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.)

The Skull Rosary in The Hindu (Tamil)

The Skull Rosary, a graphic retelling of Shiva’s darkest stories, whizzed past me in between the launch of The Ghost Hunters of Kurseong and completing Cult of Chaos. I couldn’t even tell my friends about it much, or think about how lovely the book turned out to be. I still quote it every now and then, because I experimented so much in that book and had such a great time creating it. (It also surprised me by winning a nomination for Best Writer in Comic Con India)

So it was great to be tagged to an article from King Viswa who writes for the Tamil edition of The Hindu. He compiled a list of top-ten graphic works in English and Tamil and claimed the graphic novel to be one of them. Over to him.


The Best of the best: 2014’s Top 10 Sequential – Digital Graphic Novels and Sequential Art


Dear ComiRades,

Last Year was a fantastic one. Was reading so many lovely books.

Continue reading “The Skull Rosary in The Hindu (Tamil)”

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.

The necessity to talk of things taboo

I recently went to Comic Con Mumbai to launch my graphic novel The Skull Rosary. The week before it was maddening; last minute edits, waiting, back and forth and the general nervousness before anything goes to press. The one thing that struck me, and struck me hard again and again was a sense of self-censorship that we as creators – me as a writer and Vivek Goel as an artist as well as the publisher of the book –  were applying to the book. We were all slightly scared, of putting out things that might offend. And in a book which was made to offend, we softened things that shouldn’t have been softened and loaded it with disclaimers. I bet we will still get some angry emails and posts and tweets. After all, self-righteousness is fashionable in the society.


Talking about transgression, or things that are taboo, that deviate from the norm is important today for us as creative people and for readers. Especially since we as a society are becoming so rigid, so unacceptable of other point of views recently. Upon just seeing The Skull Rosary’s summary, a journalist asked me if I wasn’t skeptical that this book and the way we portray Shiva and other deities will cause protests. Because protests by those who think their religion and moral stance is better than others’ is a done thing in our society and happening a little too often in our country. I answered yes, sure. Everytime some boundaries are breached, some people have a problem. You can’t help that. But as a storyteller I am willing to take the risk because stories have always been and will always be about questioning the status quo, to become a mirror to the society.

As a creative person, it’s not a choice for me to break boundaries. I write, I create because I want to break boundaries. I want to question the status quo, to force myself and the readers to look at our own filth, to touch it, gobble it, taste its grubbiness.  I feel it’s my duty to transgress in everything I create, to explore the darkness inside and outside of us. For if that doesn’t happen in stories, then how will change happen? How will we progress? Move onto something new? Become (if it’s possible) better?

The Skull Rosary for me was all about exploring taboo subjects. The idea behind all five of its stories, whether its dialogue or art was to break down boundaries, both of the story and of the graphic novel as a structure. Brahma’s fifth head explores the issue of incest and is written in verse form because rhythm touches the soul in a way language can never do. So you have poetry which was inspired by the Greek Furies in comic format. The blind demon is the story of Andhaka who is blind and consumes by the desire to see. What happens when you get consumed by a desire? When it eats you up whole? So much so that you can cross any boundary to get there? Prahlad’s dream even explores what happens when a god gets drunk with desire. Then there’s the Oedipal complex, where a son desires his mother. That’s in The Other Woman. In Goat Head, a king lets his daughter die because for him a status in society is more important. These stories explore our filth, our dirty secrets and our evil sides.

Shiva to me represents everything that’s taboo in our society. He teaches us to accept everything, even those in the fringes. He’s okay with murderers, thieves, sexual deviants, prostitutes. In other words he is the guy to go to if you are on the fringes of the society. And in a society that is shrinking in acceptance, more and more people are going to the fringes, to that which is considered unnatural, taboo or unacceptable. Hello, Section 377 anyone?

On another note, the novel I am writing currently is also feeling the pressure to be self-censored. In every sentence I write, the censor board in me tries to soften the crassness, the violence, the frustration, the expletives. Sometimes I bow to it, but mostly I try and ignore the moral police inside of me. As I keep hoping that we as a society will learn to do as well.