Indian comics scene has witnessed great action in the past one year. Be it the launching of Virgin Comics, the launching of Illustrated Orchids or the numerous comic book characters created by Uncle Pai and Raj comics appearing as Mobile content, the launch of CID (tv series) comic books as well as original comic strips such as KopyKatMan which appears every week on The Sunday MiD DAY.
In print since nearly eight months now, the spoofy, satirical, and down right funny original comic strip, Kopykatman which is about a ‘so-called’ desi superhero and his misadventures is a treat for comic buffs. And for those Indian comic lovers whose staple comic strip diet includes some of the world’s best characters such as Garfield, Calvin & Hobbes etc, Kopykatman brings an interesting cultural and local relevance to it.
Written by Suresh Nair and art by Satish Acharya, the idea of creating an original comic strip was put forth by Sunday MiD DAY editor, Alpana Lath Sawai about a year ago.
Speaking to Animation Xpress.com about the inspiration behind creating the comic and how it came about, Suresh Nair shared, “I do a monthly Mad magazine-style spoof on movies in Cine Blitz. Alpana and Shradha Sukumaran from MiD DAY apparently loved some of my spoofs and approached me with the idea of doing something on similar lines. After a few brain-storming sessions we agreed upon the idea of doing a full-fledged comic-strip featuring an incompetent superhero, who is anything but a superhero! And since I was already familiar with Satish’s work, it was easy for us to collaborate on giving shape to Kopykatman.”
He further added, “The obvious source of inspiration was Mad. We wanted to do something funny and topical, stretching it every which way from satire to spoof. But the basic idea was to take off on some of our favorite superheroes – Superman, Batman, Spiderman – with a desi superhero who has neither their powers nor their charisma. He is simply a normal guy in a costume who is trying to be a hero by doing good deeds usually in scenarios that often reflect on topical news headlines. So Kopykatman finds himself dealing with everyone from PM Manmohan Singh and George Bush to Sachin Tendulkar and Bipasha Basu, who is his obsession. In short, Kopykatman is a cheap, imitation superhero!”
After having done a managerial job at an advertising agency in Mumbai, Satish Acharya worked as a free lance cartoonist with various publications and has also worked as a free lance cel animator at studios such as UTV Toons and Crest Animation. Besides this he has also worked on story boards for advertisements and short films. His stint with MiD DAY started three and half years ago and he is a veteran in drawing cartoons with having been drawing for sixteen years now.
Talking about his style of drawing Satish commented, “For a cartoonist, the style of his/her drawing is vital. While drawing, I just have fun with what I do. I try to strike a balance between realistic proportions (anatomy) and cartoonish looks.
With the kind of whacky scenes that Suresh comes up with, I really enjoy putting them into drawings. I love editorial cartooning where I’m allowed to give my opinion about the things happening around me.”
Suresh on the other hand has quite a glamorous past. He was the Deputy Features Editor of Bombay Times where he also used to write a column called Vital Stats for six years. Wanting to go beyond this kind of writing, Suresh forayed into screen writing for movies, comic strips and Mad-style spoofs. He has written scripts for TV shows such as Star Biz on Star Movies, co-written dialogues for Jhankar Beats and is involved in writing for a few other Bollywood projects as well. Simultaneously, he is pursuing his journalistic urge with Kopykatman and is also writing a column in DNA called After Effects. He is also planning on scripting an animation film.
It was decided at the beginning that the stories would reflect current news headlines. So, one would generally see a story woven around topical events from films, sports and politics,whether it is Bush’s visit to India or Sachin being booed at Wankhede Stadium or Gandhigiri. For almost six months there was a serialized story which had Kopykatman hot on the heels of a terrorist outfit called All Qaida No Kaanoon but at the same time encountering topical events and personalities. But now its back to episodic stories that begin and end on the same page. Like, last week, Kopykatman tried Gandhigiri to woo Bipasha Basu!
Sharing his views on Indian illustration, Satish shared, “We have all been inspired by Amar chitra Katha comics at one point or the other in our life. We have a huge number of talented illustrators. But they all compromise on quality because for them time is money and comics publishers don’t pay enough. So these illustrators end up focusing more on quantity to earn more, rather than on quality. It is not like abroad where illustrators are paid well and encouraged to go for detailed illustrations. Another area which needs attention is story telling. I think the best stories stopped with Ramayana and Mahabharata. We need to get inspired from these epics and focus on original stories rooted in Indian conditions.”
Initially the problem faced by the creators of Kopykatman was to remove the misconception that adults have towards comics with being ‘kids stuff’ and overlooking the page instinctively. What the creators of the comic were actually trying to do was to show that this one was actually a topical satire in the garb of a comic strip that’s more adult than kidstuff! Also as kids started reading it, they found that it wasn’t the usual action-oriented superhero stuff but slightly a more adult fare! But after the first few weeks, Kopykatman found his ground and stayed there firmly.
Talking about how Kopykatman has reached where it is now, Suresh said, “It’s an exciting challenge. Now we’ve people who are hardcore fans of Kopykatman and there have been suggestions to come out with a movie version of Kopykatman and a comic book series! The kick is in the fact that we grew up reading comics and now we’ve actually created one!”
As a parting shot Satish said, “I thoroughly enjoy working on Kopykatman. We work in a tight deadline, as it is a weekly edition. The exciting thing now is that we have so many people calling up and saying that they are Kopykatman fans. And they are all CELEBRITIES! I think Kopykatman, someday will be a celebrity too!”