One on One with Akshay Dhar – Creator of Retrogade series
Imagine waking up to a world where only the most rudimentary tech still worked – What would humanity do? How would our world change? Does a world-changing disaster only affect us when it hits, or do the repercussions carry on, changing lives and people for ever after?
See what people would do to keep themselves, and their humanity alive in Retrograde.
That’s the new offering by Pop Culture Publishing, a Publishing Division of Twenty Onwards Media (P) Ltd.
Retrogade Volume 2 is the second installment in the Retrogade series, the book kick starts from where its predecessor ended.
The comic book was launched at the Mumbai Film and Comic Convention last month by Pop Culture Publishing with creator Akshay Dhar. Priced at a reasonable amount of 150 (combined volume), the comic book is surely going to bring a happy smile on the face of its makers.
Talking about his new book with Animationxpress’ Ishpreet Chandock is Akshay Dhar, who is the writer and creator of the comic book series.
An Alumni of the University of Bradford, Delhi based Akshay is the Editor-In-Chief + Columnist/Writer at Comic Addicts and an Officer at Daurala Organics.
Here we have the excerpts of the conversation with Akshay, talking about his new book, his expectations and more…
Akshay, first and foremost ,thank you for taking the time to speak with us andcongratulations on the launch of your new book Retrogade Volume 2, can you tell us more about your bigidea behind creating Retrogade ? How did the idea of Retrogade come to you? To tell a story in India, with people like those we actually find in our lives and When we travel around the country – but most importantly, to try and do something That had not been done before. The concepts we use in this story as our premise are a mix of old and tried with twists that have not been explored much. Basically I realized I wanted to play to my strength as a writer (or so I’ve been told) and tell an action adventure story, but keep the focus on the characters. More importantly I wanted it to be more real and so it is about a GROUP rather than a hero/heroine and each and every person is important to how things develop.
Take us through your process when it comes to creating your artwork especially for Retrogade? It’s not a deeply researched project in the sense that it is tied to “current” trends and topics. There are things that are based around the real world, we researched things like the kinds of weapons that would be had, artistic references for such things and I had to brush up a little on the science that I was warping to create my doomsday scenario – but as a reader I think most everything is easily understandable since we’ve tried not to be too heavy with data. If people enjoy it, hopefully we’ll be able to introduce more concepts and newly evolved technology for this new age as we go further down the rabbit hole.
Competing with your previous work is always a challenge and sequels are always a task as to bringing out something better and something new, according to you what’s the special ingredient you have spread on the table with Retrogade Volume 2? It caters to people of multiple genres (sci-fi, action, adventure, drama, etc) while not sticking only to one. Retrograde is a fun and simple read if you want it to be but there are references and little details that can be found if you want a more detailed story – but whichever your leaning, there is no reason you should not be able to enjoy the comic as a whole.
This is something I want to see more of from Indian creators and hope that if our effort is successful, the market for this in India would open up and fans and creators will move away from the same-old-same-old stuff that we stick to because it’s a safe bet.
Where can we find you promoting the book? Do you have any convention appearances or store signings planned? We have been focusing on selling it online and especially at the conventions. Though copies are available at leading book stores, but we focus more on e- commerce sites as well as events.
What do you take back from your launch at Comic Con Mumbai 2012? How did you find interacting with your fans in such an environment? Oh man! Comic Con Mumbai was insane! I was there for the first and the second just upped the stakes for future conventions with a great crowd and response and people clearly having more of an interest in what was around them. For me, it was beyond tiring but one of the most satisfactory experiences I’ve had as a writer. The response was overwhelming, so much so that at the end of day-1 we were actually worried that we had not done a large enough printing of the new book. People who knew it were enthusiastic and those who didn’t were genuinely interested and curious. On a more personal level, the number of people that asked me to sign their books and being able to talk to and interact with fans was amazing and I loved it! I just hope that people continue to be less shy and share with folks like me, what it is they want to see in comics in the future.
Every journey has its share of hurdles; can you share with our readers the difficulties you face in the making? Partway through the initial scripting, I had several brainwaves and Jatin and his team were understanding enough to give me time and space to make some dramatic changes – we went from a gory, zombie, shoot-em-up to a more subtle, human story with a sci-fi twist. Basically I scrapped almost everything, starting almost from scratch. I cannibalized my original story and kept the things I really wanted to keep at all costs. The rest was thrown out and a whole new premise was crafted from the ground up and then built to include the things we kept from the first avatar. This kind of wholesale revamping can, I think, be as hard if not harder than coming up with a story from scratch. It also put us considerably behind our original schedule – the initial launch for #1 was meant to be at the first Delhi Comic Con but was pushed back to the following Mumbai Convention.
There were several rewrites and such as well (as can be expected) and this was the first purely solo project I worked on and though it got easier with experience, it was a tough but rewarding learning experience for me.
Did you have any creative dispute or demur while creating Retrogade 2? Most of the dilemmas I’ve already explained in the question before this, but maybe the single biggest challenge was the art. I always had a very distinct and dirty/gritty feeling I wanted in this book and black and white made it all the more specific. There was an artist I had been lazily working on the original horror version with who was based in Croatia, but we were not able to come to a workable deal once I tied up with Pop Culture due to his scheduling limitations and paying someone across borders at the time. So we started looking closer to home and spoke to and “auditioned” several artists but it took quite a while before we could find the artist who was willing to commit the time we needed to develop this properly and at the same time had the skill to create this world and its people. In this regard I think I was very lucky to have Avik come on board, we found a great vibe between us as we worked – he was in the Netherlands for 80% of the first issue at least, so we were working almost entirely over emails and the occasional Skype or phone chat and this was another challenge that I think we adapted to and worked with pretty well in the end.
What’s next for you? Is there anything else you would like to work on that you’ve not yet had the opportunity to? A lot actually, I’m happy to report. First and foremost (obviously) I hope that over the next couple of months to continue the good feedback on Retrograde and produce more of that. For those that follow my goof-ball page on facebook and my blog, I’ve been working for Holy Cow Entertainment on a 5-part mini-series called “Serengeti Stripes” which is a kind of fish-out-of-water story and in which we’re trying to create a real story starring some amazing animals and all told through them – no
people at all. Beyond that, I’m working with about 5 different artists and creating a set of comic shorts to be produced as a multi-part anthology and hope to invite more of the Indian comic talent to contribute if it picks up. It has Sci-fi, Fantasy, Action and Comedy stories in it and is looking gorgeous as of now. I hope to have this ready by the Delhi Convention in February. Then there’s the non-comic creating projects like the Geeky podcast over at Popcracker which is a riot to do (and I hope to listen to) with Rajat and Anant Singh. Plus I’m just starting to talk to a couple of people about maybe making a live-action story, not Bollywood, but more independent and off-beat stuff. I’m also, of course, continuing my role as E-I-C for comicaddicts.com where we all drive each other crazy and bring fans comic news of all shapes and sizes.
You and Pop Culture Publishing have formed a winning combo of sorts, how was it working with them again? Are there still disagreements in the creative process? It’s been great actually. There may well have been reasons for me to mutter under my breath or something, but on the whole they’ve been so understanding, accommodating and helpful throughout this process that I have no real complaints. I hope that they do well and I can continue to write for them for a long time to come, regardless of whatever else I may do in the future.