The idea of non-fiction is not particularly novel in the medium of comics – in fact, it has a relationship with depicting the real that is as old (perhaps older) and as robust as its infamous association with superheroes. Recently, for example, comics like Maus (Art Spiegelman), Palestine (Joe Sacco), Barefoot Gen (Keiji Nakazawa) and Persepolis (Marjane Satrapi), to name just a few biggies, have captured even the popular imagination.
These books have been startlingly radical for readers not just because of the medium that they use but the stories that they chose to tell; I suspect that part of the difference comes from the honesty that giving life to one’s experience demands. Evocatively-drawn (and successful) comics often don’t have the most skilled or, even, technically correct drawings; they rely on an eye for detail, a sense of rhythm, and style. The lens is always, in one way or another, subjective to the person creating it.
This is, perhaps, where the real appeal of non-fiction comics lies: the opportunity to enter another person’s real world, but as they see it. In this way, comics gives its creators tremendous political agency to counter an establishment view. It allows readers and writers to re-enter their world through the rupture of a new visual lens, giving both an opportunity to break from the dominant narratives of the times.
– Vidyun Sabhaney, editor, First Hand
When Vidyun and I set out to compile an anthology of non-fiction comics, I was particularly excited by the possibilities of the works that would emerge through collaborations between comics artists and writers, journalists, anthropologists, historians and others, each bringing to the project their own distinct ways of looking at the world around them. And I’m not disappointed.
In the world of comics, there are no governing rules for achieving the perfect play between text and image, and with this project in particular, every story needed to seek and find its own method and treatment. It’s fascinating to see the different strategies that evolved in the process. The real, the unreal and the surreal, the factual and the fantastical, the logical and the absurd – all the riches of the storyteller’s repertoire seem to have come together to find their places within the diverse genres that the stories in this anthology straddle.
– Orijit Sen, editor, First Hand
From 'The Girl Not From Madras'
Excerpted with permission from First Hand: Graphic Non-Fiction from India, Volume 1, edited by Orijit Sen and Vidyun Sabhaney, Yoda Press.