Comic books are a cornerstone of storytelling. Initially only created for children, this style of narrative fiction grew popular among adults rather quickly. The greatest superhero franchises of DC and Marvel all started with comics and even after the exceptionally advanced CGI-based movies with mega stars that fans worship, the comics are still believed to be superior. I'm a DC-head who loves Watchmen; Doctor Manhattan is zaddy. The film was great but the graphic novel is where the real prize is and it still remains my most-read book.
India saw its old golden age of comics in the 70s and 80s with Amar Chitra Katha, but most would agree that it could never really travel further than the children and young adult demographic. Even decades later, older Indian intellectuals seeking complex, gritty stories would have to look to the west for Batman, Sin City, Requiem Vampire Knight, etc. Though artists and illustrators developed their own graphic novels, there has been a void in the comic style of fiction in India.
Aiming to fill that void, Anubhav G, a 28-year-old multidisciplinary artist from Kolkata is working on his project, 'Loka'. The artist has been in the animation and gaming industry for the last 5-6 years, In 2017, when he was working at EA Games, he also started designing characters and exploring ideas for the 'Lokaverse'. Anubhav saw a lack of representation of our culture and lore in the visual arts we consume and a lack of interesting South Asian characters and stories. He could also sense the underlying hunger in the masses to see their myth, heroes and culture in an exotic and bold new light.
The artist has been sharing his comic strips on Instagram which are snippets from the bigger universe of Loka, loosely based on the 14 mythical realms of Hindu cosmology. While creating this project, Anubhav realized that a character is only as good as the story behind them. So he learnt about storytelling, world-building, esoteric ideas, how to research and apply it properly to give the viewers a thought-out backstory of these characters. Besides that, conceptually Loka is a mix of Indian myth, mysticism, masala and sci-fi, so you can expect a melting pot of a multitude of characters, stories and themes.
Anubhav grew up on graphic novels, anime and manga which taught him how to draw, conceptualize and compose. Influenced by artists like Junji Ito, Kim Jung Gi, Maciej Kuciara, Mukesh Singh, he also draws inspiration from music, especially hip-hop and electronic, and a lot of sci-fi movies and psychological thrillers like Bladerunner 2049 and Ex Machina.
Much like the sci-fi cliche where aliens only seem to be interested in invading the US of A, the west has had a monopoly in the comic book culture. Recently, there has been a wave of AI projects experimenting with Indian characters in sci-fi, and retrofuturistic realms but no artist has yet crafted a complete, storyboarded series with a narrative weight that can be classified as a comic.
The only thrilling tales of murder, deception and internal conflict in India have been in our mythology and it's about time that we see the same gripping plots in modern comic book universe with new age characters and storylines.