Those who follow Indian comics would not need an introduction to Anupam Sinh
a, the Creative Director of Raj Comics, and the creator of the totally amazing Super Commando Dhruv
Well, we got in touch with him - one of the men behind the origins of the Indian comic superhero universe, and tried to understand why the comic industry in our country still hasn’t picked up and identify with the struggles comic artists face. Read on!
Your first stint as a comic artist was back in the 1975 when you were just 13, and later in ’87 you created Super Commando Dhruv. How much have things changed in the Indian Comic industry since? Anupam: When I began drawing strips of cartoons, it was purely for amateurish intentions; they were those 3 paneled graphics texted with rib tickling jokes. Soon, I graduated to drawing single paneled cartoons. And, after a really positive meet with Diamond Comics in early '78, when I was offered a full comic in cartoon style, which was my first stint with comics.
Around this time the Indian comic scenario was already studded with various realistic superheroes by Indrajal Comics, but Amar Chitra Katha ruled the roost.
In that era, worldwide, comics held an individual identity. They had a balance in text and drawings, comics in parts were rare. Heroes were strong, silent, good people who always did the greater good. Villains were born evil, and readers wanted to see them thoroughly thrashed.
But, in India, this superhero cult wasn’t indigenous but represented through western characters. Diamond Comics did start a popular comic trend, but the trend was established only by Raj Comics. I created Super Commando Dhruv in 1987 on these prevailing trends.
Gradually, this trend shifted towards more aggressive and talkative superheroes; antiheroes were accepted and villains were sympathized with. Comics were extensively becoming a reference for animation and movies and in return, comics were shifting towards a more cinematographic approach, stronger on the and low on content.
After Commando Dhruv, you took the already established Nagraj’s journey further; tell us all about your journey as a creator. Anupam:
My journey as a creator and modifier of characters ran simultaneously as I began working on comics. Nagraj was not the first character I took over and modified.
The beginning in this field was just as a comic artist, but soon I learnt that contemporary writers weren’t familiar with comic story writing. I made modifications in scripts from my very first comic; I modified Lamboo Motu, Fauladi Singh, and Inspector Girish for Diamond Comics. Later, I did the same with Mahamaya Ki Talwar while working with Chitra Bharti and began working on my own creations.
Irrespective, the great Nagraj was different. He was already ruling the popularity chart and needed a new image, not a new face. It was a huge challenge and I had to believe that I am creating something that has not been created. God helped to justify the faith my publishers had so trustfully put into me.
What would you say has been the highlight of your journey so far? Anupam: The highlight of my journey has been to help giving India, a Superhero Universe of their own, homegrown and pitched just for them. Now, every Indian living or visiting abroad can proudly say that, “Yes, we have our own Superheroes!”
And, of course, nothing can beat the satisfaction of creating Super Commando Dhruv.
What is your process of creating a comic, walk us through it - from ideation to the final execution, tell us all. Anupam:
I begin with a concept, and direct it into a plot which is explored on its plinth. Then, I settle upon the estimated number of pages and parts. After that a story is written which has the opening and the ending of each book. Once this criterion is satisfied, a script is written. Fillers in a script are the attention grabbers where the script is broken down to fit each page with only one element of curiosity.
Once this is taken care of, penciling begins. Composition of panels and dynamism is the key here - angle of a panel, the number of characters, distancing and background is set according to panel’s text.
After which the comic goes to an Inker, who re-embellishes the grey penciled drawings to a crisp and defined black. Most artists still follow manual process, though there are tools for digital inking too now.
And, the final step is of a text setter who finished the artwork after a colorist adds up some colours to the comic. The editor of the comic is involved in each and every step of this lengthy process.
The comic industry in India hasn’t taken off yet, even after the international comic convention Comic Con doing the rounds since years now. Why do you think it is so? Anupam: Language has to be a major reason for this, as the comics have been super popular in the Hindi speaking belt. Also, Comic Con didn’t put emphasis on comic books as much as merchandises, cosplays, and comic accessories like action figures, etc. The proportion of stalls at comic con from merchandising stalls to comic book stalls is 3:1.
What are the major problems in the industry according to you? Anupam: To begin with, there aren’t enough players in this field. Majorly this is because comic is no longer a standalone project; it is seen as a part of bigger canvas that leads to animation, gaming and movies. Sometimes, it may work in reverse as well. Many comic artists are busy doing concept art or animation, and prospective publishers too think that comic may not get them good returns when compared with gaming or animation. Thirdly and most important point is that publishing requires a lot of patience, application and dedication, which is rare in this '2 minutes noodle era'. But still, enough passionate players are here and ready to keep the game going.
What are your expectations from the comic industry in India? Anupam: Just like the Japanese comic industry, I wish the Indian comics also must be picked up by a global audience; while retaining its flavour, culture and the unique art of story-telling. Secondly, I do want to see comics being a treasure trove and guiding force for associated fields like animation, gaming and movies.
Do share a word of advice for upcoming comic artists who are planning to follow your footsteps and build a career in the comic industry? Anupam: Do not get daunted, even by the demigods but at the same time do not over assess yourself. Be absolutely true to your work, ready to learn every single day. Original comic is not a cakewalk it’s nothing less of a 'tapasya' (meditation), it requires long sitting, facing a lot of heartbreaks and countless moments of self doubt. But in the end, you will feel blissful. So, come prepared to compete but only with yourself.