The Genre Game in Comics

Comics are capable of being initiators into the wonderful habit of reading. Archies, Batman, Phantom, Raj Comics and Amar Chitra Katha are some of the great comics of all time. Though modern day kids have slowly progressed towards cartoon channels from comic books, these have been the major entertainers for those who enjoyed their childhood till the 20th century. When we talk about genres in comics it has a wide ranging kaleidoscope of horror, romance, abstract, comedy, thriller, science-fiction (sci-fi) and autobiographies, among many others. Let us talk in brief about few genres in comic books. One of the widely read genres is that of superheroes. The first superhero comics appeared during the Great Depression and World War II era, the most popular being Superman, Batman, Captain Marvel, Wonder Woman and Captain America. The form rose to prominence in the 1930s and 1940s and feature stories about superheroes and the universes these characters inhabit. The origins of romance as a genre came up immediately after World War II when adult comic’s readership increased and superheroes were dismissed as outdated. Romance comics of the period usually featured dramatic scripts about the love lives of older high school teens and young adults, with accompanying artwork depicting an urban or rural America contemporary with publication. On other hand Horror comic books reached a peak in the late 1940s through the mid-1950s. While the genre has had greater and lesser periods of popularity in past, it occupies a firm niche in comics as of the 2010s. As sales for superhero comic books declined in the years after World War II, other publishers began to imitate the popular format, content and subject matter of Crime Does Not Pay, leading to a surge of crime-themed comics. Theses comics were usually marked by a moralistic editorial tone and graphic depictions of violence and criminal activity. Fantasy themed super heroes continued to populate comics through the 50s and regained popularity in 1960s with characters such as Steve Ditko’s Doctor Strange published by Marvel comics and Jack Kirby’s Thor both having appeared in two of Marvel’s Fantasy Themed anthologies Strange Tales and Journey into Mystery. So, what’s the current trend in the Comics space, which genres are really getting the mileage and which are the ones that are yet to be tapped. got in touch with people from the comic space to get some answers and here is what they had to say! Excerpts:- Dean Wilkinson (Writer for children’s comics and games) I like to experiment with all genres. Different ones lend themselves to different projects. It’s always exciting matching the genre to the project. I am working on a project with an animation company. I was interested to see how they would approach the look. They’re going for a manga style look which I think will compliment the comedy as normally Manga art is used to express serious and intense looks; so I think this will work as an awe factor for the comedy. I am also excited to be working with some Indian companies on some pre-school ideas. I think Indian animators really understand what toddlers like to see and what engages their interest. I use a variety of styles from different artists. For example, my new book and character Sheerluck uses a very traditional style of art but I think it fits in with the character and the comedy behind it. I would definitely love to experiment with literature and mythological genres in my future assignments. Rajani Thindiath (Editor, Tinkle comics) In Tinkle Magazine, various genres have been popular at various points of time, I guess dictated by a combination of milieu and cultural markers. For example, if folktales and legends were popular in the 1980s, today we see a demand for adventure and humour, closely followed by fantasy. Any genre or story we pick up is dictated by what our readers like to read and we gauge that from constant interaction with them. Having said that, we do introduce new genres in Tinkle based on what is suitable for our TG. For example, we now have a comic horror series (Dental Diaries) and a comic superhero series (SuperWeirdos) that are in great demand. Fantasy seems to rule the roost, both globally and in the country but then fantasy itself is such a broad genre. From superheroic characters and reinvented mythological legends to paranormal tales, dystopian adventures and horror, the genre offers an endless canvas to fertile imaginations – to the writer, to the artist and to the reader. Ram Devineni (Author – Priya’s Shakti) I believe great comic book characters and storytelling derive from great mythological tales. Dystopia – there is something very science fiction about India. I was at the Kumbh Mela and thought I was in a post-apocalyptic film. Hindu mythological stories are hugely popular in India, but I also believe mythological tales are popular all over the world. The superhero genre still remains big, but I am not certain India has been able to create a character unique enough? Akshay Dhar (Founder, Metadesi Comics) I don’t target any particular genre; I like to experiment with everything possible. I always try to do something interesting, like mix of comedy, science fiction, action etc. I have got mixed reaction from my readers on all my comics. I am still trying to figure out what exactly am I good at that’s why I mix all the genres so that I can get feedback and inputs from my readers, because it is very important to know what your readers are looking for. I am personally inclined towards sci-fi. This is what I enjoy the most but I haven’t got an opportunity to work on it, as sci-fi is very hard to execute. You are building a whole new world and new concepts, which sometimes people really get uncomfortable about, specially with an unfamiliar one. I have to keep all these things in mind and in India we have a very niche audience for this. Unfortunately in India what sells the most by far is mythology and a little bit of superhero comics. If we look at the average response of the people to books like Ravanayan by Holy Cow, it’s much better and good. I feel it’s a bit of a hangover and it will take time for people in India to over-come comics based on mythology. I hope it doesn’t take much time, as the small publishers in India will back-up in future. Amit Ghadge (Crimzon Studio) Right now we are working on sci-fi and realistic genres. My personal favourites are thrillers and horrors as there is more to explore visually. Our future plans are to work on the horror and action genres. It gives us creative freedom; we can create stunning camera angles and difficult panel divisions. It’s more challenging and that’s what we like about it. I believe romance and action sell most in India. For instance romance genre depicts strong and close romantic love and its assistant complications such as jealousy, marriage, divorce, betrayal and heartache which Indians love reading about. But globally there is an audience for all sorts of genres and our future plan is to champion in all of them. Abhijeet Kini (Artist) I usually work on humour. This is something I have always loved and look up to. I like to write on spoofs, satires and black comedy. Most of the projects I get from other people are based on these genres. I get most of my feedbacks on the funny expressions I draw, people just enjoy it. This is my zone to draw reactionary cartoons and exaggerate them. I would like to try-out more with zombies and horror genres. I really don’t enjoy reading war or romantic comic books. I feel zombies are fun to draw; I always try to put them in my comics like the one in Angry Maushi. My personal favourite is the Hellboy comic; it’s a mix of horror and thriller. It is cliché, but it’s true that in India superhero genre work a lot. Along with that humour is globally accepted and well received. Imran Azhar (Author of ‘Team Muhafiz’) Currently we are doing two titles, i.e. Team Muhafiz, which is targeting young teens, genre is action/mystery, and the other one is a graphic novel Winds of Baltoro, a sci-fi fantasy genre targeting young adults. But we are not limited to only these genres and as we expand our content, so will our choice of genres. I would like to personally try-out with spy-thrillers, only because I already have a story in mind (*winks*). And I think the quality of the content and art determines its popularity, Pakistan & India has a very large young and well informed population, they will support any genre as long as it is of acceptable quality in content and its art. Jazyl Homavazir (Manga artist) I prefer manga and anime styles for my comic book. It gives a realistic feel to me and my readers. I also prefer cartoony style with little action in it. I am very much influenced by Naruto, so you will always find my comics around that, but the sad part is this kind of genre is not much appreciated in India. People are still stuck on old mythology and history based comic books and graphic novels. I like to mix manga with some Indian element, so that it looks authentic and is approachable to Indian audiences.