“The spirit of Japanese magazines GARO and AX can really be felt in this significant new venue for Indian, Japanese and international comics to meet and mingle. You need VÉRITÉ and that’s the truth!” – Paul Gravett, comics journalist and historian
On New Year Day 2018, we announce VÉRITÉ, the new magazine from the people who did the Comix India volumes. As editor, I felt that the kind of comics we want to publish demanded a more specific name. ‘Vérité’, the French word for ‘truth’, seemed just about right since we want to encourage creating comics that express reality in a truthful and unflinching manner, comics that don’t shy away from difficult subjects, comics that don’t merely show off art styles, but those that confront reality head-on.
The first issue of Vérité features Indian, Japanese, an American and a French artist. Indian artists featured are Anpu Varkey, Biboswan Bose, Shaunak Samvatsar, Nandita Basu and Bharath Murthy. Mitsuhiro Asakawa, the Editorial Adviser for the Japanese section, has selected some amazing alternative manga artists: Tadao Tsuge, Susumu Katsumata, Youji Tsuneyama and Yukichi Yamamatsu. Tadao Tsuge is a critically acclaimed artist and one of the key contributors for the 1960s cult manga magazine Garo, who along with his brother Yoshiharu Tsuge revolutionised manga. Tadao’s work in English translation include Trash Market (Drawn & Quarterly) and soon to be released Slum Wolf (New York Review Comics), both translated by manga historian Ryan Holmberg. Ryan’s very perceptive essay on the origins of ‘gekiga’, a late 1950s-60s movement within manga that focussed on adult themes and created a new wave that resulted in magazines like Garo, is also published in this issue. Susumu Katsumata was also a key artist in Garo magazine. His works Red Snow(Drawn & Quarterly) and Fukushima Devil Fish: Anti-nuclear Manga (Breakdown Press) are available in English. Yukichi Yamamatsu’s work has already been published in India. The two-volume Stupid Guy Goes to India was published by Blaft Publications. French comics artist Simon Lamouret (whose award-winning reportage comic Bangalore was published recently) also features, as does American artist Nick Tobier.
Here’s an interview with Comix India Editorial Advisor Ryan Holmberg, manga historian and art critic, published by Tank magazine. His financial support to Comix India was instrumental in getting it off the ground. Ryan’s most recent translation of Japanese manga is Bloody Stumps Samurai by gekiga legend Hiroshi Hirata. It was earlier translated into Hindi and published by gekiga artist Yukichi Yamamatsu.
Gulammohammed Sheikh, one of the giants of post-colonial Indian art, who has played an important role in shaping modern Indian art over many decades, shared with me some comics he had done as a 15 year old in 1952. I had no idea of these one page comics done as part of a handwritten Gujarati language magazine called Pragati (Progress). Gulam sent me these scans because I had reached out to him by sending him a copy of Vérité. I told him that I was in part inspired by the independent ‘little’ magazine that he and Bhupen Khakhar, the other great of modern Indian art, had started in the 1960s, called Vrishchik (Scorpian). Pragati was his early schoolboy attempt at a literary and cultural magazine. Made in the provincial town of Surendranagar, his childhood home in the Saurashtra region in Gujarat, the magazine was kept at a local public library called Birdwood. Initially a fortnightly, it became a weekly and continued for a year. I asked Gulam if he had been exposed to comics as a kid. He said, “I was familiar with illustrations of Chandra, Ravishankar Pandit etc. Some of them may have made picture stories but I have no recollection of these, but I saw their illustrations in newspapers and magazines. The genre of picture-stories was not unknown.” From the note that Gulam sent me about Pragati, I got to know that it was part of an initiative by Labhshankar Raval, Gulam’s teacher, Mahasukh Gandhi, who ran the Majdoor Kalyan Kendra (Workers Welfare Centre), a government organisation the focused on adult education, and Indubhai Joshi. All the artwork and the comics are by Gulam Sheikh. He even drew actual ads for local businesses that appeared in it. Gulam says that regular features included a cover page with a painting in a given format (horizontal) and a ‘thought’ of the week in a paragraph usually written by Labhshankar, followed by an opening page devoted to a short story mostly contributed by Labhshankar. The third and fourth (or sixth) pages had regular columns like ‘Praudhashiksha’ (‘Adult Education’, written by Mahasukh Gandhi), ‘Chheeplan’ (Miscellany), ‘Jaanvaajevun’ or even ‘the week that was’ covering latest news, including an occasional poem (from the editorial team or received from readers). It also had a column of readers’ letters received through a wooden box fixed on the library wall. The two comics shown here are Khandu and Mandu, and Bhoot na Bheru (Buddies of Ghosts). Surely this indie ‘zine’ experience and the one that followed it called Jhankaar, eventually led to Vrishchik. In post-colonial artistic and literary production, the importance of these independent ‘little’ magazines as they called it back then, cannot be underestimated. The 1960s and 70s was a period where a rare synergy between the visual arts and literature produced an indigenous modernism in India. However, it dissipated very quickly and by the mid 90s, was already a historical phenomenon as India embraced global capitalism. Such a coming together of literature and visual art (including cinema) has not been seen since. As editor and publisher of Vérité, it is this spirit that I hope to carry on in my generation and I see comics as a form uniquely suited to this.
Nazuna Saito(b. 1946). Born in Shizuoka prefecture, Nazuna worked as an illustrator after graduating from university and made her debut as a manga artist in 1986 with Dahlia in Big Comic (Shogakukan). Six collections of her work had been published in book form by 1998. However, she had to leave manga for ten years to care for her family. She started to write manga again in 2012 and won the Excellence Award in the Manga Division of Japan Media Arts Festival in 2019 with Yuugure-e (Seirinkogeisha). The present work Inko no Kami (God of the Parakeets) was first published in Hanashi no Tokushu (Nihonsha) in February 1992.
Saito’s works are, in a way, the most “progressed” gekiga at present in my opinion, both philosophically and technically. Just like the originators of gekiga like Masahiko Matsumoto, Yoshihiro Tatsumi and Yoshiharu Tsuge, Saito depicts the daily life of the common people. However, her stories always end with that rare but important thing in life – mutual understanding. In her works she shows love for humanity in a surprisingly modest way 🙂 Her story will be in Vérité 02 soon for the first time in overseas 😉