C.G. Salamander discusses the relevance of comic journalism in talk
Writer and graphic novelist, C.G. Salamander conducted an interactive session on comic journalism at the Manipal Centre for Philosophy and Humanities (MCPH) on March 28. The talk entailed personal anecdotes and also highlighted certain aspects of the comic industry in India.
Salamander believes that there are certain things that cannot be expressed by mere words, which is why the use of comics in journalism has gained importance. A visual aid is needed for the desired impact. However, plain pictures might be too gruesome to witness. In light of this, he talked about his experience at the Suicide Point in Kodaikanal, where multiple people have lost their lives. Focusing on the lives of the men who venture into the area to retrieve the bodies of the deceased, he elaborated on how they have turned to alcoholism to distract themselves from the horrors of their work and to mask the smell of corpses. They barely maintain an appetite, eating mainly rice with water, accompanied by cheap rum. Citing this example, he justified that pictures would be too gory to explain the scenario while just words would not do justice to the story.
He further stressed on the role of the illustrator in the comic-writing process. Sometimes, an illustrator might follow the writer’s description to the letter but usually they add their own vision. Based on his experiences, he has learnt not be too strict with his description to avoid hindering the illustrator’s creativity. Working with an illustrator, instead of doing everything alone saves time and any differences in vision can be sorted out by the editor.
Personally, he prioritises the idea of the story over the style of art used. “One should convey what they want to and should not risk that to be flashy. The impact of comics is deeply rooted in realism,” he added.
Coming to the commercial value of comics, it is to be noted that only 20 people in India are currently making money from graphic writing. There are times when graphic writers must ‘sell out’ to the clients’ demands, against their will. An example of this would be how a client confused rubbing alcohol with drinking alcohol, forcing Salamander to write a comic about a child going to a liquor store to buy alcohol and using it to get rid of bed bugs.
On the positive side, digitisation of comics provide more opportunity for graphic writers. Moreover, digitised graphic novels are cheaper for readers as they do not need to be printed. Thus platforms like BuzzFeed prove to pay well. Furthermore, many graphic writers try to sell their work to television networks or film producers. Thus, Salamander has faith in the comic scene in India.
The session ended on a high note as he answered questions from the audience and demonstrated some of his work. “The talk gave me a new perspective into a different genre of narrative. He made graphic novels seem like a great way to express our own stories. He has definitely piqued my interest in graphic novels,” said Bidisha Mitra, a first year student from Manipal Centre for Philosophy and Humanities.
Featured Image Courtesy: Aditya Mathur
Edited by: Drishti Sanyal