A Revolutionary Comic That Features Real-Life Acid Attack Survivors
Two years ago, New York-based artist Ram Devineni introduced us to a new brand of comic book superheroes–one that doesn’t wear capes or have formidable powers, and one whose arch nemesis is the mindset of Indian society. This modern day heroine, known simply as Priya, is a victim of gang rape. She prays to the goddess Parvati for help when she is cast out of her home and Parvati bestows on her the strength to take on her attackers and provide comfort to other victims. She now travels the country on the back of a tiger fighting sex crimes and winning justice for women who have been wronged. Priya first made her appearance in the comic ‘Priya’s Shakti’ which focussed on the issue of rape in India. Now, in its second volume ‘Priya’s Mirror,’ she will attempt to help survivors of acid attacks.
This problem is not India-specific. Thousands of women across Pakistan, Bangladesh, Columbia and Africa have been scarred for life after people have violated them with brutal acids attacks. In ‘Priya’s Mirror’ she is seen trying to convince a group of women that their scarred skin hasn’t scarred their beauty and that they should find the courage to go out in the world.
Priya compares her rape to an acid attack as she says, “I too was like you, except my scars could not be seen.” Her weapon of choice is a mirror, in which acid attack victims can see themselves as they were, she urges the women to look beyond their scars and realise that they can still be themselves because their skin doesn’t define them.
A number of real women lent their experiences to the characters. The Indian activist and model, Laxmi Saa was a huge inspiration, while another victim was inspired by Monica Singh, a New York-based designer. By featuring real women and real stories ‘Priya’s Mirror’ acquires a level of relatability that’s missing in most comics. The artist, Dan Goldman, also chose to use augmented reality in his work, that means that all the art in the comics are a mix of illustration superimposed on real photographs.
Co-author Paromita Vohra hopes that Priya’s strength will inspire acid attack victims and break down the stigma surrounding these women. She believes that legal punishment can only do so much but they is much more to be done “We need complex discussions around these issues, discussions that will help change mindsets,” she says.
With luck, this comic will open up the conversation and help acid attack victims to feel more confident. Moreover it raises the question as to why acid is so freely available to the public in the first place. There have been numerous attempts to clamp down on sales but to no avail, this weapon is still found on every street corner. Priya and her Mirror are slowly taking over the world and are spreading the word, one reader at a time.