Ahoy! Today be a Monday, so ye’d expect a Monday Manga Madness, but today we got a surprise for ye, me hearties.
Our Good friend and the exalted writer sans compare Shamik Dasgupta was kind enough to write an article that takes a unique perspective on the life of a comic fanboy. Anyone who has loved comic books (and you probably wouldn’t be here, reading this article, if you didn’t), would associate with it and would love this article, as we did.
For those who do not know Shamik (you were probably abducted by aliens for some, eh probing, or maybe you were cryogenically frozen in 1920 and were just let out of it, to NOT know the man), he is the brain behind Ramayan 3392, Irith and now Daksh and is considered one of the top comic book/graphic novel writers in the country today.
Shamik in a pondering mood, no doubt cooking up another fantastical tale
Without further delay, we present to you, the article by Shamik Dasgupta:
God created all human equal. Throughout our lives we are either bestowed with fortune from our predecessors or achieve something on our own that helps us acquire wealth, power or fame and that gives us a false impression of superiority over others. I say it is false because those same individuals when at the face of dire crisis pray for the same god as the humblest of men does; superiority becomes a totally flimsy and subjective element at that point in our lives. In that particular moment of intense emotional and physical rupture we are all equal and trust me we all face that particular crisis at some point or other in our lives.
I was born is a humble middle class family and my lonely childhood was spent in the misty hills of Kurseong (the station above Darjeeling). I never had too many friends and never was outdoorsy, so the first five or six years of my life were spent in the confines of our rented wooden house at the corner of Monteviot Road. As a kid I was a crybaby and my mother had tremendous trouble keeping me quite, but my dad had found a secret formula to put a cork in my blow horn like throat…and it was comics. I am talking about the really early eighties which is like ancient history by now, but curiously at those times even a small town like Kurseong was flooded with comics, beginning from Tintin to Indrajal, Star Comics, ACK, Bengali comics and even DC and Marvel…you used to get stacks of DC and Marvel in the stationary shops in those good old days in dirt cheap price. So whenever I opened my mouth to give out a nasty wail my mom immediately sealed it with a comic from her secret stash. Yeah, my father used to buy bunches of them but they were never given to me in a single go, they were carefully kept hidden in an undisclosed spot somewhere in that house and used as an emergency measure to satiate me and nullify my tantrums. After acquiring the comic I looked at those wonderful pictures trying to string in the story for days and nights, even when I was sitting on my portable potty. Sometimes my dad used to read them to me aloud and explain me what was happening, sometimes he didn’t due to his work schedule, which gave way to my frustration and that frustration helped me to learn reading at a very young age. Once I could make out what was written in those curious white balloons I was actually in level 1 of my personal evolution. However comics had saved me from my perpetual boredom in childhood.
The Daksh cover from Jump Volume 6
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Years passed by and I started growing up, and growing up makes a person face many harsh realities, the real world was taking a toll on me and slowly I found myself slipping away from comics…which had brought me to a point of personal crisis in my puberty, the loss of identity, peer pressure, confusion and an uncertain future. Comics saved me at that point once again, it became an anchor of sanity for me and I embraced my childhood love once again, this time with a stronger passion and a clear intention of collecting what I was reading. I escaped from the vagaries of real world into the colored panels of impossible feats once again and began my collection of Batman and Superman comics, and yeah I am talking of the old John Byrne Superman era leading to the death of superman in early nineties and also the Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle Batman era which ended with Knightfall. After these two historical events I had stopped collecting single issues altogether and that old collection which I hoarded like a greedy dwarf in a mountain cave still lies in my cabinet in Calcutta, impeccably numbered and preserved. Finding my love for comics once again and becoming one of the first, biggest comic collectors in my association I had reached level 2.
An iconic panel from Supes, from the legendary John Byrne run
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After the completion of my reluctant education with graduation out of the way, I found an unknown future still threatening me. I was a simple graduate majoring in English, I had no technical training, I was not an engineer, and neither a doctor nor an MBA…moreover I had no intention of pursuing academics any further according to the convention of students of English literature. I could not see myself as a school teacher or a college lecturer; neither see myself as a journalist nor a social worker. Well at that stage options for a bloke like me were pretty slim. I tried my hand at 3D animation in one of the self proclaimed premier institutions which offered a mode of training meant for directionless people with a lot of time to kill and no other options in hand (remember, call centers did not exist in those times…what a bliss), and curiously an institution run by teachers and trainers who were equally directionless and clueless themselves. The utter mediocrity of their thought process and their saturnine insistence on learning the tools of a software to create life like computer generated models (with an infinite disturbing feel of the ‘uncanny valley’) instead of breathing life into them by actually thinking why Shrek looks so cool on screen, or the Gollum looks so alive in the border-mountains of the Ephel Dúath (I wonder people over there actually ever heard these names to begin with) filled me with great frustration and rage. Half way through my course I started having a deep sinking feeling that I was going nowhere with this ‘3D Animation’ course, because pressing buttons and dragging tools were matters of least interest to me. I wanted to create fantastical worlds and characters with the coolest looks and complicated back stories, and villains of ungodly dread that stand in the way of the hero’s quest. I was not willing to be dragged down by splines, vectors, wireframes, renderings, lightings, texturing, bones or animation…people who ace this, kudos to them…I am nowhere near their talent and dogged patience in learning a software. Hence even before completing my course I was pretty sure my future was doomed in this line of work. What was I gonna do next? My dad had already invested much of his hard earned money in this training! Comics saved me at the nick of this moment once again.
I have told many people hundreds of times how I saw the advert in the pages of Gotham Comics at that time and travelled all the way to Bangalore to meet Jeevan Kang the thence chief of Gotham studios, and how he tested my patience and passion for eight long months by keeping me waiting and finally gave me the opportunity of joining as a co-worker (I owe you for that and so many other things Jeevan). I could proudly say at that moment I had reached level 3, I was actively working in comics first as an administrator of the studio and then Voila…a full fledged writer, the cover of my first comic book drawn and painted by the legendary Alex Ross in 2006 (that very fact actually pushed me up several levels…ha ha ha big boast!)
The famous cover of the Epic by Shamik and Abhishek by none other than Alex – “The God” – Ross.
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Exactly five years later I am sitting and writing this article at the request of my friends at Comic Addicts and the only thought that is running in my head is where am I now? In fact where are WE now? I am sure people who are working in this medium, my venerated colleagues have many other stories to tell; each vibrant in their own intrinsic epicness that can put the voyage of Ulysses to shame. Some maybe similar to mine, some might be utterly different in their scope and scale, but I strongly feel that if we ask ourselves, are they so different at all? We are all bound by a common thread, the sheer love and unwavering passion for making and reading comics, to create a whole freaking world and perhaps destroy it to smithereens in a span of 22 odd pages, and do it the best way possible for us. In that particular vulnerable spot every single one of us are on the same ground, be it a publisher, a writer, artist, an event manager promoting Comic Cons or even a guy who markets and distributes comics nurturing his (or her) true love for this medium (trust me I know a guy like that). We love comics, we have given our collective souls to comics and we really want to do this till our last breath and all other differences can go to sodding hell. 2011 is quite an eventful year, we have seen the first Comic Con in India which was a tremendous success, leading to other such conventions in different cities, more people connecting with each other sharing the same interests and feelings through social network sites, new publication companies emerging, old ones revamping their stuff, media taking an overdue interest on this so far ostracized medium, and finally the abolishment of the statement ‘comics are meant for kids’. Honestly guys I haven’t seen a kid picking up a comic book and reading it in years…their attention span is far too fractured for an engaging endeavor like reading a comic book, the good old kids of my generation have all grown up and they crave entertainment which can address their matured sensibilities. It is time we turn comics what FM made the radio into, or MTV Roadies did to reality television which was so far ruled by song and dance routine contests. It is high time we make comics for the MTV generation, gone are the days when the mention of comics brought out jokes among the hipsters about grown men wearing underpants over their long johns and doing a loony disco routine while play fighting ridiculously clad criminals. It is time we must make sure a teenager carries a comic book to their high school/college classrooms and not be slated as a geek but rather a point of interest regarding which comic is he reading. In Japan this is actually a culture, and it is time we promote it in India as well, because admit it boss there’s nothing cooler than a cool comic book hero; Hollywood and occasional sporadic outbursts from Bollywood has proven that.
All said and done, to make that dream come true we should all come together and share the burden, the responsibility of making this happen. Remember, this is not a struggle which brings suffering, this is a war…in war, there is pain, there is frustration, there is sadness but there is no suffering only the joy of glory when the victory flag is planted. All the writers, artists, creators, publishers…everyone…I request please forget and forgive our past differences and join together in the second renaissance of comics in India, we are all soldiers, all equals in this war of breaking down the norms and erecting an epitaph over them. Once it is done I believe I will have reached the final level of them all. Thank you and God bless!
The awesome poster from the upcoming Jump Season 3 – where Daksh returns to kick some demon @$$!!!
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