This isn’t the first comic called Hush I have read (there is the Batman comic of the same name, and I enjoyed reading it too) but it is the first comic called Hush about which I have a backstory.
Almost a year ago, maybe even further back, two young men, Pratheek Thomas and Dileep Cherian, wrote to me (after reading this column) about their comic book publishing venture Manta Ray. We exchanged a few mails and Thomas and Cherian promised to come and meet me with a copy of their first book.
Angular: There is subtle geometry in the way the panels are laid out.
A few months later, much to my surprise, they did.
The book they came with was Hush, though I’d personally like to call it Hush Lite because the format was much smaller than the current one that has been published. I liked Hush Lite for several reasons. One, I like it when young people try to do things like publish comics. It reminds me of all the things I wanted to do but never did. Two, I liked Pratheek and Dileep. They seemed like good kids. Three, I liked the simplicity of their text-less plot (the story was by Pratheek). And finally, I loved the illustrations (by Rajiv Eipe).
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But I hated the format of the book that made it look like a propaganda brochure from some activist organization.
I told Thomas and Cherian as much and, since they are still at an impressionable age, they decided to change the format. Bless them.
The new Hush is almost the same size as other comics, and the bigger size merely serves to make the story even more compelling (despite the fact that it isn’t different from some other stories we have read) and the illustrations even more striking.
The plot is dark and it is apt that the illustrations bring to mind elegant charcoal drawings. They are original in style, not borrowing their look from the sources most Indian comic book illustrators turn to—mythology, the funnies, American superhero comics, manga, even heavy metal.
And, either by design or accident, Manta Ray has mastered the elusive art of panel play.
There is a subtle geometry to how the panels are laid out. Some pages have multiple longitudinal strip panels, in sequence, across the middle of the page. Others try other things. The result—which was probably the first thing about the book that appealed to me, although I didn’t realize it till much later—is among the best designed comic books I have seen in a long time. It is a bit pricey at Rs 195, and, in the interests of full disclosure, I am one of the people the writers and publishers thank at the beginning of the book, but I would still recommend that you go out and get a copy of Hush—if only to ensure that Messrs Thomas and Cherian have reason to publish more comics.
R. Sukumar is editor, Mint.
Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org