I’ve been wanting to do this one for a while and this week, we had a great collection of books to feature. Here’s our page on graphic novels.
- The winsome Amruta Patil — whose new book is the gloriously-illustrated Adi Parva — reviewed Joe Sacco’s Journalism
- R. Krishna saw the monkey business that makes up movies in Rajesh Devraj’s Sudershan (Chimpanzee).
- Manta Ray is coming out with their second “proper book” since Hush. It’s an anthology called Mixtape and in the piece below, they tell me all about it.
A Graphic Medley
What do you get when you add two BTech degrees in mechanical engineering with some training in product design and a career in advertising? An indie publishing outfit that specialises in comics and graphic novels. “When we started off, our peers in comics were doing stories in the mythology, superhero space,” said Pratheek Thomas, NID alumnus and co-founder of Manta Ray. “And we were completely put off by it. We wanted to tell new stories, and not be another DC/ Marvel or rehash old stories from Indian mythology.”
Thomas and Dileep Cherian started working towards setting up Manta Ray in 2009 and two years later, they’d released their first title, Hush. In black and white terms, Hush was a comic but its thoroughly adult theme of child sexual abuse made it unlike any of the cheery, simplistic stories that characterised the flimsy paperbacks that fill many a kiddie library. The comic was oppressively silent — there was barely any text in Hush; only expressions and situations — and yet eloquent. The bold slashes, sharp angles, harsh shadows and stark tones of Rajeev Eipe’s illustrations made Thomas’s story all the more powerful and disturbing.
Since Hush, Manta Ray’s projects have brought together a clutch of talented storytellers and illustrators. Their comics are available online and some have been printed in magazines and newspapers. For most part, however, Manta Ray has been an online presence. This December, Manta Ray will bring out its second “proper book” — Mixtape, an anthology made up of short comic stories. “We are the audio-cassette generation,” said Thomas, explaining the anthology’s title. “We grew up listening to ‘mixtapes’ — compilations of our favourite songs recorded on to blank cassettes — and we’d play them over and over, until the tape broke or we made a new mixtape. So the name comes from that. It’s a diverse playlist of stories from a varied cast of storytellers.” (It’s easy to spot Manta Ray’s love for the 80s’ vintage: their newsletter is called Manta Ray Telex.)
Mixtape will have a limited print edition and also be available as a paid-for and downloadable PDF. It’ll be priced between Rs50 and Rs100. “Unlike the regular digital comics, we have not tied Mixtape to an app,” said Thomas. He’s well aware that an app version would have made Mixtapemore reader friendly but there’s reasoning behind the decision. “We are giving it out as a PDF so, when someone buys the comic, they own it too. They can mail it to their friends, they can take printouts… we’re keeping all of that open to our readers. Of course, we’d prefer that readers support the comic by buying it — that helps us put out more Mixtapes. And I think it is a fair request for the effort, time and faith that all the creators are putting into telling these stories.”
The anthology promises to be worth preserving, if the snippets that Manta Ray has offered are any indication of the final volume. It’s also difficult to not be infected with Thomas’s excitement about this first edition. “I was blown when Devaki [Neogi Kiran]’s final pages for Praveen [K Nair]’s story came in — I think this is some of her best work to date,” he gushed when asked if he had any favourites in Mixtape. “Tina [Thomas] and Jasjyot [Singh Hans] are telling a quiet, subtle love story. Having worked with Jasjyot before and seen his sketches (man, the way he draws women!), I’m sure that it will be beautiful. And there is Sachin [Somasundaran], who’s not a comic reader or artist. It was good to team up with him.”
Thomas and Cherian have been planning Mixtape since 2009 and hope to have a new volume every two months. Despite the fact that there’s no payment for those who contribute stories to Mixtape, there’s no shortage of storytellers who want to be part of this experiment. They released one of the stories from the first volume of Mixtape (‘Rather Lovely Thing’ by Pratheek Thomas and Archana Sreenivasan) as a teaser and established as well as unknown comic writers wrote to Manta Ray saying they wanted to contribute to a future issue. Thomas candidly admitted that neither he nor Cherian are sure about the practicality of their plans. However, that is no deterrent. “The thing is, we all want to tell these stories,” he said. “And I believe that if we tell good stories with good art, we can only grow stronger from where we are right now.”
See mantaraycomics.tumblr.com for details.