Friday, April 14, 2006

A Picture full of Life!!!

Graphic Storytelling. It’s an art on its own. Just like telling a story, the theme may vary right from being totally extraneous to embarking upon our minds significant National as well as international issues. However, Comics and comic strips are perhaps indispensable entities in our lives today. When we read the daily newspaper we just impulsively turn to the comics section, and dive straight into the mixed bag of 4/5 comics. They always seem to finish without giving enough pleasure. They are always too less for the craving-for-more souls like me.
Starting in a certain sequence, a daily comic reader never follows the sequence as given by the editor. It is personal choice – whether you want to save the ‘best’ for the last, or vice versa. Time constraint? Never for ‘sequential art’!!

We all have our favourites. However, the main intention of almost every strip is to lighten the moment, to tell a situation and to make the reader laugh. And when this is attempted with the aid of words and pictures, it’s a treat all the way. The words maybe plain yet sardonic and the pictures may come to life instantly in hazy forms in our minds. The types of characters define what is being said, and how it will be dealt with. There are some comics, which can be understood only when you have grown up a wee bit. The humour is dry, and a child simply cannot comprehend it. Wizard of Id being one of my prime childhood agonies.

My first brush with Tintin goes back to class 5th days when I would just love to go through the colour pictures. After almost 12 years from then, I realise I have grown up with Tintin. Each book is a marvel and when you lay your hands upon a new one, the first thing you do is sit back and complete it. Tintin is a hero who gives me hope, relief, entertainment taking me away from day-to-day reality. Herge's fine detailed sketches, the comic's high repeat value, strong story scripting, and the spirit of adventure all make each Tintin comic different from the one read before. His pet dog Snowy is an adorable companion.

Teen life can never be complete without The Archies, the teen love and high school triangle with funny situation always brings on a smile. Poor Dennis, the misunderstood naughty child has never grown, but always manages to be ‘cute’. One of my favorites, Beetle Bailey always manages a spoof on army life, if not normal existence of countless others outside the rigidity of routine. And of course, the very Indian - Uncle Pai’s Tinkle and Amar Chitra Katha.

Political cartoons are another category all together, but to be honest, none other than Laxman with his common man have managed to keep me glued.

So what is it that differentiates comics? To me apart from the characters, the interest is spurred by the
Narrative – it has to be easy to follow
Drawing – interesting yet neat, expressive strokes
Fun factor – witty or endearing, the point is it should be worth noticing

However, there are some comics, which are just so endearing, and transcend all time-age barriers. Calvin and Hobbes being one of them.

“The surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that it has never tried to contact us.” - Calvin

Personally I feel that Calvin and Hobbes is one of the most effective comic strips to be written. It is insanely funny and at the same time conveys the meaning of life through a small kid and his tiger, something which is so much necessary in this world of violence and sadism where all that we read in even comics are the adventures of superheroes, Batman, Superman, Pac man (?) and the gang.

Calvin: what’s it like to fall in Love?
Hobbes: well……say the object of your affection walks by….
Calvin: Yeah?
Hobbes: first your heart falls into your stomach and splashes your innards. All the moisture makes you sweat profusely. This condensation shorts the circuits to your brain, and you get all woozy. When your brain burns out altogether, your mouth disengages and you babble like a cretin until she leaves.
Calvin: that’s love?!?
Hobbes: Medically speaking.
Calvin: heck, that happened to me once, but I figured it was cooties!

I got initiated to Calvin and Hobbes just a few weeks back. Hmm, I can sense those mouths dropping out and astonished expressions on the faces of all those who are reading this, but.......
Anyways, how I got intitiated??

He : Haven’t you ever read a Calvin and Hobbes?
Me: Nope. My grand dad used to tell me stories though. I don’t know why I never picked those comics.
He: You have wasted your childhood. You can make up for it now though.

I decided to make up for the loss of not having read a single Calvin and Hobbes ever. Grabbed two books – Something under the bed is drooling and Yukon Ho!

There are many reasons why it has become special to me now. This is one of the rare comic strips, which makes me laugh, and laugh until my eyes get watery, until my stomach is swollen with pain and the sides are aching. It pulls open the curtains to make me see the brighter side of life, and many a times there is an underlying message in it. Bill Watterson’s brilliance lies in bringing out that message in the subtlest way.

Hobbes: how come we play war but not peace?
Calvin: Too few role models.

Not necessarily is there a message with each strip. The essence of a comic lies more in the word play, at which Watterson seems almost perfect. I can so connect with the character of Calvin. He thinks school can do no good to him. He dreams a lot – during sleep and during day. He wants everything his own way. He can go wild with imagination. He can blame the earth’s gravity for a snail’s slow pace. He is curious and immature. He thinks bigger than his brains and Hobbes aptly supports him. Hobbes goes to highlight the height of Calvin’s imaginations. Hobbes comes to life only around Calvin, otherwise he is a stuffed tiger – something the author has used beautifully to create a semi-fantasy world, where he could shift between reality and fantasy just as easily as he wants to. What is not hackneyed here (thankfully!) is that Hobbes does not come to life to play with Calvin, Hobbes is rather a philosopher who knows little about humans but derives conclusions about them based on the happenings around. Its just awe-inspiring how Watterson takes you on a journey of entertainment par excellence with just a few square cartooned boxes and plain conversations.

Calvin: isn’t it strange that evolution would give us a sense of humour. When you think about it, its weird that we have a physiological response to absurdity. We laugh at nonsense. We think its funny. Don’t you think its odd that we appreciate absurdity? Why would we develop that way? How does it benefit us?
Hobbes: I suppose if we couldn’t laugh at things that don’t make sense, we couldn’t react to a lot of life.

Watterson never whips a single philosophy, which is another best aspect of him. His light touch with deep thought is what kept me thumbing compulsively through the books.
There's absolutely nothing to dislike about this comic. When authors write comics, they attract two kinds of audiences, both of which are diametrically opposed in opinion of the author's work. I haven't met one person who hates Calvin and Hobbes, and it's because of the way Bill Watterson expresses himself through all of the characters in such a way that anyone can understand, and even assign a personality to the character to make it a completely and undoubtedly unique experience for every individual. The characters are flawless in their simplistic, but sophisticated style, and their thoughts and feelings are communicated perfectly through the great writing skills that Watterson displays.

Alright, this is almost turning into a comical nostalgia. A picture full of life, ain't it? So, what is your comic?


Anonymous nishu said...

hey, My fav is Dilbert all the way!! :-)and this post brought back my memories of reading comics. Nice post dear :-)

7:07 AM  
Anonymous nishu said...

I like Calvin and Hobees too, though :-)

7:08 AM  
Anonymous Nishant said...

garfield?? How could u forget him?? Actually, he's a lot like me or vice versa maybe. acha post hai.

9:52 AM  
Anonymous Charlie Chaplin said...

Suppandi from Tinkle - favourite character aur Archies was a major craze. Meri sis aur main bohot padhta tha. Zyada Indian hi padhaa hai like Chacha Chowdhary and Chandamama, Champak aur Tinkle toh all time favourite tha. Bohot mazaa aaya post padhke. Bole toh ekdam Jhakkas!!

11:44 AM  
Blogger Dhananjay Shettigar said...

Hmm...So I found a mention here as well. C&H is not a comic strip. Its LIFE.
Used to read a lot of Champak and Chandamama during childhood and that too by straining my eyes in the darkness of a chaddar. Those were the days...

9:44 PM  
Blogger Abhi said...

I grew up in a very emotionally disturbing locality where kids initiated me to stuff such as chacha chaudhary , super commando dhruv and naagraaj.Then my mom took away all my comics after she found out I had been hissing like a snake and runnin after my sis after reading a rather bulky volume of naagraj.Was obsessive about betty during teens and Jughead used to be my god.Dilbert is what keeps me alive these days.And yesh , a new post is coming up soon.

9:55 PM  
Anonymous Mintu said...

Ise kehte hai changaa post!! Calvin RULZ!! I also used to read a lot of Tinkle. Suppandi and Kalia the crow. Hehe!! mazaa aaya post padhke :-)

11:49 PM  
Anonymous Anand said...

Awesome...very well written. Well chosen words and a gr8 flow. A complete delight!!

2:05 AM  
Anonymous Meghna said...

Hey, am back!! Bohot time k baad tere blog par kadam rakhi hai. aur Waah!! Waah!! kya post hai. Absolutely enjoyable. My favourite is Archies - all time!! I also used to read Dennis the menace, though.

Btw, Tu aaj kal online nahi hoti? busy bee :-)

u take care and keep writing such wonderful stuff, dear Surya

7:45 AM  
Blogger aShWiN said...

Watterson does not compromise with his conscience. His sincerity is one of the things that make the cartoon so unique. We can all relate to Watterson's amusing way of bringing to light the CHILD IN ALL OF US. I can't comment any more C n H,
'as it is against my religious principles'!
I dont manage time to check blogs regularly. A friend of mine insisted to go thru ur current post. She told me its all about CnH and fabulously drafted! I agree...nice post indeed!...

4:49 AM  
Blogger CruciFire said...

Heyya buddy, a very 'touching' post indeed as I have been a cartoon/comic lover for years (will be till the end of my life i guess..).. I have always believed that after we grow up we tend to lose the innocence within us and comics/cartoons are the only things that bring a minute's smile on our faces preparing us for a day full of grind ahead... will surely write one one my blog too...

11:58 PM  
Anonymous Varunwa said...

great post, yaar!! Calvin and Hobbes is the best anyone can ever come up with. Was fun reading those dialogues from the comics in ur post.

2:27 AM  
Anonymous Anita Fernandes said...

Its been really long since I visited your blog. Why? infact, any blog. No time actually.
And what a post! extremely good, surya dear. I love Calvin too. I also love Garfield and Beetle Bailey
And how have you been? long time, no see.
Keep blogging

7:56 AM  
Anonymous Acharya said...

Nice post. Though some of my favourites - asterix and Indrajal Comics didn't find mention.How about another blog about cartoons??

12:50 AM  
Anonymous Sanaa said...

Nice post. Have you read The Better Half by Glasbergen? Pretty Hilarious!!

10:41 AM  
Blogger aShWiN said...

U ALIVE??..Last Post-April 14!..
to quote u.."abey, abhi tujhe kya ho gaya? please blog"..u go the point!

12:04 AM  
Anonymous meghna said...

Oye, marr gyi kya?? may the devine soul rest in peace

5:27 AM  
Blogger Bombay Addict said...

firstly - where are you ? why no post for ages ?

secondly - if you're a hardcore C&H person, then buy the ltd edition of the collected C&H - some Rs6K, leatherbound, awesome book, every C&H cartoon every written by Bill W is there in this official compilation. worth every rupee...even if horribly expensive.

1:07 AM  
Blogger Surya Ragunaathan said...

@ Nishu - Dilbert, yeah....he's pretty good. Thanks dear

@ Nishant - garfield?? mm...actually I didnt forget him, but he was just loo lousy to be part of this post. Just like you? or vice versa? :-)

@ Chaplin - hey, I like Suppandi too...Chacha Chaudhary and Sabu was a fav with me too. Baaki, Tinkle ka toh I had like bundles. Thanks for the comment.

@ Dhananjay - yeah....I know. even I used to read Champak and Tinkle under the pull-over with a torch light untill my dad found out one fine morning when the torch rolled out and fell at his feet.

@ Abhinav - Super Commando and Naagraaj-never quite touched these in my life...Hilarious comment (as usual) I must say

@ Mintu - Hey, thanks mate!

@ Anand - Thank You Thank You!

@ Meghna - Hey, how are you? thanks for your comments and I do come online once in a week, at least.

@ Ashwin - Thanks to you and your friend. And yes, Watterson is truely sincere and thats why he is a genius.

@ JK - yeah....comics really take you into a fantasy worldshing your mind entirely and when it comes to C&H types, they also enlighten.

6:03 AM  
Blogger Surya Ragunaathan said...

@ Varunwa & Anita - Thanks both of you for the comments and those mails. I hope you know by now that I am alive :-)

@ Acharya - Hey, I totally forgot about Asterix. Yes, I also used to read a lot of it...I dont know how it slipped off my mind...Indrajal I hardly read. A post on Cartoons - Sure, very soon. Thanks you for your comments.

@ Sanaa - i have read a few strips of Randy's better Half...Not the entire thing. Thanks, now that you have said, I shall grab a copy.

@ Ashwin & Meghna - Zindaaaa hooon main...kiske liye....(to be sung on top of my lungs :-)

@ Bombay Addict - Sure will. C&H is worth a million Dollars :-)

6:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I say briefly: Best! Useful information. Good job guys.

6:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very best site. Keep working. Will return in the near future.

10:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Where did you find it? Interesting read » » »

11:32 PM  

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