Halahala Rising

It is no good creating something that is merely entertaining. I would like the readers to come back to the book because they have new things to think about or discover every time they read it” – Appupen

With less than a thousand likes on his Facebook page, the uninitiated might believe that George Mathen is just a new kid on the block experimenting with ideas and colours. But closer inspection will make you realise that fame on social media and the ability to go viral has very little to do with great art. A self-taught artist, George Mathen is a brave man. Not only did he give up his full-time corporate career to pursue his love for art and visual story-telling, he also gave the world Aspyrus- a rebellion against a world defined by commercialism and consumerism.

Far from the war-struck world we saw in Moonward and far from the silent laughs of Legends of Halahala, Aspyrus is quite simply about an idea that manages to take over the entire world. “It is an embodiment of a lot of things,” begins Mathen, also known as Apupen. Derived from the Malyali word Appu, it literally translates into “wise old man”. “I do not understand how most people don’t get the dangers of advertising,” he continues. “With one trend taking over our existence and immediately being forgotten with the introduction of the next one, being creatively responsible is quite alien even amongst the creative at times,” he says.

Though Aspyrus grew from an unreleased part of Moonward (2009), it took the shape of a dark comic, thought provoking and visually brilliant in 2014. Divided into three parts, the mostly-silent Aspyrus starts with a dreamer giving birth to a dream cute and adorable in a city created especially for it. As the act ends, Appupen introduces words that makes the book easier for the uninitiated to understand.

Act II sees the dream grow larger, leave the confines of its city and take over the world. And of course, he becomes grotesque and monster-like- soon assuming the shape of a dragon. But Aspyrus is nothing like the noble dragons we encounter in fantasy- he feeds on the minds of people and enslaves their thoughts. But in Act III, there is redemption in the form of a young girl who fights the monster responsible for the death of her father.

Satirical, sarcastic, thought-provoking and darkly humorous, the blue-tinted pages of Aspyrus does not let down the fan in me who eagerly waited for the next instalment of stories from Halahala. Though all the stories of Halahala belong to the same fantastical realm, they shouldn’t be mistaken as sequels. They are merely stories of another world presented to us through the eyes of the friendly neighbourhood storyteller- Appupen. As Aspyrus is all set to release, he confirms that there are more adventures from Halahala heading our way soon. And with reliable whisperers letting us know that there might be an animated series in the making, fans can only cross their fingers and hope…