Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Action Figure-ing: Batman, Robin & Snikt!

There is no such thing as too many burgers.

Burgers are good for health, except for the occasional wounds. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Pao: The Anthology of Comics 1

I had been wanting to get to Pao ever since I heard about the initiative and the people behind it, which is basically the whole modern Indian comic-generating intelligentsia/janta, except the superhero-variety.

Reading through the 12 stories, I was surprised with some while some left me rather cold. I would say it is certainly an effort worth spending an odd Rs 700 for, as the stage it offers to independent creators gives  us hope for these individual stories turning into full-fledged books/graphic novels of their own.

Here are my thoughts about the stories:

Tattoo: More of a small installation project, this is a good starting point for the compilation. A tattoo parlor that becomes an extrapolation of structures, is a smart satire on pop culture itself.

Plasmoids: This tongue-in-cheek personal take on sci-fi lightens the heavy uncleji mood that most of the stories suffer from, but gets over a little too soon. A few more pages and a longer finale would certainly benefit the pulp reader.

The Pink: A good idea(corporate satire on businessman types) stretched too far.

RSVP: Oversmart in a good way, bourgeois satire that has an oft conflicting tone. Could do with more humor, but a fine distinctive piece nonetheless.

Print Screen: Great slice of life work, something you don't often see in Indian comics. The story, much like the self-doubting protagonist, doesn't really take off anywhere, but it's a good thing at times.

Hindus & Offal: This is a wildly drawn theoretical gyaan session on Offal food and its etymological and sociological connections. Gets a bit too... theoretical at times but has some great art for keeps.

Sleepscapes: Reminded me of the Bizarroworld comic strip. I liked Parismita's book The hotel at the end of the world, and this one is good stuff too, with a single recurring image of a man carrying a dead body amidst paranoid visions of war in Delhi suburbia, a giant TV screen and indifference, by the gallons.

The Afterlife of Ammi's Betelnut Box: This is a highly nostalgic take on old havelis, and how a central female character forms the spine of the rather confusing and global family tree. It does have some laughs in the beginning but gets rather meloncholic as it progresses. Some great art here, the story and the narration reminded me of Sardari Beghum and a play I saw long back(Khatijabai of Karmali Terrace).

Helmetman in Zamzamabad: This is a reprinting of the project known as 'Raj Comics for the Hard headed'. Having enjoyed the pulpy Raj Comics through the ages, I wouldn't really bargain it for any other version, but this is good stuff. A fast read, well drawn and some interesting concepts that come and go. Left me asking for more.

Tito Years: Sarnath Bannerjee as his usual cheap-thrillery. Low on the sexual references than his previous works though.

Hair Burns like Grass: A philosophy-heavy piece on Kabir.

Chilka: I was rather disappointed with this one, having enjoyed the same team's Mice will be Mice. May be they will do better without a mythological connection.

An image I bumped into while searching for Pao. Long live, Google!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Comic Book Men Season 2

The Boys are back. After a little self-doubting first season, CBM returns with its set of comic book pawn deals, doses of trivia and general geek-gasms.

I liked a first episode (Stash Bashes) but it had way too many kids to spoil my fun. I don't particularly enjoy the sight of a bunch of unruly kids having a go at racks of vintage comic books. The good parts of the episode were a deal of Megos and everyone losing their shit on a Legion of Super Heroes geektalk. Any attention that the LOSH get is good, I feel they deserve all that and more.
And then there was the giant Darth Vader helmet. You couldn't possibly not like that.

Coming to Episode 2, My Big Fat Geek Wedding, this was pure fun! Lots of fun tales, a smooth flow of deals, and a hilarious finale. These guys are getting better at their game. The jokes flow freely now, the deals look neat and swift and the comic book portions are satisfying. Though there was no specific geek-out this time on a classic comic book per se except for a little Punisher talk, the nod to FF at the end was more than a twinkle in the eye moment, and the details(X Men #1 turned into wedding flowers, Legion flight ring etc) was the stuff only these guys could manage. And yeah, Don't Mix Cigars & Comic Books!

I already can't wait enough for the Stan Lee appearance. Great going, Stash!

Mike's Blog
CBM Tumblr

Friday, September 21, 2012

Kari by Amruta Patil

I was pulled to this 2008 graphic novel from Amruta Patil after reading her story Atlantis in The Blaft Obliterary Journal. I liked the honesty of Patil's narration and her strong characterization. I was not disappointed as Kari is quite satisfying on multiple levels. It works as a strongly woven tale of a fish in an ocean of urban milieu.
The sexually-pronounced and assertive protagonist can be paralleled against any contemporary artists or writers. Few that came to my mind were Alison Bechdel, Erika Moen, Marjane Satrapi, Kuzhali Manickavel and Sharanya Manivannan. Patil's style is distinctive in its tonal confidence and ability to say the same thing in a loop with remarkable grip. She maintains an equal balance between Kari's mundane life as an advertising copyhead as well as her sexual adventures in realms of magic realism, and switches between the parallel worlds with utmost ease of a seasoned hand.

Kari boasts of strong, realistic characters, every mannerism detailed and conflicts exploited to create a story and world which is rich, almost TV soap-like in its interactions, yet poignant and provocative in its abstract excursions(allusions to an underground sewer and Kari's life as a boatman learning to "row clean through the darkest water").The book goes through portions great, average and repetitive, but told with a consistent honesty.

Patil uses diverse medium/art to evoke feelings of imagination, confrontation and oblique satire of the civilized society.  The sections at Kari's workplace give way to some hilarious situations which are told in a solemn, deadpan style. Few sequences that come to my mind are when Kari pulls out thoughts from her sub-conscious to advertising pitches which surprisingly win her deal over deal and recognition from all and sundry.

Great book which tells a sometime depressing if black tale of urban life with its share of sexual existence issues, isolation, angst, guilt and threads from memories that just wouldn't go. Kari is a solid debut by Patil, and though I am criminally late in this review, I hope to make up for it by catching up on her future release, Adi Parva on time. 

Interview with Paul Gravett
Artist Profile

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Obliterary Journal(Part I) & The Epic Misgivings of Blaft

The Obliterary Journal(Part I) by Blaft is a welcome addition to the little less ordinary publishing house’ well, convention-obliterating repertoire. I have been a fan of Blaft books since I laid my hands on the then-revolutionary Tamil Pulp Fiction Anthology Part I. 

Those were the days of Quick Gun Murugan, bad books and free-flowing alcohol, not in any necessary order, and Blaft was the new kid in town, the proverbial ray of hope that would transform the world as we know it. As fate would have it, alcohol started damaging kidneys(of no particular gender, religion or political belief), Quick Gun disappeared from theaters before you could say Mind It!, and Blaft, among other things, released a smaller version of Tamil Pulp Fiction hiding beneath rows of emo-blood-sucking-teen vampires and self-consciously-conscious-IT-type-urban-indian-fellows. 

Alcohol sales dropped but the flame of revolution did keep burning, thanks to landmark books from Blaft that shook translated fiction and its abusive cousins to no end – Zero Degree, Where are you going, you monkeys!, Insects are like you and me except some of them have wings, Ibne Safi Series, Surender Mohan Pathak’s 65 Lakh Robbery and Day Light Robbery. I was away from Blaft books after I left the Ibne Safi series midway and never could pick up again somehow. You know, just like that.

Now, The Obliterary Journal brings back happier times, in lush color and youthful fountains. It fits in perfectly with these graphic-friendly times. Excerpts and one-shots, “art projects”, Rajini-friendly autodrivers, depressing old-age home residents, forgotten aliens all enthuse and abuse your sensory perception of the world in this oddly-graphic novel.

I flipped through some pages faster than others, and it had nothing to do with my racial prejudices or contempt of growing old. Loved the urban satire by Amruta Patil, an old Bengali detective pulp, and dystopian science fiction-weird mythology smatterings. Again, nothing to do with my apolitical leanings.

 Pick up this book, you must, for sake of your kidneys. No, seriously, in pure unbiased recommendation, TOJ is made for your shelf, put it between a vintage Thomas Hardy and MAD.

Interview at NH7

Mug Shot - This is what you get for plugging Blaft books

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Mice Will Be Mice(Captain Bijli; 2012)

Mice Will Be Mice is a self-published/creator owned one shot comic created by Shoei Emura(cool name #1) & Vidyun Sabhaney(cool name #2). I picked it up at the Blaft stall at the recently held Bangalore edition of Comic Con India. There was something about the cover and the hint of sarcasm that appealed to me.

I was pleasantly surprised by the art and the energy of the comic, there is some great thoughts at work here, a literal lab-rat undergoes a monstrous transformation and wreaks havoc on the unsuspecting city only to meet a hilarious climax. I remembered Rat Bastard but our lab-rat had other fate awaiting him. The book is pleasantly giant-sized(monster reference #3) which makes it scream "pick me up"!

I liked the perspective/zoom-in shots on the first page. There is some cool satire going on on the cruelties of human race leading to its own demise. 

I would to see a longer version for this but this is quite a little visual beast. I should be getting to more of the creators'works in Blaft's Obliterary Journal and The Pao Collective's Anthology Part I(Chilka).
More power to indie comics!

Action Figure-ing: Yoda Man!

Time to show off the loot from Comic Con Bangalore, presenting Yoda Man(bobblehead)! Like it you will.

Also featuring some old Heroclix. You can't ignore The Punisher for long.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Dr Ajax : Further Adventures

I completed the Dr Ajax series and found all the stories compelling and distinctive adventures in themselves. Since I read Army of Bees first, the first book(Crocodile Man) came later in my sequence but it didn't really affect anything majorly. The stories stand good one shots, and it is interesting that all 4 books have a different artists, it gives a different visual mood each time while the central elements remain constant.

Crocodile Man(Anniswans, Ishan, Surojit)
This story continues the fast-paced writing of this series. Apart from the good overall arc of the case, there were some bits that really struck a chord with me….Ajax’ theory of all fun being away from office, his mind going off when its needed the most then suddenly coming useful in a crucial moment, the cleverly written parts between him and Jack, the supercool anticlimax, and the post conclusion bits really make this a very intriguing series. The way science and real facts are interspersed within a fictional detective story just elevates the whole experience to realistic levels without losing on the fun.

The Invisible Man(Anniswans, Ishan, Hemant)

Scientifically the best story of the series, this one is high on the science aspect. The panels are experimental which lends a unique visual appeal. The story starts with a bang quite literally as we delve into a crazy scientist and his experiments with invisibility. Some well detailed bits about animal camouflaging follow the team as a precious stone gets stolen. Some hilarious witness outtakes follow("like that predator movie"!). The team cracks the mystery in a satisfying finale, and ends with a cool cliffhanger. 

The Hostage Story(Anniswans, Rahul)
This story revolves around the kidnapping of a financial fraud convict as Ajax and his Nano Force are called in for help. We get to some thrilling times as Mark & Monica struggle to put Ajax' ideas to action, overcoming every obstacle and thinking on their feet.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Legends of Aveon 9 : The Road to Vexadus

We have often missed that great leap of quality in Indian comic books, one that not only provides us the impetus to build many more lines based on its success but it also satisfies the creative hunger of the eponymous reader. Aveon 9 may be a small step in taking us there. I would not hesitate to say that I haven’t seen such good art in an Indian comic book(if you consider the popular genre), in its complex detailing and depth.

When one looks at such promising art there is often the fear of getting underwhelmed. This book, however, delivers on all accounts, and wins with its confident narration. The plot is essentially Avatar meets Tron meets your standard edition meek protagonist(Harry Potter/The Terminator Kid/Luke Skywalker). The protagonist relying on a strong female character also reminded of a lesser known but brilliant web series called Delilah Dirk.Similarities aside, Aveon 9 is a solid gripping sci-fi tale spanning an epic distant universe. The team at Rovolt is geographically diverse, and the effort shows in the final product which is sleek yet feels familiar and talks to all age groups of readers. The team boasts of internationally renowned names like Ron Marz.

The Good News: Some world-class art(a la Jim Lee), cool sci-fi epic saga, well explained and detailed backstory
Minor quibbles- the romantic plot gets a tad too cheesy at times, the look of few characters tries too hard at an Indian connection.
Verdict: Cheers!

Official Synopsis:
Thousands of years into the future, humans find themselves the masters of a new planet, Aveon 9. While establishing their supremacy, they pissed off more natives than they pleased and of course there were repercussions. Now there is chaos and anarchy all around. The continent of Xanundium torn between three warring human kingdoms of Vexadus, Naugra and Chunargh; is a boiling cauldron of various natives Eyars, Bonakins, Gnorms and Simians all fighting for their own dominance. An eventful journey of  two star crossed lovers and a native with some extraordinary power who have put themselves at a great risk, against the potently evil forces in their bid to achieve a state of peaceful co-existence. In this journey of love, hatred, deceit, passion, greed, trust, friendship, war who will survive as the quest has just begun.


Monday, September 10, 2012

Dr Ajax Army of Bees: An Indian Detective with Nano Force

One of the many takeaways from Bangalore Comic Con was discovering cool new Indian comics and a whole new group of independent comic book artists and writers that deserve a wider audience. Dr Ajax is a series by Pipedream Labs, written by Anniswans, and illustrated by a group of artists like Devaki Neogi Kiran. There are 4 books out now. which are all standalone one shots in themselves. The genre is detective thrillers peppered with slight doses of science trivia and humor.

Now to talk about the first book I read, Army of Bees. The title has a nice rhythm to it, and some great cover art pulled me in right away. The book opens to a no-nonsense good old bank robbery, only involving animals instead of your standard edition Reservoir Dogs. The panels are neat and maintain the tension through the action sequences. There is a nice transition to the humorous 'team' elements where one meets the companions of Dr Ajax - Simantini(aide and sometimes adversary in his schemes and countless theories and hypotheses) and Mark & Monica(the miniature/nano results of a personality modifier experiment gone wrong). There is a fine balance between the dialog and art as we move through this particular mystery. Dr Ajax and Simantini are engaging in their petty arguments and remind one of the deductive banter between Holmes and Dr Watson.

The book goes further into some cool science lessons where you explore the central theme of how an attack can be planned using sound frequencies as a force and humans/bees/animals as the medium. There is good arc to how Dr Ajax applies his suspicions to the case which I can't give away for sake of surprise to reach a conclusion and this unlikely team combines concepts of human sciences, physics and nano force and unravel the mystery behind the Army of Bees.

Engaging,original and laudable outing for a comic book set in a neutral universe. I am excited to catch up on the next editions in the adventures of Dr Ajax and his mad team. 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Comic Con Express Bangalore 2012

Time to rejoice! The geeks have won. Very happy to see a comic con in my backyard. I thoroughly enjoyed the frenzy, the cosplays, meeting up with few Indian artists(that I shall be writing about soon), sampling pop culture in India(a rare occurrence), and generally colliding with Green Lanterns, Jokers a plenty and some work-in-progress superheroes. Way to go!