We haven't heard from our correspondent in India, Akshay Dhar in some time, and it turns out he's been keeping busy with his comics imprint Meta Desi Comics, very busy in fact. In the interim, he's gotten ready to launch a new comic, Love Me Like a Psycho Robot, completed the Meta Desi website to complement their strong presence on Facebook, and perhaps most significantly, he's entered into a partnership with a new international publisher, Bookmaker.
Akshay has not only a lot of verve and determination in bringing a new voice to comics in India, but sets an excellent example others can learn from in terms of launching and making indie comics available worldwide. I was delighted to hear from him this week, and I asked him some questions about these exciting new developments for Meta Desi and his thoughts on the upcoming year for comics in India.
Hannah Means-Shannon: Tell us about Bookmaker…What made you decide to publish with them and what are the features you find appealing about their work?
Akshay Dhar: Ever since I started writing – not just comics, but fiction in general – I've always wanted to expand the Indian scene for them and show it a new face because even now a huge chunk of the populace is so (unfortunately!) comfortable with the same-old stuff.
The basics about my new friends at BookMaker are: BookMaker Comics was first brought to life in early 2009, a group of former students at Scuola Internazionale di Comics decided to band together in order to give birth to "an independent, original new comics reality" as they describe it. Very much like how we ended up starting Meta Desi, they both were initially nothing but a collective of passionate, creative people who wanted to push some boundaries.
To me, our partnership opens new doors to bring the very awesome and under-appreciated European comic scene in contact with the Indian readers more easily, brings the Indian comic world a little closer to the global scene and the more fluid Indie-publishing/small-press world is more conducive in some ways I feel to the raw talent that is waiting to come out of India. It's not as lucrative as working with bigger, more established markets and players, but it feeds the creative muse better and that's what we personally aim toward.
And if I'm perfectly honest, it's a no-brainer that having a fresh printing done locally is going to be far more economical than importing printed books from the U.S or Europe (or anywhere really…) and unlike the bigger, more famous names, smaller labels don't have astronomical sales expectations which makes it a more realistic partnership on both sides. This is a big part of why DC and Marvel were not able to come in with a local partner thus far, their expectations were too high for a place where the market literally wasn't there until 5-6 years ago.
HMS: What on earth is Love Me Like A Psycho Robot about? Where did this come from, creatively, and what do you hope it will convey to the readers?
AD: I'll need to get an official blurb yet but I'll try and explain it as best I can:
The story of Love Me Like A Psycho Robot revolves around a robot named "Love" who was created by a group of greedy, corporate fat-cats. These quintessential evil-dudes are trying to root out some tree-hugging hippies from some land that they're squatting on. All previous attempts have utterly failed and so "Love" is their last chance. So they literally want to kill the hippies with Love. It's an all-out b***s-to-the-walls action-fest but somewhere under it all it's got a touch of social commentary, not too much, just enough to not impede the fun!
Like all of us who are writers or artists or creators of any kind, Stefano wanted to get his work out to a wider audience and as a fellow struggling creative, I understood that feeling. This particular book seemed like a simple, fun package to open the door to publishing together.
HMS: What is Stefano's background and how did you connect with him? How would you describe his style and the impact of his artwork?
AD: Most people who are likely to be familiar with the work of Mr. Stefano Cardoselli are likely to be readers of the iconic anthologies Heavy Metal and 2000AD as he is a contributor to both. He is the uber-talented artist behind this particular comic, was in touch with a common friend who told him about the publishing work Meta Desi Comics had been doing and such and it was in fact Stefano who took my contact details from this friend and got in touch with me.
He and Valeriana (Cretella, writer and co-creator) seem to work well together and have crafted an entertaining comic that has subtle sub-text about love, violence, society and others that you may not even realise is there at first. The book is replete with his unique style, in fact I think it's a little bit of a showcase as well in that it's filled to the brim – if I had to explain his work I'd put it as a akin to the sheer voluminous density of on-page artwork of Geof Darrow in the seminal Hard-Boiled, if it was very unceremoniously smooshed together with the hyper-kinetic insanity of Rob Schrab's hilarious Scud: The Disposable Assassin.
Basically, it's totally nuts. As this first page double-page spread I've shared here shows so perfectly…
HMS: What's coming up for you and what are your predictions regarding comics in India for the rest of 2014?
AD: Well in addition to this new comic for which Stefano graciously made this insanely amazing "Indian Variant" cover (which is only going to be available in our initial limited 1000-copy print run – shameless plugging!), we've got a lot of plans for the year ahead:
We've already got the 3rd volume of our flag-ship anthology series Ground Zero all set to head to print and launching just a month after "Love me…". It will be officially launched at the Hyderabad Comic Con in October and will be wrapping up all the ongoing stories thus far. The 4th volume is slated for release in February at the biggest India Comic Con event at New Delhi.
You might be interested to know that one of the artists involved in the anthology is Sammi Lenker who is a very young but very talented artist from York Springs, Pennsylvania. She does the manga-esque story of which I've also sent you a sample page – as well as two artists who are currently based in Canada.
Other than that, we've recently merged/partnered with Chariot Comics (another local publisher) and together we'll be putting out a trade paperback of their series Damned which is basically about a powerful God-slayer – something you can imagine has a lot of ground to cover with eastern religions and their massive pantheons. You will be getting an army of zombie monks and a whole lot more with this book. This will be out in the next few months as well.
Of course, if this first effort with Stefano and BookMaker does well enough, we've already got plans in the pipeline to bring more of their books here to India under the Meta Desi umbrella. We're hoping fervently!
We're also slowly putting out e-books of our comics, so that people who don't want to buy an entire anthology, can choose to follow just one series or sample whichever one grabs their leisure.
Lastly, we've just launched our website (metadesicomics.com) where we've just started posting some webcomics and we'll be posting a bunch of different comic strips through that portal in the months ahead – the first of which are "Shtick Figures" which kinda speaks for itself and the other is "Roulette" which is part-homage, part noir-adventure, all fun.
If anyone needs info on any of this, it's ALL available on our site.
Our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/meta.desi.comics
Our Google+ page: https://www.google.com/+MetaDesiComics
And here's our special preview of Love Me Like a Psycho Robot: