It was in 1985 that Eric “Monster” Millikin introduced the first online comic to the world. A parody of the Wizard of Oz titled Witches in Stitches, the comic, published via the American online service CompuServe, gave creators a whole new way to express thoughts in the form of a webcomic.
Webcomics have come a long, long way over the years. Once they were defined as crudely drawn lines and slapstick humour. But the evolution of webcomics has taught us that all you really need to make one is perhaps talent and a working Internet connection.
When you look at webcomics from across the world, you realise that some of the best writing and art in the realm of comics is not released by publishing giants. In fact, more often than not, there is a bespectacled geek sitting at the computer after office hours, toiling away just to make readers smile.
In India, the world of webcomics was defined even a few years ago by stick figures, unimpressive humour and banal writing. But today’s webcomic creators are a different breed. They realise that the Internet is indeed a vast playground that can be perfectly manipulated for their creative exploits. Starting from political discourses and going on to spreading social awareness, Indian webcomics are growing up. While not all of them are original, unique or even good, most of them do work to foster a deep and meaningful relationship with audiences.
The Beast Legion
Illustrated entirely in the manga style Jazyl Homavazir’s The Beast Legion is a fantasy epic that takes place in a world far from ours. A story of a young hero in search of justice, this awardwinning webcomic follows the exploits of Xeus on his quest to save his home world in an epic struggle of good versus evil.
In a self-published one man show, one can find enough flaws if one looks closely. But Homavazir’s dedication to The Beast Legion makes it one of the best Indian reads when it comes to breaking away from the country’s favourite genres of mythology, superheroes and social awakening. With more than five years of updates resting in the archives, this is possibly the best place for a healthy dose of action, adventure and even romance.
Let’s admit it, while we do like sharing videos of polar bears hopelessly trying to navigate their way through a rapidly melting snow-stream, not too many of us actually have the time to spare a thought about global warming, poachers and nature. Thankfully, Rohan Chakravarty isn’t one of us. The man behind Green Humour, he takes a break from politics, social angst and sexual innuendoes to introduce to us a world that refuses to celebrate technological advancement and mourns environmental disasters instead.
With mythology influencing a good number of comics in India, it is no surprise that the world of webcomics too has a fair share of tales from the past. Created by Meenakshi Krishnamoorthy, Kinnari takes us on a magical journey through mythical tales of ancient India.
Although the stories chosen by Krishnamoorthy are familiar, her take on them is not. And in an effort to explain her inspirations to even those who aren’t familiar with the world of Indian mythology, she incorporates footnotes at the end of the comics to make sure that the context is not lost.
Born out of images found in the public domain, this webcomic is characterised by rich colours, elegant line-work and intricate detailing. Not surprising, since the images used in the comic were originally born in one of the most exciting eras in the history of art. Inspired by the American webcomic Wondermark, Aarthi Parthasarathy’s Royal Existentials juxtaposes the opulent settings of old Indian miniature paintings with philosophical and intellectual exchanges on social inequality, feminism and general angst of millenials.
Crocodile in Water, Tiger on Land
Using gags to make the best of the bleak political situations in the country, Crocodile in Water Tiger on Land, unlike most Indian webcomics, boasts of a genuinely intelligent sense of humour. Capturing the angst of the average Indian intellectual to perfection, this webcomic opines, expresses and rants in a way that is sure to remind you of Monty Python. Covering subjects ranging from Internet laws to BJP rule, every update of theirs help you notice the bright side of life as we know it. In trenchant terms.