Graphic novels are long works of fiction that tell a single story from start to end; even a stand-alone series is categorised thus. Popular graphic novels in the global sphere include Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman and Black Orchid for DC Comics, Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi and Kill My Mother by Julius Feiffer, to name a few. Back home, Phantomville is the primary publishing house for graphic novels. Established by writer-illustrator Sarnath Banerjee and Anindya Roy, it has published a couple of books in this genre include Abdul Sultan P P’s The Believers and Naseer Ahmed’s Kashmir Pending. Bombay Boulevard by Inderjit Comics created quite a stir at Comic Con 2013. A series about the goings-on of the Underworld and its ugly labyrinth, the guys at Inderjit Comics collaborated with the folks at Division 91 to bring their story into a pictorial format. We spoke to head illustrator Utsav Podder and head colourist Dwayne Dmello about the process of bringing text to life and their experience while working on Bombay Boulevard.
Q. Bringing a character alive through illustration…
Utsav: “I think the motive of every art form is to bring a particular character alive. Be it poetry, music, cinema, you have to get yourself to wear the character’s shoes to feel what’s it going to be like.”
Q. Bringing colour to characters…
Dwayne: “Colouring is usually one of the latter steps in the production of a comic book or graphic novel, after penciling and inking, prior to lettering. Even before I get the inked pages from the illustrator, I familiarise myself with the script from the storyboarding stage, so that I can make sure the intention of the story comes through. Colour either can make or break a story. It helps you to immediately recognise the mood, situation or time, and sets the tone for the entire book.
My process has changed over the years, with learning to adjust to new procedures, but my ground rules will always be the same. I mainly use Photoshop CS6. I work on the Wacom Intuos Pro now, but for Bombay Boulevard I was using the Intuos 4. I mostly use my own custom brushes as well as use lighting and shade to give depth to make the book look more interesting.”
Q. Which was your favourite character to work on? Why?
Utsav: “I have to say Isabella because personally, I feel that a lot can be done while illustrating a female form compared to the others.”
Dwayne: “Sebastian was my favourite character, because he is rough guy. He had really cool colored hair, aside from which he reminded me a lot of myself!”
Q. Is any character modelled on anyone who is a part of your life?
Utsav: “Yes, my partner in crime in this project, Dwayne, features in this issue and the second one as well.”
Q. Which character proved to be the most difficult to bring to life?
Utsav: “I’d say Joshi (the scumbag cop) because I had to spend time getting the ideal expressions and crudeness. A lot of hate was put in the character.”
Dwayne: “Isabella, for sure. Colouring women is a whole lot different than other characters. Particularly in graphic novels, they need to be super attractive. I had to separate myself from the techniques I use for the male characters, to make her softer and more sensual. Isabella, especially, is quite a hyper-sexualised character. I spent a longer time getting her coloured right.”
Q. Which is your favourite graphic novel? One that you wish you were a part of?
Utsav: “Tough one, but I’d say Infinite Crisis by DC. It’s like nothing I have ever come across. Also 18 Days by Mukesh Singh. The guy is pure genius.”
Dwayne: “This is such a tough question! There are many that I absolutely love, especially DC’s Batman: Hush and Final Crisis as well as Marvel’s Civil War. But I would do anything to work on something like 100 Bullets, which won Harvey awards for best artist and best writing amongst others. It really blew my mind.”
Q. What are you currently working on?
Utsav: “I have taken my art form and shifted to different canvas. I currently work as a tattoo artist.”
Dwayne: “Currently, my path has shifted for a bit. I am exploring the avenues of 3D and graphic design, building up my repertoire for the future. Simultaneously I have been studying illustration and sketching so I am not just a colourist anymore but can do my own inking as well. I have been practising character concepts for game design as well as finding my strength in mech design and bots. I experiment with new art and even do some work that is inspired by other great artists that I look up to on my Facebook and Instagram design page. It has given me great boosts of confidence to see the response from comic book lovers all over the world and follows from even the people I look up to, like Scott Robertson, Sinix, Sycra Yasin and Digital Tutors.”
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