Saurav Mohapatra - comic book writer

author, artist and bona fide geek

Tag: Comics (page 1 of 5)

HELHAMMER

Once upon a time, Sid Kotian and I decided to create a pitch for a mix of mythology, post-apocalyptic dystopian fantasy and a healthy dose of kick-ass action. The result was something we called HELHAMMER. We shopped it around (and trust me it garnered interest at some fancy places), but due to various reasons it didn’t make it through to the finish line. Sid and I moved on to other stuff, but this was always the one that got away :D

Lately I’ve started working again on the script for this, because I’m absolutely in love with this world and its characters. For that reason, I won’t give away much of the plot (but I’m sure the astute reader will make the connection after one read) :D Just let me wrap up with this: The story has feuding gods, a wasteland wandering loner with a mysterious past, a severed head that talks and (my personal favorite) mutant hill-billy goat people with shotguns. ;-)

So here’s the five page pitch that we prepared for shopping around. Do leave us some comments/crits

The comic is hosted on issuu.com and needs Flash to view. For mobile devices, you can install the ISSUU app from Android Market. As for Apple/iOS devices, hard luck :D

Witchblade #141 Reviews


Continuing from the previous post about Witchblade #140 reviews … (Co-written by me with regular series writer Ron Marz)

  1. Newsarama Best Shots Review http://www.newsarama.com/comics/best-shots-advance-110119.html
  2. Comic Buzz http://comicbuzz.com/witchblade-141-review
  3. Project Fanboyhttp://forums.projectfanboy.com/showthread.php?t=10308
  4. Comic Buzz http://comicbuzz.com/witchblade-141-review
  5. nFamous Gamers http://www.nfamousgamers.com/reviews/books/paper-monsters-witchblade-140-and-141
  6. Comic Attack http://comicattack.net/2011/01/tcrevwitchblade141/
  7. Pendragon Post http://www.pendragonspost.com/2011/01/23/witchblade-141-review-top-cow/
  8. Comics Bulletin http://www.comicsbulletin.com/reviews/129590607378350.htm
  9. Graphic Policy http://graphicpolicy.com/2011/01/31/review-witchblade-141/
  10. Weekly Comic Book Review http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2011/01/25/witchblade-141-review/
  11. Donuts and Top Cow Podcast http://www.comicbooknoise.com/topcow/2011/02/episode-5-witchblade-140-and-141/ (7m30s onwards))

Once again, hearty thanks to Ron Marz, Top Cow, Filip Sabik and Phil Smith for giving me a chance to write Witchblade. Here’s hoping that we get to do something together again, soon… ish!

Reviews for Witchblade #140 [updated]

Witchblade #140, the first of the two-part story I co-wrote with Ron Marz (art by Stjepan Šejić) for Top Cow (as mentioned in this post earlier) is hitting the stores tomorrow (8th December). Already there are a few advance reviews out and looks like it’s getting some love around “teh interwebs:)

It shall be available in comic book stores on Wed 8 December, 2010. So run out and grab a copy.

So without further ado, here are the reviews so far:

Some nice blurbs from the reviews above

“… very nice art and a far more efficient piece of storytelling than we have seen since the rise of six issue trade paperbacks…”Project Fanboy
“… gives readers some good old fashioned carnage with some great humor and nicely done art….”Player Affinity
“… Marz and Mohapatra do a great job building this story up and letting it explode in your face at the end.”Comics Bulletin
“Ron Marz co-writes this issue with Saurav Mohapatra, and as a sign of any good team-up — the writing is seamless”Newsarama Best Shots Rapid Reviews
“a great detective tale, with a pretty creepy super natural twist thrown in…”Comic Book Revolution
“… familiar, fun, comforting and a solid read. If you’ve never read a Witchblade comic before, this is a perfect hopping on point, and I absolutely recommend doing just that.”Graphic Policy

Witchblade

Recently I was approached by the awesome folks at Top Cow asking me if I was interested in co-writing a 2 issue arc with regular series writer Ron Marz and art by Stjepan Šejić. Of course, I said yes immediately. I’ve long been a fan of Witchblade and especially Ron’s work on that. I was kinda bummed to have missed out on the Witchblade-Devi crossover earlier during my stint with Virgin Comics. So this, was in a way, a long standing dream come true.

Ron and I did a two issue arc (Issues #140 and #141) and #140 is due out on Dec 09, 2010. So rush out to your nearest LCS next week and grab a copy (or 10) :). Here are the two awesome covers for the issue by Stejpan and Brandon Peterson.

Cover A by Stjepan Šejić

Cover B by Brandon Peterson

Many thanks to Filip Sabik and Phil Smith at Top Cow for thinking of me and giving me this chance.

Update 1 (added on 3rd Dec 2010)
Comic Book Resources has a preview of the Witchblade #140 issue and an article where Ron talks about the issue.

Money quote:

The issues – which are co-written by Saurav Mohapatra, a writer that Marz worked with during his time at Virgin Comics – focus on a pair of kids who can make their drawings come to life, and unfortunately for everybody around them, they like drawing monsters.

It also features the upcoming Witchblade annual.

Update 2 (added on 4th Dec 2010)

the Top Cow forum thread on WB #140

Comics Bulletin preview of WB #140

Project Fanboy preview of WB #140

It also features the upcoming Witchblade annual.

Introducing DHURANDHAR

Lately I’ve started work on a supernatural/occult comic book set in India called DHURANDHAR.

When I initially envisioned the project, I wanted it to have a very typical Indian look and I looked at several artists who were interested in collaborating. I finally decided to pick Siddharth Panwar, a young artist from India who has done some prior work for Raj Comics, who was recommended highly by artist Abhishek Malsuni. Siddharth “got” the character and the setting from the get go and his explorations captured what I wanted to do with this project. I, for one, am really looking forward to seeing how Siddharth shapes the visual aspects of DHURANDHAR further.

As per the story itself, I can’t give away too much of it here (it’s after all at heart a horror story). What I *can* share is that:

  • It takes place in present day India in the “Real world”. Obviously, it’s as close to the real world as possible, given the subject matter
  • Trains play a significant part in it
  • It may or may not have a SMOKE MONSTER ;-)

You can find out more about the project and see some concept art/teasers at http://dhurandhar.com.
About DHURANDHAR

DHURANDHAR is a supernatural/occult comic book series (set in present day India) created by Saurav Mohapatra and Siddharth Panwar. Currently work on the first installment “THE MAN WHO RIDES TRAINS”, a 84 page black and white original graphic novel, is underway. [read more… ]

[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] 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. :)

Mumbai Confidential Digital Short #1 is online


As has been mentioned before, there’s a series of digital short comics set in the Mumbai Confidential universe. So the first of these shorts called “REMASTER” (art by Siddharth Kotian) is now online.

MUMBAI CONFIDENTIAL Digital Shorts are a series of companion comics to the first book “GOOD COP, BAD COP” by various artists using the characters created by Saurav Mohapatra and Vivek Shinde. These shorts are set in the same “universe” as the main story. Though these are not required to follow the main book, they do enhance the backstory of GOOD COP, BAD COP.

About Mumbai Confidential

Mumbai Confidential is a crime noir comic book series created by writer Saurav Mohapatra (DEVI, SADHU, MUMBAI MACGUFFIN, INDIA AUTHENTIC, JIMMY ZHINGCHAK) and artist Vivek Shinde (PROJECT: KALKI, SNAKEWOMAN) set in (of course!) the Indian city of Mumbai.

Mumbai Confidential teaser posters

We now have some teaser posters for Mumbai Confidential. Click on the images to see details or head on over to the Mumbai Confidential site.



About Mumbai Confidential

Mumbai Confidential is a crime noir comic book series created by writer Saurav Mohapatra (DEVI, SADHU, MUMBAI MACGUFFIN, INDIA AUTHENTIC, JIMMY ZHINGCHAK) and artist Vivek Shinde (PROJECT: KALKI, SNAKEWOMAN) set in (of course!) the Indian city of Mumbai.

Older posts