kuwait Bookshop to publish a book full of the stories. We had a 3 way partnership to print the book at The Arab Times and Launched it at the British Embassy Garden Fete in November 1979, a week or so before I married Suzi. We sold 428 copies in about two hours… amazing.

We carried on for just over a year, then Peter was murdered by Saddam Hussein’s goons, long sad, sad story… but the upshot was that I sort of lost the fun, we put out the second Wizr book with cartoons we hadn’t used in the first one. And the third book with odd scraps and recycled pics. By then it was getting a bit heavy with the Iran Iraq War getting very dangerous and I left the Arab Times and took a very low profile job teaching at the university of Kuwait. After 4 years there I went back to the paper and wrote more stories with an Indian cartoonist called Edgar, but they were never collected in book form. I left Kuwait in June ’87. We emigrated to Oz in Oct 1989, and the following March I had a massive heart attack in a small town in southern Queensland. After recovering, we spent the rest of our working lives doing PhDs in Communication Studies, and setting up Comm Depts in various universities and colleges in Macau, Singapore, Morocco, The Bahamas and Puerto Rico.

I’ve been a bit of a hermit since retiring in ’07, but am beginning to re-emerge and was very surprised and grateful for the interest in Wizr and Dozi and his pals. Someone told me a few years ago that the fabulous cartoon of Dozi with the two rubber stamps “PERHAPS” and “PERHAPS NOT” is to be found in many offices to this day. Peter would have loved that.

– Keith Wells

Categories
Mags & Books

Wizr, Kuwait’s Greatest Driver

lastwizr

Back in the 70s there was a British journalist living in Kuwait by the name of Keith Wells. He used to work for the Arab Times and in his spare time he also used to write books about Kuwait, including a witty series on a character named Wizr who was Kuwait’s greatest driver. Between 1979 and 1984, Keith released three Wizr books but sadly there really isn’t a lot of information on them nor Keith online. In fact, there is a blog dedicated to keeping Keith and his Wizr series alive but even the blog doesn’t have much info nor content. The books document life in Kuwait during that period with humor and nicely drawn illustrations.

wizr2

Since The Kuwait Bookshops is closing this might be your only chance to own one of his Wizr books. In 1984 he released “The Last Wizr Book” and The Kuwait Bookshops in Muthana still has copies of it remaining and they’re selling them cheap for KD1.5 (the bookshop is selling everything for 50% off). The book was his last one on the Wizr since the illustrator he had teamed up with for the previous two books had passed away. I tried to find the other two books online and I managed to snag his second book (pictured above) on eBay for KD7.5 and his first book on the series (pictured below) for KD16. It was more than what I wanted to pay, but I somehow felt compelled to save this part of Kuwait’s history. So try to grab his last book from Muthana if you can.

wizr1

If anyone has any interesting information related to Keith or his books let me know.

Categories
Fashion Information

Direct-to-Garment Printing

A couple of years ago I got my Wizr t-shirt printed in Dubai. I had it done on a direct-to-garment (DTG) printer which is basically an inkjet printer that prints directly onto fabric. Compared to the usual heat transfer prints, DTG prints look a lot better, as if the t-shirt was store-bought.

Back then I had asked if there were similar services in Kuwait and I got a few recommendations. Sadly most of them seem to have shut down last year due to the pandemic. But, I did eventually find one place that was still active called Inkservice. They’re a print shop with various locations around Kuwait but their DTG service is located at their Shuhada Co-op branch. I had an old Rambo advert printed on one of my white t-shirts and it came out perfect so I’m going back to print some more things.

The cost is 4.5KD if you provide a t-shirt and 6.5KD if they provide one. If you’re looking for a place to print on t-shirts check these guys out. It takes a few minutes to print so you can wait there till it’s done. They’re on instagram @inkservice and here is their location on Google Maps.

Categories
50s to 90s Mags & Books

Lost in Kuwait – A Traveller’s Guide to Good Eats & Cheap Thrills

A couple of weeks ago a friend of mine sent me a link to a book on eBay saying “This is something you might want. American expat cartoonist who drew some funny sketches of life in Kuwait. Also a shawarma guide for the ‘90s.” Literally, 2 minutes later I sent him a screenshot of my order. It was selling for 9KD and it came out while I was at university in Lebanon so I was curious to know what was “in” while I wasn’t here. The book ended up being delivered yesterday and it turned out to be way more interesting than I expected it to be.

It’s 132 pages filled with illustrations, maps, reviews and recommendations of where to go and what to do in Kuwait all written in a humorous tone. It reminded me a bit of the Wizr series but with a lot more illustrations and content. I posted some pages up on my Instagram and pretty much I right away started getting bombarded by people asking where they can get a copy and I honestly have no idea.

There is one for sale on Amazon right now but the guy is asking for like $700 which is obviously ridiculous. At one point it looked like there was a copy available online but that was back in 2006 and the page no longer works. It’s 132 pages so I can’t sit down and scan the book one page at a time.

Until I figure out the best way to share the whole book online you can for now at least check out the few pages I’ve uploaded here.

Thanks Shaheen!!!

Categories
Automotive Fashion

T-Shirt Printing (Direct-to-Garment Printer)

When I was in Dubai a couple of weekends ago I got a Wizr t-shirt printed for me and a friend similar to the one Keith Wells had back in the 70s (the author of Wizr). I got it done at Virgin Megastore in Dubai Mall and it only took a few minutes to print each t-shirt. It was like an inkjet printer for t-shirts and the quality of the print was pretty incredible.

Has anyone seen anything similar in Kuwait? The printer kind is called a “Direct-to-Garment Printer” but the only ones I’ve seen in Kuwait use heat transfer with an end result that isn’t so great. With direct-to-garment printing, the t-shirt ends up looking like it was printed in a fashion production line.

If you don’t know what the Wizr is, click here.