Meticulously honest, positively secular and completely apolitical, a soldier is generally considered to be a role model for many. With a spirit of working hard, he is the epitome of courage and unflinching devotion to duty. More than any other group or community in India, an Indian soldier embodies valour and indelible patriotism. But Chariot Comics’ founder Aniruddho Chakraborty has different views about a ‘patriot’ and a ‘soldier’. His VRICA: Descension Pact reflects that it takes much more to be a ‘patriot’ than being just a ‘soldier’. VRICA (acronym for VRICADIUM Retrieval Intelligence and Combat Agency) Trilogy was the first comic Chariot Comics came out with. It was their flagship series which acted as a pathway to the universe they were hoping to build. Started out as India’s military action adventure comic book initially, it morphed into a Superhero action adventure series, with political and thriller undertones, when the founder Chakraborty thought to re-release it in the graphic novel format. The series revolves around a special force team in India and their leader Rohan (codename: Dark Wolf), who gets meta-powered after the ‘VRICADIUM Incident’ and turns into a super-soldier. The series follows their adventures as a team with a focus on the soldier-turned-rogue leader fighting against the prime antagonist in the series, a powerful secret organisation in this universe, named ‘Shadow 17’. The two graphic novels, deal with this journey- the first one ending at a cliff-hanger and the second series exploring Rohan dealing with the aftermath of the first one and parallelly criss-crossing across the time of Nazis, Jaegers and their works. Here’s what the creator of VRICA has to say: How did the idea of VRICA trilogy originate? What was the creative process/philosophy behind it? VRICA started out as an espionage thriller in 2008 when my friend Katyayan (former partner on Chariot Comics) and I were bouncing off those ideas for fun in a possible movie format. But then we segued into comics with the idea of a GI Joe like Indian team with a Captain America like figure leading as it wasn’t being done anywhere, so we figured it’d be a fun concept to work with. Creatively speaking our initial focus was on making this a mission-based superhero action adventure but I realized there was potential to take the story someplace else and that’s why we moved to the Graphic novel format. We took a turn towards a more of political-thriller action adventure turned it into Ascension Protocol, the second part of the trilogy. How did you come up with the name? Is it your brainchild? Yes it was. VRICA works as an acronym and in Sanskrit also loosely means as ‘wolf’ or ‘fox’ – and ‘Dark Wolf’ is the call-sign of the main protagonist. It all sort of fell in place one day sitting on a Shatabdi back from Dehradun. It was a ‘eureka” moment! Why did you decide to plot your story of VRICA around the F-INSAS programme of Indian Military Service? When we were researching on the next-gen programme available for the Indian military, the F-INSAS programme popped up. We wanted to base our story in grounded context, so I decided that the F-INSAS would be the most malleable futuristic program we could work with. That was long time ago, almost 10 years and it’s surprising to see how the story and the characters have come so far from there. How has been the journey so far? What were/are the challenges that you faced/are facing for it? The past 10 years have been fantastic. As far as challenges go, at a comic book level, they were the same as anyone else’s – the glass ceiling on sales of indy comics in India; lack of viable infrastructure barring Comic Con India; the problem of cash flows; the gargantuan amount of your own money you must shell out to produce a comic; the problem of artists, colourists and writers in the market, who are learning along with you. The challenges are many – but I don’t want to focus on that and rather see the brighter side. The fact is, writing these answers I’m realising that the idea I’m working on was originally seeded a decade ago which makes all the obstacles worth it. It’s tough being in the market, but it is also fun as you have to know what you’re in it for. Perhaps money, perhaps fame, perhaps repeat buyers. That’s all fine – but for me, you have to be in it for the love of comics and learning – to make a better comic every time, it’s about learning how to do that, how to suck it up if something doesn’t work – and it’s also about feeling proud every time someone comes back and asking when the next volume is coming. That last part, that means you connected, that you as creators made something that has value however momentary. Honestly, looking back, I don’t know what kind of a person I’d be if I didn’t have Chariot Comics. I’d probably be a run-of-the-mill communications guy in a fancy MNC with a solid stack of FDs to his name… which is boring. By when will this be comics be launched? Will it be in print or digital? The first VRICA trilogy concludes with the third one, VRICA: Descension Pact. We are looking forward for an October launch, at worst by November. They have always been in print with a digital version available on Readwhere and other apps which remains same for this one as well. What will be the style of the story in the concluding part of the trilogy? Will it see the end for team VRICA? I’m not going to give out full spoilers here, but there is a sense of conclusion in the arc, at least for our main protagonist Rohan/Dark Wolf. The conclusion is going to be mostly philosophical. Since with Damned last year, we’ve started merging universes, we don’t have much an option but to continue things – for the sake of ‘Chariot-verse’. So yes, this particular arc ends – but as we know by now, nothing is truly finite in comic books. Would you like to throw some light on the new team working on the project? This is my favourite part. For the concluding part we are working with a fantastic combo of new and old. We have on board Gaurav Shrivastava, one of the best in town, for pencils and inks along with the Holy Cow Entertainment team. Some of the stuff Shrivastava has done is amazing! Then we have one of our main men from the series, Tamal Saha, joining us back on pencils and inks after a bit of a hiatus. Saha started out with us with a one-off single/title templar who took lead on VRICA: Dawn of the Wolf and now he’s back on the conclusion. Are there any upcoming projects lined up apart from VRICA? Yes of course! Damned #2 should come out shortly after VRICA #3. Then we also have a long awaited project AISA in the works which my artist Tarun Kumar Sahu is yet to finish. But yes bigger, more expansive and interconnected stories coming up, once we are done with VRICA: Descension Pact. We are also looking at a filler volume of VRICA in the early stages, designed to fill any gaps in the story from the original story. But that’s still a bit far away as we are focusing on the concluding part first.