Friday, August 31, 2012

Spider-Man creator all set to woo India with 'Tigeress' movie

Spider-Man creator all set to woo India with 'Tigeress' movie

New Delhi, Jul 29, 2012 (PTI)
The creator of famed comic characters such as Spider-Man and X-Men, Stan Lee is turning his eyes on an Indian mythology-based motion picture whose leading lady would be from India.
The iconic octogenarian, who is "very excited" about the Indian market, is also working on India super hero comic book titled 'Chakra - The Invincible Hero' and even looking to bring his popular comic convention into the country.

"Apart from 'Chakra' super hero comic, I look forward for many opportunities in the Indian market. There is so much of untapped growth and talent in the country," Lee told PTI from Los Angeles in a telephone interview.

POW! or Purveyors of Wonder Entertainment Inc, founded by Lee, is working on the motion picture 'Tigeress'. "The screenplay is getting ready and the film is mainly based on Indian mythology. The lead actress would be a super heroine and the story would be female-centric," Lee said.

The leading lady of the movie would be an Indian actress. According to him, this project is expected to be complete by end of next year or early 2014. The movie would be distributed in 2014 after tying up with a major film studio, he added.

Meanwhile, the company along with Liquid Comics is in advanced stages of completing 'Chakra', which is also based on Indian mythology. "At the moment, we are working with the artistes and writers. This comic will be released both in traditional and electronic formats.

"Our goal will be to launch it by the end of this year. Otherwise, it will be in early 2013," Lee said. POW is also scouting for more strategic partnerships and alliances in India. Without disclosing any names, POW President, Director and CEO Gill Champion said that discussions are continuing with many entities and the goal is to "find regional partners where we can collaborate on numerous co-productions".

Further, plans are on the anvil to bring the Stan Lee's Comikaze POW convention to India, hopefully in 2013.

"POW is extremely interested in expanding the Stan Lee brand in India, specifically in the entertainment sector. India is a very big, important and powerful country. "It is most natural to have a strong presence in that market in the 21st century and going forward," Champion said.

POW focusses on creating franchises for the entertainment industry including animation and live-action feature films, DVDs and video games.

Thursday, August 30, 2012 connecting Urdu language with a new generation of kids

By Mohd. Ismail Khan,
Hyderabad: There are many endeavors going on throughout the world for the promotion of Urdu language and to save its very existence. But a Riyadh based civil engineer due to his love for the language come up with an exciting solution to work on the very foundation of the problem, i.e. attracting the younger generation towards the language.
Syed Mukarram Niyaz a Hyderabadi working as a civil engineer started world’s first Urdu comic book website to promote Urdu language and fun learning of the Urdu vocabulary for the new generation of Urdu speakers.
Urdu runs into the blood of Syed Mukarram Niyaz, his mentor and father Raouf Khaleesh is a famous poet and his uncle Gayaz mateen is a former HOD of Osmania University’s Urdu department.
Mukarram who passed out from Mukaffam Jah engineering college as a civil engineer in 1989, has been working in Saudi Arabia since then. Mukarram has a long history of love with the language, for the past 20 years he is writing essays for different Urdu newspapers and magazines.
Mukarram said he was bored by his civil engineering job so he decided to do something new, in 1998 when personal blogging was still a fantasy; Mukarram started his personal Urdu website which consisted of his essays and literary works of renowned Urdu writers and poets.

Doing the editing work in Photoshop program.
About the idea of starting Urdu comic book website, Mukarram who is father of four children said one day his kids who were very fond of reading comic books online, asked him ‘why these cartoon characters don’t speak Urdu’?
“That question from my kids prompted me to search for online Urdu comic books, I searched in the internet for many days, but to my utter dismay I found none. I was well versed in the Photoshop program, I downloaded Phantom Comics translated the English text into Urdu and then replaced that English text with Urdu. And there was an Urdu comic book ready to be read, my children were happy to read those edited comic. In the meantime I read an article by English journalist Shams Adnan Alavi portraying concern about absence of Urdu comic books online, I got inspired by that article to do something regarding this. I took my earlier experience with my kids as a nice idea of promoting Urdu language so I decided to do the same for all the Urdu speaking kids.” Said Mukarram .
He started working on the website and editing in 2011, on 21st February this year on her daughter Malahat’s birthday he launched, online Urdu comic point where favorite cartoon characters from Superman to Phantom, Chacha Chaudhri to Mickey Mouse speak Urdu. has given its own touch to the comic characters to make them lively for Urdu audience. For E.g. Richie Rich a famous cartoon about a billionaire kid is being changed to ‘Chhote Nawab’, Little Lotta is now ‘Bi Moti’, and the careless cat Garfield is now ‘Bholu Billa’. There is also a separate page for interesting general knowledge questions in Urdu, for little brain exercise for kids.
Mukarram said his accomplishment is not for commercial purpose, its sole aim is to promote Urdu language among the new generation and increase the Urdu vocabulary of kids in a fun learning method.
Mukarram feel that his website is a need of the day, because printed Urdu comic books have just vanished from the scene of Urdu literature, and even Urdu newspapers are not publishing Urdu cartoons for children in their editions. He made this assertion while showing us his 80’s Urdu comic book ‘Khilona’ from his childhood collection.
But it was not an easy task for Mukarram to come up with with 22 comic characters, each character till now having seven minimum stories and full series of three comic characters.

Syed Mukarram Niyaz with his collection of Khilona magazine.
He said the biggest challenge he face while making a Urdu comic story is Urdu font, because it should be in such a manner that text matter should get adjusted in the speech bubble of the comic picture, but at times it is difficult and pain staking. He uses unique kind of fonts called Alvi Nastaliq and Jameel noori Nastaliq, which help adjusting Urdu text in the limited space of the bublle. Nastaliq font is not easily available, so a separate link is provided in his website to download this font.
Another challenge for him while translation is that Urdu should be of such a class which is easily understandable while in the same time it should increase the vocabulary to the kids. He said, “While translating I use sophisticated Urdu words, but my wife who happens to be a school teacher quickly corrects me that language should be such of a kind which is enjoyable for kids, so I have to retranslate it again for the better understanding of kids. “
Talking about his current project, he said “I am working on developing new comic character Cinderella, but that whole comic story is in English rhythm. I wanted to translate it in Urdu ‘Nazam’ style, but while doing that I have to keep in mind using simple and new words, and limited space in the bubble.” He said has helped him a lot to understand new software’s for Urdu web production and publishing.
Mukarram who is the sole mind behind this unique website spoke about his tight schedule of work, he said his office timings in Riyadh are from 9:a.m. to 7:p.m. during the free time he tries to complete the translation of English text, but he was quick enough to inform us that he has taken the permission from his superiors for doing website work in his spare office timings. After reaching home he works till 12 in the midnight for compressing, adjusting text and resolution then finally uploading the comics.
Mukarram said in the beginning he use to spend at least 3-4 hours for making a single page of the comic which require, downloading, editing, translation, compressing the cartoon images and finally uploading it to the website, but now as time passes he said it takes 2 hours to make a comic page.
But to the generous heart of Mukarram in spite of all his personal strength and work hours gone into the production of Urdu comics, he is ready to give it for free to any Urdu newspaper or magazine who wants to publish it. He said “I am not going to keep these comics as my patent item, my sole aim is to popularize Urdu among new generation and for that purpose if any newspaper and magazine want to publish it can do so for free and can contact me for the same, because I know web is not enough to promote Urdu comics.”
Mr. Mukarram’s ambitions for promotion of Urdu language in world and specifically in India are high, Mukarram said, he doesn’t want to stop or limit his work to this website. Talking about his future plans he said, “I am trying to develop a Unicode base future for Urdu language in web, in that perspective I established Tameer web developing company and making efforts to establish Urdu newspapers and Magazines website with Unicode features.”
Finally Syed Mukarram Niyaz wishes that his Urdu comic website receive at least 5000 hits per day, which sadly this wonderful website is receiving per month.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Duet On 'Solo'

Duet On 'Solo', Part Six: Jordi Bernet

Published between 2004 and 2006, Solo was a DC Comics anthology series with an innovative twist: each issue was created from the ground up by a single cartoonist and collaborators of his own choosing. Edited by DC's head art director Mark Chiarello (Wednesday Comics, DC: The New Frontier), the series offered artists a platform to control their visions completely in the form of original stories, unfettered access to DC's library of characters, and without regard to continuity or other publishing concerns that affect the creation of a typical DC superhero book. Although Solo spotlighted the work of such talented and popular creators as Darwyn Cooke, Tim Sale, Paul Pope and Michael Allred, the series was cancelled after just 12 issues.

Even in a time when the superhero comics were experimenting wildly with structure and style, Solo stood apart and remains one of the best and most interesting mainstream series to emerge from the early years of this century. In this installment of Duet on Solo, writers Sean Witzke and Matt Seneca take an extremely close look at the sixth issue of Solo, created by Jordi Bernet.

Seam Witzke: Following a good run of solid American cartoonists, Solo #6 is the first foreign artist in the roster. Jordi Bernet's career has been highlighted in most American readers' eyes by his work on Torpedo and, subsequent to Solo, working with writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray on DC's Jonah Hex series. Bernet's Solo issue is also the first in the series to have actual black and white comics, something you'd have hoped would happen more often in these books. Then again it might have been one of the reasons Solo eventually got the axe.

Matt Seneca: It doesn't look that strange given the career moves Bernet made after this comic came out (a semipermanent home on DC's Jonah Hex book, where he'd consistently been the best among a rotating cast of very fine cartoonists), but I remember people being pretty weirded out by the selection of Jordi Bernet to draw any DC comic at all. Torpedo, the crime-noir book Alex Toth hand-picked Bernet as his successor on (!) gets the most nods over here, but in Europe Bernet's far better known for Clara del Noche, a truly lowest-common denominator soft porn comic about an irrepressibly cheery street prostitute and her uncomfortably lecherous young son. It's the kind of thing that makes Milo Manara look like an artist of refined tastes. Most of the other stuff Bernet's done falls somewhere in between Clara and Torpedo: sexy crime or crimey sex comics that generally contain slapstick gags, lots of killing, and an uncomfortable amount of violence against women, whether implied or actually shown.

All this aside, he's also a fantastic cartoonist. This issue is really the first time where the only clear line of reasoning for Chiarello's hiring of an artist is pure ability, rather than any kind of proven affinity for doing comics in the DC style. It's an encouraging step forward, even though Bernet ended up turning in an issue full of classically constructed genre shorts, including the by-now obligatory Batman story. That's hardly a bad thing, however.

SW: Sadly, no Crimean sex comics. I think it's telling that in interviews most of the other contributors singled this out as the best example of Solo, just because of the sheer cartooning talent on hand. I remember Chaykin especially loved this issue for what it was, which was a showcase for slinging ink around and not much else.

MS: This is a really beautiful comic. But I think it's also the very first issue where every story hits, where everything at least holds the reader's attention. It's all pretty tried-and-true EC-type material (with the exception of the Batman comic, which is tried-and-true DC), but Bernet assembled a fine crew of craftsmen to write him some solid stories in this issue, too. Then again, it's in large part his own ability with roughing out a compelling page, pacing comics that stay fresh all the way through, and never underfeeding the eyes even during passages of exposition that makes the issue such a good read. And of course, you could flip through the thing a functioning illiterate and still find a ton to please -- there isn't a drawing in here that isn't gorgeous.

SW: The whole of the issue could have been on a golden age of television compilation. It feels less EC and more good '50s television for me. The prison story is a hell of an Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Actually almost everything here -- including the Batman story with its narration style -- seems to be exactly set to that tone. And the guys here -- Joe Kelly, Andrew Helfer, John Arcudi, Chuck Dixon, and the omnipresent-in-Solo Brian Azzarello -- are the kinds of genre writers who understand how to be as clear as possible without ever falling into boring or clichéd traps. All of them have a really significant (and between them, consistent) sense of humor, which can't be undersold when working with Bernet.

MS: Every one of these writers is a guy who's got a long run of solidly constructed, highly competent genre comics under his belt, whatever his other sins may be. It's a comic created entirely by people who know exactly what they're doing and exactly how to do it effectively, which might rob it of some of the coincidental, fish-out-of-water transcendence of a few other issues, but as far as a showcase of pure craft this is probably the best of the bunch, a high-quality anthology of somewhat adventurous genre comics that doesn't put a foot wrong.

SW: If there were a two-book set of Solo, this issue would be the most solid thing in that first trade paperback. I think the back half of this 12-issue series is weirder and less consistent, but without a doubt this issue is the best of the first half. I think out of that list of writers above, John Arcudi is probably the most consistently great, but his story here is probably the worst thing in the issue. Which is actually a positive, because at least it's clever.

MS: The Arcudi story is a pretty straightforward shaggy-dog thing that places a vaguely contemporary, X-Files kind of plot against a Western setting. It's even got a little of Clara del Noche's kid-voyeur vibe, though I'm not sure how intentional that is. There is a really potent subtext, though, to a story about the child who sees the man her mother asks to move in after her father dies doing ugly and horrible things late at night. It's enjoyably psychological. But Bernet really elevates a one-note story above its station here, with an average of about one completely indelible image per page -- a boneless flesh-monster sneaking out the window of a ramshackle farmhouse, a kid whose slumber has just been disturbed, and a knee-slapper of a final image featuring the grotesquely comic spectacle of a man whose human skull has been replaced with a cow's.

Click to enlarge

SW: Its a "monster of the week" kind of thing, kind of an O Henry thing right now, where you could have a second act where someone goes out and hunts the monster, which I'm glad they didn't do. The mother is kind of drawn throughout the thing as exaggeratedly angular and demure. I think Bernet was trying to lower the sexiness of his figures just a little for this one, considering how he draws women in the rest of the stories.

MS: Yeah, he has a thing throughout his work of depicting truly loving mothers in really inappropriate contexts, which just... I feel icky reading a lot of that stuff, but here it works to the story's advantage simply by minimizing distraction. Speaking of flow, how well does he block this thing out, man? Every single panel in here has a through-line to the next, and every single figure is moving forward along the page. Compositionally, it's flat-out amazing.

SW: Aside from the first page, it's really consistent on the three-tier grid, with big images always along the bottom or top tier for punch. It's got a beat, and those final images always hit.

MS: I see that big bottom tier in a desert setting and I immediately think Herriman, which I'm not sure was on Bernet's mind, but the absurdity of the thing, the goofy flailing of it, has a bit of Herriman's twinkle to it. Ahem. And now before I embarrass myself too thoroughly with overpraise, let's move onto the Joe Kelly crime story, which is drawn in drop-dead gorgeous black and white... oh wait, I'm gonna start with the hyperbole again. Damn, these drawings are pretty.

SW: I was completely blown away by Joe Kelly being the dude that wrote this. I've always not rated that guy at all. I thought it was smarter than I've ever seen from him, with the device of an argument going on off-frame and the events of the story likely happening on television, playing off the image and the conversation at certain points.

MS: Well, I actually think this story is the weakest of the bunch. It's really clever, but the main trope of it overpowers its readability. I read it as the images filling in everything that happened right before the conversation starts. We see a man flipping out and crushing a woman's head in with a TV set during a vacation in Las Vegas, and then the conversation we're reading is him coming home to his wife immediately afterwards. The trope's a good one, and there are some low-rent Alan Moore moments where the perceived failings the wife points out in her husband are mirrored by if-you-only-knew drawings of what he's been getting up to in her absence, but you only really figure out what the deal is by the end of the comic. Time and again I find myself just stranded reading this thing, not really attaching to either of the timelines in the story. It could be because the art in some of these panels is so great, though, that I just don't want to take my eyes off it long enough to process what Kelly's saying.

Click to enlarge

SW: I don't think it hinders readability, its not a Kevin Smith comic or anything, although rereading it I guess I missed that last panel's joke entirely so I guess it does fudge readability. Still its not awful, I don't think.

MS: No, at worst it's a failed experiment with some great drawings, which is like 90 percent of what we refer to as "great comics" anyway. Not to say that this is that, but there's a lot worse to read, and despite my looking on this as the worst story in the issue, I think it's by far the most visually impressive. Bernet in black and white is just fantastic -- the way he differentiates figures from ground without switching up his mark-making at all, the boldness of his brushstrokes, the grace of his long lines, the scree around the edges of his spotted blacks -- this is comics you can drink with your eyes.

SW: I think he keeps the amount of black on the pages low until the last page, which is almost entirely in shadow, which is a nice, easy effect for the story's end. What did you think of the prison story with Helfer?

MS: Best story in here, I think. It's really fantastic, hard-bitten crime comics that goes way darker than that genre usually gets without hitting any of the cliché "we're hardcore" signifiers. It's really a story with no likable characters that stars a few men who nonetheless have made more just and honorable decisions than the others. Which is a great way to do a prison comic. I mean, good people definitely do end up stuck in that complex, but the "wrongly accused man in jail" story, or really any story about a completely good guy stuck in confinement, is just so overdone. Helfer writes a story about some dudes who might have killed for good reasons -- noble ones, even -- but are still fundamentally killers, and doesn't give readers an easy moral out. There's also some really memorable drawings in this thing. The first I think of when I think about this comic is the vigorously simplified panel of a dude getting his throat slashed with a straight razor, eyes bugging out, giant chink in his chicken neck, black ink spraying around everywhere. It's a great cartoon on the darkest subject imaginable.

SW: I think it's ironic that this story is the least sexy thing here and yet it's far and away the best portion, keeping with Andy Helfer's tastes which lean towards Cold War global politics jammed up against classical genre dynamics. That approach provides his work a kind of escape route from what's usually the end result of those "hardcore" elements; instead he likes to place characters in positions where they are forced to develop into more interesting, more savage figures or die, either placed there by their own actions or by political machinations. In this case, all of these men have been brought there by both.

MS: That's a great way of looking at it. There's a big lean on the sympathies of American readers, too -- we automatically root for the guys we're told are "revolutionaries," even though they're locked up in jail and we see them just surrounded by death almost from panel one. The "bad guys," by contrast, aren't shown at all, an invisible, guaranteed presence. And actually, I just realized there are two great throat-slashing panels in here!

Click to enlarge

SW: Throat-slashing with a straight razor is a great, consistent image of the Cuban revolution in fiction, too, so it's got some resonance.

MS: And it's another great Solo color job in a long line of the same by José Villarrubia, dark and muddy without ever hazing over with brown the way so many "gritty" mainstream comics do.

SW: This issue is probably the most solid yet, color-wise, and the first one without a huge, jarring moment that brings you out of it. This is the first one we don't immediately have a complaint about, I think.

MS: I thought all the color in the Paul Pope issue was just fine, but yeah, more or less. There's certainly nothing wrong with the color on the next story, which goes back to the Western well -- Bernet's American-comics forte, I suppose -- for a pretty damn disturbing story of revenge and, um, giant bears.

SW: The story reads like a first run for his Jonah Hex books. The lead character even looks like Hex. That bear is great, isn't it? Best cartooning in the whole thing is the bear up close.

MS: Yeah, for sure. Though on the last page, where it's coming at the cowardly Indian guide, our Jonah Hex stand-in has conveniently trussed up for its delectation with a crazy near-smile on its face, like a methhead Yogi Bear, that's pretty solidly fantastic too. It's really scary stuff, actually, another story where the hero is far more reprehensible than the "villains," who are just hungry and want to save their own skin, retrospectively. It's the Captain Ahab story transposed onto a Western setting with all the psychological depth replaced by slasher-movie intensity -- the audience stand-in whom the whole backstory gets told to actually runs away terrified at the end!

Click to enlarge

SW: It swerved in a way I didn't see coming at all, with him tied up like that, with the severed knees? I thought he was dead. But I guess Dixon's probably the most consistent action writer in American comics, despite being awful at everything that isn't action, so I should've expected it. The little things are great too. The ragged panel borders for the flashback work so well.

MS: Also definitely the most hardline EC pastiche in the issue -- this story is like one of the really gory Jack Davis comics where everything goes up in explosions of gore at the end. I almost feel cheated that we don't get a final page of just seven panels of the bear ripping that dude's guts out, eating his face off. But c'est la vie, this is still a DC comic, even though Bernet and crew have managed to keep you from remembering that up to this point. But after this, here we go -- back to heteronormative superhero comics with our old pal Batman to finish out!

SW: We end with a Batman and Poison Ivy story, which is exactly the same as any other Batman and Poison Ivy story. Really the only thing here that is new is how Bernet draws Ivy, which is probably why they hired the guy in the first place.

MS: Well, his opening shot of Gotham City's iron girder skyline steps right up and goes toe to toe with Paul Pope's opening shot of Gotham City's iron girder skyline pretty effectively. But yeah, this is cliché Batman comics, pretty much. Look at him draw it, though! Poison Ivy in masturbation poses for a mere five bones, kids!

SW: It feels like a euro-porn version of the Jim Aparo Batman, especially the way Bernet draws Batman and Ivy interacting. It's as if that's the only DC stuff Bernet was actually familiar with (which, hey, is arguably a good way to be because Aparo Batman is the best). Those city shots remind me of '70s Batman a whole lot. There are some really interesting layouts too.

MS: Yeah, some alternate-world '70s version of the Batman TV show with Clint Eastwood having replaced Adam West a few years prior. There's a ton of Kevin Nowlan to Bernet's Batman too, which is cool. He gets at something with his rendition that I think Azzarello saw and used more explicitly down the line in his Joker graphic novel -- the guy is a totally alien presence in Bernet's visual world, the marks he uses to describe that particular figure don't appear anywhere else, he's this massive, hulking presence... truly uncanny.

SW: I didn't catch Nowlan in there but I see it. That might just be the double-lighting, though.

MS: I'd also like to say that even though Azzarello does the most cliché Batman-Ivy story ever, he peels it back further than most have, really nailing the battered-woman aspect of Poison Ivy's character, which has always been a hugely misogynistic construct. It's a conduit for exploring a really dark side of the whole Batman idea, which goes way further into domination, BDSM sexuality than any of the crime fighting comics featuring nominally inhuman, super-powered characters. If they really wanted to make that new Batman movie go past the last one in terms of envelope-pushing darkness, I say they should have just put a 15-minute handicam scene of Batman beating Catwoman to within an inch of her life in there as the ending. Nobody would be able to film the character again!

Click images to enlarge

SW: Poison Ivy is a great stand-in for that kind of female villain for all of these stories, especially with Batman because his relationship with say, Catwoman, doesn't as easily fit into that mold. The Ivy/Batman thing is less trod ground too. Even in Solo there's weirdly a lot about Batman's relationship to women, but it doesn't get approached the way it is here.

MS: For me this is the first issue that really gels together as a whole comic, without the age-old anthology problem of a story or two that are clearly inferior to the rest. It's weird because Chaykin's issue was much the same -- a collection of stories that are by their nature basically unobjectionable. Straight genre comics, competently drawn. I think maybe it's the simplicity Bernet brings to his work that functions more effectively in this setting? Every moment feels of itself, not tied to anything else or working toward being anything but what it is. It's mostly just "good cartooning" that pulls this one through so effectively, but hey, this is comics, what more do you really need?

SW: From here on out, that tried-and-true anthology format is thrown away by almost everyone, too, so it's great to see it done well one last time before it gets weird.

MS: Next time: it gets weird.

Read More:

Jason Aaron on the End of Scalped,Comics’ Answer to Deadwood and The Wire

Jason Aaron on the End of Scalped,Comics’ Answer to Deadwood and The Wire

With Issue 60 of Scalped, Jason Aaron brings his epic Native American crime story to an end.
Images courtesy Vertigo (click to enlarge)
When Dashiell Bad Horse, the protagonist of comic book series Scalped, walked into the Badlands Cafe on the Prairie Rose Native American Reservation in 2007, he brought a lot of genre conventions with him.
Cowboys and Indians, sure. Also crime fiction. The old prodigal-son-returns template. And, most importantly, the gangster epic.
But none of those archetypes survived the epic 60-issue run of Scalped. The story of Bad Horse’s return as an undercover FBI agent to the reservation where he was born has been one of the hardest comic books in recent memory to define, and that’s why it’s among the best.
Along the way, Red Horse has confronted radical-turned-warlord Lincoln Red Crow, who now runs the rez, dealt with the death of his mother and wrestled with his own identity. The constant in the series — the real protagonist, according to writer Jason Aaron, clear from the very first panel of the very first issue — is Prairie Rose itself: an unforgiving wasteland, forgotten by America, that forges its own rules.
The only real comparisons, in both the scope of the comic’s ambition and the dexterity of its execution, are to the recent wave of sophisticated, genre-busting television series. Prairie Rose is to Scalped what Baltimore was to The Wire and what Deadwood was to, well, Deadwood. It’s twisted, it’s funny, it’s tremendously violent — and so are its people.
On Wednesday, DC’s Vertigo imprint will publish the final issue of Scalped. Bad Horse is set for a seemingly decisive confrontation with Red Crow. Prairie Rose will close its borders for the last time. Aaron will end the series that made him a comic-book star having crafted a modern classic. Now one of Marvel Comics’ “architects,” Aaron helps define the world of mutantkind in Wolverine and the X-Men, a book that couldn’t be more different from Scalped. But that didn’t stop Aaron from taking Wired on a final tour of Prairie Rose.
With Scalped, writer Jason Aaron crafted an engrossing crime saga.
Image courtesy Jason Aaron
Wired: How did you create Prairie Rose? Were there specific allusions you wanted to make?
Jason Aaron: I usually don’t think about stuff I’m working on in those terms. I’m just trying to create characters and tell stories.Scalped is representative of the kinds of stories I like to read and I like to watch. Certainly The Wire is part of that. I gravitate towards morally ambiguous characters.Scalped is certainly rife with those.
The selling point of the book was always the setting. Plot-wise, there’s nothing particularly groundbreaking about Scalped.It starts off as something we’ve seen plenty of times before: the story of an undercover FBI agent infiltrating a criminal organization and the story of the guy at the head of that organization. The twist was always the setting: a modern-day Native American reservation. Given that, the reservation always had to be a character in the book.
Wired: Did you start out with Prairie Rose or did you start out with Dash or Red Crow?
Aaron: The original pitch morphed a little bit. Red Crow was certainly in there right from the beginning. Dash changed a little bit. Two characters combined to become Dash. But everything with the reservation and the casino was there from Day 1, from the very first pitch. Certainly at the time when I was putting together ScalpedDeadwood was fresh in my mind. If anything, I wanted to create my own Al Swearengen. That was probably where I was going with Red Crow, before I even knew what I wanted to do with that.
Wired: What made you want to tell the story of a Native American reservation — and particularly a Lakota Sioux reservation?
Aaron: It may have been that the Lakota were the tribe I knew the most about coming into the thing. I’ve always been fascinated with the history of the Plains Indians and the history of the American Indian Movement in the ’70s. Those were things I read about before I even had the idea of doing something likeScalped. The imagery of it, the history of it, it all seemed perfect for everything I wanted to do and it all clicked into place.
Wired: What was the research process for creating Prairie Rose?
Aaron: Just a lot of reading and talking to people. I’ve never been to Pine Ridge or Rosebud in South Dakota, which are obviously the reservations that inspired Prairie Rose. I have connections to people who do live on reservations. Like I said, it was something I had been fascinated by for a while. It wasn’t something I had to come to fresh and start reading about.
Once I had the idea for Scalped and continued reading and researching it, there were things that came out about it that I had no idea about before. The Shunka story [an account of Red Crow's underboss], where we find out he’s gay, part of that was the history of Two Spirits, this long history of gender and sex roles in Native American tribes, which was something I had no idea about before I started researchingScalped. I didn’t know that about Shunka when I started. That story, in another form, had been around for a long time and I almost did that story earlier in the run, but if I had done it then it would have been an entirely different story.
Wired: What feedback do you typically hear from Native Americans?
Aaron: I try not to let that influence my stories. That’s a dangerous rabbit hole to start going down — changing what you do in response to what you read on the internet. But the response has been overwhelmingly positive. Not everybody is a fan of the book, it’s not going to be to everybody’s taste — it’s a crime series where characters are morally ambiguous. I’ve never shied away from some things that are stereotypical, like having Indians who drink too much; the book has one of those. Certainly there are characters that are extremely violent. But I don’t think you can look at Scalped and say it’s a book that portrays Native Americans as savages.
Wired: Have you always known how the series would end?
“I knew what the ending point was, and how we would get there.”
Aaron: I didn’t know exactly when it would end, what issue we would end at. I knew pretty much exactly where the midpoint would be. Around issue No. 33, No. 34, we were halfway there. I had a huge document sketching out those first 30-something issues from the get-go. I put that together as I was working on the second arc.
Beyond that, yes, I knew what the ending point was, and how we would get there, although I didn’t always know how to get from No. 35 to No. 60. I knew where all the characters were heading. Now some of that changed a little bit. There are a couple of characters I realized I either didn’t want to die or wanted to die. A couple characters went in different directions than what I had envisioned. Certainly Red Crow’s ending changed. [His daughter] Carol gets an ending that people may be expecting now but back in that first trade paperback people probably didn’t expect. Dash’s ending has been the same the entire time, Dino’s ending has been the same the entire time, Catcher’s too. The main thrust of the ending has been clear before I put pen to paper on Issue 1.
Dead Mothers collects Issues No. 12 to 18 of Scalped.
Image courtesy Vertigo
Wired: It’s hard to talk about the series without talking about artist R.M. Guera, who made Scalped look unique from the start. How did you come to collaborate with him? I can’t imagine Scalped without his visual grammar — even the color scheme of it, everything’s burnt and earthy. How specific did you have to be when describing the story to him?
Aaron: I’ve never felt like I have to micromanage visuals as a writer. I’m not the one with the visual storytelling sense. I can’t draw at all. I’ve been at least pretty good at knowing what to give someone to draw, the proper fodder they need to draw. With Guera it’s always been easy. He’s a guy who comes up through the European comic scene. He’s drawn everything from samurai books to pirate comics and westerns. Coming into Scalped, No. 1 was the third comic script I’d ever written. I was learning a lot from Guera when that book first started, and he was learning how to work with me. This was his first American gig. There were growing pains initially but by some point in the second trade paperback we started to get our groove. The third trade, “Dead Mothers,” every issue we were on the same page.
We worked together for years before we ever met. He’s a Serbian who lives in Barcelona. It was fortuitous. Around the time Scalped got green-lit, Will Dennis, my editor, and I were talking about artists, and around that same time Guera sent his samples to Will out of the blue. Will thought they looked great and sent a pitch to Guera. Guera just on his own drew up a sample page. It was a flashback page, showing the execution of the federal agents in the ’70s. Once we saw that we knew this was the guy. It’s hard for me to think of that book with anyone else drawing it. We worked for a few years exchanging e-mails and talking on Skype every now and then. We’ve still only met in person twice now in seven years: once in New York, the first time he ever visited the States, and once in Spain, the first time I’d ever been there.
Wired: Is there any truth to the rumors that Scalped has been optioned for TV? Or when No. 60 hits, is that it?
Aaron: As part of the Vertigo deal, Scalped is basically already optioned by Warner Bros. They have the media rights. Is there something happening with that? Who knows. Certainly there are rumblings and talk, some talk I’ve been involved in, some talk I haven’t been involved in. I don’t hold my breath. I’ve always been focused on the comic. I feel incredibly lucky that I’ve been able to tell 60 issues of this story. When the book was launching that did not seem to be very likely. I was brand new on the comic scene. Guera was brand new in the States. And we were doing a Native American crime book, which there wasn’t exactly a big outcry for. The fact that I got to tell the story I wanted to tell and wrap it up the way I wanted to wrap it up, I felt fortunate. I’ve always looked at anything else as gravy. But we’ll see.
Wired: How can you write a story as bleak as Scalped and then write a lighthearted book like Wolverine and the X-Men? You’ve got the adorable Brood student in a comic I could give my nephews to read. I wouldn’t want to give them Scalped until they were 13 or something.
Scalped never bummed me out. I’ve never seen it as that bleak.”
Aaron: Yeah, I’d maybe wait until they were older than 13 [laughs]. For me, Scalped never bummed me out. I’ve never seen it as that bleak. Maybe it’s because I like the characters so much. It’s not like I’m spending time with characters I find so unpleasant.
Wired: Seriously? Even when Carol and Dash are smoking heroin? Or when the gun talks to Dash?
Aaron: I loved writing that scene with Carol and Dash and the heroin. You’re right, it’s a horribly bleak, depressing scene. Maybe this just speaks to some fundamental flaw in my psyche. But I’m the guy in movies who laughs at inopportune moments, just because I get excited by the flow of the story, by good writing, by good storytelling. Even if it’s heart-wrenching, it makes me smile. It makes me depressed at the same time, if that makes any sense, but I’m happy.
I like writing that kind of stuff. One of my favorite bits from Scalped was that issue with Dash and Carol lying in bed together and I write the captions with all the things they’re not saying to each other. So that’s real depressing and heartbreaking, but you can still picture me writing that with a smile on my face, because I’m having such a good time.
It all comes from the same weird place. I don’t do anything different, writing-wise, from Scalped toWolverine and the X-Men. I like that aspect of my job, getting to do completely different things. I never feel like I’m standing on an assembly line, making the same thing day after day.
It’s also the way that Scalped is tangled up in my life. I got married the same week Scalped got green-lit. Maybe the day after the phone call green-lighting it, I got married. My son was born not long after the book started coming out. And his name is also Dash. I quit my day job to stay home with him after he was born. That was about when my comic career started to take off — slowly at first. Basically my comic career is as old as my son is.
Wired: Did you name your character for your son, or the other way around?
Aaron: My memory is hazy. I think he came first and the character came later. But it was around about the same time, he was coming and I was working on my outline and proposal. I’m wrapping up Scalpedand my son is about to start first grade. It’s a big starting point for him, and now I feel like I’m wrapping up the first part of my career and now I’m moving on to the next thing. As far as I’m concerned, the last page of issue No. 60 is the last time we’ll see these characters.

Graphic renditions

Graphic renditions

Remember the last minute hassled email that you sent off to your third cousin twice removed, the one studying some thing at some university in the States (you don’t really care ). You have begged him to get you the latest edition of Captain America comic book ? Also you have requested him for the 50th anniversary issue of the Amazing Spider-Man , with an elongated pretty please thrown in. And when the distant cousin comes back home without your prized editions of the comic book, haven’t you torn your hair is desperation and wished for an Indian comic book? One that is readily available and does justice to the kid within you, with its graphic and a riveting plot. Well looks like your prayers (and million others) have been answered. Finally we have a full fledged home grown comic book series. The Legends of Aveon 9, The Train to Vexadus (Rovolt) spells respite for many comic fans in India. Written by Shamik Dasgupta, its a rollercoaster ride into a land of fantasy, sci-fi, human/alien emotions, with action thrown in for good measure. Shamik, is no stranger to the graphic world, having previously written the Ramayan 3392 AD. “After Virgin Comics shut down in 2008, I worked with other comics. But after Ramayana 3392 AD, I missed fantasy” said Shamik. “I believe even the original one was also fantasy. Some things must have happened, but I don’t think a god like figure of Ram or the demon Ravan would have existed.”
Shamik then shifted his gaze to the Indian comic scene. “People would only want Avengers for kids kind of things. But we can’t beat Marvel and DC at their own game. They know their superheroes,” said Shamik.
The Aveon series has inspirations from Chandrakanta, the famous fantasy novel written by Devki Nandan Khatri. One also sees presence of the Western sci-fi element.  The Lord of the Rings also sneaks in at times. “We — Abhishek Malsuni (the artist of the comic) and I were not interested in another interpretation of the Myths. We took the raw structure of Chandrakanta, and took the story to a much larger scale. The Steampunk, a sub-genre of sci-fi is also used,” shared the writer, who is a self-confessed Ringer. (The term used to denote fans of The Lord of the Rings)
 Steampunk? Is that something to do with listening to Punk music while enjoying a steam bath? “No, replied Shamik thoroughly amused. “It’s a sci-fi genre which has intensive usage of steam power, and is usually based in alternative time period, like the Victorian era.”
The comic series is the story of Human settlers in Aveon. “The story is set in the future, the earth has long been destroyed. Aveon also has aliens, red skinned creatures called Gnorms, which are like the Red Indians of America. The Train to Vexadus is the first episode of the series. There are seven  episodes in each series and 60 pages in each episode,” shared Shamik. The comic book has been edited by Ron Marz, the creator of works like The Silver Surfer and Green Lantern.
Shamik feels that Indian comics lack depth, and that is the reason for its stagnated fan following. “There is no evolution of the characters. Nagraj is still the same. He fights the villains, and its repeated in every offering. Whereas if you look at Spiderman or Batman, they have evolved with time, and it reflects in the story. Indian comics have been very feudal,” expressed Shamik.
The next offerings from the Aveon series has the villains surfacing. “They have their reasons to be bad, which might just be noble at times. You will hate to love them. The same way, Tez, the protagonist of the series, is an alien and a shape shifter. This offering deals with the journey of Tez and other creatures to the capital of the Kingdom of Vexadus. There the real drama unfoldz. Betrayal and love, both are on the cards,” added Shamik. He continued “That ways Tez is a very Indian Super hero. He is an alien but very human in his approach and character, with his conflicts and flaws. And this is the reason that Indian heroes work. That’s a global trend , you have had Batman and superman also becoming more vulnerable.”

Homecoming for the superheroes

Homecoming for the superheroes

Of heroes and heroics: In the past six months, demand for Tintin, Spider-Man and Asterix comics has picked up.
Of heroes and heroics: In the past six months, demand for Tintin, Spider-Man and Asterix comics has picked up.
The popularity of movies such as Spider-Man and Batman have revived demand for comics featuring these larger-than-life characters.
It’s not just Sheldon, Leonard and their geeky friends from the popular TV sitcom Big Bang Theory who are hung up on comic books and superheroes.
If brainy is the new sexy, then superhero comics are the new cool must-have. And the tremendous box office success of comic-based franchises such as Batman and Spider-Man have led to a resurgence in demand for the once nearly-forgotten superhero comic.
Including in India. “Superhero comics are selling much more after the movies have released. We have seen a 30 to 40 per cent increase in sales of these comics,” says Rinkush Nagda, Assistant Store Manager, Landmark, Navi Mumbai. Like most major bookstores, Landmark now has a separate section for comics.
While Batman has caught the imagination of the teenagers and adults alike, children are more drawn towards the action-packed series of Spider-Man comics and the adventures of the young Belgian reporter Tintin, while Spidey rules the pre-teen market.
Spider-Man comics priced Rs 75-Rs 200 are seeing much demand from the 10-plus age group. “After the movies released, we sold about 100 copies of theSpider-Man comics. We are seeing good demand for Tintin and Asterix comics as well,” says Sanjeev Kamat, Assistant Store Manager, Kitab Khana.
Although Tintin the movie released last year, these comics are still in demand. Book store managers say these comics fall in the ‘evergreen’ category. Not only are they seeing sales of entire sets (34 to 36 books), but also of individual books in the Asterix series.
Oxford bookstore in Mumbai, on an average, sells at least 10 of the Tintincollection (a set of 22 titles) every month. Tintin has been translated into 80 languages and sold more than 350 million copies worldwide.
And the buyers are no longer kids. The expensive comics and graphic novels are seeing more buyers in the 20-30 age group. “Marvel comics are slightly more expensive as they are imported. More than children, we have seen adults buying these,” says Vipin Vassanthan, Store Manager, Crossword Book Store – Kemps Corner. Marvel comics are in the Rs 800-Rs 1,000 price range.


With the market soaking up all offerings and hungry for more, some home-grown superheroes have emerged to fight evil – and keep the cash registers ringing.
Spidey got an Indian avatar in 2004 and re-emerged as the young Pavitr Prabhakar – the Indian character of Peter Parker. A joint project between Marvel Comics and Gotham Entertainment Group, the Indian version of Spider-Man was launched to coincide with the release of the Spider-Man 2 film.
Interestingly, Indian superhero comics date back to the Sixties and were no less powerful and popular. One of India’s earliest superheroes is ‘Batul the Great’, created during the 1960s.
A Superman-like character, he had a well-built body, was so strong that he could stop a train and smash walls, and slaughter whales and sharks barehanded. Even bullets could not pierce his chest.
However, Indian superhero comics caught on in a big way from the early ’80s. Indian comics, at that time, were all about larger-than-life heroes and their exploits. Among the popular ones, Chacha Chaudhary (Diamond Comics) and Detective Moochwala (Target magazine) were instant hits.
Today, the most widely read comics are Diamond Comics, Raj Comics, Tinkle and Amar Chitra Katha. These have established wide distribution networks countrywide over the last three decades and are read by lakhs of children in different languages.
According to estimates, the Indian comic publishing industry is worth over $100 million and is expected to grow more in the coming years.
In the late ’80s and early ’90s, when the industry was at its peak, a popular comic could easily sell more than five lakh copies over the course of its shelf life of several weeks.
Today, it will sell between 50,000 and 60,000 copies over a similar period.


This fascination for the world of comics has also been driving up the sales of second-hand comics collections in bookstores. Scour through the piles of books at second-hand stores in Mumbai’s Fort area and you can discover a small kingdom of comics. Booksellers say that in the past six months, the demand for comics has picked up, especially for collections of Tintin, Spider-Man andAsterix comics.
“These are fast-selling ones. Many of our old collections were sold out within a month after the release of the Tintin movie,” says Pramod K., who runs a second-hand bookstore.