Manta Ray’s release of Mixtape and Twelve-Preludes saw a turnout of loyal Manta Ray Comic lovers. Pratheek Thomas, co-founder of Manta Ray, explains in detail the creative process behind both comics

It was a carnival of art at Coffee on Canvas last Saturday. Beautiful black-and-white and muted-coloured panels of sketches were on display for the release of Manta Ray’s print edition of Mixtape and Twelve-Preludes. Each panel stood out for its stunning illustrations. While some panels had sketches accompanied by blurbs, others had only illustrations that spoke a thousand words. Over the years, Manta Ray Comics has gained a loyal fan following, and so it came as no surprise that an enthusiastic crowd gathered for the release. “Both Mixtape and Twelve-Preludes were always intended to be printed comics” explains writer and co-founder of Manta Ray, Pratheek Thomas in an email interview. “What we did was a digital experiment. The stories were released under our ‘Digital Firsts’ imprint, where the stories come out first as digital downloads and later on in print,” he says.

They have two new book-lines this year: an anthology collection Mixtape and Manta Ray’s first comic series, Twelve. Pratheek explains that Mixtape is a platform to promote new, upcoming and established creators. Each volume of Mixtape will have three to four short comic stories. “In Mixtape 1, we have four stories, ranging from four to 10 pages in length. The Silver Spider is the story of a mischievous boy who is out to kill all the spiders in his backyard. Rather Lovely Thing is a sort-of-surreal story of love and loss. My Beloved is a love story, but not the conventional kind. Voyeur is the story of... well, a voyeur, or rather a peeping-tom. Each of the stories features a different art style, and two of these were hand-drawn while two were digital.”

All the contributions to Mixtape are pro bono, Pratheek informs. “All the proceeds from the digital sales and a royalty from the print sales go back to the creators."

“We have released the 0 issue to the series, called Preludes, which is a collection of three diverse stories, illustrated in different styles, and together they give a glimpse of the world we are going to create in the main series.”

Twelve is a collection of 12 books, though each one is a stand-alone story, says Pratheek.

Choice is a common theme that runs through most of the stories. “The characters make (or have to) a choice that will change their lives forever.”

Pratheek also points out that most of the stories in Twelve are about the young people of India. “It is about their loves, hates, their insecurities, their quest for identity, their beliefs.”

“Not only do we try to tell different stories, we’re also looking for ways to tell our stories differently, by exploring different media, formats, techniques,” he adds.

Manta Ray initiated collaboration among writers and illustrators, giving a platform to promising talent. “In Mixtape 1, we reached out to our team of friends and collaborators for the stories and art. Many of the contributors in Mixtape 1 are established creators, which was essential, because we had to set the standard and also prove, at least to ourselves, that such a thing is possible.”

Speaking about Manta Ray’s commitment to high quality, Pratheek says, “We have an editorial team who look at the story concepts, and may give suggestions, inputs to help make the story better. Since Mixtape is a platform for new and upcoming creators, we feel that it’s necessary to have such an editorial team — to ensure the stories are of a quality standard that we have set and more importantly to provide mentoring to these creators, if they need it.”