Saurav Mohapatra - comic book writer

author, artist and bona fide geek

Category: Columns (page 1 of 2)

New Interview up at SeeBrianWrite Podcasts

My interview is up at the See Brian Write Podcast site. I speak with Brian LeTendre about the craft of writing, comic books, my influences and how I got my start among other things. There are some unscheduled detours into analyzing social upheavals using Computational Fluid Dynamics :) and other weird stuff.

We also get to dive into the social/human context of Noir in general and Mumbai Confidential in particular. I enjoyed the chat immensely. You can listen to it at Brian’s site or on Soundcloud.

About Mumbai Confidential
Mumbai Confidential is a creator owned crime-noir comic book series created by Saurav Mohapatra and Vivek Shinde. The “Digital First” edition is available on ComiXology and the print hardcover is available on Amazon and FlipKart, from Archaia. Please do follow us on Facebook and/or Twitter.

Reviews: http://mumbaiconfidential.com/reviews

[CRAFT] Gridlocked – using grids effectively in comics (a NINE PANEL GRID column)

Even if you are a casual comic reader, it is not very hard to notice that there are two types of layouts that a comic page can have. One is the regularly spaced Grid layout with equal size rows and columns evenly laid out and the more complicated free form layout where the panel shapes and location vary rapidly.

So why are these used? Till recently most of the “Craft” of comic book writing that I had learnt had come from reading movie screenplays and/or visualizing the scene being played out in my mind as a movie scene. That my friend was (as I learned the hard way) a big mistake! Comic books while they share certain visual motifs with movies are an entirely different and independent beast.

Let us examine the primary reason why. In a movie, you can actually control shot length (fancy name for amount of time a viewer sees a certain visual). In comics the entire page is there right before the eyes of the reader and you have absolutely no control how long a reader spends on a particular panel.

Well the previous statement is not entirely true. Layouts and visual storytelling scripts of the artist can “lead” the eye making it follow a particular pattern/path across the page. But that’s it. So how do we deal with passage of time in a comic book page or rather while visualizing / scripting a comic book page.

The answer lies in the layout. The human mind is a powerful thing. Imagine a comic book page. The panels are static snapshots of the action and our minds fill up what Scott McCloud calls in his books the “gutter action” (Gutter being the gap between two panels).

A grid by definition is a regularly spaced layout and most readers take this subconsciously as an indication that passage of time is uniformly regular across the panels as opposed to a freeform page where a smaller panel might register as a shorter length visual than a larger one (There are exceptions to this as well). This is a really handy tool in the scripter’s toolkit.

Grids when used properly convey a very regular flow of time. So it is possible to use them as (The list is by no means exhaustive only indicative) is by no means exhaustive only indicative:

  1. decompressed storytelling (lingering on a particular shot) where only a minor visual detail changes from panel to panel
  2. set up a checkerboard pattern by alternating between two shots (of say two people talking or one guy talking and some other stuff happening elsewhere)

A grid sets up the reader into a lull from which you have a platform to blow their socks off by for example setting up a magnificent splash or a two page spread.

Coming back to our discussion on shot length, this usually is pretty handy. Remember all those movies where mind blowing action is preceded by a sequence of slow deliberate shots? The contrast is what makes the action more explosive so to say.

Imagine a splash of a bomb going off. A good artist puts in a lot of energy and dynamism into the scene. But in itself the impact is not as potent as it should be.

Let’s say the preceding page set up a checkerboard pattern of a guy entering his house vs. a close up of the timer on the bomb. Let us say we’re using a nine panel grid.

  • Panel 1: a shot of the timer showing 0.15
  • Panel 2: a shot of a man fiddling with the doorknob on the door to his apartment.
  • Panel 3: a shot of the timer showing 0:12
  • Panel 4: the man loosening his tie
  • Panel 5: a shot of the timer showing 0:05
  • Panel 6 : a shot of the man from profile as he hears something perhaps the ticking of the timer?
  • Panel 7: a shot of the timer showing 0:02
  • Panel 8: an extreme close up of the man’s face as he has noticed the bomb.
  • Panel 9: a shot of the timer showing 0:00

Next page we have the magnificent explosion splash.

The second sequence is definitely much more powerful than just the explosion splash.

So remember grids are a handy tool, when used they provide a context / regular rhythm to your unfolding action that serves to underline the dynamism / energy of a sudden “sharp” action sequence that much more eye catching.

But the caveat here is that when used too much, grids lull the reader to a degree that they simply don’t care anymore :)

So as with all things, use wisely.

Some nice examples of grid usage that I have found and reference often are Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns and Alan Moore’s “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” series of books.


Page from Dark Knight Returns


Page from Leage of Extraordinary Gentlemen : CENTURY 1910

Interesting to note in the LXG page that the middle row is a single panel that uses up all three slots of the grid.

You may also check Warren Ellis’s FELL, which is told almost entirely in 9 panel grid format.


Page from FELL

See ya when I see ya…

toodles,
mohaps

This is a repost from my “Nine Panel Grid” column at Comics Waiting Room. You can find other Nine Panel Grid columns here

[CRAFT] 22 Pages of Doom – on pacing a comic book issue (a NINE PANEL GRID column)

22 Pages, mark this number down my friend, the bane of every writer who has a monthly gig – the industry standard story page count of a monthly issue of a comic book.

Filling up the said 22 pages is the subject of much head scratching, heartache and frustration – especially when the mind goes blank and the deadline comes a-knocking at the writer’s door.

My first gig was writing a series of one-shots for Virgin Comics called INDIA AUTHENTIC. IA told the myths and legends of the Indian pantheon and since there was no continuity from one story to the next, it was not the hardest thing in the world to write. Sure, given the number of versions of each myth and the fact that I wanted the stories to be a bit more than dry biographies, I put in a significant amount of work into treating the stories as sort of a secret origins kinda gig – every story tried to capture the theme that defines the dramatis personae for the world at large. So once I locked down the story, I’d just sit down and hammer out 22 pages.

Now the very next gig I got was an ongoing monthly – DEVI. Herein, o reader, my troubles began. A monthly comic book title (especially an ongoing one) is like a TV series. Each issue has to be reasonably enjoyable on a stand alone basis (at least that’s how my editor Ron Marz, quite astutely, wished it to be) and also forward the greater arc narrative. We also decided off the bat that we should not be too steeped in continuity to ward off new readers irrespective of the index of the issue they picked up as their first.

Oy Vey! It was very exhausting, but I like to think we (Ron and I) did manage to pull that off in the run we had on DEVI. Right off the bat we were so far behind deadlines (due to factors out of our control – I was moving back stateside after a year long sabbatical in India, Ron was taking over as Editor from Mackenzie Cadenhead etc. etc.). We had a couple of weeks to go from story to pencils and we didn’t have the plot. So during brainstorming session at Ron’s house, I floated the idea of starting off with a collection of three short stories about the main characters in the series – sort of explain their motivations and background. Ron, who taught me a lot during my run on DEVI and SADHU, instantly caught on to the idea and also suggested that we use framing pages at the beginning and end of the issue and in between the stories to sort of provide a narrative. Being a veteran of comic books, he understood the 22 page structure and how to navigate through them. So 3 stories, six pages each and 4 framing splash images. We had our 22 pages. We did some back and forth on the plot of the short stories and needless to say made our deadline.

Later as I started writing full 22 page stories, I had issues (pun not intended) with how much can fit into that. Again here Ron’s experience saved me from a lot of blunders. My first treatment for DEVI #12 had seven scene changes, so on an average every third page the narrative would shift to a different scene. I knew the story I wanted to tell from #12-#15 and was setting up a lot of the stuff here. But going over Ron’s redline I realized that, when read as a standalone issue, it was pretty confusing. So we talked and later came up with sort of a format for telling a 22 page story.

But before I get to that, I must touch upon another mistake most first timers are likely to make. When I submitted the second draft of the treatment, it was too decompressed. Ron’s note said something to the effect – “Now it’s dragging, every single item is getting a visual. The pacing was too much like Manga.” So as in everything else in life, the answer is in the Golden Mean.

So coming back to the format – a safe format for the 22 pages (Your mileage may vary, but this worked for me).

ACT I (Pages 1-4)
First 4 pages are ACT I. I usually either began with a splash or had 2-3 as a two page spread. This was setup. It was something I came back to later in the issue. For an arc beginning, I would use this page for a sequence that would serve as a springboard for the entire plot. For middle issues, this was where the dramatic kaboom sequence would go in to start things off with a bang.

ACT II (Pages 5-16)
ACT II was the next dozen or so pages or so (up to page 16-17). Page 5 cut from the opening action to the thick of the story and for 3-4 pages we set up the first obstacle of the story. So most probably on page 9 or 10 we’ll get the first glimpse of what really will our protagonist(s) be up against (we might’ve hinted at this in ACT I). Then on Page 9/10, I used to cut to something that was a continuation of the opening pages and for the next three pages use that to move the story forward. That takes us to Page #14. Page 15,16,17 then serve as the setup pages which bring the thread started in act I and the sequence that introduced ACT II together and positions everyone and everything for the finale / ACT III. If I planned on ending with a big fight scene, it usually would’ve started by page 15, so that the 16-17 double spread would be used up to show a great widescreen shot.

ACT III (Pages 17-22)
For ACT III, Page 18 and 19 usually were used to show the protagonist bouncing back and kicking some righteous ass. For more story driven issues 20 and 21 introduced / foreshadowed the next issues story and 22 splash was used as a cliffhanger.

It’s a simple structure, but I felt comfortable working with it. It meant I didn’t have to worry about pacing so much, since I knew where my act braks and plot points would be. Of course it is not a rigid formula nor is it a paint by numbers kind of thing. I used this as a rough guide and hope something like this helps you write a better 22 page story.

Till next time.

Toodles,

mohaps

This is a repost from my “Nine Panel Grid” column at Comics Waiting Room. You can find other Nine Panel Grid columns here

[CRAFT] Get the hell out of the way (a NINE PANEL GRID column)

My first comic book story (one I got paid for) was published sometime around this time of the year in 2006. So that makes it 4 years (yeah, I’m a math whiz :P ) “in the biz” for me. It’s been a great ride. Balancing a dayjob (and later parenthood) with writing has been challenging, but very rewarding. I’ve had the good fortune of working with some great people and have come to know (or even make friends with) some creators who were till even a couple of years back hallowed names in the credits pages of books I adore. Yeah, it’s been a good ride.

So today, as I nurse a busted ankle, I felt like writing a blog post about one of the primary lessons I learned through my 4 years of working in comics. Much as a writer’s ego wouldn’t let him/her admit it, Comics are primarily a visual medium. A writer seeds the vision, but the artist executes it. The art is what one sees first and thus great art is a must-have hook for a reader to pick up an “unfamiliar/unknown” comic book in the first place. So the first part of the writer’s contribution – the script, is sort of “invisible”.

The script and the initial panel breakdowns decide the pace of the comic book and set a box around the artist’s execution space. For example, as a novice I had this habit of putting every single visual and transition I could think of on the page. The result was a very panel heavy page that didn’t account for the fact that someone had to draw it (and someone else had to letter it too). Condensed information of this nature is visually off-putting as well as confusing. Visual stimulus is one of the most direct methods of perception in Cognitive Theory followed closely by Sound and Smell. So overloading the visuals, results in a confusing disjoint experience that turns off the reader and sometimes assaults their senses too.

So the key to visual storytelling, in my humble opinion, is simplicity. The one lesson you learn as a writer of comic books is to “Keep It Simple, Stupid” (KISS). A writer must learn intuitively the art of picking “frozen moments in time” from the entire timeline of the unfolding action and give the art some “breathing space”. Trust your artistic collaborator to execute the sequence you’ve chosen and (as the title of the post says) “Get the hell out of the artist’s way”

Once the art is done, the writer’s pawprints show up again in a comic book via the captions and speech balloons. Lettering is often compared to other “invisible arts” like the background score of movies. When done right it enhances the experience, without intruding on to the foreground of perception. Conversely, when screwed up it completely ruins the experience. As a writer, I’ve come to learn the hard way to let the art “speak” rather than go around ham-handedly inserting text to repeat what is already explained in the art. Comics are unique in the fact that all of the different dimensions of storytelling (art, speech, sound effects) occupy the same 2D visual plane and panel real estate is a zero-sum resource. More you use for Captions / Bubbles / SFX, the less you have for art. So sometimes it’s again just better to let the art “breathe” and “get the hell out of the way”.

Of course, I am by no means an expert on sequential storytelling. These are things and practices that have worked for me and your mileage may vary… a lot.

Until next time,

Toodles.
Mohaps

I used to write a column called “Nine Panel Grid” at Comics Waiting Room about my experiences as a writer and things I learned as I moved through the world of comics. I have decided to continue writing those “columns” here at my blog.

“Oh, my god! You’re punching me” – an adventure in comic book writing in India

This is a repost from my “Nine Panel Grid” column at Comics Waiting Room and was written in 2008. So all temporal references relative to the original date of publication.

I did something yesterday that I thought I’ll never do in my life. I told a publisher to basically (and very politely) “shove it”. Of course I ended the mail wishing them luck with their line (and I really, most sincerely do), but all in all this has been a pretty surreal experience for me.

Towards the end of 2008, I was contacted by the publisher to see if I was interested in doing a full length OGN based on Indian mythology. I was just coming off of India Authentic from Virgin Comics (now reborn as Liquid Comics) and the sudden winding down of their comic book line had left me with a few stories I wanted to do (with all the research done and plots ready) with no one to publish them. I thought this was a golden opportunity to do one of those on a bigger canvas so to speak (India Authentic was 22 page one-shots). We had the honeymoon phase where I explained the way I wished to write the particular story, a tale from Mahabharata about a young warrior who knew nothing but war. The editor-in-chief was enthusiastic about it and once my detailed page by page breakdown was approved, we got down to contractual details. I must say of all the Indian comic book publishers (Virgin excluded) I’ve had dealings with so far, they were the most open and prompt in taking care of the paperwork. Let me give credit where it’s due. The contract was standard boiler-plate “I’m signing my firstborn over to you” work-for-hire one (since the character was public domain and not one I created, I accepted it) and we got it off the plate in quick time. We created a schedule and an editor was assigned. The usual pleasantries were exchanged.

Then the first tragedy struck. I fell down the stairs in my home and ended up spraining my wrist. This put us off the schedule by a couple of weeks for the script. I managed to get the script first draft out to them within the revised deadline and moved on, waiting for the redline to arrive.

That is the funniest part. The redline never came. I got one note from the editor saying she was going through the script and then she sent me a mail saying that I should “rework” the script. As the editors who I have had the good fortune of working with in the past will confirm, I don’t mind reworking and even rewriting entire scripts if the editor gives me specific notes, but here there was a general note asking me to rewrite an entire OGN. To top it all, I was sent a script by another writer, saying use this as a reference. So I went through that script and tried to extrapolate what exactly was expected. I kept on asking for specific notes and a redline meanwhile.

There is a whole list of things I had problems with, but here are the top two.

One of the notes said “There is a lot of philosophy!”.

Of course there is. I like to call myself a non-practicing atheist. I view mythology as a rich source of tales, nothing more and nothing less. Writing mythological stories is my way of answering the questions I posed to my mother (a deeply religious lady) as a child. What was this god thinking when this even occurred? Why didn’t incidental character X did action Y when the logical thing would’ve been to do Z? In India Authentic and in the script I submitted, I tried to tell a story from the protagonists viewpoint, not simply retell a legend. The effort was to provide a narrative based on an inner monologue. I’m afraid I can’t get into specifics to protect the identities of those involved.

Some panels don’t have any captions. We need at least 180 words per page” / “The captions don’t mention what’s shown in the pictures

Wow, me not being verbose? My wife laughed heartily upon hearing that (She is always ribbing me about how I never know when to shut up!). Now a comic book is a marriage of words and art. But the age old adage of “Show, don’t tell” still applies.

Which brings us to the title of this article. To draw an analogy , imagine if I were depicting a fist fight between a normally peaceful hero who’s decided he’s had enough. So my script would have a panel of the guy punching the villain and next one would be the villain crashing into the ground ass first. I’d then have a close-up of the villain looking up at our hero and a reverse angle upshot as the hero glares at him. The last panel would be the villain as he collapses deciding he’s had enough. All these would be silent panels ( Maybe a line or two of the inner monologue of the hero if that). The art tells the story and I don’t need to ham handedly spoonfeed the reader. The prior pages have established the hero’s inner conflict and the dastardly villain’s desperate need for come-uppance.

Now in the absence of specific notes, here’s what I gathered I was being asked to provide for such a sequence to the publisher.

Panel 1
Hero punches villain
CAP: And then the mighty hero punched the villain
Hero: I’m punching you, you mangy cur!

Panel 2
Villain crashes down on the ground
CAP: The dastardly villain crashed to the ground
Villain: Oh my god! You punched me! I have fallen to the ground.

And so on and so forth. You get the idea!

Oh yeah! Before I forget, there was an explicit request to use “million dollar words”. The note was to the effect “The captions are worded in a very matter-of-fact/simple way. Please use more intellectual words”.

So I did a lot of soul searching. I come from a decade old professional career where I take immense pride in being …umm… professional. I like to think that I inculcate that in my writing gigs too. But I finally decided to mail the publisher and tell them that I can’t write for them. So far there has been no artist allocation for this and printing schedule has not been decided. So I decided to save both of us a lot of aches/pains further down the road and called it quits. I received an email response saying that the reason a redline was not provided was “to carry out a full edit on the script at this stage would be extremely time consuming and, I think, unnecessary.

Anyway, as things stand right now, I’m intent upon for the first time asking to be let go from a writing gig. Hope I didn’t come off as too bitchy in this post.

Until next time, toodles and take care.

mohaps

A “Redline” is basically a version of the script with the editor’s note inline with the original draft text. Usually it’s a word doc with “Track Changes” enabled. In the merry old days, editors used to mark corrections with a red pencil and that was the origin of the term.

Disclaimer
The Capt. America #1 (Marvel Comics) cover image used in this post doesn’t mean any disrespect to the content/writing of the comic book. It was one of the most iconic punch images I could think of from the golden age. :)

Crouching Cliche, (Not so) Hidden Trope

The hard-ass drill sergeant walks the barracks during an evening inspecting his cadets (currently undergoing commando training) indulge in a rare day off. Two cadets are playing chess. The drill sergeant takes one look and says “checkmate in one move” and when the cadets’ looks say no way it can be done, he gives them five minutes to think about it and walks over to another cadet (the hero) who is playing a mournful tune on his harmonica.

The sergeant asks the hero “Do you play chess?”. To which the hero says “Chess is your thing, I have mine” and points to the harmonica. The drill sergeant grunts an acknowledgment, walks over to the two chess players. He says “Bishop to Queen Three” and almost immediately comes over to the hero’s bunk. He grabs (almost snatches) the harmonica out of the hero’s hands, wipes it on his shirt sleeves and blasts a short sharp ditty of a tune before returning it a dumbstruck hero.

Now this could be a scene you can visualize yourself seeing in say the next “Officer and a Gentleman” inspired movie very easily. A scene like this is built on what is generally referred to as Tropes. A trope is technically defined as fairly standard recognizable device that serves as a building block for any kind of narrative. A Cliche is just a trope done to death. A trope is inevitable if you write long enough, but cliche is the kiss of death.

In the scene I described above the “Bishop to Queen Three” and playing of the harmonica by the Hard Ass drill sergeant are very clichéd representations of the trope “A Man’s Renaissance Man“. In fact the term “Bishop to Queen Three” and all that it implies(especially that the cadets are moronic enough to miss out on just running all possible moves of the remaining chess pieces by the time the sergeant comes back) is pure weapons grade cliché. However the Hard-Ass with a hidden side is a trope and can be done well.

The best weapon a writer has with regards to Tropes or clichés is subversion. The Simpsons subverted the cliché of “Bishop to Queen Three” in the episode where Home takes out the Crayon lodged in his brain and becomes super smart. He runs by two geezers in a park playing chess (A Trope that is perhaps almost a cliché’ in itself :P ) and says “Bishop to Queen Three”. The humor and subversion comes from the fact that the geezers are playing Scrabble and mention the fact to Homer. Further subversion occurs when Homer uses his trademark fist shake and forces them to do “Bishop to Queen Three” after emphatically repeating his earlier statement (a Trope in itself).

The line between tropes and clichés is getting especially blurred in this high output world of creativity and mega-events. As writers, we must be wary of this trend and try to find new ways to subvert these “oh so familiar” / “ain’t cool if every other book does it” kind of pitfall situations, so as to keep the readers from yawing the “been there, done that, Bendis did it better” mega yawns.

Before we part ways, here is a homework exercise. Pop in that DVD of “Star Trek 2 : Wrath of the Khan” and watch Shatner go “KHANNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN!”. Pay special attention to how the camera moves away from him and try to remember all such instances where this has been copied. Otherwise spend some time browsing TVtropes.org , a wiki dedicated to cataloging the Tropes in TV/Movies and Comics.



The scene described in first paragraph is from the Hindi movie PRAHAR (The Strike), starring and directed by my favorite actor Nana Patekar.

This is a repost from my column NINE PANEL GRID on Comics Waiting Room.

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.

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.

More Toughguys with guns

I just can’t stop drawing these

Read Mumbai Macguffin for Free

Liquid Comics has put their back catalog (most of it) on Issuu.com and you can read Mumbai Macguffin for free.

Mumbai Macguffin is sort of like Three Days of Condor meets Slumdog Millionaire meets Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels :P
Enjoy! :)

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MUMBAI MACGUFFIN

Writer: Saurav Mohapatra
Artist: Saumin Patel

Synopsis:

A high-octane adventure through the never-before-seen underbelly of Mumbai, ace CIA operative Ike Flint finds himself out of his element and out of his depth when tasked with recovering a downed NSA satellite deep within the biggest slum in Asia. None of his experience can prepare him for the wild and dangerous characters his salvage uncovers: a wheelchair-riding gangster kingpin hooked on John Wayne westerns; a brilliant bar dancer who can solve calculus problems before breakfast; a trigger-happy cop who shoots criminals with the same nonchalance as if he were grocery shopping; a religious cult that will do anything to protect its phallic totem; and a crack team of Jihadists searching for the very thing Ike is seeking.

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