Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Obliterary Journal Vol. 2 : Where is my Cheeseburger?

Blaft’s Obliterary Journal is back! And much like the thunderous first volume, the new issue is full of colorful stories, comic books, and strong advice against meat-eating as an added bonus. I was so moved by the brutal facts of the meat industry that I finished half the book sitting at a KFC.

On a serious note, I loved some of the pieces here for the diverse flavor they bring to the table, and you constantly keep murmuring ‘so much talent!’ as you go through the book. I wish there were more comic book pieces here, with the conventional panels and speech bubbles youknow, but I still celebrate the anthology as it carries enough beef to satisfy your culinary and literary monsters.

Leg Piece by Durrrrk Mixer Grinder Serial No. 30277XM03
A hilarious ‘piece’ in the western genre, Quick Gun Murugan, if you want to draw an association closer to home. The chicken legpiece is a monk who abhors violence but due to the evil machinations of space idlis(marauding tiffin items) is compelled to conjure up the deadlykitchencookingspoonthing to end the threat of the overambitious idli-beings. The sequel to QGM, then called The Good, The Bad and The IDLY never got made, but this would be a great scene in it.
After finishing the idlis and making Molaga Podi’s of them, our lone ranger legpiece meets his elusive destination in the desolate wilderness, something as rare as an idli encounter in the outback- a single, brave bookstore! Durrrrrk never disappoints....

The Past and Future History of The Emu by Aneesh K.R.
The authenticity of The Coromandel Avian Taxonomy Research Institute aside, this is a earth-shattering piece, quite literally. I have had my share of disgust with the notorious Emu restaurant so could relate to the story. We begin from prehistoric(where else!) times and trace the fowl(!) practices of Emu farming, and how it has affected normal peoples and film stars(not normal peoples) associated with the dream, and the leap to the future is so real you never know when the facts give way to the surreal. There is some great art here, all hand-drawn/painted, which provides a nice contrast to the cheeky albeit straight-faced narrative.

U.G. Goes to K-Mart by Nicholas C. Grey and James Farley(excerpt from This Dog Barking)
Philosophy at the supermarket, UG style. These pages in particular show his ‘free your mind’ beliefs on vegetarianism, and eventually how the human body doesn't care whether you eat sawdust or gourmet food.
This is One Chicken/This is One Goat by Somdutt Sarkar
Photo art project/installation piece shows how the numbers add up exponentially when you consider the non-veg food market, hence bringing out the brutal maths of the trade.
Mouse Pickle by Nazeer Akbarabadi, B. Anitha & Anil Kumar, Michelle Farooqi and Musharraf Ali Farooqi
This is a painstakingly put together translation of an Urdu book, that portrays the perils of meat, through allegory of a worldfamous mouse pickle...

 Jamalpur by Tarun Padmakumar
This piece lightens the mood through the fun night out at a dhaba in what I am guessing is Jamalpur. A group of friends attack all the weird and unhealthy sounding non-veg food in the world, overcoming their inhibitions and laugh it off as they burp and gorge on bheja fry and liver fry.

Nochikuppam Fisherwomen Comics by Ratzzz and X. Kumar
The cover reads - Short interviews with hot sweaty foulmouthed hardworking totally badass ladies! A hilarious photo-comic(much like the one on auto drivers in TOJ-Vol 1) which portrays the adventures of fisherwomen on Chennai beaches.

The Hunters/The Prey by Appupen
First one is a quintessential Appupen tale of what looks like 3 halloween pumpkins chasing a sky-fairy/angel. Once they get exhausted and are about to give up, you see the real picture.
The Prey is funnier, and nicely packs a punch where a hunter is hunting for something less beastly this time...

How To Make a Bitch Give Up Beef by Meena Kandasamy and Samita Chatterjee
This a strong statement in a art project which combines digital art and poetry, bringing out the double standards of our society with relation to the beef propaganda, where it follows Gandhian philosophies on one hand and discriminates against any strong voices that may shake their puritan beliefs. Loved the satirical art and the intensity of the piece. This is a good, provocative, issue-based work of art.

Green Butterfly by Aarti Sunder
This comic looks at cannibalism and food chain at a microscopic level, where a famly of butterflies feast on a suicidal worm. Trippy stuff, and some nice art too. 

The Legend of U Thlen by Kynpham Sing Nongkynrih and Aratrika Choudhury
I loved this folk-tale/comic for its simplicity of narrative and expressive art. Based on a Khasi Tale, it narrates how the folklore of a serpent monster came to be. This is sheer fun storytelling, much in the vein of Blaft’s own earlier folk translations, and involves cannibalism, transformation of culinary habits of one region into a custom. I was reminded of the tales that my mother used to tell us during Hindu festivals.

The Stepson’s Meat is in The Kitchen by Dukhushyam Chitrkar and Megha Bhaduri
Another folk tale translation, but this does not pack much punch as the earlier one. Nice art though.

Butcher Butcher: Lahore by Ali Sultan
Photo project of butchers in the streets of Lahore.

Livestock by Madhurya Balan
Nice to see another comic book piece, with panels that is. In this story, animals have taken over the world, and you see them going about their personal and professional lives, the only difference is that they give out parts of their body very often to be used as meat. I liked the starkness of the narrative.

Food Chained by Sathyanarain Muralidharan and Mihir Ranganathan
A small comic about what looks like Mars and humans are kept in captivity amidst a human meat market.

Be A Man by Won-Tolla
Interesting campaign poster style piece by Won-Tolla, a satirical piece on the act of killing a chicken.

They Came From The Stars by Gurjot S. Mamik
I thoroughly enjoyed this piece purely because of its art and geekiness, the colors are so pretty and the fonts are what you get in any good Fantagraphics, Top Shelf or Drawn and Quarterly indie comic. The story features aliens in what appears a pink universe, the aliens conquer a distant planet inhabited by the hunters of the Gozalu tribe, with their advanced technology and knowledge. I loved the reference to ‘culture’! The Gozalus get renamed to Bhagyavayus and change their lifestyles to live in grasslands. Some illegal(deemed so by the federation) DNA tests later, the planet is a wreck, and spirituality or what is interpreted of it reigns supreme…

On Making Wet Food For Your Growing Kitten by Prabha Mallya
A Manta Ray piece by Prabha Mallya, this one is a funny take on your average mall shopper- Mincho Mondal, taking pleasure in the meat section, and his erratic neighbors include a pure-vegetarian woman and a pair of conjoined twins who cultivate mushrooms. The story becomes more adventurous whatwith an overgrowing cat and the society’s love-hate relationship with beef…

Cover by Prabha Mallya
Blaft Blog

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Indie and Mainstream: Mini Reviews

The Bloodline Chronicles: Nice Crime-Family Noir, some great art and tight writing.

Planetary Brigade: Another fun alternative-superhero book from Boom, written by Keith Giffen, has a sarcastic, spoofy vibe all through, reminiscent of Kirkman’s Invincible universe. 

Cover Girl: A nice pulpy mash-up in the B-movie/action genre, pokes fun at itself, and cleverly written and drawn book from Boom.

Deathblow: And Then You Live! was a nice action-packed read, not Azzarello at his best but still good in places and some great art too..

Death Valley: A fun campus-zombie comic, falls pretty short to make an impact. The book has few more small stories in line with the genre.

Newuniversal: Had never heard of this title before but saw Ellis' name and picked it, turned out great sci-fi with a political backdrop...

X- Men Endangered Species: Starts off nice with Beast going on a quest, and poses some interesting questions to existence of mutants, but pretty weak in the second half, couldn't understand why Dr. Strange had to jump in with all his magic vs. science shenanigans....Not sure if I should pick up Messiah Complex now.

20th Century Boys: Enjoyed this manga a lot. I like the fact that the pace doesn't gone down even with the barrage of characters and time/decade-jumping of events. Nice sci-fi elements mixed with action and some monster love make this one a must read book.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Comix India Vol 1 : Book Review

I am horribly late in checking out Comix India, but I am glad I did. This looks like the platform we need to showcase Indian creators on a regular basis. To my knowledge, there have been six volumes of the anthology and I checked out the first volume which has 14 short stories.

Comix India starts with a funny 2-pager self-referential strip where Charkha (Dutt) reviews the editor of the magazine, a Mantis, no less! 

The Halahala Observer - Appupen

Appupen’s comics are always rather dark and trippy. There are no clear messages but overriding themes of ennui, surrealism, and a Kafka-esque working class angst. The Light of The Prophet, The Cameraman and 1300 also explores these themes. Although the first two are shorts, 1300 tends to drag and goes too far in its theme of everyone chasing time.

Visioncarnation – Orijit Sen
Having read Sen’s works in anthologies before, I was familiar with his style, satire on intellectuals and urban fads(much like what Whit Stillman does in films). This one too is a nice short surreal take on a bunch of pseudo-intellectuals running after Bombay Baba, an old school camera talks to a chair and soon we launch into claustrophobic frames echoing bare emotions all ending happily in an urn in Banaras? Another of those wish it was longer pieces. 

Just Another Job – Sudeep Menon
A story of a Bombay nightbar, a gun for hire, and a job well done. You get the idea.
The piece looks pretty amateur and does not total up to much, the end seems pretty rushed too. May be this again needed some more pages. 

Adventures of a Comic Book Artist- Gokul Gopalakrishnan
Hilarious and autobiographical account of Gokul’s becoming a comic book creator. The writing is cathartic yet entertaining, all panels beautifully drawn and narrated. I chuckled at the bit where he spends days trying to put together his comic and his wife brushes it off in seconds. This hard reality has hit almost everyone in life some point or the other. 

Ear Rings- Dr L. Prakash
This felt like a sob story with a happy ending to me, I tried but couldn’t finish it. 

A Form of Writing – Bharath Murthy

Murthy creates a comic on the art itself. Not my favorite genre, but each frame shows the effort and knowledge behind it. May be this would look better in a standalone book.

Press Snooze for Freelancer - Vidyun Sabhaney & Pia Alize Hazarika

Nice funny story about the perils of freelancing. I could relate to how one delays sleep and then when you wait for it, morning never comes. The main character talks to the alarm clock, and the conversation doesn’t go down well… I liked the experiments with panel size and fonts.

The Replacements - Shirish Deshpande

I quite liked this mystery-horror kind of story. The theme is heard of before but the panels are drawn nicely, and the story moves fast.

A Remembrance of Loss- Somesh Kumar
A nostalgic, melancholic story of a man tracing back his routes on way to his home town, and going through passages of memory, guilt and emotions. The story moves through personal moments, that anyone who has grown up in a small town would relate to. Very nice art, although I am little wary of reading emotional pieces like this.

Throwing off the Bowlines- Pratap Aditya
Very good little political piece of extremist groups, reminded me of Joe Sacco, although it could use some satire to lighten the tone.

Last Defences of Mankind- Aditya Bidikar & Nitin Veturkar
I struggled with the font in this one, but liked the noirish urban frames…

Kinnari - Meenakshi
Really enjoyed this one, I went and read quite a few pages of the web comic too, this is how mythology should be used as a medium, not an end seen so often in Indian comics. No preachy panels, or overlong dialogs, just a fun, fantasy ride. Reminded me of Delilah Dirk.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Pulp Quarterly : A Journal of Indian Comics

Pulp Quarterly is a journal of Indian comics, and a welcome addition to the growing community of Indian comic creators. I got the first issue thanks to a friend, and loved the cover art instantly(drawn by Abhishek Singh). It was a mythological monster I hadn't seen before, and there was something about the green background that went with the Pulp theme. I have been following the Indian comics off and on and have been pretty critical of it, to be honest. But this magazine puts an effort in the right direction and can be quite effective if it continues with the same energy and spirit of collaboration.

The journal showcases comic book strips, interviews and articles. Not too fond of few existing books that were profiled, I went straight to the interviews and loved them a lot. Here are my thoughts on some of the pieces in the first issue:

Review of Mumbai Confidential : I agreed with the reviewer even though I haven’t read the book apart from few pages. The concept felt too Bollywood to me, although I liked the noir-ish art. 

A Post Modern Double Talk- The now famous secret identity for real guy Gokul Gopalakrishnan writes an intellectual piece on Manjula ‘Suki’ Padmanabhan’s Double Talk strip. Though the genre does liken to a self-referentiality characteristic of some great indie writers, the strip could not hold my interest and I gave up after a few panels. The writing felt unfunny and forced to me.

Terror with a tail: A small comic strip with overall nice, kinetic work on all departments. The strip captures the surreal adventures of the working class. Although I could do without the random Salman Khan reference, but definitely, give me more of this!

The Last of its Kind: Drawn well(Abhijeet Kini), but pretty random writing, and what was the point?! The 2 page comic felt more like a creator's in-joke to me. 

One Man Show: Captures a day in the life of a writer/creator, and the mundane-ness of it all, reminded me of both Harvey Pekar and south Asian cinema.

The Sage & The Settler: Headless imbeciles! Who writes like that?! Sounds like a News reporter reviewing a Bollywood movie.Though the comic tried to elicit a funny response, the Sadhu cliche kept me away. 

The House my Grandfather Built: A melancholic account of a house, family tree and stuff. Yawn. Nice art though, with pleasing blue, green hues and confidently drawn panels. May be enter a murder mystery in the nostalgia?

Article- Defining Comics: Sumit Ray writes a nice piece on the age old debate over comics vs graphic novels. There are some interesting insights into the genesis of the Graphic Novel, and one can recall the famous examples fitting in with the topic very well.  

Indie Spotlight: This was my favourite section, showcasing the tough process of how two Indian creators have come to write their books so far, what’s in the pipeline, how do they collaborate etc. And it gives a general good sense about future of Indian comics. I had not heard of Akshay Dhar before, so that was quite an eye opener. It was nice seeing that Indian creators are going all out in supporting the scene and pulling in resources to produce better and better comics. And I had loved Vidyun Sabhaney’s work on Mice will be Mice(and had reviewed it earlier) so was great reading a well detailed and in-depth interview of her. 

I feel the biggest success of the book was it made me Google all the profiles mentioned in it and read up few Indian comics online. I will soon be sharing my views on some. 
Also very excited for the next space-themed anthology-Antariksh Yatra!

Comix India
Level 10
Graphic India
Abhishek Singh's Art