If one were to go by
the 14,000-strong crowd that thronged the two-day comic convention in Mumbai in
October, the future of the Indian graphic novel is bright and promising.
Excited by the response their stall received, Kishore Mohan of Libera Artisti,
a Thiruvananthapuram based three-man artist combine who are into the final
production stages of their mini comic series Auto Pilot, said: “If we are able to sell to even one-quarter of
the people who visited us at the convention, we’ll have a bestseller in our
There is no denying that the field of Indian graphic novel publishing has widened exponentially during the last few years, with new exclusive comics publishers like Vimanika, Campfire, Level 10, Pop Culture Publishing, Manta Ray, Liquid Comics and Holy Cow Entertainment adding to the more established line of Penguin and HarperCollins. Even publishers like Blaft (Moonward), Tara (I see the Promised Land), Navayana (Bhimayana), Westland (Private Eye Anonymous, Lie: A Traditional Tale of Modern India), Yodha Press (The upcoming partition anthology Restorying: Narratives from Bangladesh, Pakistan and India) have been dabbling in the genre which, Sarnath Banerjee asserted, in a recent interview in the Times of India, had the potential to become something quite big in India. Banerjee should know, for it was he who had sold the idea of “graphic novel” to the Indian publishing world with Corridor (Penguin) in 2004.
While Banerjee’s book was the first to be sold branded as a “graphic novel” the attempt was not entirely new. Orjit Sen, in 1994, had published a collection of stories on the life on the banks of the Narmada in comic book form (River of Stories) and earlier, famed Malayalam auteur G Aravindan’s comic strip Cheriya Manushyarum Valiya Lokavum (Small Men and the Big World) that ran for 13 years in a Malayalam literary journal had read like a modern graphic novel in its 1978 collected edition form.
What Banerjee did with Corridor was to forefront the graphic novel tag, which helped to disassociate the book from negative connotations of comics as infantile literature, and thereby bypass editorial and reader prejudices. This had also been the strategy in the West during the early years of the genre, with the term “graphic novel” first used on the covers of Will Eisner’s A Contract with God and Other Tenement Stories (1978).
Eisner was trying to pitch a book to an important New York trade book editor when he came up with the term “graphic novel” for he feared that the editor might be put off if he used the word “comics”.
It is evident that Eisner had used “graphic novel” to distinguish a more serious and mature form of comics from the infantile varieties flooding the market at that time, thus calling out for a re-evaluation of the medium and its capacity for complex and mature narratives.
It is evident that
Eisner had used “graphic novel” to distinguish a more serious and mature form
of comics from the infantile varieties flooding the market at that time, thus
calling out for a re-evaluation of the medium and its capacity for complex and