Reflections from an alternate dimension

Comic artist Appupen explores themes of nature, technology and the ideology behind superheroes in his latest book, The Snake And The Lotus

Visitors to the dimension of Halahala that artist and author Appupen calls home received a new story to explore in his recent book The Snake And The Lotus. A tale told through full-page black and white imagery, which Appupen says drew some inspiration from the woodcut comic art style from the early 1900s, takes a look at the lives of two characters in a bleak future where the dying human race is kept docile by AI overlords and the human connection to nature is almost completely severed.

Appupen says the book explores themes he has been thinking about for some time, such as the fantasy world created and sold to customers by large corporations, and the concept of a superhero.

“Some of these ideas occurred to me as early as 2007, when I did not have the skill to present them properly. The art style used in this book requires the composition and rhythm to be consistent, which is a little like telling a story with one hand tied behind your back. I initially wanted to do it without text, but since some of the concepts are a bit heavy I realised early on it would require the aid of text. Another thing I wanted to do in this book was to challenge the idea of a superhero, which has been bothering me for some time.”

Reflections from an alternate dimension

His exploration of the ideologies that drive popular superheroes sheds light on why his characters are the way they are. “If you look at Captain America, who wears a flag on his chest but is used as a symbol to recruit people to the army and fight battles, or Batman, who makes his wealth through weapons and trading in the stocks of large corporations, what message does that send? That idea of a frontman, superhero or personality, who is a god-like being with a name and a logo, was something I wanted to change. Hence, my character is someone who has power, but does not know how to use it perfectly, and even makes you wonder what his motivations are.”

The Halahala dimension itself is growing and changing, in terms of the stories that take place in it and Appupen’s own metaphorical journey through it. “For a long time, I was preoccupied with the monster I face every time I enter Halahala, which had to be fought, measured and assessed. After this book, I feel like I have been able to move past that. It is not that the monster has gone. It was there long before I arrived and will be there long after I am gone, but now I can move and explore freely with the knowledge of its existence, and am working on some stories that come from a happier space.”

Reflections from an alternate dimension

His reason to tell his tales from Halahala is that it also allows him to explore topics not as openly accepted in the real world, such as faith or corporate greed. “The ‘call of the green’ mentioned in the book is about us becoming numb to things we may otherwise perceive if our goals were not to always buy better products or bigger cars. We have creative people making fantasy worlds and dishing them out to masses that are distant from them, and when I represent these things in my books people call them dystopian fantasy. The world we are living in is built on more harmful fantasies. But when I set these tales in an alternate dimension, these instances add to a larger mythology and become points for us to reflect upon.”

This intellectual conversation, he feels, is lacking among people, no thanks to the limited reach of the community he represents. Appupen says his work at Brainded India, a network of independent artists, is a way to get more people into the fold. “Today, readers and artists are exposed to everything. Comics today have also become the domain of the wealthy, and graphic novels are hardly read, merely collected and kept on shelves and discussed online with some fancy jargon. Which is why I’m looking to bring out a small 30-40 page Rashtraman comic (a fictional superhero he created) and sell it at an affordable price. That cheapness and irreverence is important, and more people need to get into the culture of reading visuals.”

As he explains these goals — to tell tales that do not further any agendas, and bring more people into the habit of reading visual stories — Appupen takes a moment to reflect on his journey as an artist. “What I do is a lot like being a carpenter or a painter. It takes a while before you reach a point where you can add something to the craft. Today, I’m standing on the work of so many people, and with my work, I’m trying to add one more stone on top of that. Then, it’ll be worth it.”

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Printable version | Mar 28, 2020 2:14:44 AM |

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