I love Comics, I think everyone should. I love the medium and wish to experiment with its form and functionality.
Having graduated from my fellowship in Science and Liberal Arts, I had some time before I started with quantified and mass acknowledged productivity – “job”.
So I decided to volunteer with the World Comics Organization in the month of June. If you are hunting for work to silence inquisitive aunts and (very) concerned friends, I am sorry, this probably isn’t the genre for you, however, if you are wanting to experience sincere efforts at giving voice to the subaltern , this probably is a space you would appreciate.
I do not think I would do much justice at introducing World Comics for there is much depth to the organization and work, perhaps you could go through their website and engage with what they mean by Grassroots Comics and Comics Journalism.
To me what matters the most, is that they have managed to take comics to people in their everyday lives, and have enabled them to tell their own stories, in their own words and images.
Sharad Sharma, the founder, has maintained an archive of all these narratives, which I truly feel are a brilliant account of narratives ignored in prevailing media and stereotypes. Moreover, I sincerely feel that this methodology reduces a researcher’s bias and could definitely be an innovative methodology to be used in ethnographic study. In fact, in my upcoming projects, which require ethnographic study and community engagement, I intend to conduct workshops with the communities I work with, to create comics wallpapers and to create a forum for sharing stories, perspectives and history.
Some of the important points that stuck to me through my interaction with the organization:
1. It is actually great fun to work in collaboration towards a common goal. The task of creating 28 panels out of two comic books for an upcoming exhibition, involved four people, two who had created the original work, and two who re-used and redesigned panels to be exhibited. beginning with a simple layout, we quickly developed an understanding of each other’s styles and managed to pull off a harmonious set. Devendra and I have a rough style which was given that subtle finality with Sharad Sharma’s eye for details, something I am still only attempting at achieving on my own. It was brilliant to see how after the panels were designed he went through those and introduced finesse with a blurb here or a patch of color there, it was very interesting to see hsi play with text as image.
I often wonder how did they manage to run an entire foundation through only volunteers, I think the most critical aspect is to respect every person and every task, be it making Chai or photo-copying or training people in making comics. Also, to acknowledge every person’s opinion and agency, is not just humbling but also encourages healthy dialogue and willingness to co-operate.
2. At times when lots is to be done, rather than thinking too much, dive deep into it, and just keep doing bit-by-bit. I know it sounds so obvious, but generally that is exactly what we don’t do. At World Comics there is too much positivity and constant work being done, no one stops, everyone is on to something and happily so. It inspires you to just get down to the task (at least as long as you are inside the studio). I think, the fact that Sharad Sir sat on my head, and sort of politely disciplined me into coming up immediately with a simple, neat layout was a great help later. I have faced this paralysis of ideation many-a-times, it is good to have a basic vision, but then explore as you are into it.
3. It is important to understand the purpose of the exhibit, what is to be conveyed, so that the content could be aligned. It is almost a curatorial procedure, ha! you mocking us? go see the number of illustrations and text, it can be tough to choose from such a huge pool of data. It is very important to be strict when filtering it. Everything looks great, but the idea is to only put as much is enough and appropriate to summarise the larger message in the books. Of course the audience plays an important role and has to be kept in mind while doing so. We did not have much time left for editing though, and that is a learning for next time, particularly for text, it could have been much more simplified.
4. Umm, for all my faux dislike for MAC, I think I had fun using it :). Also, have overcome an inexplicable dislike for photoshop.
5. We played with colors and I think it worked well. So the idea was to start and end with violet and have continuity in panels through the color transition. A coincidence was that green came during the panels clarifying myths on Islam, so then we managed to place RSS based panels in oranges which though was stereotypical we still greedily delved in it in order to assist the audience in relating to the context better. It was interesting how these colors could break the monotony and assist movement of eye, while the layout and transition kept a uniformity. The titles were kept in contrast with the background, while the bubbles of successive panels had colors belonging to the family of its preceding panel.
6. I think, the organization being quite democratic and liberal, I felt confident in the choices I made, and also learnt quite a lot from feedback, slight shifting of image, a little variation in the tint, adding some data in empty space, playing with layers, creating every panel as a composite whole, it was good fun to see the project complete and exhibited.
7. Great printing can be done at small press, some hidden gems in Delhi.
8. A great cartoon with black gel pen could be given various manifestations later, hence do not disregard a simple process of creation.
9. Last but not the least, to work with time limit, to keep it simple.
Some photographs of the exhibit displayed at India International Centre (IIC) Annexe, New Delhi (10-14 July, 2013):
Exhibition by :World Comics India
Books by :Ram Puniyani, Sharad Sharma