When Chai Gake Law and Arijit Gupta’s daughter turned one year old, the couple had quite a dilemma. Though they wanted to make the day as memorable as possible, this self-proclaimed ‘unsocial’ couple did not want to go through the tried and tired party formula that most parents seem to swear by. To make the day special, they decided to do something that would stand the test of time. They decided to make a personalized comic for Maya on her first birthday!
Titled Kagazu: The Greenie, this superhero comic dedicated to Maya stars an eco-friendly superhero. One who emulates all the little quirks Maya boasts of! Inspired by Maya’s paper-eating habit, Kagazu the superhero also eats paper. And every time she does, a new tree grows somewhere. And the umbilical cord around her neck? That’s her way of protesting against the polluted world she is growing up in.
Though the work Comicstrippers does is unique and interesting, Law and Gupta choose to shy away from most of the limelight. “We are very unsocial and it makes us uncomfortable to try and explain the idea we have to anyone,” smiles Law when asked how she would introduce this new idea to those who haven’t been exposed anymore. But a little more than a year from Maya’s first birthday, Comicstrippers is something that enthusiasts are talking about in hushed whispers. And with each day, their fan base grows little by little- after all, the idea of personalized comic books offers your relief from badly written mythological adaptations. The one “type” that essentially defines the Indian comic book industry.
And how do they work their magic? After receiving a brief from a client and figuring out if deadlines can be met, Law and Gupta start on the process of creating the comic. While Law loves to tell stories and is fascinated by what people have to share, Gupta makes her stories come to life with cute illustrations! Though they have created personalized comics mostly about people and their stories, Law admits that these stories fascinate her even though she is quite the introvert. “People have interesting lives! So much happens to regular, everyday people… and I feel happy to realize that they want to share those stories with me.”
While their most detailed work till date was a large canvas depicting the life of a 21 year old as requested by his mother, they have also created comics on a platter and also some that helped individuals who have wanted to spread awareness about social issues. “The one we made about sexual harassment was for a client who wanted to inform women about what entails sexual harassment in a workplace. Most women are not quite aware of the details,” says Law. They are currently working on a graphic series depicting women’s rights.
Though the work Comicstrippers does is by far superior to most Indian comics we see lining up shelves in bookstores, they confirm my fears- the inability of most people to take comics seriously and the unwillingness to experiment with ideas that are yet to be explored. “None of our clients have given us the freedom to experiment with art. We would love to use Indian art for stories, but not too many people seem to be interested,” sighs Law, who like me has learnt some of the most valuable lessons in life from Calvin and Hobbes.