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The Suicide Artist – Process

Since I’ve been doing comics for a while now, and I haven’t been posting here much (although I have been posting very regularly on the Daily Fiction blog), I thought I’d do a process post how Nitin Veturkar and I create a comic.

Most of our comics before we started on the Kindle magazine gig were adaptations of prose stories I had already written (like this one and this one). There, Nitin did the adaptation, and I only gave him notes on his thumbnails, but left the rest up to him. Then I would edit the story for lettering (removing descriptive passages that were already presented by the artwork). With the Kindle gig, we are using the full-script method which is de rigueur in the comics industry.

This is Page 1 of the 4-page comic we’ve done for the October issue of Kindle Magazine (out in a couple of weeks – pliss to buy, True Believer). It’s called ‘The Suicide Artist’ (part of the basic concept was contributed by Trisha Ray).

Usually, I start with a very informal story-cum-treatment which is more about what happens than about how it happens. There’s very little description, a few bits of dialogue and zero formatting. This is just for me, my zero draft.

And then slowly, it turns into a script, with panel breakdowns, descriptions, dialogue, and after I’m done, I format it into a legible thing with two fonts – one for descriptions, and one for dialogue. It looks more or less thus:

PAGE 1 (5 panels)

Panel 1

The first row of the first page is split into two parts. The first part, covering around one-third of the width, is blank. The first panel covers the rest of the width – two-thirds of the page. The title and credits will go into the blank space.

by Aditya Bidikar
& Nitin Veturkar
(with thanks to Trisha Ray)

Panel 1 is a wide panel. The top half is empty, except for a wall clock saying 3.30. Under the  clock, covering the rest of the panel, we have a view of a line of office cubicles. There are, let’s say 4 cubicle areas visible in this panel – so there would be eight/six people sitting in them. Four in the foreground, four in the background. Let’s say the cubicle arrangement is as follows:
1 | 2 | 3 | 4 – background
5 | 6 | 7 | 8 – foreground
The people in seven of the cubicles are sitting. In this panel, we can only see one character. Basically, the person sitting in the right-most cubicle (cubicle 4) in the panel has gotten up and is trying to look into the cubicle beside him (i.e. the cubicle 8).
This is our hero. Clean-cut young man, around 22-23, works in a call centre. Probably wearing a tie. His name is Manik.

MANIK: Tina, the boss is asking for you.
MANIK (linked): He says you’ve been on a call for nearly 54 hours.

Panel 2

Smaller panel. Everyone else in the cubicles (except for Tina) has heard that and is now standing up and trying to look into Tina’s cubicle (cubicle 8).

MANIK: Tina?

Panel 3

Mostly the same as panel 2, except Manik is now leaning into Tina’s cubicle. He looks a bit shocked.

MANIK: Tina!!

Panel 4

We see a view of what Manik is seeing. A top view of Tina’s cubicle. A cubicle covered from three sides (left, bottom – where Manik is, and right). Sparse desk, a vase with flowers that have withered. The call control system in front, with the headphones on Tina’s head.
And finally Tina – who has been dead for three days. She is slumped on her office chair, with her head thrown back, looking at the ceiling. Her eyes are open, as is her mouth. She is wearing a salwar-kameez. And although she hasn’t started rotting yet, her skin has gone wrinkly and sunken. She looks a bit like an old woman, but she is very clearly dead.

(no dialogue)

Panel 5

This is a shot of a corridor. To the left, there is a set of chairs, and Manik is sitting on one of them. Beside him (on the other side from us) is his boss, who has a hand on Manik’s shoulder. In front of Manik, two ambulance attendants are wheeling out Tina’s body on a stretcher.

BOSS: I’m sorry, Manik. You and Tina were close, weren’t you?

I send this to Nitin, and to my editor and a couple of preliminary readers. By now, Nitin knows that this is less a set of instructions than a set of guidelines, and since I will be lettering the final comic, he can take a bit of freedom to frame and draw the panels while keeping the essence intact. Usually, we have already discussed the visual style he’ll be using. He sends me a set of thumbnails or pencil roughs, which look like this:

I give him my feedback regarding clarity and a few things that I think should be changed (usually very minimal), and then he sends me the actual artwork.

And then I letter it in a vector program, sometimes adjusting the script to fit the artwork. This time, to go with the cartoony style, I decided to use slightly more brushy balloons than usual, and thinner balloon tails to imitate newspaper comic-strip lettering. And then we get the finished page. Like so:

‘The Suicide Artist’ will appear in the October issue of Kindle Magazine.

May 2010 in Books

Trying something new. I forget too much of the stuff I consume, and I think I need to note things down so I can remember them better. Will hopefully be doing this every month for books and films.

Reading this month was sadly light. There are tons of books lying around which I am yet to read. Usually I tend to at least consume a fair number of comics per month, but that didn’t happen this month either. Will be trying to change that in June.

Terry Pratchett – Going Postal: Reread, for the fourth time, if I remember right. Still my favourite Discworld book. By this, the 33rd book, Pratchett is like a well-oiled machine, and Discworld runs pretty much on its own steam, but in this one, he shakes things up properly, introduces a new main character, employing different tricks from his bag, even restructuring the presentation to an extent. Moist von Lipwig is a find, the best new character Pratchett has created in a while, the charming cad who has more depth than just that. In both this book and its sequel, Pratchett essentially compresses the timeframe for a major societal change into a few days and makes the whole book come together better and makes the story flow smoother. I could have said I reread this in anticipation of the upcoming movie, but really, I just love this book to bits.

Warren Ellis – Frankenstein’s Womb: A very short, pleasant read. A history lesson mostly to do with Ellis’s new obsession – the hyperconnective tissue of culture. Much like Do Anything, except further back in the past (and obviously not featuring Jack Kirby’s robot head). With some rather marvellous artwork to boot. Well worth a read, and perhaps a couple of rereads. Beautiful artwork.

Warren Ellis – Two-Step: An old pop favourite. Amazingly fun cyberpunk-ish action thriller/romantic comedy, with Ellis channelling both his inner juvenile and Garth Ennis (one might argue they’re the same). Conner and Palmiotti’s artwork is heavily inspired by the MAD practice of inserting as many background jokes into panels as possible. The combination works out to be a heady kinetic romp with plenty of hidden jokes to go over later. Apart from some unpleasantness with a couple of male rape jokes, this one’s a keeper of a book. Sadly overlooked among Ellis’s more famous creations. Take a look at it here. (Link mildly NSFW. In short, there’z boobies.)

Tomorrow: May 2010 in Movies.


Just testing the ‘post by email’ feature. Let’s see how this does bold and italics. Here’s a link to get you through the day. A quote from it:

The sources said Helzer apparently tried to kill himself by jamming pens in each of his eyes.

And a picture to look at (a Moon and Ba comic strip):

Daily Fiction

I have launched a Daily Fiction blog yesterday. I will be posting one story every weekday on this blog. The first two stories are already up. You can visit the blog at the following address:

What You Don’t Know Can Still Hurt You (Repost)

I’m reposting my first comic for Crossed Genres magazine’s initiative to raise money for the Haiti earthquake relief effort – Post a Story for Haiti. There are many more stories at the link. Go read them, and please click on the links and donate.


Image credits:

Images used under a Creative Commons license:
y mírate y mírate…

Lettering font by


I am extremely pleased to announce that one of my short stories – a little fairytale called ‘Woodwork’ – is being published in the print and online editions of Crossed Genres magazine.

You can read the story here.

Book-Haul Diwali 2009

So after keeping my emotions about books in check all through this year’s Landmark Sale, I decided to make a visit on the last day of the sale, hoping that the available selection would have been reduced, and I wouldn’t end up bankrupt as I usually do. I did just fine. Went over-budget by only 50%, which is good because my usual is around 200-300%. This continues my couple-of-months-long streak of not splurging on books till I read enough of the ones I have.

So, as usual, here’s a short, mostly uninformed set of opinions on some of the books I bought. It’s essentially an annotated list, but I’ve linked to stuff this time so you can take a look for yourself.


I decided to get myself some comedy, for one thing. So it was extremely fortunate that there was a Robert Rankin book on sale (The Toyminator, sequel to the rather awesome The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse), and one by Jasper Fforde – The Fourth Bear. This one isn’t part of the matching hardback set I talked about some time ago – it’s a paperback, but I haven’t read this book, and I can always give this copy away when I get the matching set.

I also saw Eoin Colfer’s Hitchhiker’s book, And Another Thing …, but I decided not to buy it just yet because looking at it just made me sad.

I found a lovely hardback of Good Omens for Rs. 149, with this sort of flippable dust cover, so you can choose the white angel cover saying ‘Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman’ or the black devil cover saying ‘Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett’. It was a pity I couldn’t find more copies to give to other people.

I bought a couple of books for a friend – a second copy of Daniel Kehlmann’s Measuring the World (I haven’t yet finished reading the copy I own, because a friend ‘borrowed’ it fairly quickly), and Death by Chick-Lit by Lynn Harris, which, of course, I’m going to read before I give to my friend.

Which reminds me, I got one ladlit book (for myself) – Love and Other Near-Death Experiences by Mil Millington – and chose not to get one by Mike Gayle because that dude sucks at endings.

I missed out on buying Best New Horror 15, because I thought I already had a copy. Turned out I had Best New Horror 12. But anyway, I’ve got way too many anthologies at home which I still have to read, and also, Landmark had something like five copies. It’ll stay. Speaking of horror, I got Joe Hill’s Heart-Shaped Box, which I’d been craving for a while. I also got Transgressions 2, which has a story by Joe Hill’s dad.

The find of the day originally seemed to have been Eagle Annual: Best of the 50s (featuring Dan Dare, apparently ‘the Greatest Comic Strip of All Time’), but it turned out to be more of an interesting artefact than something of actual reading value. Still, cheap!

I tried to renew my old allegiance to sci-fi by buying Black Man by Richard Morgan and Spook Country by William Gibson. (Proof I’m a bad sci-fi fan? I’ve only read the first 30 pages of Neuromancer – I got bored and stopped.)

Assorted weird books that stood out from the (rather large) pack – Lost Souls by Michael Collins, Time Was Soft There by Jeremy Mercer (a memoir centred on a bookstore), The Discomfort Zone by Jonathan Franzen (a holistic memoir, it seems), The Testament of Gideon Mack by James Robertson, The Somnambulist by Jonathan Barnes (New Victoriana), Rain Dogs and Love Cats by Andrew Holmes (bought due to the Tom Waits connection, and currently reading) and The Insatiable Spider Man by Pedro Juan Gutiérrez (nothing to do with Peter Parker).

Also bought my first Jeanette Winterson (Tanglewreck) and Simon Spurrier’s first (Contract).

Finally (did you notice how I reserved it for the end, didja, didja?), I got Electric Feather, mainly because I wanted to finish reading the Samit Basu story excerpted here. I finished this book last night, by the way, and it was quite interesting. I’ll be writing a review soon. All in all, I’m glad I got it. You can read Ruchir Joshi’s introduction here on Nilanjana Roy’s blog.

And that’s all for this shopping spree. I don’t have the usual feeling of shame and huilt at overspending, which makes me happy. And these’ll last me for a while, don’t you think? Yeah, right!

‘The Last Defences of Mankind’ Comics Adaptation

Anomaly1sPlease go read Nitin Veturkar’s comics adaptation of my story ‘The Last Defences of Mankind’. This is the first of many comics we plan.

You can also read the original story on this very blog here.

Notes on Kaminey

I have no inclination to do a proper review of Kaminey this late, and, looking at the sheer number of reviews out there, you don’t need another review, and neither do I. These are just notes. Some spoilers ahead.

  • It’s a very good movie, but not a brilliant one. Could’ve been plotted more tightly. I don’t think it should’ve been shorter, but that more things should’ve happened in the same amount of time. Apart from the scripting, I don’t have any major complaints. The music was used well, the camera was used carefully and lovingly, the editing was appropriately intense. (Also, could someone tell me where I could find the song that was used in the climax but wasn’t on the OST? That was nice.)
  • The film crashes into the climax rather than leading up to it. The climax felt dissociated from the rest of the movie. Which brings me to …
  • The plot of the movie did not feel inevitable like a good pulp story should. You should never have to doubt why this happened in this way. With Kaminey, right in the first half hour, I was wondering why some things were happening as they were. If pulp feels arbitrary (which it always is), it makes it too easy for the house of cards to fall. All of which is a roundabout way of saying – lazy plotting. Not very lazy, but I expect better from Bhardwaj.
  • The characters were fine. They made me think about their motivations. Again, not always brilliant (Amole Gupte, for example, does a lot of good work with a character who’s barely sketched out beyond formula), but worth talking about.
  • Shahid Kapoor did a really good job with his dual role. There were moments when his innate Shahidyness showed through (mainly in Guddu), possibly due to his training in the Bollywood star-based cult of personality, but Bhardwaj managed to turn him into the actor whose potential I saw back in Jab We Met.
  • One of the best parts of the movie for me was the homosexual/homoerotic relationship between Charlie and Mikhail (played by Chandan Roy Sanyal as a weird, sensual and rather scary guy). I liked the ambiguity about whether these two were in an actual relationship or had a mutual unrequited love for each other which they couldn’t express due to being Indian manly men. This mirrored the escape route Bhardwaj seems to have left for the insecure straight male who wants plausible deniability and will insist they were ‘just bros’.
  • I admired the directorial choice of leaving Guddu mostly ineffective right to the end. Someone else might have shown him doing something, but, apart from a couple of half-hearted kneejerks, he remains a sap.
  • Sweety (Priyanka Chopra) was the most interesting character in the movie. Shady, playing her cards very close to her chest, fiery to a fault, her brother’s sister to the core. She should’ve been given more screen-time.
  • The choice of interval was odd. It might’ve made more sense a few minutes later, just before the daybreak scene. But I think it was a legitimate experiment on Bhardwaj’s part, just one that didn’t quite work for me.
  • The plot was not a difficult one to understand. As my cousin said to me when we were talking about the movie afterwards, this might be the new Matrix in that it might become fashionable to say that it was a difficult movie but you managed to understand it. It’s not. If you didn’t understand what was happening, you’re a moron. Understanding it doesn’t make you unusually smart. You just had to pay attention.
  • It should be silly to feel good about something that is only right and should be ubiquitous and normal, but I felt happy seeing the words “based on an idea by Cajetan Boy” at the beginning of the movie.
  • I’m going to watch the movie again, sometime. I’m not in a hurry to do so, but I think I should. In spite of what griping I’ve done, it had the unquantifiable ‘It’ factor.