Saurav Mohapatra - comic book writer

author, artist and bona fide geek

Month: April 2010 (page 1 of 2)

[GRUNTLED & ILLUSIONED] “Shake yo rainmaker!”

Shake yo Raimaker!

When I was a kid, I was afraid of the rain. Most of the hindi movies I saw had the hero and heroine cavorting in the rain in songs like this and a few reels later the heroine would be pregnant and the hero would be dead.

Since no one bothered to explain the exact mechanics to me, my conclusion was…
“GETTING WET IN THE RAIN CAUSES DEATH…. OR EVEN WORSE MAKES YOU PREGNANT!”

PSA’s (Public Service Announcements) like this one, came to my rescue and made me realize that all I had to do in order to avoid Rain Pregnancy was to … WEAR A CONDOM! :P

BOLLYWOOD LOVES RAIN!

…AND CONDOMS!

About Gruntled & Illusioned
Gruntled & Illusioned is a webcomic done by mohaps.

[GRUNTLED & ILLUSIONED] “Take me to your leader”

gruntled_and_illusioned_0001

I always found it hilarious that my legal status in USA is technically “Non-immigrant resident alien”. :) Makes me feel like E.T. :P

About Gruntled & Illusioned
Gruntled & Illusioned is a webcomic done by mohaps.

[Short Story] PALINDROME

This one won the REVERSE WRITING PROMPT contest at HeavyGlow - a flash fiction magazine. The prompt was inspired by the movie MEMENTO (directed by Christopher “Dark Knight” Nolan), to write a story in reverse. I decided to experiment further and write a true palindrome, one that can be read in both directions. You can read the sections either from top to bottom or from bottom to top (the section flow goes in order of writing).

It was fun to write. The subject matter is kind of dark and violent though. You’ve been warned! :)

Sometimes you smoke, because you’re awake.

#

I can’t sleep anymore. For me, life is one never ending polar night. I don’t care if the sun comes up tomorrow morning or if it goes down the evening after. I sit on the ledge of my window-sill and look at the world outside, not actually noticing anything.

#

The knife clatters down to the ground. The world is spinning too fast and it’s hard for me to focus. The red haze slowly descends onto me. I feel my eyes close and I sink down to the floor. The floor is slick with blood.

Some of it is my own and the rest… Mara’s.

#

It’s a coronary. I just know it. Feels like someone poured molten lead down my throat. I’m flushed, been trying to cough it out, tried to beat it out of my chest even. It’s almost as if someone has lit a fire in my lungs. I take the knife and try to slit my ribs to let the fumes out, stab my arms again and again, just feel the pain, some acknowledgment that there are worse things than what burns inside me.

I bang my head against the walls.

#

The loneliness is gone and it feels like a weight was lifted off of my chest, as the realization hits me like a two ton truck speeding down the freeway. I don’t feel sad, because there is no sadness at her parting. That’s how it should be. What we had could never be forgotten or whittled away. I won’t let that happen. I’ll fight till the last shard of my sanity to hang on to that sweet feeling, move mountains to make sure I remember her.

#

The Mara I knew would never cheat on me. It must’ve been someone else, someone who hijacked her very being, corrupted her soul and made her a walking travesty of infidelity and debauchery.

Yes, that must be it. She’s possessed, or rather what remains of her is. What she was is no more, her mind purloined and her body commandeered by some demon from hell.

I make up my mind. I must free her from the foul entity that infests her shell. I’ll do it for Mara, for us, for the times we had together.

#

Is there something wrong with me? I feel guilty. I should be crying rivers, yet here I’m sitting quietly on the ledge, my legs dangling into the dark night.

#

Sometimes you smoke to stay awake.

THE END

Albany Comic Con 2010 Photo dump

Just came back from Albany Comic convention. Had a fun time there with Ron Marz, Matthew Dow Smith, Nick Tapalansky, Jackie Santiago, Dave Rodriguez and Paul Harding.

Last time I was there we were all sitting at pretty much the same table and this time around the seating order was not much changed. I haven’t had this much fun just shooting the breeze since college. :) So thanks guys, look forward to next time.

Also managed to sell some stuff : DEVI vol 3 TPB, Sadhu Silent Ones TPB and the Mumbai Confidential Preview. As usual, the conn drew a pretty comics savvy crowd and it was a real pleasure chatting with the fans.

Towards the end, I walked around and traded books with other pros attending. Mark Holmes gave me a smashing print that I shall be scanning and putting up on the blog soon-ish. Jackie drew me a DEVI pinup that she couldn’t complete on time, so looking forward to receiving that in mail sometime soon (will post scan as soon as I have it). Paul Harding also sketched a mean Punisher for my con sketchbook.

Picked up a signed copy of Magdalena #1 Conn Variant (pencils: Matthew Dow Smith / inks: Terry Austin) for Saumin Patel, who had colored it).

Below are some cellphone snaps I took while the conn was going on in no particular order.

K.I.S.S. Me, you fool!

My fingers tap on the typewriter keys – a staccato clattering like a spastic with a tommy gun, in perfect cadence with my stuttering thoughts. There it all is – a symphony made out of the slow start building into a crescendo as I feel clarity and then the pregnant pause as my mind lulls.

Blah Blah Blah!

Well, I could’ve just written, “I’m typing as I think.” Somehow couldn’t resist the temptation for “Purple Prose”. When I started writing comic books, my first break was INDIA AUTHENTIC, a retelling of Indian myths and legends preceded by a foreword from Deepak Chopra (yes, THE Deepak Chopra). Given the subject matter and Deepak’s reputation, my first few issues I veered towards high and haughty sounding words and phrases. The pieces were caption heavy and I tried my best to make sure they sounded lofty.

During that time I had the good fortune of working with Ron Marz (GREEN LANTERN, WITCHBLADE, SAMURAI : HEAVEN & EARTH) and as I’ve mentioned before I learned a lot about the craft. Ron is a great believer in K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Stupid!). One of my titles that he edited was THE SADHU, about a British soldier in colonial India in the 19th century who has a spiritual awakening and becomes a mystic warrior. My story took James Jensen, the protagonist beyond the realms of the physical on a journey that eventually ended within himself. I used James as the narrator of the series and my first draft carried on the style of my first few INDIA AUTHENTIC books and I thought myself to be the Cat’s Pajamas.

But after a few discussions with Ron on the first draft, I realized that I was actually making a title that was kind of alien to the American reader in the first place, further obtuse by my purple prose. Obscurity is often mistaken as profundity in this world of ours, and frequently dropping words like Karma, Dharma, Cosmic Synergy does not equate a tale well told.

Less is always more. A comic book in particular has the assist of the visual storytelling of the artist, so the writer can counterpoint that by using simpler language that don’t cause the reader pause breaking his suspension of disbelief. Simple doesn’t equate to flat storytelling. Hemingway wrote magnificent works of literature and perhaps the best display of dialogue based narrative. He rarely used the so-called Million Dollar Words. His language was simple, accessible and had a cadence of its own. Elmer Leonard’s novels and the narrative techniques he uses are based on simple building blocks, yet he crafts a masterful body of work from those ingredients.

In comic books, perhaps the best example of simple language creating an unforgettable mental image is the opening of ALL STAR SUPERMAN by Grant Morrison (DC). We’ve been told the origin of Superman so many times in different media, but Morrison is downright majestic in the way he uses four simple phrases to sum up eight plus decades of mythos. (picture below)

“Doomed planet. Desperate Scientists. Last Hope. Kindly Couple.”

Try and beat that!

Till we meet again,

Toodles!

mohaps

UPDATE
Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing – aka Easy on the Adverbs, Exclamation Points and Especially Hooptedoodlehttp://www.kabedford.com/archives/000013.html

Repost from my previous Nine Panel Grid column at Comics Waiting Room.

New sketch

guess what? another b/w doodle. :)

noir-4

drawn from photo ref of Koena Mitra

Comics in real life

Ever since I was a wee one sneaking a torchlight and a comic book under a blanket way past bedtime, I’ve grown use to the rant “Comics are for kids”. When I came over to the USA, I encountered the flip side of the coin – “Comics are an ivory tower meant only to be enjoyed by connoisseurs”. As is wont with me, I think both statements are oversimplifications issued with down right condescending snootiness.

Comics are a way of life, a part of life and they are everywhere. When Google launched its Chrome browser, guess what they did to get the point across – they commissioned the grand young “old man” of comics, Scott McCloud to make a comic book about it. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, a picture with speech balloons is worth a million in my book.

Remember those safety posters in schools? At least for me the most effective were the ones which were drawn like comic books. They spoke to me, made me think twice about stuff which I’d have dismissed as too S-Q-U-A-R-E. Human beings respond best to visual stimuli. A picture in itself, though potent, is just a moment frozen in time. A moving picture is too close an approximation of life and provides too much distraction to our other senses. A moving picture without sound is downright creepy, like a weird French mime. A comic book is the golden mean. Pictures with words, the bowl of porridge that is neither too hot nor too cold, the answer to the age old riddle of how to get the most across while saying/doing the least.

Most of us don’t even realize that we read comics frequently. Everytime you board an airplane and the “hawt” stewardess with ample bosoms in the skimpy skirt refers you to the safety brochure, guess what – you’re reading a comic book, albeit the most drab kind. The safety brochure is written with a specific end in mind, not entertain but to disseminate (ewww, I feel dirty writing that word) information. And it does its job admirably well.

So next time please try not to either sound dismissive or too snooty about comic books. They are a literary form and like any other they have varying degrees of accessibility for different people. Some don’t get it, some do and some spend entire lifetimes wondering if Batman is gay (He isn’t, not that there is anything wrong with it).

On a separate note, I hate mimes. I wish they’d just hold speech/thought balloons and get it over with.

Till next time.

Toodles,

mohaps

This is a repost from my past column in Nine Panel Grid at Comics Waiting Room.

Femme Fatale doodle redux

After trying out a couple of stark/high contrast b/w drawings (this and this), this time decided to play with some color and textures.

[Short Story] Place of Many Doors

Somewhere out there is a door.

Sometimes a door is all that there is.

#

She checks her reflection in the window pane of the Raymond’s shop. She pats her shirt down flat across the tummy and heaves a sigh of relief.

“Thank God! It doesn’t show yet.”

She draws a deep breath and rounds the corner of State Street. She can see Ajay sitting in the café looking nervously at the Curzon Road entrance.

She shakes her head.

That kind of describes aptly their recently concluded relationship.

Love was never a problem. It was just that they could never match their expectations. If their life together were to be this café, Nandini always entered through the State Street entrance while Ajay expected her to come through the Curzon Road one.

Finally, it had gotten to a point where he had decided it was better to call it quits than to carry on. She had respected his decision and that had been it.

That was a month ago.

#

She awakens in a strange place. The first sensation she gets is that of emptiness. The place is a big white… nothing. She feels the void wrap around her like a misty blanket, the vast expanse of nothingness ironically triggering a bout of claustrophobia. There is nothing to see, or to hear, a truly silent null.

She is confused, too confused to be afraid. She tries to make sense of it, but her brain refuses to grasp even a tiny sliver of a context. She finds not even a tiny knob to hang her thoughts upon.

Just a big empty place full of nothing.

#

She stands at the café door, willing Ajay to consider the remote possibility that she might have entered from the other end. After a while, she gives up and starts walking towards the glass doors. The door chime sounds as she opens them and that catches his attention. He turns to look at her. Maybe she is imagining it, but she thinks she can spot a brief flicker of disappointment on his face that she had chosen to enter through this entrance and not the one he had picked for her in his mind.

“Easy now, girl! Be focused. This is really important.”

She does a few repetitions of the deep breathing technique she had learned from the Tai-chi book and walks up to the table.

By the looks of it he is already on the 3rd pack of the day. The ashtray on the table is crammed with butts, some still smoldering.  She wonders if he has any inkling of the news she is about to break to him.

She orders an Earl Gray (no milk, no sugar, as usual) and sits there. Neither of them speaks for a while. Finally Ajay breaks the silence.

“So, how have you been?”

There is a hint of awkwardness in his voice. Nandini is nervous too. The ancient Chinese practitioners of Tai-chi apparently didn’t cover meetings this soon after a break-up.

She has thought of this moment and rehearsed what she was going to say a thousand times. But her mind betrays her and she forgets the opening words.

“I’m late.”

As she blurts out the words, she realizes that getting straight to the point perhaps is the best opening she could hope for. The subject she is about to broach had no right or wrong approach.

“Oh, it’s okay. No biggie. I came a bit early, was in the area.”

“No, Ajay. I’m not talking about that. I’m L-A-T-E. This is the second period I’ve missed. I went to the doctor day before yesterday. I’m pregnant.”

There! Just like that she drops the bombshell in his lap.

Ajay is transfixed. His hand is stuck midway between its arc from the table to his mouth. It takes him a solid minute or two to regain composure. He puts the cigarette in his mouth, but changes his mind the next instant and stubs it out. He stares at the dying wisp of smoke that curls up from the ashtray.

They sit like that for a few minutes. There is no conversation. A few times, either of them tries to say something. The words just get stuck in their throats. After a few of these false starts, they just give up and sit staring at each other in silence.

#

She thinks she can see some sort of dark shape form in that white haze. Perhaps her mind is playing tricks on her, but she decides to find out.

She walks towards it.

As she gets nearer, she can make out the shape.

It’s a door, a plain old wooden door with shiny brass door knob.

Even though there’s no light, she thinks she can see the knob gleam. It’s almost as if it’s beckoning her to open it and step through.

She stands there for a moment. She stands there for an eternity. She debates in her mind whether or not to open it. She doesn’t know where she is, neither does she have the foggiest notion what lies behind the door. Her hand is on the knob, yet her body is frozen by indecision, taut with the tension of inactivity.

“What the hell! At least something is better than this nothing.”

She turns the knob and steps through.

#

“I’m telling you strictly FYI. Don’t read anything else into it.”

She decides that the silence has gone on for long enough.

“Uh-huh.. you? How? Wow! This is all very sudden.”

“Ajay, did you hear what I just said? Don’t read anything else into it. I’m not here to guilt trip you. We’re history. I just thought you should know.”

She can’t help firming her tone as she speaks. She feels guilty about that the very moment she says it.

She had been up the whole night trying to debate whether or not to tell Ajay. Now that she had told him, she feels that she should never have come here.

But somewhere deep inside her, she feels glad that she did. It was also his child. Even though they had parted ways, there had been a time when they had been in love. Just for that he deserved to know.

She tries to remember their time together and how the world had seemed like a perfect place.

#

The door opens to a meadow.

It is beautiful. A stream flows through it. She thinks she can hear music, like the soft clink of silvery wires tapped with a delicate crystal wand.

“I have died and gone to heaven.”

She feels a mix of panic and ecstasy at the same time.

The place soothes her troubled mind. She stands their trying to make sense of it all. There’s a part of her that wishes to remain here, yet somehow after a while the place seems emptier than the void she had just been in.

She can’t put her finger on it. Maybe it’s the sameness of it. It seems like a fixed tableau, never changing, never altering a bit.

“Well! I AM getting bored of this Norman Rockwell shit.”

As she soon as she thinks this, another door appears in front of her.

#

“I don’t know what to say, Nandini.”

“Then don’t.”

She doesn’t know what she expected out of this, but she can tell this isn’t going well. She had to speak to someone and she is secretly glad that she had told at least one other living soul about her situation. But now she wasn’t sure if Ajay was the perfect confidante in this matter.

“I… I… Are you absolutely sure that it’s mine?”

“Men!  So predictable. I’m telling him I’m going to have his child and this is all he can come up with.”

She cannot help snickering even in this situation, abeit it happens entirely in her mind. That response was just… so Ajay.

“Yes. The doctor’s office called last evening. I’m two months pregnant.”

“Oh boy!”

Ajay looks like he is ready to cry.

Damn! That’s the last thing she wants now. She nervously looks around the café to see if anyone is looking. She feels that hard not in the pit of her stomach tighten and all of a sudden she feels very sick.

#

She is sinking.

The door had opened into a quagmire. As soon as she had stepped through, she had started sinking into the quicksand. She was up to her waist now in it and it wouldn’t be long before it engulfed her completely. She tries desperately to break free, flailing her arms in futile attempt to swim in that gloop.

The muck completely restrains her lower half and she can no longer feel her legs. The harder she tries to break free, the stronger it seems to get.

She has sunk till her chest by now.

She tries harder.

#

Ajay bursts into tears.

She hadn’t expected this. When she had decided to come here, she just wished to tell him and walk away.

“Ajay, please don’t do this. Don’t make this harder for me than it already is.  Please!”

The crying subsides, but he keeps on sniffling.

“It’s all my fault. I should’ve never left. If only I had known!”

“Please!”

He raises his head and looks at her. His nose is red like a child’s after a bout of cold and his voice sounds like he’s gasping for breath.

“What do you plan to do?”

She had asked herself this question a thousand times last night. Now hearing him articulate it, she feels that she is back at square one. The truth is she doesn’t know. Not for the first time in her life, she is unsure of everything.

She doesn’t know what the hell she wants to do.

#

She is up to her neck now in the mud. Her arms are barely above the quicksand and she is getting tired.

Resignation has set in. She doesn’t want to fight anymore.

She stops moving and waits for the inevitable.

#

“We… We could get back together. We could get married.”

“Stop it, Ajay. I didn’t come here for pity. It was a mistake.”

She starts getting up, but Ajay holds her hand.”

“No! No! Nandini, please hear me out. I want us to be together again. I was a fool to walk out.”

Now people are definitely looking at them.

She feels the tingle in the nape of her neck as she realizes that they are now the center of all attention in that small smoke filled café. She feels like time has paused around her. She looks at him, his eyes pleading with her. She feels the knot in her stomach tighten further. She has that somehow vaguely familiar feeling that she is sinking deep into something primordial that is sapping her of all feeling of being alive.

She feels her body and mind go numb.

#

It’s up to her chin now. She can’t see them, but she almost feels her numb arms dangle lifelessly by her side. She feels utterly helpless.

Her body is not responding to her mind and slowly she feels her mind giving up too. Her thoughts have crawled to a standstill. As she sinks even further, she feels the cold mud engulf her entire being.

This is the end.

“No!”

She surprises herself with the violence of her own thought. She feels as if something inside of her is crying out loud, lashing out with all her strength. In that briefest of instants, she feels her mind fire with the last spurt of energy left in her numb form.

She understands. She has made a decision.

She stops moving and closes her eyes. She slides completely into the quagmire and she opens her eyes.

A door appears before her.

#

She looks at Ajay with a level gaze and even he can feel the intensity in her eyes. He stops bawling and lets go of her hand.

When she speaks, she feels as if she were out of her body and is hearing her own voice from a distance.

She doesn’t care who overhears her words or what they think of it. She has made up her mind.

“Listen to me carefully, Ajay. What we had was once wonderful, but it’s over. It’s no use for you to come back out of guilt. It would just be the same shit, over and over again.”

“B-but, I thought…”

“As I had told you before, I came here because I felt you had a right to know. I have made a decision and the best you can do is to honor it and support me one last time.”

#

The door opens back to the meadow. Something has changed. It feels different, as if someone has breathed life into it.

She sees a cottage by the stream and there is a bench there overlooking the meadow and the woods beyond. She walks over and sits on it.

She doesn’t know how long she sits there, nor does she care. For once in her life, she is at peace. Her trance is broken by a sweet sound of laughter that sounds purer than the untouched snow on the hills, the voice of an angel calling out to her.

“Mama! Mama! Look at what I found.”

She turns to see a little girl running towards her.

Nandinit smiles and walks towards her. The child is excited and is jumping up and down with  enthusiasm as only a child can.

“You must see this, Mama. Come.”

The girl grabs her hand and she lets herself be led towards wherever the child wishes to take her.

They cross the rise in the heart of the meadow and there on the dip, she sees the most beautiful sight she has ever seen.

#

“I’m going to have this child and she’ll be mine alone. You needn’t worry. I’m not going to ask you for child support. You’re welcome to your life and I wish the same favor from you. I want you to have nothing to do with me or my child.”

He is crestfallen, but somehow he seems to accept her words.

She turns and walks towards the front door of the café. She can hear him sign and when she is almost at the door, she thinks she can hear him start to weep. She resists the urge to turn and look back.

In front of her the brass door knob gleams as if beckoning her to open it and step through. She opens the door and steps outside.

#

There on the meadow, mother and child behold the wonderful sight of an infinite number of doors, each looking different and glowing in the morning light. Each door beckons them to open and step through.

Nandini pulls her daughter close to her and they both start laughing with joy.

THE END

Author’s Note
This story was the winner of Sulekha.com/DNA-Me short story contest and was published in the Nov 2006 Issue of DNA-Me. I had to edit the story down to 1000 words for publication. The version posted here is the longer / uncut version with some changes made. It was the first time I had to write something non-genre and for a publication geared towards a female audience. I’m really thankful to Sathya Saran, editor DNA-Me for choosing this story and working with me on the condensed version.

The first two lines are part of a writing prompt I used to write a story called “The Door”. I loved the line so much I wrote this story around that line.

another doodle

continuing from here, here’s another one.

drawn from photo reference of the actress Dia Mirza. Something in the face/composition of the photo inspired me.

Dia Mirza

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