BANGALORE: A seismic shift took place in the way comics were perceived globally in 2008, when Christopher Nolan made The Dark Knight. The film on the surface referred to a superhero from a DC comic, but was actually about existential conflicts between the forces of light and darkness within us.
The Indian comic book world too is now seeing a gradual shift in the way creators tell their stories. They are moving away from mythological and superhero tropes, to books tackling the rise of Naxal unrest in the country, narratives that fuse Bollywood elements with the comic realm and novels that experiment with bold futuristic themes.
Of late, our comics have developed a rich visual vocabulary without words, just like some western graphic masterpieces.
Ahead of the Bangalore Comic Con, starting on September 12, City Express puts together a list of unique and path-breaking graphic fiction novels that will be launched at the event.
The Kaurava Empire- Abhimanyu and the conquest of Chakravyuha (Vol I)
This book is part of a mythological drama series, the first of which will be launched at the convention this year.
The book tells a quintessential Indian story through the gaze of a fascinated 'outsider' who at some point becomes one with the narrative.
It takes a look at the war between the Pandavas and Kauravas in The Mahabarata. The protagonists in the narrative here are Abhimanyu, son of Arjuna and Durmashana, son of Dushasana.
Writer Jason Quinn says, "It is the story of Abhimanyu and the man who tries to slay him in order to impress the Gods to earn a reputation of being fearless."
The crux of the story is the sacrifice that Abhimanyu has to make in order to save his family when the Kauravas unleash the Chakravyuha on them.
Quinn, best known for his book Steve Jobs: Genius by Design, also worked with Marvel Entertainment prior to turning a freelance writer. He relocated to Delhi two years ago and since then, fascinated by Indian mythology, has written books like The Kaurava Empire: The Darkest Hour and The Kaurava Empire: The Vengeance of Ashwatthama.
The Kaurava Empire- Abhimanyu and the conquest of Chakravyuha (Volume I), will be the first book in a new series. "I was particularly interested in the story of Abhimanyu and so decided to make it more accessible with some stunning artwork," says Quinn, who has also penned the book, The Graphic Biography of Gandhi.
They brought their debut comic, The Wise Fool of Baghdad to the first edition of Bangalore Comic Con. This year, Sufi Comics creators, the Vakil brothers, bring one on Rumi, with a representation of 20 poems from his magnum opus Mathnawi.
Rumi, the 13th-century Persian poet and Sufi mystic is today a global figure and he has been interpreted in various formats and is even considered to be the "best selling poet in the US." This, however, is possibly the first time that his essence has been distilled in a comic book format, drawing upon the original Farsi text.
"We read the English translation, so a lot would have got lost there," says Mohammad Arif Vakil, talking of the challenges he, brother Mohammad Ali Vakil and the rest of their team faced. "But one of our team members knows Farsi, so we took his help. We have used both English and Farsi," he adds.
At the end of every poem is a verse from the Quran or the words of holy men. "We have chosen pieces that go with the essence of the poem," he explains.
The Caravan Prequel - Blood War #1
At Comic Con 2013, the creators released The Caravan, which, according to writer Shamik Dasgupta, set a precedent by being one of the first Indian novels about vampires. This year, they are set to launch the prequel to the story titled Blood War #1.
Here, pulp fiction meets Bollywood.
The narrative delves into the story of one character, Bheriya Khan, leader of a dacoit gang called Darinday.
The playing field, says Dasgupta, is Chambal in the 1970's when Bheriya has singlehandedly destroyed other dacoit groups and is terrorising people. The book talks about Bheriya's past, and how he became a dacoit. At the end of the novel, a new character is introduced.
In Blood War #1, the creators offer a fascinating parallel between Bollywood and the fictional universe of the comic book characters. The illustration invokes memories of action-packed scenes of the iconic 1970s action film Sholay, as the creators have juxtaposed the movie terrain to suit the context of the novel.
"We wanted to bring an element of entertainment to the vampire universe which is often very serious and very dark. So, we take interesting elements from Bollywood movies and make it graphically appealing. It is like a masala entertainer of the comic book world. Even The Caravan was inspired by the Ramsay brothers' movie-making approach."
Taranath Tantrik (TnT) #1 - City of Sorrows
The history and evolution of old Calcutta is narrated via one man - Taranath Tantrik (based on the character created by renowned Bengali author, Bibhutibhushan Mukhopadhyay) in the thriller, City of Sorrows.
When was the last time the world of Bibhutibhushan Mukhopadhyay ran into the world of graphic supernaturalism?
The creators have taken a subject as compelling and historically significant as the 1970's Naxal revolution in West Bengal, making it one of the key themes in the book.
Taranath Tantrik is an investigator who embarks on a mission to solve the mysterious insanity outbreaks that occur in the city. He is accompanied by his three friends - Shankar, a CID officer, Vibhuti, a horror novelist and Sneha, a journalist. One thing leads to another and TnT finds himself embroiled in an ancient conspiracy that will shake the entire City of Joy. The book also draws parallels between the past and the present, so that the reader can relate to the evolution the city of Calcutta has undergone.