The changing face of comic books

New Delhi: While comic books based on action and fantasy continue to enchant children, themes and topics as wide-ranging as international politics, women`s issues and even Sufi verses are now finding their place in various new series of comics and graphic novels.

"People new to the industry are choosing varied themes to create their own space in the market. Social issues, or topics of day-to-day importance are increasingly being portrayed through comics," says Jatin Verma, founder Comic Convention.

Welfare groups and NGOs have been seen increasingly using the medium to spread awareness about the social issues. "We conduct workshops in different parts of India and the world to enable people to tell their own stories via comics, especially those who don`t have a voice. In a workshop conducted in Pakistan, we encouraged people to create comics about the girl child, early marriage, floods, issues which were important to them," says Sharad Sharma, cartoonist and founder, World Comics India.

"The mainstream media often hesitates to show issues like underground movements and this is where comics play an important role," says Sharma. Comics are a great way to tell grassroot stories says cartoonist Sharma who has even introduced an online course in comic journalism.

"The new entrants to this field are mostly imitating the West, in terms of the stories and characters, which is really sad. There are so many wonderful indigenous stories that need to be told," he says.

Indian mythology has always been a popular choice for comics produced in India, but a current crop of graphic artists are giving new twists to age-old tales.

Vivek Goel and Vijayendra Mohanty have created `Ravanayanan`, a series of seven volumes of the Ramayan from Ravan`s point of view.

"Comics are the easiest way of catching attention, getting a message across, and the reader remembers the message as well," says Verma.

Mohammed Ali Vakil, Creative Director of Sufi Studios says, "Sufi Comics has a collection of anecdotes gleaned from Islamic history, with the accompanying Quran verse. We started it as a web comic, but because of the huge response, we have come out with the print version, which is being translated and taught in madrassas across the world."

Graphic novels are also picking speed in India, says Verma. Publishing house Manta Ray recently published a graphic novel "Hush" about sexual exploitation, while Bangalore-based author Samhita Arni`s most recent work "Sita`s Ramayanahas" gained global acclaim.