Twenty-nine-year-old, Bengaluru- based artist George Mathen’s first graphic novel Moonward promises a dark and elaborately constructed fantastical universe quite unlike other Indian graphic novels seen in recent times. NISHA SUSAN interviews Appupen alias Mathen:

Moonward is part of a series?
Moonward is a standalone graphic novel but also the prologue to a series. Here I tell the story of a world called Halahala, leap forward a few millennia to a tiny village and then from there to the beginnings of a city. We follow Nana, who is born in this village and believes he is God. He meditates, replaces his hunger with pride. Nana becomes the personification of a corporation, the kind of mysterious entity which makes rules for the world and screws it over.

A man traumatised by television laughter, a planet made of cheese that shrinks as it’s eaten by mice — the anxieties of urban life seem to be your major themes.
These are themes I plan to explore a lot in the series. Since the protagonist arrives in the city towards the end of this book, I only begin these explorations here.

How long have you been planning Halahala?
Several years. And then two years of drawing this book. When this one went into production all sorts of new ideas came up. I could not stop drawing. That is why I am including 100 free pages online — edits and extras.

Over 100 pages of Moonward are also without text.
That’s true. I am really much more of a visual storyteller than a writer. I also try different styles for different stories. Keeping your style the same across stories is for factory produced comics which put superheroes in uniforms.

Which graphic novels do you like?
I like Will Eisner’s storytelling and the way he designs his pages. He has ways of ensuring his frames do not restrict the forward movement of the story. A row of buildings in one frame becomes the border for the next frame. Sometimes, waves of smoke from the top to bottom of a page seperate the panels. Spiegelman’s Maus was the one that really started it off. I like Lewis Trondheim who tells his stories with just pictures and sometimes alien scripts. Other favourites are Brian K Vaughan’s Pride of Baghdad, Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns series, Jeff Smith’s Bone and Uncle Pai’s Amar Chitra Katha. Some of Hayao Miyazaki’s animation is very close to my idea of perfection.

What about the narratives?
I used to get irritated that such brilliant production values — beautiful paper, great binding — went into the telling the story of a guy who is pretending to be a loser. I don’t want to read what he did that morning. I don’t like autobiographical graphic novels much. When the drawing is neglected, I don’t buy them. They are extremely expensive so sometimes a huge pile of Amar Chitra Kathas are a better bet.

And Indian graphic novels?
I am not really into them. They seem driven by the writing rather than the drawing. There are many new ones that I haven’t read though. I think we’ll have a much more fleshed out scene in a few years — it’s really picking up. Tejas Modak’s Private Eye Anonymous was entertaining and he was trying out new things within the genre.

What’s your next project?
I am slowly figuring out Halahala’s rules. Nana grows more and more powerful and fat! The next book is a set of 10 short graphic stories about love.


the pride of baghdad was just sso good to read ,very different and interesting !!
this from someone based in Bangalore .. woohoo .. im grabbing one copy too .. soon !!

March 2, 2011 at 11:10 PM  

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