Released late last month, Pratheek Thomas and Rajeev Eipe’s debut graphic novel, Hush, is a short story in black and white. It is a dark, complex narrative about the events leading up to one catastrophic act of violence. Its thick brush strokes tell a story in shadows: frames focused closely on the faces of the principal actors play out in quiet, brutal sequences.
Hush’s publisher is new comics publisher Manta Ray Comics, set up by Thomas with former classmate Dileep Cherian. In their mission statement in Hush, Manta Ray declares its intent of producing “books that will do something”. Earlier, Lounge spoke to Cherian about their new label, Hush and future plans. Edited excerpts from the conversation:
What is Manta Ray Comics?
Manta Ray is an independent publisher of comics and graphic novels, catering to an 18-plus audience.
Who are the people behind it?
Manta Ray is founded by Pratheek Thomas and Dileep Cherian. Both of us have BTech degrees in mechanical engineering. Pratheek went on to the National Institute of Design (NID) to study product design and I landed up in advertising, in O&M (Ogilvy & Mather), Mumbai.
What drove you to set up an independent comics publishing house?
Pure madness. But yes, seriously, we believe that there are people out there who would like to read original stories with good art. There is an audience here for mature comic books but now they have to be content with the best books published in the US or translated from French. We believe we can do better than rehashing mythology for a Western audience and tell some new stories.
Where are you based?
Is there a particular type of comic or graphic novel you are looking to publish?
It’s tough to pinpoint. Each story is unique and we are looking for original stories, so there’s nothing to compare it with. But I’d say we are looking for “real” stories, good, original stories...stories we ourselves like reading...these are the kind of stories that we would like to publish.
Give us examples of some styles or titles that Manta Ray’s editors love.
Some of our favourites are actually industry benchmarks: Blankets, Sandman, Persepolis, Maus, 100 Bullets, Hellboy. We also like undiscovered gems like Scalped by Jason Aaron, Demo by Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan, Blue Pills by Frederik Peeters, and The Killer by Jacamon and Matz.
Tell us why ‘Hush’ is your first book.
Hush is a graphic short story, written by Pratheek and illustrated by another talented creator from NID, Rajiv Eipe. It is a unique story in many ways. With Hush, we wanted to nudge at perceptions about comics in India and push the limits of what a comic book can do. That is all I can say at this point, so that we don’t give away any spoilers.
What are some of the other works that we can look forward to over the next few months?
We have a limited series planned. It’s not a continuing series. It’s a set of individual stories, with no recurring characters, but there is a theme that ties them all together, and which makes each one part of a larger whole. The series is due to release in early 2011.
What or who are your inspirations?
This is a long list. Among writers and artists we are big fans of Neil Gaiman, Craig Thomson, the Brazilian brothers Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba, Brian Wood, Becky Cloonan, Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso, Frederik Peeters, Frank Miller, Art Spiegelman, Marjane Satrapi, Mike Mignola, Paul Pope.
Among publishers we admire the independent guys who are managing to bring out great work, like Dark Horse, First and Second, and D&Q.
Hush (34 pages, Rs195) is published by Manta Ray Comics with two additional large-size colour posters created by guest artists.