comic books

Meet the three Indian comic book artists on the global 100 list (and one who isn’t)

Paul Gravett, the curator of ‘Comix Creatrix: 100 Women Making Comics’ explains his choices.

The year 2015 was a watershed for women writers of graphic novels. They swept the Ignatz Awards but then, as the year came to a close they shook the foundations the prestigious Angoulême Comics Festival in France by protesting against all-male 2016 Grand Prix nominee list citing gender discrimination. This resulted in the scrapping of the nominee list.

Against this backdrop, the first-ever all-women comics and graphic narratives exhibition in the UK – Comix Creatrix: 100 Women Making Comics has gathered added significance. This exhibition includes works by 100 women cartoonists from across the world. And three (only?) of them are from India: Manjula Padmanabhan, Kaveri Gopalakrishnan and Reshu Singh.

In an email interview, Paul Gravett, the curator of the show and a world-renowned authority on comics, offered details of the show.

Gravett and Olivia Ahmad, who is House of Illustration (HoI)’s Exhibitions Manager, are the co-curators of the exhibition that will be open on 5 February and run till 15 May 2016 at HoI. According to Gravett they took about a year to put together this London exhibition.

“Essentially a year’, says Gravett who also in 2014 co-curated Comics Unmasked: Art and Anarchy in the UK at the British Library.

What is the theme of the Comix Creatrix?
There are several themes. The central theme is to correct the misapprehension that women have not made major contributions to the histories of comics and to their current vibrant creativity. We wanted to show that there is no limited definition of comics by women and that women are working in every genre – humour, horror, superheroes, autobiography, erotica, history, surrealism, reportage, science fiction, etc.

We also decided to include an opening section presenting a sampling of key pioneers, tracing right back to some of the very first women cartoonists working in London, Mary Darly in the 18th century and Marie Duval in the 19th century. After this, we added a section highlighting some of the innovators of the Sixties, Seventies and Eighties from the underground and alternative movements who paved the way for the modern graphic novel’s flourishing. And we wanted to mix British artists with non-British to give a wider global perspective and to include both established mature practitioners and younger emerging talents.

Despite the effort and significance of the show, when the list of women whose works will be exhibited was made public, one missing name did raise a few questions in the minds of graphic narrative fans here in India and abroad. Missing from this list was India’s most well-known woman comics artist Amruta Patil. Why did this happen?
With any exhibition, especially one limited to only 100 when as you know there are thousands of women making comics, past and present, worldwide, there will always be people and works left out. In fact, whole countries have been left out, inevitably with only 50 or so, as the exhibition is close to half British and half international. India is at least represented in Comix Creatrix, and with three artists.

But what prompted the selection of, say, a beginner like Reshu Singh over Patil?
Many other Indian artists were considered and, as you know, I have helped promote Amruta Patil’s work here in the UK, organising an event for Adi Parva at Foyles with Comica Festival (of which Gravett is a director) and the South Asian Literature Festival and commissioning a new strip from her for the ArtReview magazine. In the end, Olivia and I were keen to show the autobiographical pages by Reshu Singh and Kaveri Gopalakrishnan from the significant anthology Drawing The Line: Indian Women Fight Back. (Published last year, the book is a result of a workshop organized in the wake of the Nirbhaya rape in Delhi. At the workshop women artists from India told personal stories in the form of graphic narratives).

Who, then, are the three women comics writers who’re featured?

Manjula Padmanabhan
A pioneer in English comics in India, Padmanabhan is the first woman to run a newspaper strip – in the Sunday Observer between 1982 and 1986. Her protagonist Suki retained her cult status among readers of graphic narratives long after she stopped. Padmabhan is, of course, also well-known for her plays, illustrations and other genre of writing. “Olivia and I were thrilled to include Manjula Padmanabhan’s examples of her pioneering ‘Double Talk’ newspaper strip starring Suki from the early Eighties,” says Gravett.

In the male-dominated and -dictated world of comics where testosterone-dripping superheroes and scantily-clad heroines ruled the roost, Suki and Double Talk debut earned some initial scorn. However, the Sunday Observer editor Vinod Mehta continued to back the strip despite the readers, as Padmanabhan wrote in an Outlook magazine article, “calling the strip a horrible eyesore, ‘Double Gawk’, ‘dragging and brazenly repetitive.’” Many years later Penguin Books India published the Suki stories and the gawky young lady and her frog became a byword.

The Double Talk strips brought up many issues that readers of syndicated comic strips were not familiar with. Gender politics, in particular, did not go down well with readers then. For a long time, Padmanabhan did not go back to the comic form after Double Talk stopped, although she has resumed the strip now. In fact, she was a bit surprised that Suki was published. “In a culture where the birth of a daughter is regarded as a calamity and young brides are routinely murdered, what place is there for an awkward, fuzzy-haired girl whose best friend is a frog and whose favourite activity is sleeping late?” she wrote.

Kaveri Gopalakrishnan
A freelance comics artist and illustrator from Bangalore, Gopalakrishnan studied animation film design from National Institute of Design, Ahmadabad. Her sequential graphic narrative Basic Space is a part of Drawing The Line: Indian Women Fight Back. In an interview with kyoorius.com Kaveri said that her work was “inspired by artists with strong content-driven or humour-based work.” Her inspirations are Brazilian brothers Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon, Candian Guy Delisle of Jerusalem fame, and Luke Pearson the creator of Hilda.

She said in the same interview, “I used to document the things people did or said, ever since I started drawing as a toddler. This probably makes me an obsessively curious person; curious about other people and their quirks, which I still am.”

Reshu Singh
Singh is an illustrator and artist from New Delhi. She is an alumnus of the College of Art, New Delhi. Reshu’s short graphic narrative The Photo is a part of Drawing The Line: Indian Women Fight Back.

And the one who didn’t make the cut (but why not?):

Amruta Patil
Patil is India’s most well-known woman comics artist. She is known for her path-breaking long-form comic Kari, after which she published the equally significant Adi Parva. She was an artist in residence at Angoulême and panels from her forthcoming work Sauptik are a part of an exhibition at the ongoing Angoulême Comics Festival in France.

Patil has a fearless attitude towards comics. She took conservatives on with Kari, the country’s first long-form graphic narrative with a lesbian theme. Some of the imagery in the comic reminds the reader of Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, but Kari scores over Satrapi’s celebrated work on at least two counts: the sheer variety of themes packed into this little book, and the reinterpretation of celebrated paintings by artists like Andrew Wyeth or Frida Kahlo as though they were created as panels for use in Kari.

In fact, Patil uses the graphic novel form to pay tribute to her favourite painters. In an interview with Helter Skelter, she says: “Adi Parva (the first of a trilogy on the Mahabharata) marks the beginning of my relationship with paint and painters. I’ve been feasting on all that is pigment-saturated. Odilon Redon. Paul Gauguin. Amrita Sher-Gil. Folk art from our subcontinent, but also from Mexico. The pages for collage are ripped out from fashion magazines, and the jewel box was an important motif.”

These images notwithstanding, Patil considers herself a storyteller. Her brush does speak a language rarely heard in the world of comics.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Not just for experts: How videography is poised for a disruption

Digital solutions are making sure it’s easier than ever to express your creativity in moving images.

Where was the last time you saw art? Chances are on a screen, either on your phone or your computer. Stunning photography and intricate doodles are a frequent occurrence in the social feeds of many. That’s the defining feature of art in the 21st century - it fits in your pocket, pretty much everyone’s pocket. It is no more dictated by just a few elite players - renowned artists, museum curators, art critics, art fair promoters and powerful gallery owners. The digital age is spawning creators who choose to be defined by their creativity more than their skills. The negligible incubation time of digital art has enabled experimentation at staggering levels. Just a few minutes of browsing on the online art community, DeviantArt, is enough to gauge the scope of what digital art can achieve.

Sure enough, in the 21st century, entire creative industries are getting democratised like never before. Take photography, for example. Digital photography enabled everyone to capture a memory, and then convert it into personalised artwork with a plethora of editing options. Apps like Instagram reduced the learning curve even further with its set of filters that could lend character to even unremarkable snaps. Prisma further helped to make photos look like paintings, shaving off several more steps in the editing process. Now, yet another industry is showing similar signs of disruption – videography.

Once burdened by unreliable film, bulky cameras and prohibitive production costs, videography is now accessible to anyone with a smartphone and a decent Internet bandwidth. A lay person casually using social media today has so many video types and platforms to choose from - looping Vine videos, staccato Musical.lys, GIFs, Instagram stories, YouTube channels and many more. Videos are indeed fast emerging as the next front of expression online, and so are the digital solutions to support video creation.

One such example is Vizmato, an app which enables anyone with a smartphone to create professional-looking videos minus the learning curve required to master heavy, desktop software. It makes it easy to shoot 720p or 1080p HD videos with a choice of more than 40 visual effects. This fuss- free app is essentially like three apps built into one - a camcorder with live effects, a feature-rich video editor and a video sharing platform.

With Vizmato, the creative process starts at the shooting stage itself as it enables live application of themes and effects. Choose from hip hop, noir, haunted, vintage and many more.

The variety of filters available on Vizmato
The variety of filters available on Vizmato

Or you can simply choose to unleash your creativity at the editing stage; the possibilities are endless. Vizmato simplifies the core editing process by making it easier to apply cuts and join and reverse clips so your video can flow exactly the way you envisioned. Once the video is edited, you can use a variety of interesting effects to give your video that extra edge.

The RGB split, Inset and Fluidic effects.
The RGB split, Inset and Fluidic effects.

You can even choose music and sound effects to go with your clip; there’s nothing like applause at the right moment, or a laugh track at the crack of the worst joke.

Or just annotated GIFs customised for each moment.

Vizmato is the latest offering from Global Delight, which builds cross-platform audio, video and photography applications. It is the Indian developer that created award-winning iPhone apps such as Camera Plus, Camera Plus Pro and the Boom series. Vizmato is an upgrade of its hugely popular app Game Your Video, one of the winners of the Macworld Best of Show 2012. The overhauled Vizmato, in essence, brings the Instagram functionality to videos. With instant themes, filters and effects at your disposal, you can feel like the director of a sci-fi film, horror movie or a romance drama, all within a single video clip. It even provides an in-built video-sharing platform, Popular, to which you can upload your creations and gain visibility and feedback.

Play

So, whether you’re into making the most interesting Vines or shooting your take on Ed Sheeran’s ‘Shape of You’, experience for yourself how Vizmato has made video creation addictively simple. Android users can download the app here and iOS users will have their version in January.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Vizmato and not by the Scroll editorial team.