Exclusive: ‘INKLAB’ – The first issue of the punny quarterly graphic magazine by Big Bang Books is out now!

A panel from INKLAB (Image exclusively shared with AnimationXpress)

After a hiatus, Horizon Books is back with a bang to publish its third graphic novel, ‘INKLAB’. After a successful run with the first two graphic novels, Amar Baari Tomar Baari Naxalbari and The Itch You Can’t Scratch by Sumit Kumar, the publisher has published this new novel under its new name ‘Big Bang Books’. Just like its revamped name, the publishing house, with lots of zeal and positivity, has launched INKLAB as a quarterly graphic magazine, each magazine penned by different writers.

While the publisher”s earlier works, Amar Baari Tomar Baari Naxalbari was a light yet informative look at India’s longest-running left-wing insurgency, and The Itch You Can’t Scratch was an autobiographical coming-of-age graphic novel about an average middle-class boy with not-so-average thoughts, INKLAB is here to start a ‘comics revolution’ with every new issue.

The first issue of INKLAB came about in 2013, when a bunch of comic book creators decided to start an anthology of short comics series. After the successful launch of the first issue, the creators got busy, and this “zine” was put on hold. But in the year 2020 amidst the pandemic few of the creators and some new ones decided to revive the “zine” in the form of a quarterly magazine along with the publication support of Big Bang Books. 

Bhuwan Shrivastava

AnimationXpress spoke to Big Bang Books publisher Bhuwan Shrivastava to know more about this punny novel. Talking about the story behind the name INKLAB, Shrivastava said, “The name INKLAB is actually a pun on Inquilab, revolution, and the fact that these are small experiments in their own way done with ink on paper. This name was coined by Adhiraj Singh who is the editor of the new Issue of INKLAB. INKLAB stands for the small revolutions that we wish the reader goes through while reading the comics in the anthology.”

The creators of this novel are trying to tell every-day stories using the medium of comics, stories that connect and resonate with the people around us. They wish their comics to be accessible and thought provoking. 

Shrivastava added, “For a long time there was a need for those stories which the reader can relate himself/herself with, just like Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s movies; and with INKLAB that search surely is going to end.”

Each issue will feature, in crisp black-and-white, comics for grownups stories from a rotating set of comics creators. Each story follows each issue’s theme, each a cheeky take on popular culture and current events, but with each creator’s own original spin on it. The first issue’s theme is ‘Disease’ – chosen to be timeless and topical at the same time – and looks at the theme from all angles except the obvious ones.  

A panel from INKLAB (Image exclusively shared with AnimationXpress)

“What follows in this (our first issue) are more such cave drawings – updated, maybe a little, by millions of years of education and reality TV – but still, at its core, our thoughts trapped on ink and paper, our dreams distilled into panels, keeping death at bay with each stroke and sigh,” mentioned INKLAB editor Adhiraj Singh.

The first issue, Disease, contains four different stories which are as follows:

Common by Divya Tak – A peek into our thoughts when we face the most common of diseases.

Jhootha Paani by Shikhant Sablania – A look at a harsh, yet sadly mundane disease that afflicts our society.

Dyspepsia by Aakshat Sinha – A story about two species with similar problems, and a convenient way to cure it.

The trouble with Allopathy by Anupam Arunachalam – A flip on ‘disease’ that instead looks at the cure, and how that has evolved and in some cases hasn’t.

From left to right: Anupam Arunachalam, Divya Tak, Shikhant Sablania (center bottom), Aakshat Sinha

All the aforementioned comics creators, with cover artist Farah Ahmad, and INKLAB editorial team of Adhiraj Singh and Shikhant Sablania, along with publisher Bhuwan Shrivastava and the Big Bang Books team have worked on the first issue. 

Disease consists of 64 pages. Elaborating on the timeline, Shrivastava shared, “From the thought of creating the magazine in November 2020 till it’s release in February 2021, we can say it took roughly three months. We first decided on a theme and then let each creator come up with their own stories. This is a model we want to continue in our future issues.”

Their target audience are those readers who went away from comics, just because of the fact that it does not have good stories anymore. Those readers who are mature enough to understand the issues, revolving around us on a day to day basis.

At a time when people are switching to digital books, given the budgetary restraints, not many dare to come out with the print version. When asked about the feasibility to publish it, Shrivastava commented, “Comics market, specifically the graphic novel market, in India is still in a very nascent stage. With more and more target audiences moving towards electronic medium such as mobile phones, the struggle for graphic novels intensifies. The feasibility lies in good and relevant stories only. Good and relevant stories are directly proportional to profitability of graphic novel/comic book.”

A panel from INKLAB (Image exclusively shared with AnimationXpress)

Big Bang Books has always taken a risky stance when it comes to publishing graphic novels. Given the current political scenario, there might be some opposition towards INKLAB. Sharing his thoughts, he clarified, “Yes, previously we took some topics which were a bit sensitive, but the way that topic was handled gave a positive stream of light. It depends on how you handle the issue. Our vision is to provide good content which every reader can relate to; which is very much evident from the choice of stories which editors have picked up.”

Apart from the fact that its office/press is situated in a “not so big city” – Bhilai, Big Bang Books faced no major challenges as such other than logistical issues.

Mentioning about the future plans, a hopeful Shrivastava said, “If everything goes as per plan, then by the end of this year will have two more graphic novels published, other than issues of INKLAB.”

The day to launch this graphic novel couldn’t have been any better; the day of love, 14 February. Along with the physical copies, the comic will also be available in digital format.

Hope INKLAB gets all the love it deserves, raising hope for more graphic novels in the future!

INKLAB issue #1 Cover (Image exclusively shared with AnimationXpress)