Saurav Mohapatra - comic book writer

author, artist and bona fide geek

Tag: GruntledAndIllusioned

“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. :)

[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.

Oh My God I'm So Afraid

[This is a repost from my old sulekha blog. a chance conversation with someone today, reminded me of this]

‘Twas winter and  snow fell from the heavens like only new england snow can fall. I mean three foot snowbanks and it was only  late Novemeber. Axel Rose you sure did not leave in Massachussets. It don’t rain in Novemeber here.. it snows.

I flipped through the channels and found assorted collection of evangelists proclaiming that the day was at hand for the final judgement and it moved me. I thought since the whole of creation is to end soon in trumpets and fanfare, I must do the one thing I have not done yet.  I decided to bite the bullet and dwindle my certainly not sizeable bank balance by plonking down $5.38 plus tax for a pay per view p0rn movie.

I don’t remember the name of the movie, only its subject. It was described on the blurb as “an erotic thriller featuring the quest of an investigative journalist who wades through corrupt cops, vile gangsters and her own sexuality to locate her kidnapped sister“. That perked up my interest and much more. I sure as hell was not going out to shovel the white stuff soon enough after a heavy meal of mac and cheese. So I settled down with my comforter and chin rag after making sure my roomies were fast asleep upstairs.

The movie began with an assorted montage of things to come, the intrepid heroine, the chivalorous hero, the lecherous villain, the sultry vamp and sundry farm animals in various states of sexual congress accompanied by the best elevator muzak that the yamaha synthesizer can offer. After the names of various thespian and technical luminaries involved in this cinematic masterpiece in various capacities and positions (pun not intended) had flashed through the screen (Of the names most of which seemed to have surnames either derived from or directly referencing gential organs and acts of depravity, one name I do remember is “Hung Lo” which I instantly identified as the vile Asian American henchman of the villain of the piece), we cut straight to the obligatory twenty second story segment.

The movie opened like any other self respecting direct to video VHS gem with a scene of our intrepid heroine hard at work at a nameless news paper office typing away furiously on a computer hard at work at what most suspiciously seemed like the BIOS settings screen. She was hindered time and again having to reach around her massive hi tech sillicon enhanced mamrary glands to operate the keyboard. She was dressed tastefully in a tweed short skirt and a tight white office shirt which seemed shrink wrapped onto her. She looks the epitome of the successful news woman of today, radiating an IQ several points above her cup size. (My first guess was around 50, but then I had just watched Forrest Gump the other day so i upgraded the estimate to 60). Her blonde hair (suspiciously looking like a text book case of “Blonde in a Bottle” gone mad) lends her an official air, even in spite of the fact that the discerning viewer could spot more roots in it than the entire season of the television grand event adapted from Alex Hailey’s masterpiece.

Suddenly the elevator music interrupts her thoughts and she picks up a pencil from the desk.She bites into it softly with the subtelty of a teething mink in heat and stares dreamy eyed into the distance. And the screen star wipes and we are obliged with a ten minute segment of her previous escapade with an unnamed (as yet) African American male of generous endowments south of the equator.

I was intrigued. How is the director going to move the plot along when the pair seems so content and satisfied and making small talk about the future.In the meanwhile he gives her a tape asking her to keep it safe and dons his starched police uniform and departs. His final words are “This tape shall put Big Dick away for ten to life.”

Our heroine smiles the wily smile of the seductress who has achieved her goal. She has obtained the story of the century simply by lying on her back.

I could not but shout out “Bravo! What cinematic greatness! What richness of story telling!!!”

As if on cue! The phone rings. Trrrrrrrrrrring Trrrrrrrrrring. Flashback ends and our heroine is pulled back into the real world. I was at the edge of my seat with tension. Who could it be? What awaits our protagonist beyond the wires that lead from this mechnical contraption? How could this lead to further erotic confrontation?

“Hello! Olivia R. Gasm speaking! News Desk, LA Times!”

The voice at the other end was seething with venom! With unbridled furiousness it hissed.

“Drop it lady! If you know what’s good for you, you shall stay away from snoopin’ into Big Dick’s affairs! The Boss don’t like nosy dames pokin’ their powdered noses into his affairs.”

“What! Who is this! How dare you! Tell Big Dick! O.R Gasm is not afraid of his threats!”

“Oh! You should be! If not for your sake then for your sister.”

Click!

The pencil falls from her hands…

The tension is writ thickly on her acquiline nose. No doubt the product of expensive plastic surgery by the best the Mayo Clinic in Beverly Hills has to offer. She is afraid. I almost could spot the fear entrenched so deeply i her vacant eyes proclaiming the last shootingbreak and a generous snort of cocaine derivatives.

Enter our hero from stage left. I did not catch his name in the title sequence, but judging from the caucasian features he can not be “Hung Lo” in name but he would most certainly have done justice to the name.

He comes and on cue comforts our heroine. The comforting leads to a sesual shoulder massages and our female protagonist gets the same dreamy eyed look she had fifteen minutes ago.

Then she utters the magic phrase which is the title of this post.

Wiht utmost sincerity of a damsel in distress borrowed from some ancient conanesque epic she blurts out, “Oh My God! I am so afraid!”

I did not catch the subtle maneouvering of the plot or the exact sequence of cinematic twists but withhin five seconds the couple were joined in sexual congress utilizing the space in that cramped office to the maximum to enact at least thirty five of the most difficult positions from the Kama Sutra and beyond. It ended with a grand finale of the oral sort.

The movie switched to a Tarantino mode for ten minutes after that. The action was fast and brutal with scene after scene depicting our heroine finding her sister kidnapped, working the streets (no no, not in that sense,.. like a reporter) in the company of our fearless hero pressing for clues about the whereabouts of her abducted sibling.

We cut in a manner befitting a Truffaurt or a Kurosawa to the villain’s den (to my untrained eye it looked vaguel reminiscent of Ms. Gasm’s office at the LA Times, but the computer was now showing the Windows 95 flying tubes screensaver)

The villain the eponymous Richard “Big Dick” Pornetti issneering at the predicament of Miss Valerie Gasm , younger sibling of our intrepid reporter but no less voluptous even in her state of utter distress. She suffers from the same enormity of the chest, the vacant eyes which must have been passed from mother to daughter as a tradition in the Gasm family….Only telling point was that to bring diveristy and richness of content the script has depicted that the younger Miss Gasm be  brunette.

He gives his most menacing leer and tells her of the dire fate that awaits her if her sister does not cooperate. With this he leaves leaving his vamp to attend to their captive. Valerie bursts into tears and this melts the heart of the raven haired vamp with distinct east asiatic features. Against her will, in a poignant  moment of solidarity of the vivacious feminine, she is drawn to this brunnete in distress and puts hand on her quivering shoulders.

I let go of a couple of sniffles at this display of affection and the change of heart brought about in the most stoic of sidekicks.

It is then that the captive (who has not been able to resist the famed “Stockholm Syndrome”) utters the “Open Sesame” phrase of the movie.

With all earnestness she looks deep into the eyes of her captor and says, “Oh! My God! I am so afraid!”

Aha! We cut to fifteen more minutes of some of the best interracial girl on girl action I have ever seen, in terms of camera angles and  cinematic techniques i mean.

By this time I was so engrossed in the movie that time had become subjective for me. I had not noticed the snowfall stop outside or my roomies waking up upstairs. I kept on watching the masterpiece. I heard character after character be trapped in scenes of seeming no escape only to blurt out “Oh My God! I am so afraid!!!” followed by ten fifteen minutes of scenes of virtouso erotic film making .

The movie ended in a grand finale of a group sex scene with what seemed like half the cast screaming out “Oh My God I am so afraid” to be comforted in the most sensuous of manners by the other half irrespective of gender, race or anatomical proprtions.

I was moved by this cinematic masterpiece. I was weeping tears of joy for having witnessed the best that the LA porn industry could offer.

Suddenly i felt a pain in my chest. Oh! No! was it to be the end! I panicked!

I wanted to be comforted! I wanted to be held close and told that there was no need to be afraid.

I wanted to shout at the top of my lungs, “Oh! My God! I am so afraid!” in fact i think for a moment I did and was instantly rewarded by the Gasm sisters smiling their most come hither smiles at me. They moved in closer and I closed my eyes awaiting 15 minutes of heaven. Suddenly they poked me in the chest.. again and again…

“Dude! Dude! Wake up!!!It has stopped snowing!”

I opened my eyes! My world had crashed! The sensuous sisters had morphed intomy gruff roomies!

“We got to shovel the sidewalk before the landlord gets home! c’mon change into something warm!”

I sighed and looked at the television to be greeted by the blackness that greets one after a pay per view show has ended. A formless shapeless darkness that bespoke of my lament. How much of the movie had a I dreamt myself and how much of it was actual!

I did not care! The cinematic masterpiece I had just witnessed stayed with me forever. Whenever I hear someone utter the magic phrase “Oh My God ! I am so afraid!” I look around and await the coming of the lovely Gasm sisters.

I do not regret that I missed the screen appearance of the mighty “Hung Lo” or the bit with the farm animals!!! I do not regret that the tax on the movie turned out to be twice the 5.38 announced on the blurb… Neither do I regret that I can not ever utter the word “Oh My God! I am so afraid!” even in the direst of circumstances without getting majorly aroused..

My only regret in all this! I never bothered to remember the name of the movie !!! :(

Gruntled and Illusioned #1 – "Disk Space OK"

Hi there,

Welcome to the first iteration of “Gruntled and Illusioned” – part webcomic + part anecdotes = full time nerd humor. Today’s story:

A secretary had just completed a memo and was having problems saving it. “Do you have enough space?” asked the local computer expert.

“Oh sure,” she replied. “I’ve got a message that says ‘Disk space OK.’”

The computer expert looked over her shoulder, and sure enough there was the message:

    Disk space: OK.

Then he deleted some files and the message read “Disk space: 4K.” After a few more deletions the message read “Disk space: 32K,” and she was able to save her memo.