Saturday, May 28, 2016

10 Female Superheroes

A Feminist Ranking of 10 Female Superheroes

Most of the iconic super-heroines that have emerged in the 40s and the 50s, in the likes of Supergirl and Wonder Woman, have been created by male writers so as to cater to a primarily male audience. By the 60s and the 70s, during the second wave of feminism, there were some major improvements to the female characters even though there was a lack of female writers. And with the general perception that the comics cannot be catered to a female audience, there was this primary idea that “every woman is the weakest member in the whole superhero team”. Even amongst these several errors in representation of the female hero, Marvel does have a huge roster of female superheroes, such as Thor, Elektra, Black Widow and Gamora.
So, amidst the numerous comic book titles which feature the female heroes, for an amateur, it gets real hard to pick out the specific ones. For starters, this one is a list entailing the major female characters that have been in the running for a number of decades.
So, here is the listing of the primary female superheroes in kind:-
#10: Carol Danvers
Now, there might be a bit more emphasis upon the character of Captain Marvel, but she easily ranks as one of the best female superheroes. Even before she had gained her powers of flight and shooting energy beams via an alien explosion, her profession as an Air Force pilot was simply a standout characterization. She was a dynamic woman who could easily kick ass, even without harboring any sort of superpowers. Her place of residence is set at the top of the Statue of Liberty and she is best buddies with Spider-Woman. Being a member of the Avengers, she often jets off into space accompanied by her cat, Chewie (which is a slight homage to Star Wars). She also tends to watch over the Guardians of the Galaxy during their rogue adventures. And with a solo movie coming out by 2018, she easily comes forward as one of the strongest female characters in the comic books.
One other fact to be noted is that Captain Marvel was initially a male character. But with the female counterpart taking over the role, there was absolutely no changes made to costume to show off her assets. Nope; she doesn’t over that route!
Feminism Ranking: 3 Leslie Knope inspirational speeches.
#9: Sonja
Red Sonja is presented as the Viking warrior queen that comes across as the ideal female character. Having been featured since the year 1934, she is one character, who has a wide array of sword skills. Now, you have to keep this in mind that she had arrived on the scene way before Wonder Woman got to brandish her lasso, in the issues of Conan and then went on to have her own solo series. She can be easily described as “mayhem, blood, sex and red hair”.
It is quite easy to catch up to all of her story arcs, since its kind of a standalone story. And there is no unnecessary fan service. She dons that bikini, only because it aids her fighting style.
Feminism Ranking: 4 Rosie the Riveter bandanas

#8: Kate Kane
Kate Kane is one character who doesn’t go for the easy fan service shots. She comes from the army donning her sturdy boots. She is one who has left the military so as to hide her sexuality. Its her power and finances that help her assume the role of Batwoman, who just has the best hair in the entire Bat family.
Feminism Ranking: 4 Ellen Page tweets

#7: Alana

Alana is one who is caught in between an intergalactic war. She has fallen in love with Marko, and begets a child who is the narrator himself. But here is where the huge twist is brought forward- Marko takes up on the oppositional side of the war. And now all three of them have to go to great lengths, as they test the limits of each other, bringing out an all-new tale akin to a tale of Romeo and Juliet!
Saga is itself a tale riddled in between two star-crossed lovers, who have their sights on their family.
Feminism Ranking: 5 Princess Leia hair buns

#6: Hannah, Violet, Dee, and Betty

Now these characters would feel like a bunch of best friends caught in a vicious world of dungeons and dragons. All of the three main characters are incredibly foul-mouthed: Hannah is a Necromancer with a tendency to do more evil than good, Violet is one dwarven warrior who resorted to shave of her entire beard, Betty is a Halfling thief who just gets high all the time and Dee is one human cleric who deals with the trauma of having escaped a Cthulhu worshipping cult. Rat Queens is one such series which induces hard-hitting humor, without worrying about any repercussions.
Feminism Ranking: 5 Dragon Age: Inquisition playthroughs

#5: Doreen Green

Squirrel Girl is a character who is just made out of ridiculous proportions. She is one superhero who has been endowed with the abilities of a squirrel. She comes about as the funniest hero you could ever imagine, as she prances about in college with her pet squirrel Tippy Toe. She hides her squirrel tail in her pants, and she also has a reputation of defeating Galactus. She has actually defeated Thanos single-handedly too.
Feminism Ranking: 6 Single Ladies hand-dances

#4: Barbara Gordon

After recovering from a spinal injury accident after almost three years, she dons a leather jacket and a cape as she fights crime in Burnside. You should immediately go for it, as you are guaranteed to get hooked into it.
Feminism Ranking: 7 Mallory Ortberg articles


#3: Buffy Summers

After eight long seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, this series follows the life of Buffy Summers as she leaves the remains of SunnyDale in her wake.
Feminism Ranking: 9 lesbian witches

#2: Suze

Suze is a character who can freeze time during her orgasms. In here, she wanders around “The Quiet”. She then meets Jon who can do the same thing, and they later sexploit their abilities. This series is downright crude and vulgar, which keeps it consistently interesting throughout.
Feminism Ranking: 10 Laci Green videos

#1: Kamala Khan

Kamala Khan is a Muslim Pakistani American girl residing in Jersey City, who is incredibly obsessed with the Avengers. One night, as she walks through a mystical fog, she is bestowed with the powers of shape-shifting and healing. As she learns the ways of a superhero from here on in, the tale embarks on a journey of self-discovery.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Bhagat Singh lives on in motion comic

In the recent political climate everyone wants a bit of Bhagat Singh. It is a pity that not many are eager to find out what he stood for and believed in beyond the fight for independence of India.
The hoem page of the Bhagat Singh video
The home page of the Bhagat Singh video
Epified, a channel of Mumbai-based digital entertainment company, Culture Machine, has come in to bridge the gap. Earlier this month, they created videos with a portion of Singh’s essay, Why I Am An Atheist in Hindi and English in a format they call motion comics and it has garnered over 10,000 views.
A still from Mahabharata
A still from Mahabharata
In the video, like in the essay, he rationally explains why he does not believe in god. It talks about the violent histories of all religion and then moves on to his view that all traditions must be put through questioning and be challenged.
An still fromthe Bhagat Singh video
An still fromthe Bhagat Singh video
The comments section shows that some were surprised and some happy that atheism itself will be brought back in discussion with this video in times of religious animosity.
Vijayendra Mohanty, head of Epified, says that they had selected parts of the essay that seemed to fit the current context perfectly. “In Epified, we create videos on Indian history, mythology and culture. Most of our initial videos were created with whiteboard animation but now we are trying out more colourful animations. The Bhagat Singh video is the first of the kind,” he adds. The other popular creation of the channel is the Mahabharata, which is a 46-episode series.
The attempt to move to more colourful format is also accompanied by the idea of exploring Indian art for the videos. The channel’s design head, Roshnee Desai informs that in the Bhagat Singh video they explored the Indian graphic novel tradition. “In the subsequent videos we are going to use traditional art like Tanjore paintings that will be done by artist Pradeep Yadav,” she says. The next video will be on the controversial freedom fighter, Veer Savarkar.
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Sunday, May 22, 2016

Support India's First ever Non-Fiction Comic

Support India's First ever Non-Fiction Comic Anthology

First Hand I a collection of non-fiction graphic narratives, combines image and word to tell stories of real people and extraordinary lives
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First Hand is an anthology of non-fiction graphic narratives - the first of its kind in India - that narrates the stories of people whose voices have been lost in the drone of a 24-hour news cycle. It may be a comic but First Hand does not have any cape-clad superheroes or cackling supervillains, rather it shows the lives of real people and reflects on the extraordinary - often heart-breaking - circumstances of their lives; be it personal struggle, or social and political injustice. Writers, artists, reporters, activists, researchers, designers, anthropologists, academicians, and film-makers lend their experience, knowledge and craft to bring alive in illustration stories that too often get reduced to numbers and statistics. In doing this, they offer us new worlds through which we can re-enter our own and, perhaps, see it more clearly. The book gives us many different points of view through which we can look at reality, unfiltered and unfettered by the politics of mass media and governance.

The stories range from contemporary narratives which bear witness to our times to more exploratory historical perspectives to simply the extraordinary lives of ordinary people.

For instance, ‘One Step Forward, Two Steps Back’ by Dhwani Shah, describes the protagonist’s experience of visiting Pissurlem, a Goan village where the natural landscape and lush beauty became a victim of mining companies that were allowed to dig beyond the permitted depth. ‘The Girl Not From Madras’ is a reportage piece about the abduction, rape, forced marriage and eventual rescue of a young woman from Assam. 'The Edge of the Map' is a documentation of how people are displaced by large-scale development projects in Jharkhand and Odisha - a narrative interspersed with quotations and commentary by people actually affected by these projects. Another masterpiece is 'Akhtari’ by Gitanjali Rao and Rajesh Devraj, a breathtaking comic on the early life of Begum Akhtar.

First Hand has been planned as a series - with a view to regularly bring narratives from the ground to graphic form. Critical to that is making this project sustainable in the long run - and we have commenced this campaign to achieve the goal!

This is a call and plea to our community and the people at large to make this series more than just a pipe-dream. With this campaign, we hope to bring these urgent narratives in First Hand Volume I closer to the reader, as well as sustain a series that can commit to this work in the long-term.

Here is an approximate cost break-up, listing how we will be using the funds we acquire through this campaign:

Contributor's Honorarium/Compensation - 40%
Production - 40%
Outreach - 12%
Crowd Funding Platform - 8%

If you have any queries or doubts, or just want to chat, feel free to email us at any time.

Graphic novels are finally looking beyond superheroes- Ananya Ghosh

Graphic novels are finally looking beyond superheroes and the supernatural

  • Ananya Ghosh
In April 2014, 15 women, mostly in their twenties and early thirties, gathered at a workshop called Drawing Attention. It was led by comic-book artist and editor Priya Kuriyan and German illustrators Ludmilla Bartscht and Larissa Bertonasco. “The idea was to get more women into the comic-making space and introduce them to a medium that can be such a powerful communication tool,” says Kuriyan.
Anita Roy, senior editor at Zubaan, a Delhi-based publishing house, recalls, “We wanted the women to draw on their personal experiences and talk about what it is like being a woman in contemporary India,” she says. “Part of the impulse came from the reactions in the wake of the terrible rape of December 2012.”
What came out were stories as varied and unique as the women themselves. Each had a different tone and feel, but every story spoke about sexual harassment and the challenges arising from having to live with or negotiate gender roles and expectations. These short sketches by amateur artists were compiled into an anthology and published as Drawing the Line: Indian Women Fight Back in 2015.

Sarnath Banerjee’s All Quiet In Vikaspuri features Delhi’s water wars.

It was just one of many graphic novels released that year. Malik Sajad released Munnu: A Boy from Kashmir, a story of a young boy growing up in a militarised and militant state. Sumit Kumar came out with Amar Bari Tomar Bari Naxalbari, which chronicles the history of India’s Maoist uprising, tracing its origins to the village of Naxalbari. These were followed by Sarnath Banerjee’s All Quiet in Vikaspuri , published this January. Banerjee’s dystopian novel depicts, in black and white, the ever-so-real water wars of today’s Delhi.
The new slew of graphic novels looks squarely at the issues facing contemporary India. “Comics have the potential to reach out to a large audience,” says Kuriyan, adding that its unique text and image format lets storytellers weave scenes in a way that makes their tale more meaningful and poignant. “The impact visuals have can be much more visceral and direct as compared to prose; not to forget they also have great recall value.”
How it all began
India’s love affair with comics started in 1967 when Amar Chitra Katha was launched. Diamond Comics, Raj Comics, and other homegrown publishers followed. But while Indian comics remained dominated by mythological figures and superheroes even through the 1980s, on the other side of the globe, change was afoot. Artists like Art Spiegelman, and later Joe Sacco and Marjane Satrapi started using comics to tell some very poignant and grown-up stories. These were the graphic novels (although the term was coined way back in 1964 and Will Eisner made it popular).
Back home, Orijit Sen was the first to tap into the potential of this new format to raise awareness about the issues surrounding the Narmada Dam Project. In 1994, River of Stories was published. But it took another decade for a second graphic novel to emerge. This time it was Sarnath Banerjee’s Corridor (2004). Set in Lutyen’s Delhi, it dealt with urban youngsters at odds with a changing India.
Our superheroes and four-colour gods didn’t quite welcome the change. They invaded the newly popular graphic novel space almost annihilating the realists. “Mythology and folklore are classic comics topics,” says Banerjee, explaining their popularity. “They have neat ideas of good and bad, and have morals. They are not messy or complicated like real life. The same goes for superhero books. Maybe we like clear-cut.”
So most of the graphic novels that came out of India over the 2000s looked basically like stylised versions of Amar Chitra Katha. Hindu gods and goddesses were mercilessly moulded into Captain America-like superheroes. Graphic novels seemed to suffer from the Bollywood syndrome – occupied with creating a world twice removed from reality to offer an escape from real-life problems, or to provide fantastical solutions.
It wasn’t that Indian readers were not ready for stark tales, argues Kuriyan. “In the case of graphic novels, many people who began experimenting with the form took up mythology as they wanted to work with stories people are already familiar with,” she says. In a nation full of fantastical tales, magic and other-worldly powers, it was an easy leap.
The real picture

Malik Sajad’s Munnu: A Boy From Kashmir is a story of a young boy growing up in a volatile state

But artists and writers were aware that graphic novels could tell a certain kind of tale better than prose. Sajad, whose bildungsroman raises multiple questions on the Kashmir issue, found the format perfect for his story. “When you talk about Kashmir, the discourse is hinged on the geographical disputes, apolitically correct but fundamentally lazy theories, and the baggage of Partition,” he points out. The rest of India however doesn’t see the real story. “They echo the noise of the media that amplifies the comedy. I thought the graphic novel format would help me tell my story more effectively,” he says.
Sajad finds that the graphic novel format helps develop familiarity with the subject and makes a story more personal. “There are things that can’t be communicated through just words. Visuals illustrate our subconscious labyrinth while the words lead the plot,” he says.
But can four books deeply rooted in reality, all published within a year, point to the start of a trend? Is the Indian graphic novel getting serious?
Kumar believes even if it is, it shouldn’t. “Serious is often boring,” he reminds us. According to him the graphic novel should be conversely growing younger in its approach. Instead it’s already growing too dark and cliche. “I see gender neutral, hyper sensitive, black frames. Kuch serious conflict type issue + grayscale + in English + thoda samajh nahi aaya = a great graphic novel? This perception is getting tiring.”
Kumar finds it’s necessary for a story to be funny, especially when dealing with serious issues. His own book covers the Naxalbari movement, but it is laced with light humour, the panels are dipped in colour, and the dialogues are peppered with references to pop culture. “Why can’t I draw about class conflict using fruits who talk like us?” he asks.

Sumit Kumar’s book Amar Bari, Tomar Bari: Naxalbari, covers the history of India’s Maoist uprising

The Predecessors
Of course, we have seen a few strikingly bold works in the past. While Abdul Sultan PP and Partha Sengupta’s The Believers (2006) set in present-day Kerala was about religious tolerance, Naseer Ahmed’s Kashmir Pending (2007), depicts Kashmir seen through the eyes of a reformed militant and Vishwajyoti Ghosh’s Delhi Calm (2011) was a graphic representation of the Emergency-era Delhi. And then there was Amruta Patil’sKari (2008) – a wry tale about a lesbian woman dealing with loneliness, death and a ruthless city. But such instances were few and far between.
Winds of change
Certainly, the graphic novel scene in India is slowly expanding to include more political commentary, especially with web comics like Royal Existentialists and Crocodile in Water, Tiger on Land, and now, Rashtraman. Many newspapers have begun to carry short graphic-novel-style strips within their pages, the latest being the revival of Manjula Padmanabhan’s Suki – the strip that pioneered feminist comics in India. But Kuriyan seems to think that it is still too early to herald a renaissance. One reason for this is the lack of an organised industry of colourists within India. Graphic novelists working on non-fiction and contemporary issues have no choice but to operate as single entities. This can be a double-edged sword. “It is what makes their work stand apart, but it is also what makes it more difficult to keep up with the organised industry that produces comics on mythology on such a large scale,” Kuriyan says.
Also, while graphic novels are slowly pushing the boundaries, they have a long way to go before the panels produce profit. “Graphic novels – both fantasy and literary – have a small but very involved readership” says Ajitha GS, senior commissioning editor at HarperCollins India. She adds that although people are experimenting with newer content as well as styles, the size of the graphic novels market in India is still minuscule. Unlike the US, France, the UK and Japan, the country is yet to have a stand-alone graphic novel industry. Printing graphic novels are more complex than just all-text ones. Even paperbacks start at `1,000. “We are selling an expensive product in a price-sensitive market,” she adds. “This limits the reach.”
But it seems there might be a change round the corner. Banerjee says there is a rich body of work coming out of India. “It is our insecurities that make us often look to the West. I find that many Indian graphic novelists are often more original than their Western contemporaries and the stories they tell are more relevant to us,” he says, pointing out that many graduates, fresh out of universities and design schools, are taking to this form in a huge way. “They are developing a sophisticated language to portray their interior worlds and are discussing their most deeply felt thoughts. Usually, these are original voices untainted by the forces of mainstream media,” he says optimistically.
Follow @ananya1281 on Twitter
From HT Brunch, May 22, 2016
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