BY AADITHYAN MOHAN K.
Graphic Novels are basically comics, but with deeper themes, and complex storylines. Since they aim to go beyond mere comics, they are called ‘Graphic Novels’. Some of the most famous works in cinema are adapted from Graphic Novels – The Watchmen, V For Vendetta, and Blue is the Warmest Colour – all began as graphic novels.
Given the burgeoning interest in comics and graphic novels, it is no surprise that the Indian comic book scene is in a developmental stage. With a plethora of new creators coming out of the woodwork, there is some stunning work getting made. Since it is hard for individual authors and independent publishers to put out their own work, several comic creators in India collaborate and get their work published under one banner. Here are some Indian graphic novels that will both blow your mind, while making you think!
1. THIS SIDE THAT SIDE: RESTORYING PARTITION
A bold and evocative collection of tales that deals with one of the most turbulent, and heart-wrenching, periods of Indian history – the Partition. A gargantuan collaborative effort by numerous artists, This Side That Side was published by Yoda Press in association with the Goethe Institut, Delhi. The stories that come seeping from the smoke, blood, ash and terror of those uncertain times are explored beautifully by the eclectic creators. Including graphic narratives from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, this anthalogy is not to be missed. In fact, if you’re a history buff, then it would be preferable to stab yourself in the eye with a particularly blunt spoon rather than not read this fantastic compendium. One of the last bits, for example, is a flip book of people’s faces that have been split into three segments, which can be mixed and matched to see how faces change but essentually remain the same. (Buy the book here)
2. MIXTAPE VOLUMES 1 & 2
Originally published under the name Manta Ray Comics, these absolutely gorgeous books are slim little volumes of delight. The creators now work under the banner of Kokaachi, and have moved on to other beauties. Everything about the books are pleasing, from the brown hand-made paper of the pages and stunningly beautiful covers, to the simple – mostly black and white – stories, to the amazing handling of modern day themes and the worries that occupy us when we’re in the most private parts of our own heads. Dealing with such page-turners as identity and sexuality to taking pot-shots at our social media obsessed culture, the two volumes that comprise the Mixed Tape are a worthy read for anybody who has a heart.
3. Pao Collective
The final product of one of India’s first and most successful comic collaborations, the Pao Collective, Pao: The Anthology of Comics 1 is one of the zaniest books to have hit Indian readers in a while. A collection of twelve stories from some of the biggest names in Indian comics – Orijit Sen, Parismita Singh, Vishwajyoti Gosh, and Sarnath Banerjee to name a few – it deals with themes revolving around ideas such as politics, love, legends and violence. Bursting with artistic flair, the different stories will take you through a range of visual styles that come at your sensibilities in waves of aesthetic flavour. Moving from raw and provocative line to line, the stories seem to encounter everything from the quirky to the dazzling while being profoundly contemplative in the same breath. (Buy the series here)
4. THE OBLITERARY JOURNAL VOLUMES 1 & 2
Truly a trailblazer in wonderfully myriad ways, these volumes of anthologies will leave you either completly hating them or absolutely loving them. Produced as a collaboration between Blaft Publications and Tranquebar Press, these books contain work by some veterans, and a lot of newcomers to the scene. Featuring daring and experimental work by Amitabh Kumar, Amrutha Patil, Jai Undurti, Malavika PC, and Vidyun Sabhaney to name a few, this book is a compressed riot of visual sensation. Filled with vivid colours and pencils, the stories explore a number of genres and are expressed through a broad range of media such as photographs, sequential art, and graffiti. Other than exploring stories, the books also deal with iconography and the study of images and patterns. (Buy the book here)
5. DRAWING THE LINE: INDIAN WOMEN FIGHT BACK
Published by the intrepid folk at Zubaan Books, Drawing The Line: Indian Women Fight Back is a response by the creators to the shockingly bad state of women living in India. The chief spark for this vindication of indignant rage was the Nirbhaya incident that rocked the consciousness of a nation, and a world, that has been mired in the trappings of patriarchy for far too long. Made and brought into creation by a number of female artists and writers, this tome of graphic narratives is subversive and filled with the ardent desire for change, for the status quo to vanish and disappear into the tepid dust of obscurity. You have to encounter the tales of these fourteen creators, and face their stories if you can. (Buy the book here).
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