Category Archives: Personal

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.

TITLES: THE SUICIDE ARTIST
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.

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McSweeney’s Book-Haul

I’m writing this post essentially to test out the capabilities of Windows Live Writer. I’ve heard a lot about it, and looking at the interface, I can see why people like it.* It’s simple, intuitive, and lets you concentrate on the writing part of the whole thing.

* I know! Praising a Microsoft product without reservations. Who’d have thought?!

***

Around half a month ago, The McSweeney’s Store had a garage sale of sorts. What they did was take out everything in the attic – the old books, the slightly chuffed ones, the ones nobody wanted for that price – and offer them on sale. I bought those on a friend’s credit card (fully intending to pay her later, of course), and she then announced that they were my birthday gift from her. Another friend of mine who was coming over from the US brought them here for me. One of these had a torn dust-jacket, the other two were simply slightly chuffed.

McSweeney’s #13: This was the comics issue of McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern. This was edited by Chris Ware. There are some text pieces in this which verge on, but generally manage to avoid, the hissy ‘comics are literature’ tone. The comics themselves seem to be excellent, ranging from 1842 to 2004 (when this was printed). I haven’t read the whole thing, but it is a lovely-looking hardcover. 263 pages of salty goodness.

Maps and Legends by Michael Chabon: One of my favourite writers writes a whole non-fiction book. Reading Chabon’s non-fiction is always a pleasure. It feels like chatting with an extremely clever, interesting acquaintance. (His fiction, by the way, can be slightly too fluffy or fatiguing at times, but only because he’s always ambitious.) I’ve started on this one, and every reason I like the man’s writing is coming back to me.

Curious Men by Frank Buckland: This guy, it seems, is one of those old English oddities. Except that this one was interested in other oddities. This book is made of 12 essays culled from the thousands of pages written by Buckland. I’ve read a couple of these, and though they are slightly dry at times, they are never less than interesting.

So these are my latest literary conquests. There’ll be more, and you can rest assured I’ll bore you by talking about them.

Why Booksales Are the Devil’s Work. Also? Debit Cards.

NB: I am offering my copy of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Book 1 for sale. Refer to third paragraph from bottom for details. Sold to the James Hetfield wannabe against one bottle of beer.

I was standing in line at the Landmark check-out counter this evening with my bucketload of books. And this guy rushes to the counter in the other line, plunks down one book (which was *shudder* a Jeffrey Archer) and pays in cash, and I think, money looks very expensive when you see it in pieces. There’s three hundred-rupee bills, and it seems a lot to pay for one book.

My conquests, on the other hand, came to around ten times that. But that was okay, because I was paying by card. So I didn’t actually have to see the swathes of money disappear from my account and reappear across town in somebody else’s.

But, while that gave me pause, I finished my shopping anyway. You know why? Because I was getting them cheap. When my friends talk to me about books, it’s sort of like when men taunt women about buying things they don’t need just because they got them cheap. Actually? It’s exactly like that.

Over the last year, at a variety of booksales, I have bought books that I didn’t need because (a) they were shiny-new, (b) ooh look how much they’re cutting the price – never mind that the books had been rotting in the store till I saw them and would continue to do so if I just left, and (c) it’s still fucking worth it. You buy ten books at the price of four. You like five. You hate two. You give/throw them away. You don’t read three. You’re still up one book.

So essentially, I’m unrepentant. Sue me. So what if I always have less money for food, drinks, clothing and computer peripherals? Thank goodness I don’t have to worry about rent. I’d have been homeless by now. Saving is for wusses. Books are where it’s at.

Speaking of which, today’s haul:

2 copies of Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean’s MirrorMask picture-book. Two different editions, both hard-back. One 7×7, one 10×10. I’m going to give one of these to a friend. But I’m deeply conflicted about the one I should keep. The larger version is, obviously, larger. (L: 1, S: 0) But the smaller version looks more compact and readable for me as an adult, and it has a dust jacket with a rather lovely texture. (L: 1, S: 2) But the smaller one’s cover lists the authors as ‘Creators of the National Bestseller Coraline’, which is not sodding true, and the larger version lists them as ‘Creators of the Bestseller The Wolves in the Wall’, which is. (L: 2, S: 2 minus a very large number) And the larger one would be more readable for my niece. Which shouldn’t really be a consideration because, when she learns to read (years in the future), I’ll give her a separate copy which she can tear up to her heart’s content. So I think I’ll keep the large version and give the small one to my friend, who is an adult, and who’d, I think, like something that wouldn’t break if you sat on it (which is more of a danger with adults than with tots).

I also bought three SFF collections.* Also very cheap (one was for 125, against an original price of more than Rs. 1000). One’s a Best of Fred Pohl (refer to this). I’ve read tonnes of his stuff from the school library, but this is only my second buy, I believe. The first was a novel whose copy was so old that it disintegrated at touch.

* I buy a lot of collections. Because theoretically, it takes less time to read short stories than novels. But only in theory. In practice, I find myself choosing the novels.

One book that I didn’t buy, but which I very much wanted to, was a copy of Jasper Fforde’s Something Rotten, one of my favourite funny books. But I don’t have the rest of his Thursday Next series, and this copy wouldn’t fit in the set when I buy it.** So, in spite of being a hardback at a mere Rs. 200, I forsook it for the eventual, more expensive, matching set.

** They had this copy, and the copy that fits in the set looks like this. Also (psst, psst), that one was a US edition. With, as we all know, spelling mistakes.

And, wonderful person that I am, I bought another copy of the first Hitchhiker’s Guide book. In spite of having a boxset. Well, you see, the boxset is like this: Commemorative Editions of Books 2-5, which consist of a photograph of the first edition cover for each, and matching spines. But Book 1 is a film tie-in edition, with a film tie-in cover, and lots of extras – photos, interviews, notes on the making, all that, including in-depth thoughts on how the Arthur-Trillian romance was the right thing to do (to be brief, it wasn’t) – all of which I didn’t really want. So I had a boxset that didn’t match. You can see my predicament? Today, on the other hand, I found a copy of the first book, which was, wonder of wonders, a Commemorative Edition. With cheesy cover with needless embossing, no extras, and (this is where you can almost hear me having an orgasm) a matching spine!

So I’m going to sell off my copy of the film tie-in edition of the book. Anybody wants to buy it? Make me an offer. Note that this is only Book 1. It’s more-or-less pristine (‘like brand new’ in sales jargon), it has a new cover with a still from the movie, and it comes with lots of nice extras (mainly about the movie) which you might like (but which I didn’t). I’d prefer someone from Pune, of course, but we can work something out. My email ID, as also given in the sidebar, is: adibidi (at) gmail (dot) com. If nobody makes an offer, I will probably give this away to one of my non-H2G2-educated friends.

I think that’s quite enough ranting about booksets. I’m not usually that anal about matching editions. I’ve got a hundred different editions of Stephen King books, for example. And I actually avoid the matching cover editions of Michael Chabon books, because the matching design is printed on paper that gets dirty real fast. But I prefer sets of books which are supposed to be sets – such as trilogies (Samit Basu’s books – which I have signed editions of, by the way – for example, or the Alexander trilogy) or series (Mike Carey’s Felix Castor books, Bone***).

*** This actually only comes in one edition, but I wanted to mention it because I also have signed copies of these books. And I got to meet Jeff Smith. It’s been almost five months and this still makes me break out in a grin.

NaNoWriMo

This post is a few days late, because I was ill and looking at a computer screen made me feel like someone was driving crystal nails through my skull at the rate of 60 Hz/sec.

Anyway, I am taking part in this. I sent the following mail to people who would directly affect my getting through it:

Dear near and dear ones,

This email functions as a combination of a declaration and a request.

In the month of November, I will be embarking on the exciting (as far as that’s possible sitting in one place for long hours) and tiring (which is, well, true) task of writing a novel. From 1st November to 30th November, every day (except for 29th November, as far as I know), I am going to sit at my desk and write. At the end of the month, I am supposed to have written more than 50,000 words. I might or might not write that much. I might or might not finish the book in approx. 50,000 words. If I don’t, I will continue to write in the same routine till it’s done.

I am making a big chart, detailing the book. You (those that live here in Pune) are permitted to doodle on it and make your mark in approx. 1/50th of the chart per person. No more.

Here’s what I need from you. I won’t be able to get out much in this time. I believe this task will take me around 3-4 hours a day. I’m not entirely sure. I will be when I start. So during November, you are required to be comparatively silent about your weekdays fun activities. I will mostly not be getting out of the house on weekdays. I will be getting out of the house on non-working days, mainly because I’ll have enough time to both write and have other kinds of fun. Anyhow, don’t be too tempting. Thank you very much.

Other than that, you will, hopefully, be helping to keep me on track. Once or twice a week, someone should ask me where I am and if I’ve done what I was supposed to have done by then.

That’s mainly it. At the end of November, we will see how it has gone.

Thanking you.

Yours reclusively,

Bidi.

As a show of solidarity to the project, here we go:

NaNoWriMo Participant

Fail …?

The city is being prettified these days for the Commonwealth Youth Games. There are shiny new signposts on roads, there are reflective cat’s eyes being pasted at regular intervals so people can see where the road ends at night, and the stripes are being repainted every which way.

Which is all a bit sad, really. This drive to show people that we look good, when, for the rest of the year, they can see that we don’t. We’re not the kind of country where people don’t know what we don’t tell them. Everyone with reasonably clear eyesight sees us as we are. It’s a bit like a chronic drunk suiting up for a wedding party. The clothes might be clean, but the reddened eyes with bags under them and the belly poking out between shirt buttons tell the story.

Some of it is mildly heartening in a sad way. Not all of the new shiny signposts are bilingual, you see. Some of them are written only in Marathi. Which, while unfair, may imply that not all of it is being done for the visitors – some of it is for us. On the other hand, it might just be that somebody in the department plain forgot, or perhaps thought that the money kept aside for the English part of the sign might be put to better use lining his/her own pocket.

***

I went to More the other day, as I sometimes do – mainly because they seem to have lots of useful and useless stuff side by side, which makes pointless shopping easy on the shopper – and I realised they had this odd security check which stank of bureaucratic ineptitude to me.

I did my shopping and came out and reached the security counter (this is the place where you have to put your bags before you go into the store). The guy at the counter there asked me for my bill (and, get this, not for the bag of shopping). He then stamped the bill (without checking it) with a ‘Delivered’ stamp, and gave it back to me.

I am, obviously, at a complete loss to understand what happened. And the same happens in stores all over the city. Is it a holdover from an original plan where the counter was situated inside the store? Is it actually supposed to be a longer process, involving him checking my shopping, but somewhere along the way, the actual relevant step got eliminated? Or is it simply supposed to be a customer mindfuck conspiracy within More? I think I actually like that last idea.

***

A sidenote – I was reading the Discworld Companion last night, and came across this:

Pratchett: … I’m mildly optimistic about Maurice, though, because one guy in Hollywood said ‘no one will want to see a movie about a bunch of rats’. That has the feel of a phrase that he’ll one day regret. You know, like ‘no one will want to see a movie where the ship sinks at the end’.

Ahemheh.

Where We Are

Currently researching the smoking bans around the world for a little project for the evening. Surprisingly, I am fine with most of the bans. Except for the hospitality sector – the blanket ban on that is plain silly. Thank fuck we don’t have those here in India.

But seriously, why do people want to smoke in places where other people also want to be (for whatever demented reasons of their own)? You wouldn’t expect someone to be drunk in the middle of the street or drugged off their tits and it to be considered normal. So what fuckwits are these that think that because smokers don’t usually step in front of cars or wrap their knees around their heads out on the road and scream, “My face! My face! I am a new species of human and I have no face!”, they should be allowed to smoke everywhere?

But yes, there should be places where it’s allowed. And what better places might these be than the ones where you are already indulged in killing an exponentially increasing number of brain cells using fluid that is, in part, poison – i.e., bars? Not all of them. Some might be reserved for those who want to be smashed in one way but not another. Choice, damn it, choice.

***

I am currently sitting next to my window, in the sunshine, with a pair of jeans drying next to me, and I’m thinking it isn’t cold enough. (Paddy, you idiot, global warming!*) Just a few days ago, the temperature went down to five. And while we were frozen**, we just couldn’t resist getting out of the house at 1am, trudging out in the thick, crackling air and getting a hot coffee, y’know, to warm ourselves. And the next day, it wasn’t cold enough anymore.

* In-joke. Ignore.

** Five might not be that cold for some of you (especially one particular overly couth bastard sitting in Manchester), but here, where we are used to having our brains steadily simmering at a temperature slightly above that in a very warm arsecrack, it means it’s cold enough that we could pull our hair out in clumps and it won’t hurt.

We have a theory. Some of my friends (and me) take quite a few trips up and down from Mumbai to here. Every time someone arrives in Pune or leaves, the weather changes. We are like the guy in the fourth Hitchhiker’s book. Except we take it in turns. (I know someone who could turn that sentence into something very dirty. In fact, so could I. You can have your own ideas.)

So one chump from Mumbai went back there, and everything working perfectly dandy till then suddenly went balls-up.

How did I get onto the temperature? Oh yes, it’s 11am, and my pants are drying much faster than they should, and I can barely see the text on the monitor in the sunshine. I draw the curtains, but they blow inexorably and vengefully in my direction, thus forcing me to choose between a literally hot head and a very cluttered, tea-covered desk.

***

(Later the same day, as they say.)

These days, we (my little group of friends and I) are building a picture of the mental culture we inhabit together. We send each other what we find interesting and think the others will as well. We have an idea of the mindspace we share, after several years of feeling our way towards it. It is like a Venn diagram, except it’s a lot more misshapen and organic, which makes it fun. Violent disagreement*, after all, is what fuels discussion. And it is interesting in that the more someone disputes your supreme (as you see it) eligibility to expound on something, the more eligible you become. (This makes it sound somewhat pedestrian, but it’s a lot more sublime than just that. What I want to say is something in the order of: Someone might know better than you something that might fit your mental landscape and enrich it. You are unique, but not as unique as you think you are.)

* This is usually one particular chap, as another pointed out to me just now, but he disagrees violently enough for up to and including two to three average-sized people, so it’s all fine.

So we send each other articles (about culture or about entrepreneurship or something that can vaguely be classified as philosophy), or videos and other net-thingies. It is a little like recommending a song to someone. It never has the exact same effect on everyone (for example, I associate Tom Waits with billowing curtains with the evening sun shining through them – wanna bet you don’t?), but if, somehow, the reaction is as interesting as the one you had, you can compare. And like with recommending a song, it reveals something about you, whether you want it to or not. And we can generally recognise who recommended it by the recommendation itself. Each person’s taste has a pattern to it.

***

Finishing this up at around 1am. Going to Mumbai tomorrow. (Which is why the post is as half-baked as it is. I’m not waiting till next Monday to clean it up.) Will be meeting Samit Basu. Will be attending a concert on a friend’s birthday. Will be meeting family. Will be buying things. Will be roaming around the city aimlessly (there’s a companion, but that doesn’t make it any less void of aim). And then, will get back to lovely little Pune, where the streets have names and that, I assure you, does not magically make them better-paved.

Current Music: Blue States – ‘Metro Sound’ (This is right now. In the afternoon, it was … sigh … the Monkees.)

Oh Crap.

My first exposure to the news of Heath Ledger’s death was through Warren Ellis’s Bad Signal, so whatever gamut of emotions my mind ran through on receiving the news, sorrow wasn’t exactly one of them. (You’ll know if you’ve read it.) It was vaguely unreal, and anyway, the only celebrity whose death I was truly saddened by was Douglas Adams.

But now, due to a confluence of circumstances*, I happened to look at Terry Gilliam’s Wikipedia entry,

Most recently, unforeseeable problems again befell a Gilliam project when actor Heath Ledger died in New York City during the filming of The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.

and the Imaginarium entry,

On January 22, 2008, production of the film was disrupted following the sudden death of Heath Ledger in New York City. Variety reports that Ledger’s involvement had been a “key factor” in the film’s financing. By January 24, production was suspended indefinitely, with the contract clause force majeure freeing all parties of liability.

Okay. Now I’m depressed.

Samit Basu is apparently writing a comic-book based on a Terry Gilliam project that was “too radical” to be filmed. My guess is The Defective Detective. So I went to the Gilliam page for information.