Talking about Indian comics in London

I’ll be giving a talk on Indian comics at the Cartoon Museum in London later this week. This post is about how it happened. It’s a good story, do read it!

Early in May I attended a workshop on British comics, full of comic scholars in London, led by the marvellous Paul Williams from Exeter University. There I was, in bustling, sunshine-y London, closed off in a small room with twenty scholars, who had brought along old comics from the 40s, 50s, 60s, 80s – all decades really. We discussed on visual imagery in war comics, what British identity means, and many other important things. And I didn’t miss the outdoors, which says something about the comics, the activity and knowledge that these fabulous scholars presented there. But I digress. What happened in lunchtime is what led to the talk.



We munched on fried fish, aalo pakoras (you read it right), spring rolls and quinua salad in the pub while talking comics and then headed back to the Cartoon Museum, which is where this workshop was happening. It was a 10 minute walk. While walking back, I happened to accompany Anita O’Brien, the curator at Cartoon Museum and then of course it being comics, I started yapping about my love of comics and how there are so many talented artists doing fantastic things in India and how she should do something about it here in London. She told me she’d commissioned the World War I graphic novel with Campfire. I told her the artist, Lalit Sharma, was a good friend. We found out we knew more than a couple of other artists from the industry.

‘You should do something more on Indian comics here!’ I cried, my head buzzing with ideas.

‘Why don’t you do it?’ she asked, calmly.

‘Me? Do what?’

‘Talk about Indian comics,’ she said.

‘Oh,’ I said, rather eloquently.

And that’s how it happened. Before I knew it, I’d asked Jason Quinn to ask me the right questions in this talk, who was sweet enough to agree. We will talk about comics coming out from India, some of which we love, some which we don’t, swap tales, talk about my work and his and anything else we feel like really. We have the stage after all.

If you happen to be in London and would like to join in the joy ride, come over. It’s a free event and you’ll get to hear stories about comics. What can go wrong with that? All you need to do is register yourself by sending a tiny email to the Cartoon Museum at to reserve a seat. It can be a sentence long, really. I don’t think they have a word limit to it.

Finally, the moral of the tale (for there’s always a moral): Always walk back from the pub and always yap about the things you love. 🙂

Hope to see you there!




Why aren’t there more women in comics?

Before you tag this post as that fashionable F-word, hear me out. I’ve been working in comics since a few years now. Much more than their western counterparts, the Indian comic industry is welcoming to both genders, across board. They’re open to story ideas which go beyond fanboy or superhero fiction. I’ve worked on two graphic novels (Krishna, The Skull Rosary), pitched a lot of work and worked on smaller comics and am yet to encounter misogyny or bad behavior of any kind in publishers or artists or other writers. Yes, I do tend to meet a lot of guys who’re into comics than girls, but they’re not necessarily looking out for superhero fiction. They’re looking out for good stories. Still, the industry, the artists, publishers, editors, and writers are mostly men.

Then I’ve been part of the children book industry (my first novel Ghost Hunters of Kurseong is for tweens), which again is teeming with talented writers and artists. This industry, catering to kids of both genders, is mostly female. The editors, writers, artists, are all women.

There are very few overlapping creators (either writers or artists) who do both kinds of work – children books and comics. Now I’m the curious sort and frankly this just doesn’t make sense to me. I mean writers are writers and should be able to write for any medium, right? And illustrators and artists should be able to draw for any medium. So why don’t they? This question irritated me enough to push Comic Con to do a panel on it in Bangalore this year. With me there was Reena Puri,  a well-respected editor with ACK Media and Devaki Neogi, who is one of those rare illustrators who draws for international comics. We took the idea apart, thought on it, brainstormed over email about the panel as well as on stage, but couldn’t find any concrete answers on why there is such a gender bias in comics.

The panel even made a journalist write an article on portrayal of women in comics in Deccan Herald:

Deccan Herald on women in comics
Deccan Herald on women in comics


Except, it didn’t answer my question. Some of the sort-of answers that I’ve collated from various people (and not necessarily my opinions) are listed below. Poll on them and tell me what you think:

Why aren’t there more women in comics?
  1. It’s easier for women to get into children’s books
  2. Comics are misogynist, made for men by men and women don’t feel welcome.
  3. Women aren’t comic readers so they don’t create comics
  4. Superheroes and sexy women is just not a woman’s thing.
  5. There’s tight deadlines and not enough money in making comics.
  6. Why are you bothered about this question? Go write your books, will you?

Agree with one of them or have a  different answer? Add to the comment section below. (Till I figure out how to put a poll here that is.)

Teaching comics at Bookalore

Making comics is such a difficult task. I have always appreciated the dedication and the love of comics in artists that i meet every day online and offline. So it took me a while to say yes to the kind people at Bookalore when they suggested that I do a comics workshop in their July event for kids. I went back to the drawing board (my whiteboard in my study) and figured what to do with kids. How does one teach about making comics? As a writer that too? So I asked Bangalore-based, soft spoken artist Ojoswi Sur to join me in the workshop to give an artist’s perspective to kids.


It was all experimentation on our part. We loosely structured the workshop and decided to give the kids the basics of comic making (panels, balloons for dialogues, types) and gave them a chilling scene from The Ghost Hunters of Kurseong and see what they came up with. The results were surprising and so much fun! The kids huddled, discussed, wondered, had a nervous breakdown, scribbled, begged each other for erasers and mostly I hope had a grand time. Of course I had grossly underestimated the time they would need to make comics and given them a long scene (poor things), so none could complete the effort. But they did have a gala time and I requested them to complete the comics at home and email them to me. Hope some do.

Some pictures that my dear, dear Ashwani who always comes with me to workshops, took. Enjoy 🙂

If the pictures don’t open in your browser, see them on either of these links: Google+ or Facebook depending on your choice of network.

Comic fundas at Bookalore festival

Here it is #Bangalore. Have been roped in to give comic fundas to kids (9-13 yrs) in the upcoming Bookalore event by the amazingly sweet children books author Asha Nehemiah (whose sheer number of books can shame Jack and his tall beanstalks!). The workshop is all ready with a spine-tingling scene from The Ghost Hunters of Kurseong.  I will also talk about my experiences in creating comics, taking examples from Krishna Defender of Dharma and The Skull Rosary. Will be doing it with illustrator and artist, Ojoswi Sur (who was kind enough to say yes in such a tight schedule!)

Spread the word or come by if you have kids in the age groups of 9-13. Open to all.

1-Bookalore - July 2014 V2






The Skull Rosary nominated for two awards!

There are times when you write for the heck of it. And then there are times when you are forced to write just so that you can somehow, somewhere collect, announce, record, and remember all the awesome things that have been happening to you. This one is a latter kind of a post. A lot many good things have been happening to me and I am overwhelmed. So this is not to all you readers. This blog is meant for the future Shweta Taneja. Food for her days which will be bleak and black and without hope. For her to remember that good things and then bad things happen in a continuous cycle. And what’s low will go up high soon enough.

The Skull Rosary has just been nominated for The Best Writer and The Best Cover in the Comic Con India awards. The latter was kind of obvious all thanks to the amazingness made by Lalit Sharma and colourist Yogesh Padgaonkar (hello, have you see the cover?). But the first one comes as a delightful, extra scoop of chocolate! Am basking in the surprised glory.



And there’s more! Krishna, Defender of Dharma was named as a must read in CBSE School Reading List for 2013. The credit goes to the awesome artist Rajesh N, who quietly works in shadows on a desk in Campfire Comics.

Meanwhile, The Ghost Hunters of Kurseong, my darling novel which was never to have been written, has been written, has been published by the awesome Hachette India and is slowly cuddling up to little ones and warming up to people in the media. Read reviews spread across the web: Citizen Matters, Niticentral, The Hindu and elsewhere. I am also doing a detective workshop for it next weekend. Come over!

And even that’s not ALL. I have managed to sign a three-book contract with a really, really good publisher for the fantasy book series which I have already dreamed to write and have written part 1 of. That will will be announced soon and separately. Meanwhile, I will go back to writing Part 2 Smile

But really, wow. Too much. Overwhelming.

Krishna tweetathon

Krishna commands you to come out with all the weird questions about Krishna: Defender of Dharma and ask them on Twitter. I will be there as will be the talented artist of the graphic novel, Rajesh N (@rajeshcolors) and Campfire (@campfireindia) to talk about how we created this marvelous book. Join us at #krishnacampfire  tomorrow evening at 4.30pm.


Twitter POST copy

Me on Krishna

Made this video for Comic Con India where Krishna was announced. My first attempt at trying to make a video. Slightly embarrassed! Hope you can see the humour in it or well, you can always laugh at my horrid attempt of video making, can’t you? 🙂 Go on, see it!



Thanks to Uthara for working on this with me and pushing me to try a bit harder (am crazy lazy at retakes as she can tell you at length).

Villains are not evil, just different

Don’t you think so? I have always enjoyed figuring out my villains and why they do things that they do. Are they inherently evil or are they just misled? What is it they are fighting? Because fight they do, constantly, against social norms and status quos.

During writing Krishna, I met many villains, each with a different point of view, with a twisted (not necessarily a bad twist) philosophy and something ‘bad’ that they would have done. Krishna would punish them, decisively, unquestionably, with righteousness. He had to, since he was restoring dharma, a philosophy to prosper civilization, bring justice and equality. Personally, I am not sure how much I would agree to his ideology but I know there are millions in India who would still consider his path the status quo.

For me, each of these so called villains were point of views – different from Krishna’s ideology—which come in the mythology. They are punished, sometimes undeservingly, but their philosophies are never explored more in the story.

Take Kansa for example. Is he really the evil uncle? Or is there more to him? By not respecting Indra, is he actually fighting a war against the hierarchy and unfairness of gods who have labelled him and the demon clan inherently evil? Are these not his gods, but of others who are alien to him? We never find out his point of view, just broken parts of it, as the mythology is not about him but Krishna.

Kamsa 1


Then there’s Jarasandha. He’s a good king, his kingdom is prosperous. His rule is just. He’s powerful and has a mighty army, so refuses to bow down. Why does Krishna want him dead? The given reason is that he has captured princes of other kingdoms after defeating them, but frankly even in the Purana, it doesn’t feel like a good enough reason. Krishna devises a convoluted, sneaky way of killing off the mighty king. I wanted to find out more about Jarasandha, but unfortunately, yet again, our mythology is more focused on Vishnu’s avatar.


JarasandhJarasandh 1


In both these cases, are villains just the other point of view, a view which might be an alien culture, a different way of civilization or simply the unknown? While writing this book, it was difficult for me not to ask these questions. I hope these cracks show through in the book as well. Have you read the book? Did you see these cracks?


All sketches are drawn by Rajesh N and are copyrights of Campfire

Krishna’s beautiful video

This video of Krishna’s awesome graphics by artist Rajesh N was shown at the launch of the graphic novel. Check it out!



If you would like to pick up the book, it’s available online on Campfire and Flipkart as well as in the stores across the country. Like it? Or hate it? Tell me about it!

At ComicCon with Krishna

I had been living with oodles of butterflies this past few days because of the impending launch of my graphic novel Krishna, Defender of Dharma. For anyone who has written or made anything for public consumption, the living fact of putting something you worked on, which has bits of your flesh and blood clinging to it, to be judged, slashed and made a two second opinion of, is a daunting task. Hence the butterflies.

Andrew Dodd who calls himself the Marketing Wala of the publisher Campfire was a soothing balm on my nerves. He’s fun, relaxed and such good company! The artist, Rajesh Nagulakonda, who frankly should be given way more credit than me for the blue-tinged beautiful visual and poetic journey that Krishna has become. He wasn’t there but we did see a video grab of him looking uncomfortable in front of the camera. He’s  completely opposite when faced with a blank paper and pencil. Just like me!

I did something I had never done before except while dreaming in class. I signed my name on copies of Krishna. The oldest buyer I met was in his 40s and the youngest was 5 years old. For the little girl I wrote: Question everything you read in here. Hope it was good advice.

My first launch has made me learn one very important thing. At the end of it, if your friends are not there with you, you sit alone in the car and drive back home instead of heading off to celebrate and laugh. A special thanks to all my friends who were there to make it a memorable buzzy evening for me: Thej, Dilip, Prasad, Kanch, Giraffe, Kanishka, Arundhuti and others—thanks for the wishes, encouragement and time and effort it took you to reach the venue! I don’t know what I would have done without you all! Hope it was worth it for you all as well 🙂

Now time for some pictures and video grabs.

The video is a bit shaky. I will try to get a better version.