Women power in comic books :

Posted by-Kalki Team

The women protagonists in comic books, through their inner strength, initiate a change

Priyas journey began two years ago when she came as Shakti in Priyas Shakti, a popular comic book. Through the story of a gang rape victim, it focussed on the issues of gender-based violence. Now, the protagonist Priya, in the sequel Priyas Mirror holds a mirror to the acid attack survivors to tell them that theres more to them than the scars and highlights the gender inequalities and violence. A few years ago, readers across the country found a friend and superhero in Angry Maushi. She had an universal appeal as her anger was her superpower; Her mission was to do away with things which are wrong. In Tinkles WingStar, Mapui Kawlim is popular as her inventor fathers cutting-edge gadgets have turned her from an ordinary girl to an extraordinary superhero. Over the years, there have been a steady rise of characters in comic books, which are not only bold and benevolent but also rooted in reality and inspire others.

Ram Devineni, who conceptualised the Priyas series found a protagonist when he met the acid attack survivor Lakshmi, who is now a fashion model. “She told me the problems faced by the acid attack survivors, the social stigma, blame game and the patriarchal mindset; the issues were so similar to what rape survivors face. I found the connect to the first book which dealt with rape,” he points out.

While Paromita Vohra did most of the writing, artist Dan Goldman drew the characters. “It was enriching experience because in order to communicate a very complex idea, a feminist comic about acid attacks, it also encourages you to look at it beyond the paradigm of victim and perpetrator. It negates the idea of masculinity and violence and we also wanted to suggest the ways to end the cycle of violence,” says Paromita. Dan Goldman observes the challenge was to bring out the positive spirit of these survivors. “Drawing the acid attack survivors required a very delicate hand on my part: because they were either based in or inspired by living women. I never wanted the work to appear exploitative. At the same time, I felt we needed to show the effects of attacks or else the emotional thrust of the work would lose its power. So, I drew the survivors first without their scars, which allowed me to focus on their movements, their lightness of spirit, getting a lighter and more poetic performance from their characters instead of staying focused on their scars, which is actually the message of the book as well. Once Id draw them as characters, I added the acid scars, adjusted their hairlines and features so the feeling of these women still remained.”

For Abhijeet Kini, Angry Maushi character was a way to reflect on issues which we feel angry about. “Angry Maushi can be any one of us. We all feel angry in one way or the other about things around us,” points out Abhijeet. With a corrupt Mr. Minister, a recurring villain (“He is symbolic to the things that we read about ”). What is significant is that this protagonist breaks stereotypes and is without any magical powers.

Rajani Thindiath, editor of Tinkle affirms how there is a growing acceptance of characters which talk about socially-relevant issues. “There was a lot of acceptance for Mapui Kawlim. She was from Mizoram and a lot of kids from northeast identified with it,” she says.

Interestingly, Aisha Kurien Daar, Tinkles another characters wish was to be a superhero! “Aisha, like many kids, wants to be special. She figures out she is a superhero, albeit a weird one, which makes her a SuperWeirdo! The series is set in Mumbai and it was not more about the superpower but about her oddness. Ultimately one enjoys and starts celebrating it,” she smiles.

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