The release of Mixtape, fans say, is all set to propel Indian Graphic Novels to a whole new level altogether. We have a quick chat with Pratheek Thomas, co-founder, Manta Ray, to know more about… well… comics.
An anthology of comics that roughly hit the shelves once in two months, Mixtape boasts of 3-4 original short comic stories. A platform for new and even established storytellers, more than the stories itself, it is quite a treat for the eyes. “All the stories are contributed on a pro bono basis, and ALL the revenues from the digital sales of collection and royalties from the print collection go back to the creators,” explains Pratheek Thomas, co-founder, Manta Ray.
An idea in the brewing since the very first ideating sessions, Mixtape is an idea that the guys at Manta Ray have held close to their hearts for quite a few years now. “This is an idea we have had since 2009 inspired by Flight, Out of Picture and other such anthalogies we were reading then.” continues Pratheek.
And needless to say, the journey from ideation to the release was nothing short of exciting. Delving deep into the matter, Pratheek reveals to us that the initial idea (in August 2012) was just to do digital collections… “It was always an experiment, and luckily our cast of creators (who are also our friends) were all willing to chip in, though it took us 5-6 months to put it together. (First books are “A collection of diverse short comics by some of the most exciting upcoming storytellers in India today.” always like that, I guess). The digital release (DRM-free PDF format at 55/-) didn’t set the world on fire, but there have been quite a few takers, and there still are. The beauty of Digital is that the books are always available.”
And the experiments and excitement did not stop there! “And we wanted to experiment again, so we did the print version, and we used brown paper in the printed book which gave it a unique look and feel. We released this version (along with Preludes, the intro issue to our first series last week) and the response was fantastic! Since it was an experiment, we started out with 100 copies, and it was sold out at the event itself,” he grins. Currently working on Mixtape 2 (which will release at Comic Con Bangalore), work has already begun on the third issue as well!
While most publishers of the country turn to look at longer works, there are stories out there that need to be told. And sadly, the only way to get these stories out would be to self-publish or put it online. “So for a storyteller, it is a platform to publish their short story ideas and also reach Manta Ray’s audience, and beyond that too. For a reader, it’s a chance to discover diverse kinds of comic stories by these new creators. It’s also a chance to support such creators directly, where the publisher doesn’t get in the way, as much as possible,” he continues.
For a publication that is already so successful, the absence of it’s charms from shelves on major bookstores and online stores is surprising. Till Pratheek explains it all to us… “The big bookstores are all shifting focus from books to toys, stationery etc. They don’t give us any visibility, and yet their discounts are so steep that there is no advantage in stocking with them. Online stores also have a similar issue. Their discounts are steep, while they don’t give us much added visibility.”
And by visibility, he means, if both bookstores and online stores could have a differentiated section for Indian comics, it could make such a difference. “Or feature newly released comics amongst the the other new releases. But I guess the monies that comics bring in today aren’t sufficient to garner such an approach from traditionally thinking stores – offline and online,” he ends.
But wait! That is not all Manta Ray has to offer this year. The Small Picture, their weekly comic in Mint completes 2 years (and 100+ TSPs) in August and they also aim to bring out 10 new comics this year! “That’s a big leap for us (considering that the only book we had brought out so far was Hush). We’re also exploring the possibility of doing some one-shot comics (20-30 page self-contained stories) outside of both these line-ups and maybe a longer work. But these are more like wishlists,” Pratheek signs off.
And for readers who have teased enough to check out the first issue, this is where you should head!