Girls run the comics world

Despite the stigma that comic books are just for boys (or “old guys” and babies, as Beti and Meat say to the cop), female presence is up at popular events like Comic Con. Check out this article on Jezebel — based on the “real historical research” that Beti demands for her facts — discussing how comic books have changed to reflect a more equal and diverse readership. What I love most about this article is the quote from MS. MARVEL editor Sana Amanat that echoes what Aditi Kapil has previously discussed about her experiences as an adolescent reader of comics. Aditi will be in town today to chat with the dramaturgy team about DISPLACED HINDU GODS and catch a marathon of all three plays. Be sure to come and show your support!

For further reading look to Tasha Robinson’s great article on what makes a “strong female character” at The Dissolve as well as this site devoted entirely to female comic book lovers. (And hosting a Geek Girl Con next October! Maybe you’ll catch Meat and Beti there.)

Jean Grey

“She looks good because she’s all-powerful and can smite them with a thought.”

These Ape Paintings Are Gangsta: The Mewar Ramayana

The Ramayana — “Rama’s journey” in Sanskrit — is one of the oldest written epics and a prominent pillar of Hindu literature and Desi culture. Most children grow up hearing tales of Prince Rama, either through books, comics, movies, or, like, B. in BRAHMAN/I, from relatives. The Ramayana is one of the Easter eggs in the DISPLACED HINDU GODS TRILOGY, and each play bears thematic links to the epic.

The Ramayana deals with the Hindu concept of duty, dharma, and, through the adventures of Prince Rama, readers or listeners learn how to behave virtuously and fulfill one’s duty. Rama himself is the seventh avatar of Vishnu, and thus displays the decorum and leadership expected of a warrior king, heroically defeating the ten-headed demon Ravana. The supporting characters include Sita, Rama’s devoted and faithful wife, Lakshmana; his loyal and brave brother, Hanuman; the Monkey King and Rama’s ally; and the hijras, who are rewarded for their fealty to Rama after waiting fourteen years in the forest for him to return from exile.

Each play in the trilogy either directly references or is inspired by Rama’s story. In BRAHMAN/I, B. resents identification with the “genetically stupid” hijras despite Auntie’s enthusiasm for them and instead prefers the “gangsta” Hanuman. But B.’s path to self-discovery includes fulfilling their duty to themselves and accepting that they are don’t have to fit into the dominant gender binary. B. casts their back-up musician J as Odysseus from the ancient Greek Odyssey, and at the end of the play, both characters have returned from a kind of outsider’s exile and learned to accept each other and themselves. Kalki, the tenth avatar of Vishnu, struggles in THE CHRONICLES OF KALKI to come to terms with her present humanity and its attendant emotions that are an obstacle to fulfilling her duty to vanquish evil. She remembers her past incarnation as Rama and being “loved for doing so little.” Though SHIV’s direct reference to the Ramayana passes quickly (listen for the conversation about Vimanas — ancient flying machines), Shiv’s conflicting duties to honor the memory of her father while pursuing her own happiness reflect the Ramayana-inspired struggles with responsibilities in a world beyond binaries.

Aditi’s trilogy incorporates riffs on the Ramayana story, but hundreds of versions of the epic exist dating from the eleventh century to the present day for those wanting to read the original tale. One favorite we discovered is displayed online in the British Library’s virtual rare books exhibit. The Mewar Ramayana is a lavishly illustrated copy prepared for the Maharana Jagat Singh, who ruled the western Indian kingdom of Mewar in the seventeenth-century and whose family traced their lineage back to Prince Rama and the sun god. A team of artists created the book for the king, and it features over 450 full-color illustrations. The British Library digitized the manuscript and has created a clickable folio that readers can browse through.

The Mewar Ramayana has Easter eggs of its own: multispectral imaging during the digitazation process revealed multiple layers to the paintings that show the techniques used by the artists, as well as revisions and corrections painted over later. Below are some scans of the battle between Rama’s army and Ravana and include a secret appearance by the Trimurti. Check out the rest here!

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Inspiration from Joss Whedon’s FRAY

The KALKI team continues to explore color in the design process, as well as how a comic book aesthetic can be applied to the design concept. Images from the graphic novel Fray by Joss Whedon are really resonating with us — the rich colors and totally badass central character are a great jumping off place for lights and costumes. Here are some selected pages:

Fray Selected Images_Page_02

The way action moves quickly from frame to frame is something we are trying to emulate in our staging as well.

 

Fray Selected Images_Page_10

Like Kalki, Melaka is a badass slayer who vanquishes evil. She’s also in control of her body and exudes a confident sexuality.

 

Fray Selected Images_Page_11

 

Members of Company One’s artistic and production teams can access more of the comic by visiting the “Research Sources” page in the “C1 BIZ” Menu above, or by clicking HERE.

Not a member of the team, and curious to see more?  Get a copy at your local comics shop, or click HERE.

 

Comics in Kalki

KALKI
(scanning the comics) I need a new look. Like thigh-high boots

GIRL 2
Yeah.
What’s cool too is she’s all, “I look hot, but I got way more important shit to do, like save the world, and rescue entire cities.”
It’s not just about the outfit, like she can wear it and no one’s gonna be all ‘hey thanks for saving me and everyone I know, but what the fuck are you wearing?’

KALKI
Right?

GIRL 2
Yeah. But I mean she looks good anyway, so she wouldn’t care even if they said something.

 

In addition to the rich Hindu mythology running through THE CHRONICLES OF KALKI, playwright Aditi Kapil also draws on comic book mythology and aesthetic in the play. Kapil’s own love of the genre informs many of the comic book references, and like Girl 2, the teenaged playwright found escape in the pages of comics that championed underdogs and outsiders. X-Men and the Dark Phoenix saga were early favorites for Kapil, and her first exposure to superheroes that were powerful, but also deeply complex.

rogue1

X-Men’s Rogue

Female characters in the X-Men universe like Rogue, Storm, and Jean Grey have bad-ass qualities reflected in the character of Kalki, and are also conflicted about their place in the world, just like Girl 1 and 2. As we’ve explored the play’s aesthetic in rehearsal over the past few days, we’ve also cited other tough women in pop culture, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, to Veronica Mars, to Frank Miller’s Girls of Old Town. As Girl 1 and Girl 2 embrace their power over the course of the play, what other strong women come to mind?

Little Hindu Deities

Pixar animator Sanjay Patel has released an altogether delightful and informative book called “The Little Book of Hindu Deities, from the Goddess of Wealth to the Sacred Cow.” We’re totally digging Patel’s style, as well as the clear and compelling descriptions of all the gods and goddesses.

We’re highlighting the images from the Trimurti below, but we strongly recommend checking out the whole book, which also includes entries for each of the avatars of Vishnu.

Members of Company One’s artistic and production teams can access a full version of the book by visiting the “Research Sources” page in the “C1 BIZ” Menu above, or by clicking HERE.

Not a member of the team, and curious to see more?  Get a copy of the book HERE,

 

Sita Sings the Blues

Aditi Kapil isn’t the only contemporary female artist to re-imagine the Hindu epics and cosmology. One hallmark film of the past several years is Nina Paley’s SITA SINGS THE BLUES, which interprets the famous love story Ramayana (featured in the play BRAHMAN/I) side by side with the story of Paley’s own dissolving marriage. It contains lush visuals and music, and as a bonus, provides some pretty dope summaries and explanations of Hindu mythology.

Watch the whole thing, below, or download it via Paley’s website, HERE. Find out more about the storytelling, animation styles, and political complexities of this piece HERE.

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ACK Comics: History, Mythology, Legend

The classic Amar Chitra Katha comics series is central in many Indian kids’ childhoods. It’s especially popular with children of immigrants, who use it as an entertaining teaching tool to convey cultural and mythological heritage.

The Trilogy as a whole, and KALKI in particular, embody an aesthetic of comic books and panelized story telling. Below, find a few examples of ACK comic pages taken from “The Tales of Vishnu” (and keep and eye out for Garuda!). Every ACK comic begins with a primer on the myth or history, and I’m including that here for reference. (Click to make ’em bigger.)

Interested in seeing more? You can download the ACK Comics app for iOs and Android by clicking HERE.

Members of Company One’s artistic and production teams can access a full version of the “Tales of Vishnu” comic by visiting the “Research Sources” page in the “C1 BIZ” Menu above, or by clicking HERE.