“One can be lonely in midst of a crowd”, no one understands that more than people who live in cities. The urban jungle chews you up and spits you out. Yet it has moments of humanity that can hearten even the darkest cynic. Won-Tolla, an indie publishing house, steps into a world that is not only real, but at times surreal. Right amidst what a lot of enthusiasts choose to refer to as the “comic boom in India”, independent publishing in India, has perhaps never seen better times. Characterised by aesthetic appeal, mature storytelling and thought that wanders away from ideas both mythological and superhero oriented, the stories that Won-Tolla has to share can be defined as “unusual” in one simple word.
Guided by the belief that comics are to be heard and seen, writer, Chaitanya Modak, like the lone-wolf, an intrinsic part of the identity of the publishing house, also believes that readers need to be shown this world of comics with nothing short of a snarl. “There are mythological stories for kids and superheroes for young adults. And nothing beyond. It is in this void that Won-Tolla howls,” he smiles. With a long way to go to establish themselves in the world of Indian sequential art, his latest releases at the Mumbai Film and Comic Convention 2013 reassured me, as a reader, that some promises made are fulfilled. From rituals that saw their rise in ancient times to important lessons that remained untaught in school, both “The Oracle of Tripe” and “The Manual of Love” cannot particularly be termed as social commentary, but the not-so-subtle stabs taken at eternal wisdom evoke smiles.
Set in ancient India, “The Oracle of Tripe”, co-created by Benita Fernando, explores ideas in the form of religious poems, coming out from the mouth of prostitutes. Delving into subjects like belief, rituals, and sacrifices, both human and animal, the plot of the graphic narrative focuses on an oracle, wise and red hot- quite literally. An idea that took off in the dreary pubs of Bangalore, The Oracle of Tripe gives readers a taste of the unique and a glimpse of different experiences. And though the creators choose to refer to this as a rather “serious cock and bull story”, the book showcases enough evidence to prove that this was in no way a half-hearted effort of generate laughs and gags.
“The Manual of Love”, set in an urban jungle we are all so familiar with, boasts of imparting lessons that should have been taught in school, but never were. With epic battles of the sexes, flings, one night stands and of course, love on the rocks. In a country where being tagged a criminal or falling prey to honour killings based on choices in love is nothing out of the ordinary, but these lessons urge us to spare a thought or two about this universal emotion. “The Manual of Love ponders on the three choices a man faces: stay a monk? Become a couple? Go with all who come your way? All three require enlightenment (almost) to pull off with any level of success. The first instalment of the manual introduces you to these choices,” Modak explains for the benefit of those who are yet to be initiated into reading this. By exploring questions that have forever been intrinsic to the thought of love, Modak believes that this in no way is a satire of any sort.
With more titles like Et Tu Brute; I’ve Got a Bike, You Can Ride it If You Like and The Parrot’s Tale exploring more emotions and experiences of the human psyche, this is one independent publishing house that leaves you with smiles and room for thought.