The special issue of Marg, a Magazine of the Arts on “Comics in India” (Volume 66, no. 2) is officially out – and has been for a little while. My copies arrived the other day, and, though I’ve been overly busy enough not to have read them yet, I am looking forward to reading all that awesomeness! Among other things, this lovely volume organized and edited by the incredibly patient and helpfully editorial Aniruddha Sen Gupta includes articles on traditional visual narratives by Vidyun Sabhaney of Captain Bijli Comics, art and comics by Gokul Gopalakrishnan of Small Talk, grassroots comics by Sharad Sharma of World Comics India, and a piece by Amitabh Kumar – all that on top of sketches from River of Stories by Orijit Sen, a new comics story by writer, painter, and comics/graphic novel author Amruta Patil, and reviews of DOGS! and Vikram Balagopal’s Simian Vol. 1, with much more besides.
For those of you who haven’t been able to get your hands on a copy, here’s a little preview of my piece, including the illustration that I created to show the international timeline for comics. Beware – it’s only the introduction. This special issue is such a great work that you really do need to get your own copy on the double!
Telling Stories and Building Community: Making Comics in India
In The River of Stories (1994), Orijit Sen weaves together the threads of urban, Adivasi and other experiences of the building of the Sardar Sarovar dam. His sensitive linework immerses readers in the lush landscape of the Narmada river valley. As Sen stated to me, his goal was to use a deep sense of place and worldview to craft a compelling story and connect readers to the acts of injustice that accompanied the project: “Plot is only one part of storytelling, but the sense of life is the story itself.”[i] This “sense of life” is held together by the warp and the woof of fieldwork-based research and a critical awareness of comics as a storytelling medium. Through both, Sen creates the story as an insightful and innovative graphic novelist committed to visualizing a more community-focused India. And he is not alone.
From Sen’s dedication to socially-engaged creativity to the drive of younger authors and artists like Vidyun Sabhaney for a more vibrant community, comics culture in India is a culture of passionate storytellers committed to excellent stories. Even more, these creators’ processes often entail an awareness of and engagement with folk culture in India, such as Gond traditional painting, Bengali patas, and Rajasthani kaavads.[ii] This differs from other comics cultures that have been more strongly influenced by film, literature or other mass media.
Instead, the medium in India has developed in conversation with a vast diversity of visual storytelling traditions that emphasize the balance of individual creativity and community. Combined with international influences, such a history has led to an increasingly vibrant and diverse comics culture grounded in an understanding of comics as historically situated in Indian visual storytelling.
[i] Throughout, I base my work on recordings and transcriptions of conversations with a number of comics creators in Delhi in 2010 and 2013, as well as written and electronic interviews with creators in Delhi and elsewhere from 2010 to 2014.
[ii] Vidyun Sabhaney and Shohei Emura have performed fieldwork throughout India on the visual narrative technique of traditional storytelling forms through support from India Foundation for the Arts and Rajika Puri.
And here’s the image, as created and originally published in this volume of Marg.
That’s all for now – hope you all are having a wonderful 2015 so far!
PS – Follow this link to read the whole text of the article (without images) for free, apparently…