Saurav Mohapatra - comic book writer

author, artist and bona fide geek

Category: Mumbai Macguffin

Blast from the past and other updates :)

I got my first big break writing comics when I cold pitched Gotham Chopra, EiC of Virgin Comics in 2006 after reading a news article on his foray into India themed comics. Luckily, he liked my spec script (what’d later become INDIA AUTHENTIC #2 – KALI) and signed me up to write a series of Indian mythological stories with forewords by Deepak Chopra. Somewhere down the line, I was offered DEVI and THE SADHU and then onward to some stories based on characters and storylines I cooked up (e.g. MUMBAI MACGUFFIN and JIMMY ZHINGCHAK – AGENT OF D.I.S.C.O.. It was a work for hire gig (meaning I don’t own the rights to any of the stuff I created), but it was great fun while it lasted. I got to work with industry legends like Ron Marz, built up a decent sized portfolio and got to work with some awesome artists like Sid Kotian, Saumin Patel, Dean Hyrapiet, Abhishek Singh and Shounak Jog etc. I also became friends with other writers/artists working on the Virgin titles like Samit Basu, Mukesh Singh and Vivek Shinde. The Virgin editorial staff consisted of seasoned industry hands like MacKenzie Cadenhead (WOLVERINE: SNINKT) and Mariah Huehner (LUCIFER), movie industry veterans like Seth Jaret and a bunch of young energetic first timers like Sana Amanat, Michelle Gomes and Gaurav Sikka.

Then came the event that we, the Virgin Comics alumni, jokingly refer to as “The Great Deflowering” and just like that, Virgin was no more. The founders of Virgin Comics, namely Sharad Devrajan, Suresh Seetharaman and Gotham, effected a management buyout of the Virgin portfolio sometime later and came back as Liquid Comics. I did a few more work for hire gigs for them and also branched out to doing one off gigs for Moonstone (PHANTOM), Top Cow (WITCHBLADE). Vivek and I went on to create our creator owned project MUMBAI CONFIDENTIAL and I had some hijinks/misadventures with some other Indian publishers on work for hire projects.

All in all, I look back very fondly of my time spent with Virgin Comics and I greatly appreciate Sharad, Suresh and Gotham giving me the chance to write comics (I mean write freakin’ comic books and get paid doing it! :) ). My dayjob (as a co-founder of the web conferencing startup Dimdim) started taking more of my time as did my two kids – Ayan and Adya. So I dialed down the writerly activities a lot in 2010 – 2011 and regrouped. MUMBAI CONFIDENTIAL started gaining traction (in no small measure because of Vivek’s fantastic art) and I also started working with Siddharth Panwar on DHURANDHAR – a modern day magic realism tale set in small town India.

So, I was pleasantly surprised recently when Liquid Comics launched Graphic India – a digital comics platform aimed at India. Featured were two of my books – MUMBAI MACGUFFIN (an action-adventure-comedy caper which was co-created with Saumin and inspired in no small measure by Guy Ritchie’s movies SNATCH and LOCK, STOCK AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS) and MYTHS OF INDIA (a repackaged INDIA AUTHENTIC). I always considered the old Virgin Comics gang kindred spirits who wished to bring kick-ass comics to India and Graphic India is a great reinforcement of that belief. So I wish them the best of luck. (Do check out Samit and Jeevan Kang’s UNHOLI – an original serialized digital comic book exclusively created for the site).

To top off the week’s great news, Times of India posted their list of notable Indian comics and turns out two of my books – DEVI and MUMBAI CONFIDENTIAL made it to the list. So that was just delicious icing on the cake. :)

“Building Character” (Part – I) – FUKKU BHAI

Like parents, creators are duty bound to say that they love all their children equally and like parents, creators always have their personal favorites. One thing I love about being a writer is creating characters. Somehow, I get more pleasure out of creating zany, off-beat supporting characters than the protagonist. Guess growing up on a staple diet of Hindi/Bollywood potboilers had to take its toll somehow. In most Indian movies made between 80-90 (the halcyon days, IMHO — low budgets, huge casts and broad intended appeal) mostly the hero was a cookie cutter avenging angel or an all around nice guy trapped in a bad world. These stories were populated with an unbelievable cast of “Helpers” and “Villains” — those that either helped or hindered the hero in his quest to either change the world or achieve the zen of family wholesomeness.

Long story short, I enjoy designing bad guys and supporting characters.

When working on creator owned projects like MUMBAI CONFIDENTIAL or DHURANDHAR, I have the freedom to build the world and its inhabitants from the ground up. So I can craft each character and add whatever oddities I feel like to make them more “human” :). But as a “work for hire” writer, the properties one deals with already have set personalities as protagonists and antagonists. So as a creator, I always felt that one way I could leave my stamp in those projects was to create some characters around the main cast who’d provide extra flavor.

Enough talk, let’s get down to business. Here’ a list of some characters from the ones I’ve created so far for my Work-For-Hire projects. I shall be writing a series of these dealing with one of my favorite characters in each.

#1 – FUKKU BHAI (from MUMBAI MACGUFFIN)

I created this character for the Virgin comics one-shot MUMBAI MACGUFFIN, which was written by me and illustrated by Saumin Patel. I had visualized the story as THREE DAYS OF CONDOR meets SNATCH and set in Mumbai. It’s an action-comedy about a CIA operative who comes to Mumbai to hunt for a downed satellite and ends up facing a cast of weird characters.

Saumin and I created the gangster Ali Shah Jung Bahadur Fakruddin Sheikh (aka Fukku Bhai) as a larger-than-life mob boss who rules over “Chor Bazar”, the secret market of thieves deep inside the slums of Dharavi. We gave him a disability (he’s wheelchair bound) to humanize him, yet made him cold and hard as Megatron’s balls. Fukku Bhai is a John Wayne fan and watches old westerns all day long. He carries an antique colt in an authentic wild west holster and doesn’t hesitate to shoot people who irritate him. He’s the king in his kingdom and you mess with him at your own peril.

Rather than being the antagonist, Fukku is sort of the local bigwig and plays a part in the story that suits his stature as the undisputed ruler of Chor Bazar, where his word is law.

You can read the whole comic book here for free.

Albany Comic Convention update

my table

Thanks to Ron Marz, I got to attend the Albany Comic Convention on Nov 1st. This was my first time as an invited guest at a comic book show and I enjoyed it a lot. The excellent folks at That’s Entertainment (especially George and Pete) hooked me up with a ton of Mumbai Macguffin and Sadhu vol 2. – The Silent Ones TPB, so that I had some stuff to sell. Thanks to everyone who bought a copy. I managed to offload almost all the copies I had gone into the show with. Hope you enjoyed those, folks! :)

The show was small-ish but a ton of fun. I shared tablespace with Nick Taplansky, writer of AWAKENING (Archaia) and Dave Rodriguez, writer of STARKWEATHER: IMMORTAL (Archaia) and SHADOWGIRLS webcomic.

Had a blast with Ron and Matthew Dow Smith (Dr. Who, The Keep). Scored some free copies of Ron’s Samurai TPB vol 2. and Con exclusive cover WITCHBLADE (done by Matthew).

Towards the end of the show, chatted with Dennis Calero and found that we have a common friend. Small world, indeed.

So all in all, a good time. Looking forward to heading back there next spring in April 2010. Here are some pictures from the show.
before it begins
(Before the Show Started)

Ron's Table

(Ron at his table)

Nick T. with his book (courtesy Zach Rosenberg - http://nerd-quest.blogspot.com/2009/11/albany-shenanigans-and-little-comic-con.html)

Nick T. pimping AWAKENING (photo: Zach Rosenberg)