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Having a sit-down with Holy Cow!

18 Oct

You’ve all been aching to learn more about upcoming issues of Ravanayan, we’ve all been teased by art from Skull Rosary and been enticed by hints of much more still not revealed – well be at peace good readers!
We at Comic Addicts have finally nailed down the elusive creative head of Holy Cow Entertainment (HCE), Mr Vivek Goel himself along with some of his creative co-conspirators and now bring you an in-depth and honest talk about what in the coming months will make you exclaim “HOLY COW!!”
Thanks for taking out time to sit with us Vivek, its a real pleasure.
To start with, tell us how does it feel to be at the forefront of changing face of indian comics?
It feels great, honestly. Finally I have got the chance to do the things I always wanted to do, the projects, the kind of art, stories, experimentation with different art styles without being answerable to anyone. Also, I love teaching comic book art and with HCE, I finally can do that. Being a self taught artist I understand the value of time and if it took me 2 years to prepare myself I can cut short that period for my young interns to 8 months under proper guidance thereby infusing new blood in Indian comics which we seriously need at this point of time.
How did the idea for Holy Cow Entertainment germinate? what are you looking to do within that banner?
It basically started with a need and a want. A need to give myself a stable platform as an artist and a want to something unique in the form of projects of different genres, giving independent ideas a stable platform. Now is the time that creators take control of their own content and the only way possible is self publishing stuff.
Our basic aim under the banner of HCE is to unite the artist writer fraternity, to give them creative freedom so that they can deliver the best possible comics for the Indian market. The Indian comic industry is very disorganized and fails to understand that we need to work together in order to flourish together as comic making is a team work, no single person can rule it!

HCE is very much open to almost every genre and any art style, we don’t want our company to be branded into any 1 genre and that we why we are doing almost everything – 1 at a time. We started with Horror GN moving towards Indian Mythology and with our next GN “The skull rosary” being a noir mythology book and then to Serengeti Stripes – a one of a kind of project revolving around the animal kingdom!!! You name it, HCE has it.

Would all you comics now be coming under your own banner or are you planning to work with other publishers as well?
For now, we are solely concentrating on our own banner. HCE needs to be independent enough before venturing with any other brand.
Holy Cow began with the bang launching WereHouse v1 How has the reception been for both Holy Cow and WereHouse among the industry and fans?
Its been a wonderful experience till date and WereHouse Volume 01 has been received with a bang, I just cannot seriously imagine why did somebody not imagine doing a noir book till date, B&W has tremendous potential if used properly. We have learned quite a lot since vol.1 and now vol.2 which is due in the summer of 2013 is gonna be bigger and better, there will now be 5 awesome stories with 5 totally new writers penning them!
Tell us one of the comment you received for holy cow that you think validated your work.
Holy Cow!! (in the positive way )
You soon followed WereHouse up with your one of the most anticipated title : Ravanayan. We did an extensive interview for Ravanayan so wont talk about it in detail, but we ARE going to ask you, how was it received in the market?
Technically Ravanayan was planned to release before WereHouse but the GN was complete way before Ravanayan and we thought of releasing it first. We did not even have any proper ideas about how the distribution channel and network works and so we could not risk Ravanayan 01 to be blocked or face hurdles in the distribution system. Moreover, it was the start of a company and we thought that we should start with a fatter book in the beginning, so WereHouse was released. Tell you what, Ravanayan was our primary reason to start HCE in the 1st place, the publicity picked up pretty well for it and then we understood that it needs an independent treatment and no other person or company would be able to give that – its more like raising your own baby versus raising someone else’s baby and you always give your best to your own baby Ravanayan is being received with a bang by people, in face we have sold more than 700 copies of issue 01 on the internet itself. We are learning with each issue published, we face new problems and we overcome it and Ravanayan is reaping the benefits of it and the art and the story is getting better by each passing issue, in-fact from next issue onwards Ravanayan is going to be a double sized 40 page issue.
Post Ravanayan , there have been so many announcements from Holy Cow that its difficult to keep track. If I’m right, your next books are : Skull Rosary, Werehouse 2 and Serengeti Stripes, apart from continuing to do Ravanayan. How do you manage to do all of this?
Yes, Ravanayan will wrap up in April and “The Skull Rosary” is due in May (every year, May would be the time we would launch our annual GN’s), then from July onwards its “Serengeti Stripes” a 5-issue mini-series and Were House v2 is scheduled to launch in May 2013.
How do I manage all this? Well being unmarried has its perks… lolz. The basic rule of publishing an ongoing magazine, be it monthly or bi-monthly is: You always need to have a back up, you need to complete your work in advance. Or in simple words you always need to be ahead of schedule. I have been working to build up this company since May 2010 when I left Level 10 comics and have kept drawing since last one year, we launched WereHouse v1 when we had that complete, 4 issues of Ravanayan are completed and Serengeti Stripes is being brainstormed with The Skull Rosary under production.
The biggest challenge was to assemble an awesome team for this. Don’t ask me how I assembled all of them but with sheer faith and goodwill HCE is proudly working with 8 writers, 2 colourists and 3 pencillers. Being the founder, I have to keep myself at the centre of every single creative process and then comes the selling and marketing part and not to mention, I still draw 20 pages a month! All this leaves me no time to have a personal life but at the end of the day, the creative process I get myself involve and the continuous evolving nature of things we do in this business compensates for every single thing missed/loss.
Lets take each comic bit by bit and dissect : First up Skull rosary. what is it about ?
There is a reason why he is called the destroyer and The Skull Rosary (TSR) is a homage to his capability of destruction and regeneration. It’s India’s first B & W mythology revolving around Lord Shiva and what happens when something or someone gets on to Bholenath’s bad side!! The Skull Rosary explores the Lord’s unfettered dark side (and no, we are not talking evil here) and how it is a necessary harbinger of life. It’s a thought, a way of life, a philosophy crunched into a graphic novel. Without giving too many spoilers I would like to conclude that there is a very good reason that when everything else fails, even the highest of the gods have nowhere else to go other than Mahadev himself!!!! I have always been a strong advocate that a readable comic book does not need to depend on colours and the decision of getting a book coloured or not should be based on its genre. Since TSR has such a dark subject matter, it naturally demands a solid B & W treatment. The graphic novel plans to be an explosion, not of colours but of starkness, eeriness and darkness that lies just beyond human understanding.
Introduce us to the creative team behind Skull rosary?
Skull Rosary is HCE’s 2nd creator owned title after Ravanayan which means that profits will be shared between me and my writer, the super talented Shweta Taneja. We both wanted to do something that would bring out the dark, unfettered and even uncivilized side of Lord Shiva and while speaking with Shweta on the phone one day we both stumbled upon the same idea and decided to give it a go. Shweta and I have jammed earlier in “Its a dog’s death” in WereHouse v1 and found out that our work complemented each other’s. And so in a crux was the idea that is to become TSR was born! It’s Shweta’s story and the rest of the work and publishing dept. is mine, including the art. She is an insanely talented young writer and I am really proud of working with her on this project.
How much influence does Vivek Goel have over the story? What is is like working with “the writers”
It’s a very good question. See, with HCE I am playing 2 roles – one of an artist trying to meet his deadlines daily and other of a businessman trying to make a brand of his company and selling books. It’s a very delicate balance and I have to maintain this if I am to run a company and at the same time get work from 15 diff. people. Being an artist myself and still drawing the major projects of HCE puts me grounded most of the time, while making a product or drawing it I “have” to think like an artist only and keep the bossy aspect out of my mind, if I keep on catering my ego then I would fail as an artist. I still show thumbnails of the artwork to all my writers and take their approval before moving ahead with the final art as I am not making comics only for me, I am making comics for the masses, we also have editorial system and I am not the one pulling strings, I totally believe in the benefits of working an editorial system and understand the value of 3 minds (writer, artist and editor) working on a project, these 3 are the one’s who can make a comic book awesome as compared to a bossy fellow catering to his own ego, you cannot make/sell comics being bossy and we at HCE certainly do not do that 😀
Now lets ask the same question to Shweta Taneja herself – how has it been working with Vivek Goel as an artist? And how did this writing gig happened?
Working with Vivek Goel, the artist, is like sitting on a roller coaster of creativity. He’s that kind of a friend and mentor. I find it necessary to bounce ideas back and forth to create and Vivek is always open to even the sometimes crazier ones. As for his art, I am a complete fan, especially of his black and whites. His artwork inspires me to write and I don’t think there can be a bigger compliment (smiles). His strokes are confident and masterful and I always look forward to attachments from him in my email.
As for your second question, like Vivek mentioned, it all happened over a phone call really. Somewhere in my head, I wanted to work on a graphic rendition on Shiva’s darker side. I was in the middle of a big shot dinner when Vivek called up, excited about a sudden brain wave he had had. It was a kind of visual blast he had had while daydreaming on Shiva. Dinner forgotten, I started to listen in, barely containing my excitement. Something similar had been doing the rounds in my head and I had already begun reading on Mahadeva! Of course, it had to explore the dark side of the matter so to say. An hour’s discussion later, while my friends were patiently waiting for me to get back (smiles), we knew that we had a potentially bombastic idea in our hands. Of course coincidence apart, it wasn’t an easy ride. It took months of hardcore research to figure out what exactly I wanted to depict through this graphic novel. We are both believers of the fact that other than making it visually striking, a graphic novel has to have a solid story line. So it took a while before we finalized on a story line. And WHAT A STORY it has become! It might sound a bit philosophical or even loony but I read the script the other day and didn’t believe I wrote it. I think someone or something was writing it through me. I look at myself as a mere instrument, a medium through which this creation came. It’s that awe-inspiring.
Thanks Shweta for giving us that, now back to you Vivek – we’re not done with you yet!
People are trying to take comics into new arena, the latest example being Level-10 going fully Mature with their content. How do you see Holy cow entertainment?
Yes, the medium is definitely changing because there is a demand of such content and if you are to survive well you need to cater that. HCE is just three books old now, at present we are just looking to survive till the point where our success and the demand increases.
Serengeti Stripes… Our very own Akshay Dhar is writing that book with you. he has worked with you in the past on Werehouse v1 as well as other projects – how is it working with him? Why don’t you both tell us how you go about creating the book.
Vivek: He’s a leech, literally! He sucks the artist so bad that the poor artist is left with no other option but to give its best in the book 😀 He is made to do series and we have also done one more one-shot between WereHouse and Serengeti Stripes, but that’s a secret for now 😉
Akshay: What can I say? When you’re right, you’re right! I never thought I’d be ok with being a blood-sucking little creep, but in the sense that Vivek says it I don’t mind at all. Honestly, getting to create comics has been an utter and total blast and Vivek and I were fortunate that we just elected to work one day on a 4-pager on a pure whim and I have personally loved working with him since then. As an artist he is highly talented and is just barely breaching the barrier to his full potential – and I think this is one of the reasons we work so well together. When it comes to writing, I tend to brainstorm it a lot to start with, then sort out the details in excruciating minutae on my own and then start on making the artist do concept art which is just me making them work for free! All the while I hammer out a disturbingly detailed script that I get so much **** for from all the artists, but in the end I think it works out because I go into insane detail on layouts and panels and design and such, but always maintain that if the artist has a better idea for anything from a face to a whole page – Im willing to go with it if we both agree it is definitely better. About Serengeti Stripes I am very excited, one of the things Vivek and I noted after WereHouse was people felt we should have made a series – so we decided to do exactly that! And the secret project mentioned by him, I so wish I could share some of the magnificent art from it – it was a true experiment in visual story-telling in Indian comics I think, and a serious challenge for me to incorporate the detail and elements of the visuals so closely with the story I was telling; of course Vivek cursed me every single day over the soul-sucking I was doing to him on a project he was NOT planning on working on fully himself but the challenge of what I put I before him just could not be resisted! I think all Indian comics fans should keep a close eye on what’s going to be coming out of HCE in the coming year. Cheers all!
Now about Serengeti Stripes, post the release of the title and promo art, the book has drawn comparisons with “The Pride of Baghdad”, the famous BKV comic book. What do you have to say to this?
When it comes to animals – real, focussed stories about them and more importantly through them – there are very few to be found. Pride of Baghdad is a well written, and amazingly put together graphic novel that really was something unique, of this there is no doubt for anyone I would think. As far as its comparisons to our book go – the similarities are firstly, the narrative concentrating on animals as our characters in a ‘real’ and not fantasy/anthropomorphic capacity ;secondly, the choice of protagonist animals being big cats – and even in that there are difference because they had lions and we have tigers. Thats it. Its just barely a similarity and honestly only on the surface, its easy to assume they are the same thing but once you get down to the stories, the characters, the setting and everything from the intent, the themes, the styles and literally the feel of it all – they are vastly different. Because they are both animal-centric stories (which as already said before are VERY rare) they will however always draw the occassional reader who says its trying to be that or some such, but for anyone who reads it first and foremost for what it is will realise that its like saying Spiderman and all the later superheroes were nothing but ripoffs of the older tight and cape brigades – either you see it or you don’t.
Thanks Akshay, definitely looking forward to it!
Vivek, would you be willing to tell us – What is Serengeti Stripes all about?
Its all about the concept of bonding between two tiger brothers and survival and that too survival on such grounds which are technically not meant for Tigers to live in. I had an idea in my mind for the last eighteen months but was looking for the right person to write it. You see, its not easy to write animals, not every writer can do it, since SS is a story which has zero humans, its totally on and about animals, you need to think like one, draw like one!!! I will make the picture more clear, the whole concept of working with 3 diff. writers in WereHouse was to find out who fits best to write SS and enter our Jolly Akshay Dhar 😀 While attending at the 1st ComicCon in Delhi, I stayed in the awesome house of Akshay and that night (don’t get ideas!!) gave us the prefect opportunity to discuss the project. We brainstormed for five long hours and by 4 a.m. we were ready with the synopsis of all five issues! 2011 is the year of Ravan, 2012 will be the year of Tigers, I can guarantee you that because I am looking at the 1st five pages of SS issue #1 coloured in my PC.
Werehouse v2: when is it coming, who all are contributing stories now? Heard Shamik Dasgupta has one in there!
Werehouse v2 is lined up for May, 2013. HCE will be giving out six double sized comics and one GN every year with the GN coming only during vacation time i.e. May. The Skull Rosary is our 2nd one coming in 2012. Its gonna be fatter and better then the previous one since it now has 5 stories in it with 4 diff. artists working in each story. My good Friend Shamik is also writing 1 story in it and I will be drawing it personally.
How difficult is it to switch from creating a horror comic to a mythology comic , artwise?
Not at all, as a matter of fact I was doing mythology for a long time including Ravanayan and horror came in between. I have always been tagged as a fantasy/mythology artist basically because this is what I had got from publishers working in the past when I was a freelancer. I wanted to break that image and want to try my hand at every genre, therefore WereHouse happened. Art-wise, you have to be more careful with the blacks & whites in these kind of books as they are not gonna get coloured, you have to constantly keep reminding yourself of that, it pushes us to give our best. If you want to know how good the artist actually is, get him to draw you B&W stuff!
Holy cow is doing a lot of diverse projects, and a lot of them are in black and white. Is that a concious decision on your part? If so, why?
As I said in the previous question, I did not wanted to get myself tagged in just one genre and I would assume it would go for my company too. HCE will never be tagged as a company which deals only in a specific genre. We stared with horror, then mythology, all which will soon be followed by pure tiger awesomeness and then there is something special!!!! One needs to constantly keep changing the flavour to get the reader hooked. You name the genre, HCE will have it
So once more for the fans at home – When are all these fantastic books coming out?
Ravanayan wraps up in April. The Skull Rosary will be released in June and Serengeti Stripes will begin from August and these are final dates.

Rooting for Ravan!

11 Sep
Call me odd (that will make the two of us) but there are times when I root for the bad guy. Always found that most good guys end up being, stereotypical Mr. Goody Two Shoes. The problem is that heroes are like open books. We know their past, their sufferings, their weakness, their strengths and their beliefs. Nothing is hidden from view. I mean, most superheroes even wear their underwear on the outside.

Most stories, irrespective of the format (movies, books or graphic novels) in which they are told, focus more on the hero. The villain is just put forth as a strong adversary to give the hero a challenge and a reason to exist. Not much is revealed about their lives. Or the parts that are revealed just add to their villainy. We know all the bad things Darkseid did or how naughty a boy Voldermort was.

So when Ravanayan was launched, I was excited. Based on the epic Ramayan by Valmiki (and not Ramanand Sagar as I grew up believing) this graphic novel story arc tells the story from the so called villain, Ravan’s point of view. It’s about time his side was heard.

I picked up the issue with great expectations and Holy Cow delivered the goods. And then some. The main highlight for me was the story. A complex character like Ravan needs a writer who is capable of understanding his psyche and put it forth in a manner that is not defensive. The job is to put forth the story from Ravan’s point of view. Not to turn him in to a hero. A good story gives you a moral. A great story gives you something to think about. I have a gut feeling Vijayendra will end up telling a great story.

After Bala from Nothern Song, Vijayendra has another demon’s story to tell. Looks like he will own this niche. A literal devil’s advocate. I liked the pace and manner in which the story was told. The twist in the initial part was unexpected. I knew of Valmiki’s past and yet was taken aback when the revelation was made. When you know something and yet the writer manages to catch you off guard, it can be safely said that you got a good story teller on your hands.

Moving on to the art. Vivek hadn’t lived up to my expectations in Werehouse 1. Ravanayan has made me raise my expectations from him. The art was amazing. Every panel seems like a labour of love and it shows. The initial fight sequence was especially very well conceptualized and executed. Apart from the illustrations, the angles and poses were also eye catching. The colorists, Yogesh and Komal have done a great job too. 

My own real grouse is about Ravan’s look! It is a tremendous improvement from Ramanand Sagar’s version but he looks too much like Geralt of Riveria. For the uninitiated, Geralt is the main character in the mind-blowing RPG ‘The Witcher’ and ‘The Witcher – Assassin of Kings’. But it is just a minor distraction, that’s all. The creators had mentioned that they have taken some liberties with the original script to take the story forward and the two fights in the first issue were part of the liberties I guess. I only hope these liberties are kept to a minimum. There is enough in the original script to provide an insight in Ravan’s motives without taking a lot of creative licenses.

The first issue is to me a tremendous effort. It really set the mood for the issues to come. I look forward to an enthralling story and great art. It might just be as good an epic as the original Ramayana.

Rajat’s Random Ramblings – Ravanayan Begins…

1 Jul

Comic Addicts has done it again. In an unprecedented move, we are doing, probably for the first time in India, a pre-release review of one of the most anticipated book this summer, Ravanayan.

This has only been possible with the cooperation of Mr. Vivek Goel the owner and the chief artist of the Holy Cow Entertainment, who was futuristic enough to realize the way cookie crumbles. Other Publisher friends… Ahem. We are waiting… Our public DEMANDS pre-release reviews!!! 😉

Anyway, as always, I get distracted and wander off to paths unexplored. Let us come back to the task at hand.

One of the 2 covers from Issue 1 – The inner turmoil – Sage Father, Demon Mother
Click on the image to view full size.

So dear readers, I was as excited as I can be when I found out that Vivek has finally decided to let Comic Addicts do a pre-release review of his upcoming summer blockbuster Ravanayan and couldn’t wait for it to be delivered. After signing and collecting it from my friendly neighborhood Post Man (he was bitten by a radioactive post during a field trip to the GPO, you see), I went deep inside my sanctum sanctorum, closed all windows and turned off all the lights except that one table lamp and sat down with Ravanayan’s double size first issue in my hands!

The first issue is actually a giant double issue, including 2 covers (YAY!!!) – that contains an awesome surprise! Especially for those who have pre-ordered the book. Good things come to those who wait, so be patient my Young Jedi.

The first cover is a beautiful artwork portraying Ravan surrounded with 9 demon heads (making it a total of 10, obviously) and has been colored vibrantly and brought to life by a young talented colorist Devayu.

The Demon Lord surrounded by his inner demons? Vibrant front cover by young Devayu
Click on the image to view full size

The story begins with an interesting character from Ramayan – someone you wouldn’t even dream of seeing in the story – who is in the middle of an exciting battle, which ends with a twist of events that leave him as confused, if not more, as he was before the battle commenced.

Okay. I guess after reading this sentence you might be as confused, if not more, as you were before this sentence started! 😛

Go on. Be confused. Make wild guesses. Threaten me, if you will, but I ain’t gonna give you any details about what happened or to whom. Nor am I going to reveal the slightest plot, because my dear readers, this is a book which you should own. There is no fun in just listening to the story or even reading it. You have to hold it in your hands, and watch the beauty and the magic brought alive by a team of young and extremely talented bunch of artists.

Kapow!!! An eye for an eye? I say aye!

The art for this issue has been done by Vivek singlehandedly. The special first part of the book has been colored by none other than our talented Mr. Pugaonkar. Incidentally this is the first storyboard that Yogesh has colored. Up until now he was being used exclusively for covers and promo arts. I must say going by the detail in colors and effects that he has done an impressive job here too. Not totally unexpected, mind you. He has obviously raised our expectations from him and might have to go even more extra steps to satisfy our hunger for awesome art now.

Catch me if you can… The Mace and the Face
Click on the image to view full size

We now move forward, leaving our bewildered character and all you bewildered readers behind – er actually, we will be moving backward in time. WAY back. A time before life became complex, before the world lost its beauty at the hands of man and demon alike, a time when things were simpler, easier to understand and adapt.

A time when 4 siblings were young, restless, happy and innocent. The chapter starts with a view of an Ashram in the middle of a jungle. Ravan, Kumbhkaran, Vibheeshan and Shoorpanakha are leading a peaceful and fun filled life in the Ashram, far from the maddening crowd. We are introduced to the 4 kids who are as similar to each other as they are different.

If we look back and refer to the original scripture, Ravan was the brilliant one, a Maha Pandit, a scholar and a warrior who had no equal. He conquered all the realms, beat even the most powerful Kings and ruled Lanka with a golden fist. Firm yet fair. His only downfall was his ego.

Vibheeshan, in the original story, was a kind hearted gentle man who detested violence and strives for peace. He is also sensible and level headed and has the head of a patience and logical man. He is the first to realize the consequences of facing a powerful warrior like Ram and also that when facing a superior opponent it might make more sense to compromise rather than fight and loose everything. His folly was poking at Ravan’s already inflated ego by telling a warrior of his caliber to surrender before another warrior, which not only antagonized him into sending his own brother in exile but also made him angry and mad. An infuriated warrior is prone to make mistakes, and so did Ravan.

Shurpanakha is the brat, who wants it all and goes right to her brothers whenever she doesn’t gets what she desired.

Kumbhakaran is the sloth and all he wants is to eat and sleep. Relatively simpler character out of the lot.

Alright. End of the lecture. Now that you have read this and revised your Ramayan facts, its time for you to forget all of them and be ready for a new outlook.

Yes, you will see familiar names, places, events but they are familiar only in name. In Ravanayan, you will experience new flavors to the same characters. Each carrying an aura of the familiar persona we mentally associate with them, but it is only a very small aspect of their personality.

All these characters have been drawn from the scratch, given life to and made to wear new clothes as well as new personality by the good folks at Holy Cow Entertainment.

The bond between the siblings, right here, forms the crux of the entire Ramayan and I’m sure that it will have a very important role to play in Ravanayan too.

We are introduced to a young Demon Lord who is just a kid right now, but already has the streaks of greatness, albeit tainted with an inherent darkness.

A quiet little boy, wise beyond his years, trying to look after his family and always striving to do the right thing.

A young brat of a girl, who is the apple of the eye of her brothers, who are ready to do anything and everything for the sake of their little sister.

A slothful, lazy boy who loves nothing more than sleeping and eating. No major surprises here, for sure. Or at least not at this point. Who know what will happen to young Kumbhakaran in the issues 2 to 10?

And as promised earlier, I ain’t gonna tell ya the story me hearties, am I? Hehehehe. Should have realized by now!

Terror in the Jungle… Young Demon Lord with his siblings
Click on the image to view full size

This Chapter 1 has also been drawn by Vivek and has been colored by Komal Surale. The art is as intricate as always and Komal has done a pretty neat job. Especially in this particular breathtaking action sequence full of blood and gore and a fantastic fight!

The effects for this issue are pretty good, although not really breathtaking, except in a few places. This might be due to the fact that all the art for Ravanayan 01 was done several months ago. Since then, however, all the young artists and colorists have come a LONG way. I have seen some samples of the future issues of Ravanayan and trust me boys and girls… If you think that the first issue is good, you’re in for a pleasant surprise.

All in all, excellent script, very catchy, doesn’t get too slow or preachy at any point, except probably the first 2 pages, and keeps the pace even and steady all across the issue. The characters are well defined, given a very new and different aspect, despite the intense familiarity which any Indian child who was conscious during the 80s would feel with these characters. Ravan, Vibheeshan, Kumbhakaran and Shoorpanakha are familiar to all of us and thank to Ramanand Sagar’s turtle paced Ramayan television series a lot of us would have a pre-conceived notion about these main characters as I have already discussed earlier, but Vijayendra Mohanty manages to expertly dodge the comparison by keeping them distinctly different flavored yet bearing the same roots from the original epic.

It is a team of very young and talented artists, most of whom are working for the first time on a professionally published comics, and that is saying a lot. In fact, a little birdie told me that Holy Cow has worked with 9 virgin writers and artists already for their next few publications! Keep it up HC, we need the support of all our publishers to promote young and raw talent!

A sneaky peaky at things to come – keep watching this space!!!
Click on the image to view full size

Art work is excellent, much better than Were House, and as I had mentioned in my Re-Review of Were House, the type of art Vivek draws needs color to be able to express itself completely and become what was desired in the first place. The scenes and the places are very well drawn, the anatomy of characters is well proportioned and the best part is that art and story go along hand in hand at all times, without one leaving the other behind to seek individual glory.

THIS is what makes Ravanayan a book to take notice of. At the price Holy Cow has declared, this is a bloody bargain. If you like mythology, history, fiction, war, battles, kings, magic, fantasy, horror, gore or any other genre, this is a must have book in your collection.

And guess what? This is just the first volume!!! There are several more to come from the House of the Cow!! Moooooooooo!!!!

I urge thee, wait not, pre-order on Flipkart or just call Dial-a-book and get hold of this one before it goes out of stock. Watch out now, the day of reckoning is upon us and Lord Ravan is about to take over the world!!! Excellent comic, entertaining and fun to read and leaves you salivating and wanting for more. After I flipped close the back cover, the first thought that popped in my head was – Holy Cow!!! THIS is how mythological comics are done…

Ravanayan Creators on Comicon India

27 Feb
Vivek Goel and Vijayendra Mohanty

Vijayendra Mohanty and Vivek Goel, the brains behind the upcoming Ravanayan series share with us their first hand perspective on Comicon India:

What’s your take on the first comicon

VG: First of all, we actually did not planned to visit comic con, 3 weeks before the event i recieved an invitation frm Jatin Verma for Ravanayan, myself and Mohanty asking us to conduct a workshop. We spoke bout our presence in it and then decided to be a part of it as this would have been the biggest exposure for Ravanayan to all the comic fans in India under a single roof !! I then decided to make 2 exclusive posters of Ravanayan just for the comic con.

 It was truly an amazing experience for us being an insider of the industry and to actually participate in the convention. Though very small as compared to the san diago comic con etc. but no less than in spirit !!! You should have seen the cosplays and that too mostly among adults proving beautifully that comics are no longer just for kids 🙂 

VM: As Vivek says, I think that the Comic Con was a great success. It got looking in the general direction of the community and it made something of a splash in the media.

As one of my friends pointed out, perhaps, in the years to come, the Con will attract a more dedicated adult audience. As it is, the people most enthusiastic about the event were people our age — the ones who grew up reading comics and battling misconceptions.

What did you do at Comicon?

VM: The one thing that we did most at the ComicCon was have fun. The convention was something of an oddity for me (and I suppose many others). The comic book fandom in India is not organised, except when the organisation in question is an online mailing list or a close-knit community of like-minded friends. So a space and an event dedicated especially to the comic book cause was a most welcome change. Our official purpose for being at the convention was to promote Ravanayan, our upcoming comic series, and that purpose was served beautifully.

VG: We did a workshop on ravanayan (i did a lecture on cover making) on the 1st day and did a signing session on the 2nd day where amazingly my friend and ravanayan colourist Yogesh was also present. I donned a horned headgear and a fake moustache to come into the charecter..Hope people enjoyed that.


What’s ahead for the Ravanayan Team?

VG: Strategy for ravanayan remains the same as i told u in the last interview, just the 1st issue will now come in double size in May 😉 
Publisher is very much finalised but this is still not the time to reveal it. March would be it.

Mark my words man, the next comic con would be huge !! The success of this event has paved the way for a much bigger event frm next year onwards. This was more like an experiment for all of us (publishers and artists) that is precisely why  most of the artist community just came as spectators. People will have a clearer idea what to do and expect from next time onwards.

You will not find us doing any workshop frm now on, as we will be inside a booth 😉

The time of just knowing the character and its comic books is gone, with events like these now titles will be known by their creators as these events give people like us to get connected to the random reader directly and vice versa.

For the 1st time in my life i had so many things to do and so many people to meet and 8 hours seemed too short. It felt like a 2nd home to me (its just the toilet was too far away..lolz)

Exclusive Interview: Vivek Goel on his style of art

23 Jan

We continue our conversation with Vivek!!.. 

Lets talk a little about the art itself. Can you share the process of your artwork with us?
 Artwise, my style is somewhat dark as I work in a lot of darker tones and cross hatching. I mostly got influenced by the new school of art and American comic artists and have been improving my linework as per their influence. The legendary creator Sir Michael Turner is my mentor, although he is no longer between us but he has left a rich legacy for me to draw inspiration from
Ravanayan is going to be very different artistically as it is drawn in the western style of art, with heavy character and background details, a lot of dynamic angles and widescreen storytelling. 
 I draw on super white cartridge sheets with normal HB pencils. Since I don’t have an inker, I use a technique called as tight pencilling where I do pencils dark enough so that they can directly go for digital colouring.
  I get monthly scripts from Vijayendra and I then read it thoroughly to get a clear picture of the complete chapter in my mind, then I sit down and start making thumbnails of each page thereby visualising each panel with the best possible angle and look so as to suit the scenario of the panel.(NOTE : There are endless possibilities of drawing/showing a visual in a panel but it becomes an artist’s duty to pick the best possible angle for every panel depending upon its requirement, we need to move our eyes like a camera so as to decide for either a long shot, a mid shot, a close up or an extreme close up again depending upon the story and page’s requirement, it takes time and practice to get better in it, the more you practice, the more u get experience and the better you become.
I then e mail the thumbnails to Vijayendra for his approval, I consider him my editor and most of the time take his approval over thumbnails so that his thinking gels with mine and happily do the changes he requests for some scenes and then when the thumbnail gets fully approved I proceed for the final pages (NOTE : It is again very important for an artist to work under editorial as it improves him a lot, 2 minds are always better than one resulting into better product.

When drawing totally on our own we often oversee our artistic weaknesses and do only what we want to do but working under editorial makes us draw things we never even imagined we could do when pushed which surprisingly we are capable of doing artistically through proper patience and dedication, it also reduces the chances of drawing the final panels again or any corrections.

  When the pages are drawn, I then again show them to Mohanty for his final approval, the pages then go for digital colouring.
Do you use any references? 
 I hardly take any references nowdays, have been drawing for a very long time now, I mostly do stuff from memory but happily take references for objects and animals when required.

How long does it take to produce a comic page for you?
 Depends upon the details and the no. of panels on a single page which again depends upon the requirements of the script and your own artistic limitations/experiences. It usually takes me 3-7 hours on a single page. I maintain a speed of drawing 1 page a day since I don’t cut on the detailing part.
 Our last question to you Vivek: What do you feel about the current Indian comic scene.?
 Very important and interesting question, I would love to answer that. Indian comic scene is very stable at the moment and we are witnessing a rise but at a very slow pace. The industry is highly disorganised, we need to understand that it’s a full circle, if we are to survive then we need to back each other up.
Comic making is a team effort and no single person can rule this world. People do not trust individuals here. Initial exploitations, family pressures, bad experiences and big ups/downs in careers make the freelance creators really picky. Lot of new ventures come and go, they start up with a lot of vigour, new writers and artists join them and gave their best but most of these ventures couldn’t keep up and were shut down. The work does not shows up and the creators lose their morals in the process, then follows the classic family pressure of securing a stable job and getting a house. 

 Mark my words, there is no shortage of talent here and we have the perfect people to compete with our western counterparts but this is a long race and requires a lot of patience and hardwork to be in mainstream comics. I have seen a lot of promising talent diverting into gaming, concept art and animation due to family responsibilities. 
 But coming back to the current scenario, it’s looking good, although we just have about 4-5 mainstream comic publishing houses in India and just about approx. 25 pencillers working into comics, it is still looking stable for now.
A lot of my peers have published internationally and the American comic market is noticing us. I personally feel that the market/readers have evolved, we need some new stuff now, something fresh, something detailed, we need quality product instead of quantity.   
Thanks for your time Vivek. It was great chatting with you and getting a sneak peak into your creative process!

Exclusive Reveals: Talking Ravanayan with Vivek Goel

12 Jan

I am sure we all have heard of the great Indian mythological epic – Ramayana, the story of prince Ram’s conquest over the evil lord of Lanka – Ravan. There have been many epics written on Lord Ram, but very little has been said about the character of Ravan.

This is about to change if two young Turks have their way; Ravanayan is an independent graphic novel project being undertaken by Vijayendra Mohanty (writer) and Vivek Goel (artist), which explores the character of Ravan in ways not thought of before.
We sat down with Vivek Goel (recently known for his work on first 4 issues of Northern song in Jump form Level 10) for a quick chat on the upcoming project.
First question Vivek; right off the bat – have we not seen it all in Ramayan?
Wow, you are a bit direct aren’t you? Haha! Well kidding aside, unlike most people understand, Ravanayan is “not” our take on the legendary hindu epic Ramayan but its the life story of Dashanan Ravan – the lord of Lanka. On the contrary Ramayan is a very small part of the series since it marked the end of the rakshasa (Demon) kings reign over Lanka. Whatever part Ramayan has in this story will be the original, Ramayan thereby remaining untouched 🙂
Nice to know the original revered epic is going to be unchanged! But what is your aim in creating Ravanayan then?
Our aim with Ravanayan is to take a look at the Ramayan universe from the so-called dark side. The story of Rama follows a straight-cut path right to the end. We want to follow the story from its much celebrated end, to its beginning, and in the process, re-imagine much of what is accepted as being true about one of India’s most-loved epics
There is definitely a lot of new stuff in Ravanayan. We have taken a unique view of Ramayan and presented it as a story about the nature of good and evil. The aim of the story is to help throw some light on the definition of “evil”. If someone as well-known and evil as Ravana could have a side that we can be sympathetic to, then almost anyone can be good. Think of all the “bad” people in your life. Can’t they also be “good” in one way or the other?

Sounds interesting – very “Two Face”(Batman villain) like if I might say! How did this project originate?
It is my brainchild and it occurred to me 2 years back sitting at Vijayendra Mohanty’s house at Delhi that why don’t we do a book on this character, he has been like totally untouched by anyone till date and undoubtedly is one of the most important character of Ramayan. It is our co-owned project as Vijayendra is doing the research and the script part, he is basically spinning the story and I am doing the storyboards and the character re-designs. 
How has the experience of working with Vijayendra Mohanty been like?
 My comic book relationship with writer Mohanty goes very long, we both started our carriers together – literally and our mind set is so similar and strong that we both saw each other fitting for this project, we both know each other’s strengths and agree on most of the things, the things that we do not agree on don’t have much relevance.
 I am always inclined to the out of box thinking!!! Generic things don’t appeal me that much, Both I and Mohanty believe that a tree remains the same if you look at it from the other side BUT the perspective changes, this is what Ravanayan is all about, an untold story about to be unleashed !!!
 But we both needed to grow, as an artist and as a writer and so we started doing a monthly comic book “Northern song” for Level 10 comics and I did the 1st 4 issues and Mohanty the 1st 5 issues and then when we saw that the time is right, we moved on to Ravanayan. It also have been covered by the 3 major newspapers of india – D.N.A, TIMES AND H.T.

Talking about northern song , you weren’t on the art duties on 5th and final part ? How did that happen?
 Good old NS. I consider myself blessed to be an architect of such a project, Got a slow start though but it has tremendous potential !! The good people at Level 10 comics wanted to experiment with some new art style, something very simplified and light and i think they succeeded in that, loved the artwork of NS # 05. 
Tell us a little about the evolution of Ravanayan from the idea stage to the comic
 It’s been wonderful ride up till now, truly wonderful !! Trust me, we as a layman have only scratched the surface of our mythology. I got a chance along with Vijayendra to do some research and its mesmerising, the characters are very rich and larger than life.

 I have re -designed the characters of Ravanayan (artistically- to make them more interesting as comic is a visual medium) according to their personal characteristics and the result is truly amazing.  
While re-imagining characters, you need to think clearly why you are keeping this guy’s long hair, removing somebody’s moustache or making some character colourful or dark, for that u need to read about them, understand them so that their designs itself should speak about them. Their body type, drapery, ornaments, accessories – everything should reflect their individual personalities.
Before entering into mainstream comics, I did a lot of character designs for various ad agencies and Star Plus and it has come in real handy with Ravanayan.
 I bet the kind of story Vijayendra is spinning is going to be amazing, he has a great hand in my evolution as an artist !! There has been a no. of occasions that scenarios/landscapes/angles have come into the script which were totally “un Vivek Goel” but the story needed them and so I pushed myself beyond my drawing skills in achieving them.

This is your own personal discovery and you keep doing it for the rest of your life as an artist. Every practicing artist goes through this continuous evolution and this is exactly what keeps us giving better and better product.
How has the reception of the project been so far?
People are very excited and the support is enormous. They are waiting very patiently for it to see the light of the day as it explores something totally unexplored till date. The character of Dashanan is very interesting and powerful and his life has been a wonderful journey.
Let me ask you a personal question, how much do you know bout Ravan ?? only that much what u must have heard in Ramayan? but he also had a life before Ramayan, a family, a kingdom !! He had many positive and interesting qualities and adventures too !! Our aim basically is not to gather sympathy or love for Ravan or to change anyone’s religious belief (this is the part where the epic Ramayan goes untouched in our story 🙂 but to tell an interesting and untold story. I think the guy at least deserves that!
 I truly feel sorry to the good people who have waited so long for this project and all we have revealed till date are some teasers and a single interior page (as most of the pages have crucial characters and it has to be kept under wraps for now) but trust me, it has gone through a number of changes (and from the page which is there on my drawing board I can say it’s for good) but I can safely say that THIS is the final stretch and I hope the product is worth the wait.
There have been some initial negative response also (mostly due to the misunderstanding of this being our take on Ramayan which has been cleared out on a number of occasions).
We aim to create a product which will make young people of our country want more of our mythology.
There is a lot more than meets the eye as I said, our characters are just waiting to be explored, all we need to do is to make them more interesting to our younger gen.
Very rightly put Vivek. Accha, do tell us a little about your third cohort in crime.
 Yogesh Pugaonkar, who is my proud discovery and my cover colourist, is also playing a pivotal role in the series with us.
 I found an e-mail in my mailbox one morning 5 months back and there was this young boy wanting to do something in comics, we got along pretty well and now he will be seeing himself publishing internationally in just 5 months of his professional comics career !!! This is something to get inspired from !!  A truly dedicated fellow. Will reveal his full feature in the next interview where he gets internationally published with Moonstone (it will be his 1st international cover with me and mine 3rd)
Who thought of the name of the title. I think its very cool!
Vijayendra Mohanty deserves full credit for that!
Can you share some more concept sketches with us?
 I apologize for not been able to share with you most of the character designs/pages/ covers as they are totally under wraps for now as we have worked very hard on them and the designs are very unique. But just for our beloved readers, here are some behind the scenes pages from Ravanyan – first time seen anywhere! ( Please click on the image to enlarge it)

Have there been any changes along the way from your original plans for Ravanayan?
We originally planned it as a 120 page GN, but now that we understand it has limitless potential as well as such deep story, it has evolved into a 12 issue maxi series.

We are at a final stretch now as the books are getting ready fast, I have already done 4 issues and am trying to do most so that the monthly schedule does not mess up, our good readers have waited for very long and it becomes our duty to take care of them in every way possible.
Has the Publisher and release date been finalized?
Publisher has indeed been finalized but this too is under wraps, it will be a big surprise for all. It releases in early 2011.
Thanks to Vivek for sharing the inside pages with us. Hope to see Ravanyan on stands soon!!

We talk to Vivek some more regarding his artwork and future of comics in part 2 of this article. Stay tuned