Originally appeared in The New Indian Express on January 1, 2011.
GRAYS THAT SPEAK
Bangalore is abuzz with comic book entrepreneurs and Prateek Thomas and Dileep Cherian are the newest kids on the block. Friends from their mechanical engineering days, Thomas and Cherian teamed up in August 2009 to co-found their publishing company Manta Ray, in response to the “restlessness bug” (as Cherian put it) they both felt in their lives. For the last six months, the duo, along with artist Rajiv Eipe, have been quietly working to produce their debut comic Hush which was released on December 22.
Hush is a short silent comic written by Prateek Thomas with art work by Rajiv Eipe. A rather dark story, the comic explores the themes of child abuse and violence with a twist at the end. It’s a decidedly adult story – even though its protagonist is a young child named Maya. The story opens in a classroom. The blackboard has been shattered by a bullet, a teacher lays slumped on the floor and Maya, grim and dark, holds the smoking gun. School shootings are not readily associated with India and Thomas agrees. “It’s more of a story teller’s device,” he contends but then points out the recent news items that brought light to the gun culture in India and the school shootings in Delhi. Although the concept is not entirely alien to India, Thomas contends that it is “the presence of American pop culture in India” that makes us associate school shootings with the West and more so with Columbine.
The most memorable aspect of the story is Eipe’s visuals. The grey tones are startlingly mournful making Maya appear as angsty as a teenage nightmare. To Eipe’s credit, he uses the grey-tones effectively to communicate time lapses and flashbacks. For example: every time Maya flashes back, the panel borders turn black; black signifying both the darkness of the event and the more visual clue informing the readers that we’re no longer in the present time. It’s one of those stories that will have you flipping back and forth as you connect the dots and make sense of the non-linear story line.
Despite being pitched as a ‘silent comic’ there are plenty of words in the book itself. The first few pages contain dedications and a short excerpt written by Rahul Bhatia who speaks about the themes involved in the story. At the end of the book there are excerpts from the script as written by Thomas and used by Eipe to render the story. The idea behind including the script, says Thomas, was to show interested readers the process the duo followed while creating the comic. “As a writer, I never knew what comic scripts looked like,” Thomas confesses and so he thought it would be both educative and interesting for other fans to see what the process looked like and how much or how little the story was changed by the artist’s interpretation.
Publicising the project on Facebook and other social media networks is almost a norm for indie-publishers and creators. So, Manta Ray duly set up their Facebook Page replete with updates, teasers and pictures of their project. However, they added one more interesting component to their publicity material: three short animated videos that act as trailers or teasers to the project itself. Rajiv Eipe did both the animation and sound design for the trailers, which are all under a minute.
Priced at Rs.195, the comic is available only in print currently and can be ordered from Dial-A-Book at 09650-457-457. It’s also available at Landmark, Oddyssey and Reliance Time Out as well as Flipkart.com. Manta Ray currently has a limited series of individual stories with no recurring characters in the works to be released in 2011 and aimed at young adults.