Last year I had gone back to my hometown of Bhubaneshwar in India and the annual book fare of which i have many fond memories was on. There was one stall where a notice kind of stood out at me. It said basically if you are a “writer” please sign up and receive a copy of a directory of other writers / publishers based in Orissa, my home state.
With my heart racing I approached the grim looking gentleman at the desk and our conversation some what went like this
ME: Hi, ummmm … I am a writer.
GRIM LOOKING GENTLEMAN: So?
ME: well… nothing much… the notice…err…says to sign up …
GLG (makes a face like he has just smelt a turd which had been mellowing since the days of Mohenjadaro-Harrappa): What do you write?
ME: Well.. I write for Virgin Comics
GLG (starts laughing like i told him that i have three tits): He He! Sorry serious writers only!
So that got me thinking about something i had posted on my blog long ago. Hence I decided to put it here on my new blog.
This is a reprint of a post from my old blog on sulekha.com. It was first posted on Aug 3 2006 5:28PM, so please keep that in mind while reading this. :)Also this was prior to me being aware of something called Virgin Comics
DESI KAPOW – Comic Books and India
A Funny thing happenned while I was trying to post this. I could not find a category suitable to post this in. So I chose to go with the positively ambivalent Books/Other.
That kind of illustrates the point i wish to make. We in India have embraced every other form of literary expression be it blogs, hardcore music, gritty filmmaking but we have still a long way to go in terms of our adoption of the Graphic Fiction and its ilk as a mainstream story telling medium.
I loved comics ever since i could make sense of colors. I grew up with Amar Chitra Katha, Chacha Chaudhury , Phantom, Mandrake etc. being duly provided to an indian audience by a diamond comics or an indrajal comics.
There were the high end stuff like Archies, Disney stuff and i think one called Dalton Comics which republished DC characters like Superman / batman and superboy
then one day it all vanished. All you could find were the uber expensive Asterix and Tintin comic books on newsstands. Could it be that the market for comics vanished overnight.
I think not. Raj comics and its hindi heartland panderings to ripped off Marvel/DC characters still sells. We have Gotham Comics picking up the slack where Dalton Comics left off. Aha! we also have Spiderman India 🙂
But seriously what does the public think of comics as such. Would an indian ever view Art Spigelmann’s masterpiece “Maus” as a serious work of literature or marvel (pun not intended) at the magnificience of storytelling of “Sandman : Preludes and Nocturnes”
We still view comics as banal. May be the canteen frequenting / gold flake chhotta smoking budding intellectual is ashamed to be viewed as someone who still reads the purile juvenile stuff… aha! there in lies the conundrum. I have been an indie comics creator for around two years now. I have never experienced a medium that gives you so much freedom in storytelling be it serious or humorous
In my mind comic books / graphic novels get the best of both worlds in terms of books and movies. On one hand you have the leisure of a novel writer to pace and set your characters just where you want them and on the other you have the added advantage of a movie maker to put visual clues (refering to the age old maxim a picture is worth a thousand words 🙂 )
I buy indian comic books whenever i can find them. Recently i picked up an issue of Bollywood : The Chase from Orchid Graphics. The product was visually slick but suffered from dearth of content depth. It featured a saif ali khan look alike for a hero who did everything but sing and dance. I shall still buy the next one though 🙂
For example, we invented the brooding angry young man and RGV Film Factory produces much grittier stuff every mnth than Frank miller can think of in a lifetime.. still we have no graphic novels in that mode. It pains me a lot. How would I love to pick up a comic book based in India with Indian characters and featuring the same depth and diversity of content as do our films and books. There is much room here for creativity.
If you are like me & like the escapism and fantasy that comic books offer, do take a moment to raise your voice and be heard. It is high time india got its own in terms of the graphic story telling medium. If you are a creator do think about doing your next piece in this medium and I would love to hook up with an artist for some ideas I am kicking around…
till next time
Biff! Zap! Kapow! and up up & away!