Coming: Graphic Novel About a Dream That Gets Too Real
By Svetlana Lasrado | Published: 05th June 2014 08:23 AM |
BANGALORE: Appupen is a visual narrator. A storyteller who speaks through pictures. This pseudonym of George Mathen was born in 2009, via a graphic novel, Moonward (Blaft Publications). In Malayalam, Appupen means grandfather or old man. Mathen is a 30-something commerce graduate who gave up a corporate career to become an artist.
The playing field for his fantasies is a strange world called ‘Halahala’ which he had presented in Moonward, and then The Legends of Halahala, published in 2013 by Harper Collins. “I came across the term, ‘Halahala’ which is the poison in Shiva's throat, while reading Amar Chitra Katha. But the connection with mythology stops there. I only liked the sound of the word.”
Inspired by the works of woodcut artist Lynd Ward from the 1920s, known for his wordless novels, George experimented with minimal use of dialogues in Moonward. He discovered that it was fun and stuck to it. “The only language is pictures. When I get an idea, I draw my storyboard, instead of putting it in words. Doodling is much more easier. Then as the story evolves, the pictures take shape. It helps me be expressive as a creator and it also lets the reader imagine the story.”
In his second attempt at a wordless graphic novel, Appupen continues the story set in the world of Halahala with Aspyrus. Drawn in a greenish blue palette, it introduces a character who takes over the world. “The book has carried forward an unpublished story from Moonward which we left out because the book became too heavy.” Aspyrus is a dream that takes over the world. Giving some text to this idea, he elaborates, “The book has three parts. Act I reveals a dreamer who creates a city for the dream to thrive. In Act II, the dream outgrows the city and takes on the world. And in Act III, I have introduced a girl character who fights the dream ‘Aspyrus’ to change the world.”
Before illustration, he dabbled in advertising, animation and even music. But all along he knew he wanted to tell stories. He reminisces, “During my college days, I created storyboards for animation projects, some for Bollywood movies. Then I joined advertising in 2000. My boss, who saw my paintings, figured that I dreamt of being an artist and told me to quit the organisation in one year. And in one year’s time, I did quit. Then later in 2005, I was a drummer in an alternate rock band Lounge Piranhas. That lasted till 2011.” Graphic novels, as a genre, are very popular in the West, with the industry raking in millions of dollars in sales every year. But in India, the genre has not evolved, laments George. "Here, graphic comics are not considered art. Moreover, it is expensive. Therefore, it caters to a niche audience." Though comic book crossover movies like the superhero franchises are glamorising comic books, it is still an unevolved market. This is why, George, who has taken part in many lit fests and art exhibitions in the country, is planning to travel abroad with Aspyrus.
But books aren't his only forum for expressing his ideas. Though most of his time is spent on his books, he does commercial work like paintings and murals for corporates. “I do this so that I earn some money to keep me going,” he laughs. He also creates comic art for Rolling Stones on a monthly basis and has another project with ESPN Cricinfo in the pipeline.
"I will be working on cricket-inspired comic strips for the website along with my artist-friend Rahul Chacko. We have already sent our ideas to them and the work will start by mid-June or early July." Apart from this he has ideas for four books, one of them in collaboration with Rahul Chacko, again set in the mystical world of ‘Halahala’