Era of graphic novels!

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Graphic novels are an innovative way of story-telling. Powered with illustrations and a minimum use of words, they keep the readers glued to the book…. right till the last page. A recent graphic novel released by Westland, is Local Monsters. Here, Varsha Verma, talks to the writer and illustrator of this graphic novel to know more about it and of course the brains behind it.
Local Monsters, published by Westland Publishers, is about a group of young people who’ve moved to Delhi and are trying to live the sitcom life of twenty somethings in the big city – though they’re also all secretly monsters. So it’s not just landlords and electricity bills, but demonic conspiracies and world domination plots that fill up their daily lives, tells Samit Basu, the author of the book. Samit is a writer of books, films and comics. His first novel, The Simoqin Prophecies, published by Penguin India in 2003, when Samit was 23, was the first book in the bestselling Gameworld Trilogy and marked the beginning of Indian English fantasy writing. Among Samit’s other books, Turbulence, a superhero novel, was published in the UK to rave reviews in 2012 and is to be published in the US in 2013. It won Wired‘s Goldenbot Award as one of the books of 2012. Basu’s work in comics ranges from historical romance to zombie comedy, and includes diverse collaborators, from X-Men/Felix Castor writer Mike Carey to Terry Gilliam and Duran Duran.

“Local Monster was a surprise project for me, scripted by well known writer Samit Basu. It was exciting as well as challenging to comprehend the story and setting to develop the characters and art style, while maintaining consistency. It is necessary for the artist to read the full script and understand the writer’s vision in order to visualize how the story can be drawn and laid out successfully. Samit and I had many discussions regarding the characters, backgrounds, and suitable art styles. Earlier, we wanted our graphic novel to be coloured, but then decided to bring a new experience to the readers by presenting it in Black and White,” tells Ghanshyam Bochgeri, the illustrator for Local Monsters. He grew up on a healthy dose of Superman, his favourite superhero, along with his usual staple of Tinkle comics. After getting a degree in Mechanical Engineering, he decided to pursue his hobby of drawing caricatures and cartoons as a full-fledged career. He proved his mettle by working on several titles like Old School, Northern Song and Shaurya, for Level10 Comics and has kept on growing as an artist ever since.

Journey so far…

“About a month into my MBA course at IIMA, I knew I didn’t want to be a business person, and it was time to back myself to do what I really wanted to – to take the leap and hope for the best. Writing was my passion, but it was only then that I knew I wanted to do it for a living. Since then, it’s been a long journey – I’ve been an author for ten years now, and show no signs of stopping. It’s been fun, mostly, though of course it’s been challenging doing work that’s quite dissimilar from the mainstream in a country where reading habits are far from mature. But ten years in, I’ve been lucky enough to both have a decent readership at home, and more recently, abroad as well – Turbulence, my last novel, has been doing really well in the US and UK, which has always been an aim,” tells Samit.

Like Samit, Ghanshyam too took a plunge and converted his hobby into his profession. “I studied Production Engineering. Throughout my education, there was one thing common; I used to sketch all the time. I went ahead and converted my hobby into my profession. I thank my Dad, who is a great artist himself, for being my first inspiration. However, unlike me, he chose to let art be his hobby and became a professional engineer. After completing my education, I firmly decided to be a comic book artist, and started my first job as a storyboard artist. After this, there was no looking back and I continued to push my limits as an artist. While working in Delhi, I participated in a competition conducted by Level10 Comics. My work was appreciated and I went on to freelance for Level10 Comics. My first project was Batu Gaiden, Northern Song. After working on these stories, I joined Level10 Comics as a full time artist. My dream came true when I was given a chance to work on their ongoing series titled Shaurya, Old School,” he tells proudly.

Hardest part of profession…

“The hard part is what happens afterwards – writing itself is a delight. But sending your book out into the world to fend for itself is always tough, and you need a completely different set of skills to stay afloat. The present-day world requires writers to be hustlers, and door-to-door salesmen, and constant braggarts – if these are not part of who you naturally are, it’s hard to go against your nature,” shares Samit.

While, Ghanshyam feels that to start with a new book, the most challenging part is to adopt a style for the story as per the genre of the story. “Some artists have their own art style which they stick with no matter what. However, I go out of my comfort zone and adopt different style to match the story. This shift can only be achieved if the artist has read and understood the script thoroughly,” he adds.

Musts for graphic novels…

“For graphic novels writers like myself, who don’t draw but just write the words and panel descriptions for artists to play with, it’s important to remember that it’s a collaborative effort, and something new and strange emerges between words and drawings that is something you couldn’t have achieved with words alone,” says Samit. For him, the story comes first. “I like to do the whole script, give it to the artist to play with, and then rewrite bits to marry it more closely to art if necessary,” he says.

“The hardest part is to make children laugh or engage them in a story in any other form. I try to keep my art work very simple, so that children will love to read. Since the characters are simplified, it even encourages them to give a shot at drawing these characters,” concluded Ghanshyam.

Q: How to engage children to make reading a book for “fun?

Samit: Try and engage with new media and try to find ways to tell stories in them.

Ghanshyam: If the book has some moral stories, humor stories, some drama added, and some interestingly sketched character, it makes a complete children’s book. Reading not only helps children’s imagination grow, but also helps to improve their language.

Q: Which is the next book that readers can look forward to?

Samit: Terror on the Titanic, a YA historical fantasy adventure and a series of children’s books starting early next year. And Resistance, the sequel to Turbulence, is out in the US and UK next summer.

Ghanshyam: You can find my illustrations in TINKLE comics.

Q: What is your advice to young aspirants?

Samit: Be patient. And don’t be obnoxious. People come to writing and publishing for different reasons, and increasingly a lot of people do it to feel validated, or famous. I do it because I love writing and telling stories in any medium, but that’s not the only valid reasons to do it. But I like to tell aspiring writers to keep at it, and remember to try and keep improving at their actual work.

Ghanshyam: I only suggest that artists should be serious about their work, know their strengths and keep reading a lot of books from different genres.

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