In 2011, a short-lived experiment in producing a weekly comics magazine. Dinamalar, a Tamil language daily, agreed to try it out, after I convinced them that I could arrange about 30 pages each week. Parts of my book The Vanished Path (HarperCollins India, 2015) was first published in this magazine. It was Dinamalar’s editor Krishnamurthy Ramasubbu, who financially supported the travel to Buddhist sites that would become The Vanished Path. The original plan was to serialise the comic in a weekly comics supplement. I contacted two other artists, Parismita Singh and Vinay Brahmania, who provided 10 pages each. However, incongruously, it was published under the label of their children’s supplement Siruvar Malar, which has been around for a long time. The comics were not meant for kids, and readers reacted violently. It was stopped after a run of a few weeks and they went back to children’s content.
I still think newspapers can support comics for adults with these kinds of cheaply printed supplements.
It was the only time, so far, that my work has been available at the local cigarette stall, where newspapers and magazines are also sold, and reached thousands of people. I even bought a copy from a cigarette shop, just for the thrill of it!
Comiket is the world’s largest comics event, held twice-yearly in Tokyo. About 500,000 people attend. This event is a celebration of doujinshi, the Japanese word for self-published comics. I made a feature documentary about it and doujinshi sub-cultures in Tokyo called The Fragile Heart of Moé. Comiket has a lot of parody or fan-fiction material. We also filmed another event called Comitia, which focuses exclusively on doujinshi with original content. During the filming, artists generously gave us copies of their work. There are so many sizes, and extremely varied art styles. Here is a sample.
In 2007, on my first visit to Japan where I was invited along with other filmmakers by NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation), a friend from Kolkata, Manojit Chattopadhyay, who runs Kriyetic Comics, had fixed a meeting with Tezuka Productions, and he kindly invited me to come along. I couldn’t make it to the meeting, but Manojit handed me these souvenirs given to us by Tezuka Productions. They are complete manga by Osamu Tezuka, each about 200 pages and a bit smaller than the size of a pack of cigarettes. The print is tiny but entirely readable, and attests to the high quality of Japanese printing technology. Quite possibly, the world’s tiniest manga!
On the left is Iron Roadand the one on the right contains three stories The Fossil Island, Robin the Fish Spirit, andThe Maiden of Tatsugafuchi. The Fossil Islandis a dream narrative where Osamu Tezuka, a poet and a newspaper reporter visit an island and dream various dreams upon coming across some strangely shaped rocks with cameo appearances by Sherlock Holmes and Arsene Lupin!
Chidaruma Kempo (चिदारूमा केम्पो) by the amazing manga artist Hiroshi Hirata is the first Japanese manga to be translated into Hindi in 2005, thanks to the efforts of another manga artist Yukichi Yamamatsu. Yukichi’s quixotic mission to bring manga to India is documented in his manga travelogue Stupid Guy Goes to India. Both Hirata and Yamamatsu were part of the gekiga movement in Japanese comics in the 60s and 70s.
Another trivia- Hiroshi Hirata also draw the Japanese calligraphic logo of Akira (dir. Katsuhiro Otomo), the anime masterpiece.
A short profile on Hiroshi Hirata at work in his studio:
Here is a masterclass by Hiroshi Hirata, filmed at the Salon del Manga.
Comix India is excited and honoured to bring to Indian readers for the first time, critically acclaimed Japanese alternative manga, or more specifically ‘gekiga’, in the next and future volumes alongside Indian comics. Some of these manga authors were part of the legendary Garo manga magazine that was at the forefront of the alternative manga movement. These authors greatly expanded manga’s possibilities as a form for literary expression, and in the process created an adult readership for comics.
We thank Mitsuhiro Asakawa, our Editorial Adviser, who is responsible for this. But this is just the beginning. We hope to publish more great manga from recognised masters of the art in the years ahead, some of it previously untranslated in English.
In doing this, we sincerely hope that Indian comics artists as well as readers will be benefited through a genuine cultural exchange that will help in creating new Indian comics that are artistically ambitious while reaching out to a general adult readership. It could be the start of an ‘Indo-gekiga’ movement!
For example, this four page photocopy comic was given to Bharath Murthy (editor, Comix India) by Kanta Ishida, a senior journalist at Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper, who was participating in Comiket, the world’s largest comics event, held twice-yearly at Tokyo. Bharath made a feature length documentary on Japanese self-published comics called The Fragile Heart of Moé. Kanta Ishida writes a weekly column called ‘Kanta on Manga’ where he reviews new manga releases.