With the future looking rosy for the graphic novel industry, Samit Basu talks to aspiring graphic comic writers who need to brace up for the change.
If one were to choose between a degree in the arts or to just rely on one’s own passion for the graphic novel, while the right degrees are necessary for finding jobs with publishers, the only things required for the better option are skill and patience.
Learning comic writing was tough for me – it’s a completely different process, your thoughts have to jump instead of flow, and you have to think visually and spatially in a way you really don’t have to when working on a novel. It’s wholly different skill, and also a surrender of control – you really have to trust the artist, and prepare to be amazed at how art and text combine to give you something that’s greater than both.
But I’d recommend comics writing as an exercise for anyone who wants to work on their pace, structure, and economy – you really learn to strip a story down to its bare essentials. Presently, the Indian graphic novel industry is nonexistent. There are old-school publishers, young and interesting creators and companies, and the standard quota of hustlers and charlatans. It’s an interesting time to get in, but it’s still several years away from any kind of stability. Given that we live in the age of the internet, it is pretty easy to get in and get noticed. The challenge is to stay in, and make a living out of it.
The next decade should be an extremely exciting time for the comic book medium in India – on the one hand, literary graphic novels, and on the other, high-flying speculative fiction comics that revisit myth, history and the future, should make their presence felt in a very significant way both among Indian readers and worldwide with Indian themes and settings.
In India, the enduring popularity of Asterix, Tintin, and the home-grown Amar Chitra Katha series serves to underline the fact that the comic book is a medium the speculative fiction writer cannot afford not to take seriously.
On the topic of whether graphic novels are as lucrative as mainstream writing, it is probably as lucrative for publishers, and just as non-lucrative for creators. If it’s money you're looking for, stay away from the creative fields.
It’s a gamble. Don’t do anything creative unless you can’t bear not to.
Samit Basu is the author of The Simoqin Prophecies, The Manticore’s Secret and The Unwaha Revelations, the three parts of The Gameworld Trilogy, a fantasy trilogy published by Penguin Books, India. He has also authored Terror on the Titanic, a Young Adult novel, and Turbulence, a superhero novel set in in India, Pakistan and England. Basu’s work in comics ranges from historical romance to zombie comedy, and includes diverse collaborators, from X-Men/Felix Castor writer Mike Carey to Grant Morrison, Terry Gilliam and Duran Duran. His graphic novel, Local Monsters, was published in 2013.