Move over, superheroes. A workshop in the city traces the evolution of non-fiction comics - Hindustan Times

Move over, superheroes. A workshop in the city traces the evolution of non-fiction comics

Hindustan Times | By, Mumbai
Apr 20, 2017 05:55 PM IST

Stories from war torn zones and grassroots struggles. Mumbai-based comic artist Nikhil Choudhary will talk about the history of non-fiction comics.

Over the past few years, superhero comic powerhouses, such as Marvel and DC, have found a new avenue to reach out to millenials. With the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), and DC’s rather unsuccessful attempt at creating its own franchise, superheroes are currently pop culture royalty. As a result, superhero comics, that were originally created in the ‘60s (the Avengers comic was first launched in 1963, for instance) are regaining popularity.

“Comics are synonymous with superhero stories these days. But people often forget that there is a wider range of non-fiction graphic stories that are equally important. These are stories of real-time issues, such as war, political uprisings, and human interest stories,” says Nikhil Choudhary (31), a comic artist and illustrator. To raise awareness about this sub-genre, Choudhary is set to host a workshop in the city, in collaboration with Open Bracket, this weekend.

An architect and an urban planner by profession, Choudhary was a compulsive doodler as a child and grew up reading superhero comics. But things changed in the early 2000s, when he came across Maus, a comic by American comic artist Art Spiegelman. Based on the story of Spiegelman’s father, a Holocaust survivor, Maus won a Pulitzer Prize in 1992. “It opened my eyes to the power of a graphic novel to tell real human interest stories,” says Choudhary.

Read more: Learn to read between the lines of a graphic novel in this workshop by artist Jai Undurti

An illustration by Choudhary (Courtesy: Nikhil Choudhary )
An illustration by Choudhary (Courtesy: Nikhil Choudhary )

So, Choudhary did some more research in this space, and studied the works of Alan Moore, the author of graphic novels, such as Watchman and V for Vendetta; and the works of Joe Sacco, an artist-journalist who documented his experiences in the war-torn areas of Palestine and Israel. Choudhary will elaborate on the works of these artists in his workshop as well.

Inspired by these non-fiction stories in graphic form, Choudhary, too, decided to marry his professional expertise with his hobby of doodling. Choudhary’s works, collectively titled Linear Expression, emphasise on sustainable growth and development in cities. For instance, in one of his comic strips, titled Wishful Thinking, Choudhary gives voice to the pedestrians in the city, suffering from automobile traffic and pollution. “No longer at the mercy of those behind the wheels. No longer sidelined to the crummy sidewalks,” reads the text in the comic.

Read more: 2016 in comics: Will virtual reality change the way we live?

An illustration by Choudhary (Courtesy: Nikhil Choudhary )
An illustration by Choudhary (Courtesy: Nikhil Choudhary )

“Traditionally, cities are an important aspect of any comic book. Be it fiction or non-fiction, a city is a character in its own right. But we often forget those who live in the city. As an urban planner, I am trained to think about extending convenience to the people while designing a city and its infrastructure. So, I focus on the same in my comics as well,” he says.

The themes explored in Choudhary’s comics require extensive research, and Choudhary also keeps track of global debates on sustainable growth. At the workshop, he will highlight the methods of accurate research, and the process of translating it into a story.

“The illustration is never the problem. Anyone can draw a comic, even if it is with stick figures. The stories matter the most,” he says.

BE THERE: Beyond Marvel: Comics Making Workshop will be hosted by Open Bracket on April 22, from 10.30am to 1.30pm
Where: Dr Bhau Daji Lad Musem, Byculla
Call: 2373 1234
Price: Rs 500 on

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