Hi Abhijeet. Its great to have to speaking to us today hopefully we’ll get lots of info out of you on whats ahead!
So its been almost nine months since the Delhi Comic Con, and we are now edging towards Comic Con Express – Mumbai. Excited?
Totally! Having the comic con come to my city was something I had always been waiting for, and here it is!
|The horror… (Click to enlarge)
What made you decide to take a booth this time around at the convention and what can your fans expect to find there?
I had a lot of interactions with people at the Delhi Comic Con, without a stall to start with, and it was nice to see people finally being able to put a face to the names they’ve read in bylines – mine being one of them. So I decided to go for one this time around and have people know where to come and find me. Also, I’m going to be having some limited edition merchandise, featuring my artworks on it. Also on sale is an ambitious project I have been working on along with talented Delhi-based writer Anupam Arunachalam, called “Milk and Quickies”. We are completely looking forward to have people read this one!
Whats next after UBiMa? We have heard rumours of a sequel and there are definitely fans of the character looking to see more Bee-hari action – any light on the horizon?
Haha, I have heard similar rumours about the sequel too. And if they are true, well, the Bee-hari hunk would be back soon…we’ll have to wait and see. Besides this, I have been busy over the last few months with a couple of comics for Tinkle (more on that soon) along with the usual Tinkle stuff I do (Butterfingers, Defective Detectives, Sea Diaries, etc), and also some independent projects, one of them being “Milk and Quickies”.
Are you planning on or currently working with Adhiraj (Singh) on any other product? What was it like working for a loon like him?
I’ve been interacting with Adhiraj since early 2009, as a contributor to Random mag. It’s always been fun doing so, as with his writing one can never expect what’s to come next. If you liked Ubima, there are some crazy stories in Random you need to check out, which I had fun illustrating.
|UbiMa with his creators! (Click to enlarge)
Currently I guess both of us are busy with our own things, especially with the comic con round the corner, but we’re in touch. So let’s see what’s on the anvil.
Tell us about the birth of UbiMa and how you became a part of it all.
Ubima has been featured in Random a couple of times in the past, under the “Badly Drawn Comics” section. There was even a special feature booklet released along with one of the Random issues. I had always been reading it, thinking this to be one of the strangest comic creations, and always doubted the seriousness behind its creation. But when Adhiraj and the folks told me about their idea to revamp the series and release it as a full fledged comic, I was excited about it. They wanted a new-ish look to the character, all polished up, and yet keeping it edgy, staying true to its original “badly drawn” nature. I came up with something they liked, and hope the people liked too. As Adhiraj puts it, the first time he tried drawing up an Otter faced man, it ended up looking like a dog. I kinda kept that consistency(?) and maintained the “dog-faced-Otter-Man-thingy”. Don’t ask
What are the things keeping you busy these days?
Like I said, “Milk and Quickies” has kept me quite tied up in the recent past. It’s a very different read, considering the tone of the short stories in it. Very twisted at times. Anupam has provided great stories for it, and not to mention, the title 😉 In fact one of the stories from the book was picked by Warren Ellis and featured it on his website along with some other entries for a 3 panel comic competition. To us that was huge! The comic is called the BOX. It will be a part of “Milk and Quickies” and we would be having a limited number of prints at my stall at the comic con. Besides this, Tinkle projects have been on my schedule. I also illustrate for magazines like Timeout Mumbai and Dimdima. And of course, Comic Con. The Mumbai skyline crowd shot was done by me for the Twentyonwards/ComicCon guys. So yeah, been a packed last few months.
| (Click to enlarge)
Do you think you’ll do more creator-based/owned projects down the line or would you prefer working through the publishers as is the more common and practiced route?
I would love to have my own series, that I create and own, that is. I have a number of ideas, but I haven’t really pitched them out yet. I feel they aren’t ready. One of my such creations would be featured on my merchandise. He is called “Gryll” and I have a storyline ready, called “Out of the shadows”. Gryll has always been my best bet for a pitch, and he has been featured in Sunday Midday, in a feature on Indian Superheros. Let’s see if that concretises sometime. Tinkle has published my “Julius and Bork” series for 3 episodes. These are my characters and I do the scripts for the same. That’s another series I would want out in the market. Till then, I have my plate full with the common and practiced route.
Is there anyone in the current crop of comic creators in India you would like to try a project out with?
I’m open to any good scripts/concepts/writings/writers/creators.
Have you thought of a purely Hindi Project as an option? Being the most widely spoken language and mother tongue and all, you can’t get more coverage than that, can you? Does the language matter to you as an artist?
It did when I was younger, as a kid. Somehow, Hindi comics weren’t quite there for me as a reader. But I was wrong. The reach is superb and some of the concepts and storylines are far superior than anything we have read in the English stream. I don’t have any issues with the language used in the comic. After all, it’s the concept that matters to me. UbiMa, though not 100% English, isn’t a vernacular book, but it’s very different from all my earlier works. Language wouldn’t matter at all.
If we could just side-track a little bit – what is it that makes you want to draw comics? Where do you get the passion for this medium instead of more acceptable and profitable artistic careers?
I have always been an avid comics reader and collector ever since I remember. And I always loved scribbling and drawing ever since I remember. And I’m glad the two perspectives met. Also, I am thankful of the fact that I have supportive parents, and not those who would flog their kids into becoming a doc or an engineer. I was left to choose what I wanted. Plus they never said “No!” to buying the comics I wanted…ever 😀
| Wicked!!! (Click to enlarge)
Could you tell us a little about your art style and your approach to the process?
I kind of experiment with style. Butterfingers in Tinkle is way different than an UbiMa. The stuff I do for Timeout is extremely different than what I used to illustrate for Hindustan Times Café Mumbai. My major influence is MAD magazine. I have been reading MAD since I was in class 3. Sergio Aragones is someone I have idolised. So when it comes to the funny, quick stroke styles, I kinda keep Sergio in mind, “What would he have done” sorts. For Random mag, I had a blast illustrating the stories, as that was the closest I got to unleashing the MAD humour illustrations.
How is it dealing with publishers in the Indian industry for an aspiring artist like you once were?
It wasn’t great first up. There were rejections from people who showed themselves to be supportive. Firstly, the main challenge I faced was to convince people that I do a decent job at illustrating, though I haven’t received any sort of formal art training. I am self taught. That fact suddenly used to make them back off. I played it safe. I started freelancing for newspapers and mags. JAM was where I had my first freelance break while in junior college. Mid-Day happened when I was in degree college. So I could build my portfolio there. Got my by-lines there. And then treaded carefully into the comics domain.
Before we take your leave, any parting advice and tips for comic artists in the making?
They have it much better today. A lot of people are open to comics as a means to make a living, both as contributors and publishers. Comic forums have multiplied, the Comic Con has a following now, new comic series launched every month. We didn’t have it this good back in our day. I’d say make use of what’s out there and don’t screw up!
Thanks so much for making the time for this Abhijeet, we’re sure all your fans appreciate it – we know we did! One last thing before you get back to bringing great stories to life, could you tell us some of your favorite artists, writers, characters in the current era, india, global and all-time?
Sergio Aragones. All time fave. Almost all the artists of the 80’s era MAD were great. Pick an old issue and see if you can stop laughing just by looking at the art, forget reading. I am a Gary Larsen fan too. His humour is out of this world. Back home, I’ve loved collecting Mario Miranda’s works. I think his art is exceptional.
All the best for the convention, we hope you find loads of success there and after, and we will see you and all you readers out there at the convention as well!