Published: 2012 by Blaft Tranquebar Press
No. of Pages: 270
Subthemes: Abstract art; Pop culture; Crime-thriller; Fantasy; Biography;
Timeline: No clear timeline
The Obliterary Journal is a collection of nineteen graphic narratives compiled by Blaft Publications with contributions from maestros like Orijit Sen, Amruta Patil and others.
Largely, there is no thematic congruence in the graphic narratives compiled and the themes range from mystery, fantasy, crime-thriller, biography, to pop-culture, collection of photographs and abstract art. However, the aim is highlighted in the very beginning of the graphic novel through a comic-strip which shows the Mayan Glyph- B’AK’TUN, Chinese seal script- Wang, and ISO 21482 uniting to wage a war against the written word with one aim—To Obliterate Literature.
Although aimed as a comical introduction, the foreword sets the tone for the rest of the graphic novel which struggles to find coherence otherwise. There are of course its highlights, excerpt from The Hyderabad Graphic Novel, Karuna Bhavanam, excerpt from Stupid Guy Goes to India, Atlantis, Kovai Gay Story, and Emerald Apsara, but otherwise, some of the stories or chapters are mediocre and kitschy.
Subrata Gangopadhyay’s – Nowhere to Run, is also worthy of a mention here but the art is often difficult to read and hampers the pacing of the story. But largely Nowhere to Run doesn’t fail to impress with its well-structured crime-thriller element reminiscent of the 80’s Bollywood. Another worthy mention is The Nayagarh Incident, a simple informative account of the not so famous encounter with extra-terrestrial life that took place months before the Indian Independence on 31st May 1947 at Nyaygarh, Orissa. The others are either collections of photographs or sketches masquerading as sequential art. Although the better stories do mitigate the effect of the mediocre ones, the journal does feel incoherent from time to time, and the 250+ page length feels like more of a stretch.
From the highlights, excerpt from The Hyderabad Graphic Novel is an intriguing take on the idea of cities, where it feels like an amalgamation of poetry, history, and philosophy. Author Jai Undurti and illustrator Harsho Mohan Chattoraj provide a convincing reason to pick up The Hyderabad Graphic Novel in under 10-pages while providing something that stands as a sort of short-story of its own.
Karuna Bhavanam by Roney Devassia is another masterpiece, which takes the readers through the lives of people living in an old-age home in Vellimadu Kunnu, Kozikhode, Kerala. The art here doesn’t use any visual metaphors or simple iconic representation, which is usually the case with the comics “form”. Instead, Roney Devassia has chosen a more “realistic” style of representation, done with charcoal. The approach with the text is to effectuate the impact of art, and it feels simple, well-paced, and balanced. Unless the reader is little too nit-picky, there’s nothing to complain about in Karuna Bhavanam, and it is easily one of the best short-stories the book has to offer.
Excerpt from Stupid Guy Goes to India¸ is a Manga written by the Japanese artist, Yukichi Yamamatsu, and translated into English by Kumar Sivasubramanian. The plot is simple and is mostly comical in its tone, as it follows Yukichi Yamamatsu, as he travels through Delhi, struggling to find a room and Japanese school. The art is a Manga-style iconic representation and the dialogues are enjoyable. Although overall it is not as impactful as the other “highlights” of the book. But the story does provide a much-needed comic relief in an otherwise incoherent anthology.
Amruta Patil’s Atlantis tells the story of an agglomeration of high-rise buildings named- Atlantis, on the top of the Sohana tectonic plate fault line. The 8-page long short story is divided into 8-parts and all the pages basically talk about the everyday lives of people in Atlantis. Amruta’s 8-page short story has a deluge of undercurrents and themes and feels a little cluttered at times with its art and superfluous text. Although, this little shortcoming doesn’t attenuate the impact Atlantis is able to make. Atlantis is satirical on its first, third, and last page, metaphorical on its second, fifth, sixth and seventh page, and comical on its fourth page. To be fair, the shortcomings of Atlantis, are more of a result of its ambitious approach to packing a lot in 8-pages than anything else.
Kovai Gay Story is another masterpiece in the graphic novel and feels fresh due to its surprise element towards the end. The art follows simple iconic representation and text is effervescent as it gravitates the reader’s attention with its simplicity and light tone. Overall, not much can be said without giving away the plot other than the fact that Kovai Gay Story is easily one of the best in the anthology and the fact that Bharath Murthy displays sheer class with his well-articulated 8-page long short story.
Last, but perhaps the best in the anthology is Emerald Apsara by Orijit Sen. With a 4-page length and artwork that is years ahead of some of the sequential narratives in the anthology itself, the short story tells a fantasy-esque adventure of Prabhat Ranjan Mazoomder- a noted Bengali explorer and scientist (and hilariously the ‘alleged genius behind the invention of the Monkey Cap). Since there is a beautiful visual metaphor which shouldn’t be given away, there is nothing that can be told about the short story except for the fact that is perfect and also has a memorable quote towards the end—“Art Saves Those it Seduces”