Comic superheroes are idiots and other graphic truths

The fourth and the final day of Tata Literature Live Mumbai Fest 2019 held in Title Waves, Bandra, moved the audience into the realm of comic literature. On a serene Sunday morning, panelists Appupen and Dave McKean, chaired by Aarthi Parthasarthy who engaged the audience for an hour-long thoughts and discussion on “Comic Sketches: The graphic novelist as satirist.”

Appupen is actually George Mathen, a noted graphic novelist and artist from Bangalore. He is the creator of wordless narratives like Aspyrus and the super hero satire series ‘Rashtraman’. While highlighting his works in the comic world since 2005,  Appupen confessed, “I was intrigued by the visual language and wanted to capture the world in graphic and visuals.” Initially he struggled a lot because of poor marketing for his graphic novels. While narrating his journey he said that this type of work has no platform and there are not many readers. But his interest in visuals keeps him going.

His satirical works are filled with superheroes but he doesn’t like them. “Superheroes are idiots,” he says. “Even Dr. Ambedkar the father of our constitution has told us that we should not give too much importance to one public figure or personality. That is why I want to downplay this hero worship. So, whenever I think of satire I think of superheroes.”

The next panelist was Dave McKean, who is known for illustrating and designing over 80 books and graphic novels and is also a noted filmmaker. Among his collaborators have been horror novelist Stephen King and Neil Gaiman, the father of the graphic novel, also short fiction writer, author, filmmaker, comic book writer, audio theatre producer.

Living in England, he talked about the country’s long tradition of satire with people ever ready to question the intelligence and the honesty of politicians. But he warned against the idea that all politicians were fodder because they were liars and idiots. “But they are not. Really not! There are variety of people, there are some liars, some idiots but there are people who want to make a difference ,with all shades of grey in the middle,” he declared.

Acting as moderator, filmmaker and webcomic creator  Aarthi Parthasarthy got the others to talk about how music inspires their work. Appupen in particular said music helps him in thinking and exploring his ideas better, He feels there is a connection between the comic and music. 

McKean, on the other hand, emphasised sheer variety as an essential to greater creativity. Whether it is painting, drawing, working in theatre or playing music, there is a strong link between multiple creative talents, and that’s what always led him back to cartooning.

Contributed by Journalism students Kunal Hariani and Laveena D’Souza

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