Category Archives: New Indian Express Publications

HUSH: A silent comic from Manta Ray


Originally appeared in The New Indian Express on January 1, 2011.


Cover of HUSH

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 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. 

‘MISS MOTI’- Nepali artist blends Mithila art with modern storylines.


Originally appeared in the New Indian Express on December 04, 2010.


Not since Manjula Padmanabhan’s iconic Suki has a female cartoonist created such an endearing and enchanting character as Kripa Joshi does with Miss Moti. Relatively unknown and relegated to the murky realms of the internet, Miss Moti is a pearl waiting to be discovered. Startlingly flat and rich in colour, Miss Moti follows the travails of a Rubinesque woman whose fertile imagination transforms even the most mundane of her surroundings into a fantastical world of possibilities that blur the line between reality and imagination. . Miss Moti- as her name suggests- is a gorgeous, round pearl of a woman.

For this, Miss Moti has only to thank her creator Kripa Joshi. A native of Kathmandu, Kripa Joshi’s credentials are promising. In 1997 she won the Indian Council of Cultural Relations Scholarship to pursue a BFA in Painting from Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda and later went on to win the Fulbright Scholarship. As a Fulbright Scholar, Kripa enrolled at the School of Visual Art in New York. It was here that Miss Moti came into being. “I’ve always had issues with my own body image. I still do. It is a constant struggle, which I am sure is the case with a lot of women,” Kripa confesses and the issue found its way into a painting entitled Hippo. Miss Moti makes her first appearance in the painting which is a visual commentary on the modern idea of ‘beauty’. The 14”X17” painting on Nepali handmade paper depicts a pool scene where a large woman – Miss Moti – wrapped in a towel self-consciou


sly surveys the lithe bodies around her. In contrast, the border is decorated with miniature hippos- happy, happy hippos, one might add- painted in gold lines as they wallow in the water, seemingly indifferent to concerns about their own body image.

Speaking about the border art Kripa says, “I drew my inspiration from the Miniature Mughal Paintings where we often see a colourful intricate image surrounded by an equally intricate golden border filled with plants and animals. I was also intrigued by this idea of a dual story between the main central image and the border.” It was here that Kripa’s modern sensibilities collided with folk art and this collision resulted in her debut comic character, Miss Moti.

Stylistically, the art is inspired from Mithila art- a form of folk art traditional to Nepal and Bihar. “The art is very flat,” Kripa explains. “It’s two-dimensional and has no horizons, no sense of perspective.” She was drawn to it also because of its decorative aspect and rich colours while at the same time she recognized the need to develop this indigenous art from and take it one step further.

In terms of narrative, Kripa names Windsor McCay’s Little Nemo as her inspiration for creating the fantastical dream worlds that Miss Moti escapes to and Chris Ware for developing her visual language.

There are no captions or bubbles in Kripa’s comics. A purely visual journey, the only words one comes across are sounds. “I like to use Nepali sound effects,” Kripa says and then adds, “Like when a door shuts, I’ll say ‘dham’ instead of ‘bang’ or the sound the train makes is ‘kattak-kattak’.” These little notes add flavour and authenticity to her story lines and connect it back to her South Asian roots.

Interestingly, in recent years, Madhubhani or Mithila folk art has become something of a rage with foreign art collectors. It was reported that even Michelle Obama bought a Mithila painting on her recent visit to India. A 2500-year old tradition, Mithila art covers the walls and ceilings of Mithila homes in Nepal and neighbouring Bihar, where the art came to be known as Madhubani. Traditionally, Mithila art was created anonymously by women and depict every day life in the village as well religious symbols, Gods and Goddesses.

Kripa Joshi is the only artist who has successfully married this timeless traditional art form with the more modern genre of comics. Each comic is visually rich and narratively sound. In Miss Moti and Cotton Candy, for example, Miss Moti faces the arduous task of climbing up a never-ending flight of stairs. Huffing and puffing, she pauses to catch her breath when she spies a young girl skipping up the stairs with a stick of cotton candy. Suddenly, her world transforms and the cotton candy, those great fluffy wisps of cottony pink, arrive like a chariot to carry Miss Moti away on an adventure in the skies. As always, once she returns to the ‘real world’, neither Miss Moti nor the reader can be sure if it was all really just in her imagination.

Miss Moti And Cotton Candy

While Miss Moti has been received well in the artistic circles, it is not the only comic that Kripa has created. In an attempt to address issues that Nepali rural folk face, she created the comic Pass It Along– a short comic about sanitation. Besides that, she’s done several illustrations of children’s stories in her unique style. Some of the stories she has re-imagined are Edgar Allen Poe’s The Sleeper, The Ant and the Grasshopper and The Dog and His Shadow.

Kripa’s work can be found at and Miss Moti is at . She currently lives and works out of London.

MUMBAI CONFIDENTIAL: A new comic by Saurav Mohapatra


Originally appeared in the New Indian Express on October 16, 2010


Mumbai Confidential

Saurav Mohapatra, best known as the author of the graphic novel series Devi and India Authentic is all set to release two new graphic novels in 2011: Mumbai Confidential– a noir-ish series about the gangster life in Mumbai and Dhurandhar – a supernatural story about a medium who performs one last task for the souls of the dead.

“Mumbai Confidential not a scholarly piece,” Mohapatra says. He describes the graphic novel series about Mumbai Police’s encounter specialists who are given the nod by the establishment to carry out extra-judicial killings of gangsters as more of a “love song to the sub-genre of Hindi movies loosely called ‘Mumbai Noir’”. Heavily influenced by films of the genre like Satya, Company and Black Friday, Mumbai Confidential is a noirish thriller set in the world of encounter cops and the Mumbai underworld. Mohapatra teamed up with artist Vivek Shinde (Virgin Comics) to create Mumbai Confidential. “Vivek is a Mumbaikar and has an excellent feel for the soul of the city,” he says. “So we always joke that Vivek adds the ‘Mumbai’ and I bring the ‘Confidential’ to the project.”

All jokes aside, the art work for Mumbai Confidential is dark and gritty. Rendered in black and white by Vivek Shinde, the panels are more realistic than fans of Indian comics may be used to seeing. Shinde, a talented artist, makes use of the powerful ‘painted style’ to create panels that are so realistic as to feel familiar. “I wanted something hyper-real for the art,” Mohapatra says. “We experimented originally with a stark B/W high contrast style. But once I saw the grayscale wash painted style, I couldn’t really visualize it in any other style.”

Panel from Mumbai Confidential

While Mumbai Confidential will only be available to the public in the summer of 2011, a preview one of the first stories in the series- Good Cop, Bad Cop is available for  at download along with a a digital short Digital Short #1, set in the same universe. So far, the comic has been downloaded 1000 times and the short has been downloaded around 500 times. Mumbai Confidential also has its own Facebook and Twitter pages where fans can get a sneak peek at the creative process and keep up with the latest news.

If that isn’t enough, Mohapatra has another comic set to release in 2011 titled Dhurandhar. Says Mohapatra, “Dhurandhar is a supernatural/occult story I co-created with artist Siddharth Panwar, I lovingly refer to it as Indian heartland magic realism. It’s about a man named Damodar Dhurandhar, who serves as the medium between the world of spirits and our own. His job is to do one last errand for the spirits of the recently dead so that they can move on.”

Both Dhurandhar and Mumbai Confidential were created under the banner ‘Dichkaon’ – a creator-owned project spawned by Mohapatra to, as he says, “seed off a creator owned comics culture in India.” Under the banner Mohapatra hopes to create comics in genres not traditionally explored in India. He also tries as much as possible to mentor upcoming artists and provide them with exposure. “I got started in the business with the help of Gotham Chopra,” Mohapatra reminisces, “and so I try to pay it forward.”

His advice to young comics writers and artists? “Go online,” he says. “Basically getting someone to read your pitch is pretty hard. Set your work up online, offer it for free and build your portfolio from there.” Solid advice considering how much for Mohapatra’s work in online, both his own and work done with Virgin Comics, are available as free downloads on his website.

MALIK SAJID: Comics on life in Kashmir.


Originally appeared in the New Indian Express on September 18,2010.


In September 2008, a young political cartoonist from Kashmir found out that he was safer in his violence-torn, curfew-bound home state than he was in Delhi. When serial bombs went off in Connought Place, Malik Sajad was immediately suspected of being a “terrorist” simply because he was at a cyber cafe checking his website, The website, featuring Malik’s graphic novels, cartoons (for the Greater Kashmir newspaper) and other art, gave the cafe’s patrons the idea that the young man looking at a Kashmiri website that was plastered with motifs of guns, had to have something to do with the tragedy unfolding in their city. Despite producing his I.D. card and informing the police who had come to take him away that he was an artist who had been invited to install his exhibit at Delhi’s Habitat Center, Malik’s voice went unheard.

“I was terrified,” he confesses.

His experience led him to create the non-fictional graphic novella, Terrorism of Peace, in which he describes his encounter with Delhi Police- a shocking revelation of prejudice and public apathy. “I was screaming ‘I am a cartoonist. My exhibit is at Habit Center. Please, call the director’,” he says but no one did anything. Malik’s identity was eventually verified when he took the police to the Habit Center and showed them his exhibit. “I was thankful that I’d come to Delhi upon invitation,” he recalls, “and not just as a cartoonist on my own travels.”

A page from Terrorism of Peace

Prior to Terrorism of Peace, Malik wrote and illustrated another graphic novella- Identity Card, which was originally published in the literary magazine Caravan in 2008. Again, drawing from personal experience, the story follows a young man on his way home immediately after a person was killed in a “fake encounter”. Stopped at a checkpost, Malik showed the police his ID card but the police were reluctant to believe the young 19-year old was actually a cartoonist. To buy his freedom, he drew a caricature of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to prove that he really was a cartoonist.

Malik Sajad, clearly, is no stranger to terror. Born and raised in Kashmir, he knows a reality beyond the sanitised versions that the media feeds the rest of the country. “There are many stories about Kashmir that go untold,” he says, “either because there isn’t an audience for them or because the media in unable to show you the full picture owing to restrictions. Graphic novels allow me to speak about my experience more authentically.”

More than that, Malik hopes his work will be a fresh voice speaking about the Kashmir issue. “No one really knows what Kashmiris go through outside Kashmir,” he says. Art, Malik believes, is another way of documenting history. “Using the visuals, you are using the heritage of indigenous artists to power the message which helps us preserve our heritage and also to innovate. Art also helps to provide an option on how to think about the conflict, and beauty and life of Kashmiris,” he explains.

Currently, Malik is working on a new graphic novel titled Endangered Species. Explaining the idea behind the project, Malik likens the Kashmiri people to endangered species. The story itself speaks about the recent incidents of stone pelting, which Kashmiris have taken to as a form of protest. “In the last two months 65 people, mainly kids, have been killed. I interviewed many of the stone pelters and people and the story is their emotion, their demands, their pain,” he says. An artistically experimental piece, Malik is replacing his characters’ human faces with that of the Kashmiri Stag or hangul- the national animal of Jammu and Kashmir.

At 23, Malik’s youth belies his experience and maturity. His unique voice and position as a young Kashmiri makes his stories all the more powerful and important.

ACK!- the hilarious webcomic by American-Indian Sandeep Sood


Originally appeared in The New Indian Express on July 31, 2010.


Sandeep Sood, creator and writer of ACK!, has no idea how two characters from the Maharbharatha ended up in modern day Jersey. Press him further and he says, “maybe it had something to do with Guantanamo.”

ACK! is Sood’s brainchild- a satirical version of the Mahabharata that he says originated in his 8-year old mind. “The idea came from reading comic books about the Mahabharata as a kid. At the same time I learned about the Transformers, He-Man, Thundercats etc, and soon I was mashing these epics together in my 8-year-old brain.” These comics, of course, were Amar Chitra Katha and the title ACK! is a nod to the comics’ role in teaching him about the epics as well as a tribute to the artists who created the pieces. In fact, the artwork in ACK! is obviously reminiscent of the old comics with brawny characters, square jaws rendered in full colour with captions that evoke the flavour of Amar Chitra Katha‘s best efforts. Of course, the humour is all totally new, radical and side-splitting; especially when Dhushasana, ticked off at not being recognised by an NRI girl at the bar, says to her, “What, don’t you recognize me?! Yo, I was HUGE in the Mahabharata.”

Panel from ACK!

The webcomic, which is updated every Friday, is illustrated by Sood’s friend and collaborator, Aron Bothman. “Just like Ganesha was Vyasa’s scribe, this 27-year old gay Jewish dude is my scribe. Perhaps Aron is a reincarnation of Ganesha,” Sood jokes. The comic follows the adventures of Dhushasana and his 50th brother, simply referred to as ’50’, as they navigate through modern day New Jersey. Sood says he chose the Mahabharata over the Ramayana because, “Ramayana is everyone’s favorite…it’s always Rama this, Sita that. Enough! I wanted to give the characters from the Mahabharata some publicity.” Besides, he adds, “the Ramayana people get all the parts in the Diwali play, while the Mahabharata characters (at least the ones who survived the war) are all unemployed.” Beyond this altruistic motive, Sood concedes that he has always been fascinated by the characters and stories in the Mahabharata. “It’s full of fantastic and absurd stories,” he says.

Similarly Dhushasana and ’50’ were not chosen without reason. Sood’s main reasons for choosing Dhushasana is the character’s infamy- the fact that he’s known mostly for pulling Draupadi’s sari (which, of course, he never gets to end of); and also because his name can be shorted to ‘Dhush’, which in Sood’s comedic view is the coolest part. His earnest brother ’50’ is actually Gandhari’s 50th son- Chitrayudhaa. In Sood’s Mahabharata, Gandhari tires of calling her 100 sons by their long Sanskrit names and ends up referring to them in a form of numerical shorthand.

Sandeep Sood in his studio

But like any good satirist, Sood has something to say with his comic. He hopes that people will laugh when they read it, of course, but he also hopes that people will learn not to take their religious epics so seriously. “I really think that the joke is on us; that even Vyasa himself never meant for us to take this stuff so literally. And for that matter, neither did the mortal writers of the Bible, Torah, or Koran. The stories are a fantastic part of our cultural heritage. But the fervor, the close-mindedness, the blind belief….all that stuff is just silly.”

The fact that he’s received hate mail for the comic does not deter him; it simply proves his point. It makes me wonder if Shashi Tharoor received similar letters for his Mahabharata-inspired historical satire, The Great Indian Novel. When he’s not working on ACK!, Sood is busy with his animation studio ‘’ and an animated series called Doubtsourcing which he guarantees is “funnier than NBC’s Outsourced.

CHITRAKATHA- a documentary on Indian comics by Alok Sharma


Originally appeared in the New Indian Express on June 19, 2010.


There’s a podcast of Aabid Surti online. A legendary artist, painter and creator of the much beloved comic, Bahadur, Surti hides a smile behind his beard as he flips through his new book, Dr. Chinchoo ke Karname. Later, still hiding that smile, he lets it drop that there’s talk of reviving Bahadur, but this time as a web comic. Somewhere across India, a thousand fans are holding their breath.

The podcast is the first of many to be released by Alok Sharma- an artist, writer, director and now producer of the soon-to-be-released documentary Chitrakatha: Indian Comics Beyond Balloons and Panels. The documentary, the first of its kind, attempts to showcase the rich history of Indian sequential art- from cave paintings in Hampi to modern day graphic novels. Switching seamlessly from Hindi to English, Alok narrates the documentary and interviews some of India’s most renowned comic artists. Produced in collaboration with noted artist Saumin Patel (Devi, Mumbai MacGuffin) and cinematographer Neeshank Mathure (Well Done Abba), the documentary is an attempt also to unmask the creators of India’s most beloved comic characters and afford the public a peek into the everyday lives of the artists and creators who brought them to life.

“Creators in India don’t have the same fan following like those in Japan or America,” Alok says, outlining one of his reasons for making the documentary. Besides that, he’d also harboured the life-long dream of meeting his childhood heroes; the documentary was a perfect excuse.

He spent five years researching the story and tracking down artists and creators scattered across India. “You could say I travelled from Meerut to Kerala, Kolkata to Mumbai,” he laughs as he reminisces about traversing the country in second class non-A/C coaches and shooting in trains. The documentary, now in its final stages of post production, features such legendary creators as Anant Pai (Tinkle,Indrajal Comics), Aabid Surti (Bahadur), and Pran (Chacha Chaudhari, Billoo), as well as the creative young minds of today like Mukesh Singh (Devi,18 Days) and Abhishek Singh (Ramayana 3392 AD, Kali: India Authentic). For the most part, the creators were happy to talk to Alok, but the most memorable interview for him was with the Late Govind Brahmania. “He didn’t even want to do it,” Alok says of the man who illustrated Bahadur; but eventually Brahmania consented. It was to be his first and last video interview as the renowned illustrator passed away shortly afterwards on December 9, 2009.

Alok Sharma with Mr. Brahmania

Apart from gathering sound bytes from industry veterans, the documentary also explores the history of Indian art. “Sequential art is not foreign to India. It’s 100% Indian,” Alok says referring to pillar and cave paintings across India. While the art work there is rather ancient, they still tell stories about the human experience using pictures and images that occur sequentially in time. Indian or not, the comics culture in India has, however, largely emulated the west.

Historically, the popularity of comics began with the publication of syndicated western comics such as Mandrake and The Phantom as far back as in pre-independent India. As the medium itself gained popularity, Indrajal Comics, India’s first comics company, was established in the mid-sixties. In 1967, indigenous comics were popularised by Anant Pai with the establishment of Amar Chitra Katha and with it, Pai came to be known as the ‘Father of Indian Comics.’ From the sixties through to the 21st century, the medium has gone through a lot of changes as each generation of artists had more material to draw from. “The third generation of artists working today are the luckiest,” Alok says because they have a potentially limitless pool of work, foreign and Indian, to learn from.

The documentary is sure to be a treat for comic buffs but Alok insists that “there’s a lot of masala in it for non-comic fans also.” Chitrakatha: Indian Comics Beyond Balloons and Panels will be released by the end of 2010, Alok hopes.


Below is a rough-cut preview of his documentary.



JUMP, a comic magazine from Level 10


Originally appeared in The New Indian Express on June 05, 2010

JUMP into a Comic Democracy

For Suhas Sundar and Shreyas Srinivas, the corporate world just didn’t cut it anymore. Four years in the lucrative IT industry in America had left Suhas dissatisfied. “I wanted to do something new…and soon. I just couldn’t imagine explaining to my wife and kids when I’m 35 that money is gonna be sparse for the next few years ‘coz daddy wants to print comics,” he says and laughs; sentiments echoed by his college buddy Shreyas who had been equally successful in the FMCG industry. The two friends had drifted apart geographically and career-wise but their common passion for comics and graphic novels kept them together. So when Suhas decided to nix his techie lifestyle for a career in comics, he knew Shreyas would be his perfect partner-in-crime (comically speaking, of course).

In August 2009, the duo started Level 10 Studios with the intention of creating “the very best genre fiction and visual / sequential narratives.” Since then, they’ve come a long way and their fledgling magazine, JUMP – an 84 page, full colour comic magazine- hit the stands on May 25 and will be available at all major bookstores and magazine outlets.. The monthly magazine, priced at Rs.60, will be the first of its kind featuring three series which will run for a period of five months. As the stories unfold, month by month and episode by episode, readers get the unique opportunity to vote for their favourite series. At the end of the season, the series with the least votes is nixed and replaced with a new series. This interesting approach to a magazine is all part of their business mantra: “Level 10 is a comics studio run by comics fans for comics fans.” A comic democracy, if you will, where Suhas Sundar and Shreyas Srinivas are more than just comics fans; they are self professed “comic geeks.”

Despite their lack of formal arts training, the duo had no qualms about entering the comics industry. In true entrepreneurial spirit, they recognised the demand for indigenous comics and the corresponding lack of supply. In early 2009, they met several artists through their network of friends. “We got together and talked about comics. Really geeky stuff; but that evolved into a kind of informal club,” says Suhas and the rest is history. Today, Level 10 houses four artists- Vivek Goel, Santosh Pillewar, Harsho Mohan Chattoraj and Deepak Sharma, along with Vijayendra Mohanty-a journalist and blogger who is also currently writing the graphic novel Ravanayan with Vivek Goel. Apart from these studio staples, they also work with an extensive network of freelancers across the country. “Oh, and there’s Keshav-the tea guy,” Suhas adds. “Keshav”, an amorphous entity, gets a credit in every issue.

Like his peers in the industry, Suhas isn’t keen on re-telling mythologies. This is a trend most visible amongst the young, upwardly mobile Indian who wants to look forward rather than backward. “There are so many more stories to tell,” Suhas says. “So we tried to come up with three stories that were diverse and unconnected to one another and then try to develop them as a series.” The process of creative collaboration led to three concepts: The Rabhas Incident, a dark noir-ish story about zombies, set in Bangalore; Northern Song which follows a demon hunter through lands inspired by Indian mythology and finally, Shaurya, a tale of five teenagers with super powers set in Mumbai. While The Rabhas Incident and Northern Song deal with villains that are supernatural, the antagonists in Shaurya are much more real: terrorists.

The voting system will be a good indicator of stories that work and those that don’t and the team at Level 10 plan on issuing each series as a graphic novel at the season’s end. “The way we see it is that the magazine is like a quick fix on a monthly basis but the graphic novel has more shelf life.” The graphic novel at the end of the seasons works like a special edition DVD set: it come with extra features: an inside look at the series’ creation, thumbnails, sketches, bios etc.

 More importantly, the voting system allows for fresh ideas to become part of the magazine.

We’re open to receiving pitches from anyone for new series,” Suhas says but cautions that he’s “not really interested in mythologies because we feel we can do so much more. As for pitches, we want complete pitches, a one or two page treatment and some character sketches. Send it to” Suhas is open to the idea of pairing writers with in-house artists if the team likes a pitch and unlike most fledgling comics, Jump Magazine does pay its contributors.

Level 10 will also be the first comics company in India to give creator credits. The Rabhas Incident is a good example. Although the story was written by Suhas, it was illustrated by Harsho who created the visual word as seen in the comics. For his input, Harsho gets co-creator credit. This is true of all three stories where artists and writers share credits. “We don’t have a manga situation where the writer also draws the story,” Suhas says. “So each story is broken into writers, artists and colourists.” They are, however, willing to print ‘creator-owned’ titles. In this case, the creator is not paid but is remunerated through profit-sharing. The creator also gets to keep copyrights and royalties from reprints.

At 27, Suhas Sundar and Shreyas Srinivas may be young but they’re certainly not green. Leading a team of young entrepreneurs, all under the age of 30, Level 10 Comics is poised to take the comics world by storm.

(Check out their facebook page at and their website at



This article appeared in the New Indian Express on May 22, 2010.


 Leaping Windows, India’s first ever online rental service for comics and graphic novels is all set to launch on May 22. For the Indian comics industry, active since the ’60s, Leaping Windows might prove to be an important tool for cataloging and collecting copies- something that has never been attempted at the public level before. Consider this: there are about two dozen comics companies currently in business in India and an average of 100 million copies are sold per year. Yet, a cursory glance at local libraries and bookstores offer no evidence of these staggering numbers.

The brainchild of Koel Chatterjee and Bidisha Basu, Leaping Windows focuses on cataloging comics and graphic novels while making printed comics accessible and affordable to the public.

“Comics are really expensive,” Bidisha says. “So the point of the library is to give people a wider choice and at a cheaper rate.” For Utsa Shome, business partner and friend of Bidisha and Koel, the concept of a comics library struck home. “We have a lot of readers in India and there’s been a lot of buzz about the comics scene,” he says. “So, it made complete sense to do this. Something like this, a library, should have already been in place.”

Currently, the library boasts 1300 titles-Indian and foreign, with 700 more still in the mail. “A fraction of the comics in the library are from our own personal collections,” Bidisha says. Most comic geeks will cringe at the idea of letting anyone borrow their precious copies. “Books getting lost or not returned is one of our biggest fears,” Bidisha confesses. “Most of these books are expensive; some we ordered off – so yeah, we worry about that. But that’s one of the reasons we have the three-months minimum membership plan.”

A three-month membership to Leaping Windows costs Rs.1500, plus Rs. 500 refundable security deposit. A reasonable rate given that members can peruse the expanding collection online and borrow a book as many times as they choose. Their business model is inspired by Netflix- the online DVD rental service that took America by storm. Unlike Netflix, which sends their DVDs through the mail, Leaping Windows employs a small team of delivery boys who will deliver and pick up comics from your door step.

While Netflix, a purely commercial venture, adopted its model to combat competition, the folks at Leaping Windows are refreshingly unconcerned with the market. “We really don’t know if we’re going to get a very large membership,” Bidisha says. “It’s also entirely self-financed so obviously we’d like to recoup our investments but if we don’t…. well, at least we tried!”

There is also a community aspect to Leaping Windows. Bidisha hopes to create a free platform open to the public on their website where people can set up links to their own works or simply chat about comics. Once launched, will showcase the collection of books for members to peruse. Leaping Windows does not yet have a physical presence in Mumbai but will launch as a purely online comics rental service. “We’d love to have an actual library space where people can browse books but right now it’s not in our budget,” Bidisha says. “Maybe someday, though,” she adds.

Comix.India – a new comics anthology from Bharath Murthy


This article originally appeared, albeit in a much shorter and edited form, in the New Indian Express dated March 20, 2010, titled ‘A Trailblazer’s Path’.

Below is the original, unedited article about Bharath Murthy’s comics anthology ‘Comix.India’ which he launched in 2009.


 “There is no platform for original, short comics in India,” Bharath Murthy – author, artist and film maker – says to me in an email. It was this lack of a platform that spurred him, in October 2009, to launch Comix.India– a multi-lingual, black and white indie comic magazine that focuses on original work by Indian creators. He put out a submissions call for Volume One in the hopes that it would get the nascent comics industry in India buzzing. Three months and several submissions later he is optimistic that the magazine will not only encourage aspiring comic authors and artists but also spawn a new generation of adult comic readers.

 Not Safe For Children

A brief glance at the artwork and stories in Volume One attests to the fact that Comix.India is trying to move away from the child-centric comics of yesterday such as Amar Chitra Katha and Chandamama and to create, instead, quality comics that address adult themes and issues. Bharath is quick to point out that unlike comics aimed at children, there’s no attempt to “dumb [Comix.India] down for a child’s understanding.” It’s more likely that children won’t like or be able to relate the content in the magazine.

Take for example Dr. L. Prakash’s story, Ear Rings, which is a true life account of his fellow prisoner’s journey to jail. Although it is written in simple, almost child-like language, the art is stark with disturbing blotches of grey and black. That Dr. L Prakash is a self-taught artist is evident. Also finding space in the anthology is Sudeep Menon’s crime noir about a gangster in Mumbai called Just Another Job. These are not stories with happy endings or even stories with clear morals.

However, the magazine distinguishes itself from colour heavy children’s comics by the plain fact that the stories in Comix.India are published entirely in black and white. While this has a stylistic purpose it’s also a cost cutting measure. After all, glossy full colour magazines come at a cost that an indie publication can’t afford. Perhaps the most important reason for choosing to go black and white is to encourage artists who are not formally trained to learn through copying. “What happens with colour and too many ‘artistic’ effects,” Bharath clarifies, “is that readers are unable to imitate the artwork properly, which is frustrating for those wanting to learn by copying their favorite comics authors.”

 A Medley of Styles

The 260 page volume is impressive in its mix of genres and the variety of artistic styles. Kinnari, a mythology-inspired story about a young man’s travels in an ancient world is written by Meenakshi Krishnamoorthy. It is probably one of the more stylized and richer artwork in the collection. Meenakshi manages to marry manga techniques with Indian symbols creating a style that both foreign and Indian. Some of the other art, however, is more experimental. Sudeep Menon’s Just Another Job is the perfect example. The story is told through sketches as well as sketches superimposed upon photographs that he has taken himself. Introducing this variety of styles and techniques was one of the magazine’s goals and its reassuring to see some of the authors and artists take a more unconventional approach to drawing.

Indie, GO!

All this made Comix.India a rather unique concept in the Indian comics industry. As a result, the magazine did not receive much support from traditional publishing companies. The loss of a major publishing house also meant that their budget for marketing the magazine was severely limited. Luckily, this is the age of the internet and viral marketing.

So, in true indie spirit, the magazine was promoted on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter and made its presence known in the blogosphere. The project has over three hundred fans on Facebook and the page is busy with comments, updates, artwork and discussions. Their website,, has members posting artwork, critiquing each other’s work and talking comics on the forum. The site also features a blog and a database of registered artists and writers to encourage collaborative efforts.

Their DIY approach to the publishing business is bound to have its ups and downs but for now, just the idea of reviving the short comic form is the main focus of Comix.India.

 Graphic Novel VS Short Comic

In the past, Indian short comics relied heavily on retellings of mythologies and folk tales. Furthermore, very little original comic content was created that was not aimed at children. When graphic novels exploded on the scene in the early 2000s, it brought with it the much needed originality that was lacking earlier. In 2004, Sarnath Bannerjee’s Corridor was the first Indian graphic novel to be released by a major publishing house.

However, instead of adding a boost to the stagnant comics industry the graphic novel killed the short comic form as publishers began looking at novel length graphic projects. Nobody wanted to touch the short comic and “rightly so,” says Bharath. The success of the graphic novel has proved that readership is not the problem. The problem is that there isn’t an active comics writing scene in India and as a result, publishers don’t yet see it as a profit making venture. “The very idea of one person sitting down,” says Bharath, “and drawing his own original comic story is, very strangely, a new idea in India.”

But Bharath is hopeful even here. Since the industry for comics hasn’t really developed there’s also no monopoly of the kind that America has. This will make it easier, he hopes, to include “good business practices like not ‘owning’ characters, making it mandatory for authors to own copyrights, etc.” His website is attempting to do exactly that with an entire forum section dedicated to ‘copyrights and the business of publishing.’

From Self to Shelf

A wary publishing industry is one of the reasons, Comix.India has chosen to self-publish using “Comics companies in India operate on an archaic ‘factory’ system,” Bharath says. “It is, in fact, a 19th century industrial model.” The system grew out of an industry which relied on India’s rich mythologies – stories that lent themselves beautifully to the comic genre. A publisher only needed to find the artists to ink and letter the product. “In this system,” Bharath adds, “the artist doesn’t own any of the artwork he or she does. It is all owned by the company.” Without ownership, the artists feel no responsibility towards the finished project and as a result neither the artist nor the industry progresses.

In our modern world alternative venues of publication are available. When Bharath was first drawing comics, a number of self-publishing venues popped up and he took advantage of them, printing out his own comics and distributing them himself. He noticed, however, that not all artists were using this incredible tool to promote and publish their own comics. Most of them were choosing instead to publish entirely online. He realised quickly that if he could get a group of indie comic creators together to self-publish a magazine, he could be instrumental in creating a new comics scene which was not inhibited by constraints on language, content or genre. “Plus, there’s no commercial pressure. So one can build a genuine comics scene wherein readers and writers closely interact,” he adds.

Webcomics Vs Self-publishing

But why self publish when one can make a webcomic? “Webcomics are great,” Bharath says, but Comix.India wants to give comic authors the option of getting out of the web so that their fans, old and new, can read it wherever they are- on a bus, in a train or simply laying on a beach in Goa. There’s only so many places you can go with your laptop. Secondly, the internet is a chaotic place where good ideas and voices can easily get lost. The innumerable flash ads and pop ups don’t help either. The fact remains that most people dislike reading on the internet and do so only out of necessity. Finally, and probably most importantly, self-publishing gives the author some remuneration, even if it is a token amount.

As it stands now, Comix.India is the first self-published comic magazine to exist in India that actively encourages and invites work from both emerging and established artists and writers.

Girl Power!

Volume One of Comix.India does not have a theme. The stories range from memoir to essay to historical fantasy and urban detective pieces. This medley of content and art is just a sample. Comix.India has already mapped out themes for the next five issues. The idea is to broaden the range of stories that comic readers are used to seeing. Part of the appeal is also to breaks ranks a little bit, to talk about things no one is talking about and to encourage artistic styles that are fresh and experimental.

The theme for Volume Two is ‘Girl Power’. The idea behind the theme comes from Bharath’s film on the female manga artists in Japan, titled Fragile Heart of Moe. Shot entirely in Japan, the film reveals that the shoǰo manga movement was begun, inspired and created by women authors who felt that their stories were going untold.

“It was the women comics authors in Japan who really expanded the medium and brought sophisticated literary sensibilities into it,” Bharath says. He points out that, “addressing a female audience is the first and most important [goal]. This is because we have NO comics for girls in India, and almost all Indian comics, children’s comics included, somehow felt implicitly addressed to male readers. I’d want more and more girls and women drawing comics for themselves. It simply must be there. There cannot be a comics culture that doesn’t address women specifically.”

The deadline for submissions to Volume Two is April 30. Submission guidelines and tips are available online.

A Long Way To Go

Comix.India is the first step in the long journey towards creating a culture of buying and reading Indian comics. . More and more authors, influenced by manga and western comic artists, are beginning to take the art form a little more seriously. Like many artists, Kailash Iyer, who designed the cover art for Volume One, is thrilled about the magazine. Not only has it given him a platform to showcase his talents but it is also coming at time when he felt frustrated at the lack of dedicated comics companies and venues he could send his work to. Whether or not Comix.India will be a trailblazer in the comics industry remains to be seen. For now, supporting efforts like Comix.India is one of the many ways to encourage a more mature and exciting comic industry.