We at Comic Addicts are proud to introduce you to a new Indian Comic Imprint that has the potential to rock the very foundations of the Indian comic scene. The new fresh and upcoming META-DESI TALES Imprint by our very own Akshay Dhar, writer of smash hits like Werehouse (for Holy Cow Entertainment), Retrograde (for Pop Culture Publishing) and our editor-in-chief here at Comic Addicts).
The Meta-desi imprint hopes to become a fertile creative collective where there are no contractual obligations beyond what you want to do, which is very similar to the notion synonymous with Image Comics westside. As we have seen, no corporate mandate and total creative freedom can yield results in the form of some really amazing comics. It is thus, that we have high hopes with the Meta-desi imprint.
Their first project is called Ground Zero, a huge 44 page comic anthology which would give you 6 diverse stories, 5 of which are written by the man Akshay himself.
We caught up with Akshay to understand more about the project in detail and we even managed to twist his arm into sharing some more exclusive sneak-peeks at what we can expect!
1. Hi Akshay. Good to have caught you with some spare time to talk to us, what not with your job, running comic addicts, creating comics for publishers and now becoming a publisher yourself! you definitely lead a busy and perhaps enviable life.
Thanks Mayank and yeah, it is a pretty hectic life, can’t tell you if it’s enviable but thanks for saying so! But stressful or not, it feels good and I’m just happy to be getting chances to do what I love to do more than anything – spinning all manner of crazy stories!
2. Tell us how did the idea of running your own publishing unit originate?
To be completely honest, it was never about being a publisher really. My approach from the start was always to create an imprint with a specific purpose : CREATE MORE CONTENT!
Publishers in India (like Pop Culture, Holy Cow, etc.) are all doing brilliant work but like any new industry/medium, money limits how much content can be created and I felt like there was a big want amongst fans – like you and me – for more variety and more people creating them we were being able to produce so far.
I looked at anthologies like 2000AD in the UK and Heavy Metal in the US and (more recently) Creator Owned Heroes by Image comics and it occurred to me that it was a great way to get a big mix of stories for all kinds of fans out there at one time.
3. Why the name “Meta-Desi”?
The term “meta” will be familiar to readers of superhero comics in the phrase “meta-human”. The word META means something beyond a previous state and I like the idea of creating stories above and beyond what is the familiar – India has such a rich story-telling culture to draw from and be inspired by the way people have adapted and recreated so many western myths and legends like Thor and Norse mythos, Christianity, Egyptian gods, etc.
Why not here as well?
4. Your first project is an anthology , why go for an anthology rather than a full comic?
Simple : because a full comic is limited by default to one genre, one set of main characters and such. An anthology allows for what we’ve got here, a mix of artists and art styles, different stories for different fan-tastes – all inspired by, based on and in India.
5. Tell us what are we in for if we buy Ground Zero ?
Man, hard question! I’ll try and keep it simple. I’ll take this one at a time:
“A Day in the Life” is drawn by the amazing Abhijeet Kini and it’s a short and weirdly bitter-sweet story of loss and of the need for closure and a friend – real or otherwise.
Then there’s “The Mirror Cracked” which was done by the biggest name here – Vivek Goel (Ravanayan, Aghori) – and it’s basically a fictional India in the past where people are anthropomorphized animals and is actually a bit of a love letter to all the old samurai movies like Kurosawa, comics like Lone Wolf And Cub and stories of Ronin’s and the like.
“Equality” is actually not my work at all – it’s the kind of thing I hope for more of down the line. It’s completely the creation of Avik Kumar Maitra who was my artist on Retrograde. It’s a dark tale about conformity and is beautifully drawn in a somewhat noir-ish style.
Ankur Amre is a very talented guy who I met through Vivek actually and he did “Things Big and Small” for me a while ago and it’s been retouched and coloured for this reprint. Nothing over the top, it’s essentially a story built out of seeing the ‘party-scene’ that we all know at various points in life and is a bit jaded at points but an look at life for a young person in that crowd in India.
Next there is “Super Soldier Squad” by my friend Anant Sagar. One of the most straight-forward things in the anthology, it’s an action-packed adventure that lives upto its title with Indian super-soldiers. Anant is a manga-style artist and we talked about doing a comic ages ago and when I started on the anthology I realised I couldn’t leave all the amazing manga/anime fans unspoken for and so we went for it!
And last but nowhere near least is “The Last Baqani” by Sahil Rao who I met through a graphic designer friend of mine and we just clicked creatively. It’s set insanely far in a fictional Indian past and is very high-fantasy with monsters and magic – and a whole lot of violence! He has a wonderfully painted style and eye for detail I think readers will really love.
OH! And this list can’t be complete without mentioning the very talented Sammi Lenker from Pennsylvania (USA) who came on board on extremely short-notice and not only agreed to do some colouring work for us, she is doing THREE stories (Viveks, Ankurs and Anants) and she has one a great job!
*phew!* How’s that?
6. Sounds like a very diverse portfolio. Do you think its going to be too much in too little space?
Are you kidding? I’m terrified! But then again I’m doing this for the first time so I’m a little scared of everything and every decision.
Honestly though I think readers will appreciate having such diversity and some of the stories will carry on in future volumes so that’s a lot to look forward to I think, don’t you?
7. Talk to us about your partnerships with various artist. You are working with established forces like Vivek Goel to so many new entrants.
It’s been brilliant getting to flex the creative muscles like this in so many directions and I have all these guys to thank for putting up with me. If I had to pick a hard part, unquestionably it was working with and coordinating so many people in so many parts of the country! Only one of the guys was in the same city as me!With Vivek I have very little to say beyond the fact that we just work well together. I annoy, aggravate and drive him up the wall with some of my scripts and details and brain-storming sessions but I think it works because he enjoys a challenge and it shows in his work if you give him something worth pushing harder for and he is constantly trying to improve. The fact that he’s agreed to also do the cover for us amid all his busy prep for the convention means a lot to me and I’m grateful
With Avik, this piece was his baby but I will say that I enjoyed the time we worked together on the 1st two parts of Retrograde and it’s great to see him spread his creative wings here like this!In the case of Anant, he’s a friend from before comic creation so we have a different kind of rapport and unlike the other artist on this list, we live in the same city which believe me makes life so much easier! We laugh and joke a lot and argue like hell over layouts and panels but eventually we managed to work things out. As a self-taught artist and un-formally-trained writer, he and I have a very rough and haphazard way of approaching our comic but I think it led to a finish that worked out better than the original plan.
Abhijeet and me, we’ve been meeting at conventions around the country for a couple of years now and always talked in passing about doing something so when I decided to undertake this project, he was among the first names on the list and he graciously agreed and has produced a lovely little story that I think turned out better than either of us had thought. Sahil and Ankur were both introduced to me through other artists I knew and I wanted to have a nice mix of trained, untrained, familiar and new names contributing and both these guys are a great fit. Both are trained and practiced artists but neither was a comic artist prior to this really. Ankur and I knew we were going to be doing a comic and did, possibly the easiest comic for me in this anthology! With Sahil though it was a longer process, we were slowly world-building this story months before I even thought about this anthology, I’d come up with stuff, we’d brainstorm it and then he’d use that to create samples and designs which eventually became the basis for his story
8. What was the most challenging aspect about the transition from comic writer to a publisher?
Seriously, I can’t tell you how much I kneel before the guys who deal with the logistics and finance and all that because it’s really hard! It’s so much nicer to be the creative person behind everything but as a first timer to getting into the publishing part of things, it is taking some getting used to and doesn’t help the nerves.
9. What are your aspirations with Meta-desi comics? Can you talk to us about your forthcoming projects
Nothing too grand – my aspiration is simply that it finds enough of a market and success that I’m able to produce more of these and eventually produce at least 3 volumes of Ground Zero a year. I want it to be a place where we can tell a mix of multi-part stories over many volumes alongside short tales of all kinds and I most importantly want this to be a place where seasoned AND aspiring writers and artists can submit to individually (or as a team) and interact with each other and give the audiences something truly different.
If things go well, perhaps down the line we’ll be able to give the truly exceptional creative teams a chance to produce a mini-series of graphic novel like Image has been doing, but that will be some time coming.
10. All of us know you are a pretty big comic addict. But when it comes to writing comics, who are some of your inspirations that you want to draw on for your writing style.
I try my hardest not to channel anyone in particular or be overly influenced, but realistically that’s impossible!
The writers who’ve most influenced my view on stories and telling them are a mixed bag, off the top of my head I’d say : Philip K. Dick, Warren Ellis, Frank Herbert, Grant Morrison, Ed Brubaker, Jack Kirby (hail to the king baby!), Neil Gaiman and Peter David
Thanks Akshay, we hope you tremendous success with Metadesi comics … hope to see bigger and better projects from you.
Stay tuned to our site for continued coverage on Ground Zero as we go behind the scenes and talk to all the artist, yes all 6 artists whose works are on display here!
A Comic enthusiast (total geek) and reads everything from western to Indian to Manga to Franco-Belgium comics, Owner and Contributor of this site.
Since he lives in India, sourcing foreign comics has always been a problem but he still manages even it means taking part in an infinite civil war of crisis. His dream combines two of his biggest passions, Comics and Travel :- To go on a “comic trek” from one major comic publishing country to another and meet other comic fans out there and bask in all the geeky glory.