(Interview conducted by our own Mr. Truce Vain)
In the Indian comic book scene, it is not often that you actually people review the work that you do, since there isn’t a robust networks of sites out there. However, once in a while a couple of reviews will turn up mysteriously – on sites like stripteasethemag, bookbuccaneers.com or the erstwhile comicaddicts.com (now defunct).
When this happens, some publishers often wonder, “Wait! Someone actually took the effort of buying and writing about my comics? Strange!”
In fact, the mystery deepens when one realizes that most reviews are often favorable. It almost seems as if a limited “Illuminati” of comic book critics and creators exists whose machination only result in positive reviews.
We try to get to the bottom of this phenomenon by interviewing an unsuspecting comic book critic from India. We dragged this critic in kicking and screaming, to get some real answers…
Here’s an excerpt from the interrogation:
Q. Do you solemnly swear, upon Batman, to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? <insert SWEAR TO ME Batman joke>
A: Of course not! I am a writer. Who the f**k asks a writer to tell the truth? Meh.
Q. Why review Indian comic books? What was your motivation? Something doesn’t pan out. Tell me the truth…
A: This is where you should have done your research! I actually review all sorts of comics. Indian, Italian, African, American, European, blah blah blah.
Being a writer in India who started writing about comics, I didn’t have a choice but to review Indian comics. I couldn’t be a comic book columnist with dailies if I don’t review Indian comics. There are some Indian comics I absolutely love, but most comics I have encountered in recent years have just made my case of manic depression worse. Especially with the equally depressing creators talking about Sacco and Moebius and Eisner being influences.
I started writing about comics because I have been interested in them ever since I was a kid. I wanted to make comics, but considering that Sacco, Gaiman, Goscinny and Uderzo have been my inspirations, I didn’t dare to.
However, being the insufferable nerd I am, I actually pursued comics academically in spurts. I wrote about comics for small time webzines and mainstream newspapers and then I started my own review site, just to geek out about comics and speak to some of my heroes. Also because I wanted to let people know about the awesome world of comics.
A: For the average Indian comic I review, I write only about the creators and the idea without getting into criticizing the comic. In my years, as a writer who writes about comics, I have realized one thing: the average Indian creator CANNOT take criticism. If you dare to be honest about their terrible books, they will find someone they know personally to do a good review about it. So, instead of lying about how good a comic is, it is easier for me to talk about the making of the comic.
Q. And How much of your honest feelings actually make it to the review/article?
A: None! None of my honest feelings about most Indian comics make it anywhere beyond my rant sessions with friends and loved ones. And occasionally a Facebook status update. But even that I can’t do freely since most of these people are on my list.
Q. But even when you are reviewing or writing about Indian comic books, it comes across as favourable – can you explain why?
A: I don’t always do favourable reviews. Like I mentioned, I do write ups about most comics. And amidst writing about the artist and the idea, I sneak in a line or few about bad art, incoherent grammar, Sans Serif fonts, bad panels, etc.
Then comes the absolute inability of a LOT of creators to deal with criticism.
But most important reason why I don’t call a comic fuck all is that I follow a lot of indie houses that have promise, but can’t really execute their comics perfectly because of various reasons – lack of money, lack of time, etc. I write nice things about them to encourage them. So that they don’t give up on their ideas.
The very thought of people doing something new is comforting. And needless to say, when compared to the boob fests that pass off as mainstream Indian comics these days, indie guys deserve the encouragement.
Q. What were you doing between 11 PM and 1 AM on 9th of February, 2015.
A: Doing things social people do. Like taking selfies and hanging with my bae.
Q. So, you have NEVER written a negative review for an Indian comic before?
A: I have mentioned the things that make it a terrible comic. I haven’t ever called it a “comic by a dyslexic otter”. But yes, I have wanted to.
Q. Does the power of Christ compel you to such things?
A. Does it compel you? No? Anyway, I basically ‘Plead the Fifth’ on that question.
Q. No, I really don’t think you can plead the Fifth in India.
A: And it is all your fault. Go to a corner and drown in a glass of water.
Q. Will you be tempted to write a negative review after this?
A: Are you stoned? Are you not paying attention to anything I’m saying? Would you be able to hear me better if I was a man?
Q. I don’t think you’re being honest here, or in your reviews. You MUST change your ways.
A: Make me.
Q. So what is your plan now?
A: To make comics. I had started to write about comics because I grew up on Goscinny and Uderzo and Sacco and Gaiman. I obviously wasn’t brave enough to pick up my pencils and make a comic. But thanks to most Indian comics, I am quite confident about my abilities. Even as an artist. And THAT is a definite insult to most “artists” out there.