CBAM Summit: Webcomics – the new way to make independent and relevant voices heard

Today’s world is driven, regulated and almost controlled by social networks. We cannot imagine our lives without the apps that have become an integral part of our existence. To focus more on the effect and how social media has become a powerful weapon to make their voices heard, the Comic Books & More (CBAM) Summit hosted a panel discussion on Webcomics – Raising Independent Voices.

The panel was made up of popular Bob & Bobby illustrators, animators and comic book artists whose works go viral in no time; The Legion of the Beast creator Jazyl Homavazir; Zal comic book creator Cyrus Daruwala; webcomic artist, children’s book illustrator and storyteller Srishti Sharma; share their thoughts on how budding artists can leverage the power of the internet and social media to further develop their art, and how well the web platform serves comic book creators.

Moderated by the founder of Abhijeet Kini Studios, Abhijeet Kini, the roundtable began with each member talking about their inspiration to pursue this field of art and create webcomics. Daruwala said, “Like others, I grew up reading comics. But I felt there was a gap in Indian comics as most of them were politically slanted. Zal was born out of a sense of lack of local characters and a gestation period of a few years.

Homavazir, who is an animator by profession, said that The Legion of the Beast is a labor of love and his immense admiration for 80s adventure cartoons. “It’s a 59-chapter webcomic and I’m doing my best to get it out.”

Bob and Bobby aka Susruta and Saswata Mukherjee, sketch addicts, meanwhile, were inspired by Asterix, Tintin Bengali translations and create imaginary comics of Tintin in Calcutta and crosses between Tintin and Asterix. “The main reason for what we create should resonate with us, even if it’s not trending or prone to trolling. We also create webcomics on topics that we think are important , or that aren’t talked about enough and need attention. For us, it’s about creating awareness,” they commented.

Unlike the twins, Daruwala has many problems to anticipate as his comic, although available online, is mostly published in Midday. “For Zal, I kind of have to predict each tape because I write them a lot in advance. So it’s a mix of anticipation and luck. Some of the issues like rising fuel prices were predictions that fortunately and unfortunately came true. Due to COVID, I was in a dilemma if I should bring the pandemic into my comic book universe or stay in denial like in a parallel world. But then I decided to bring COVID occasionally as the band is based in Mumbai and it’s about normal city life. That’s what it’s all about, Zal is not politically inclined at all,” he said.

Agreeing with Daruwala and unlike Bob and Bobby, Homavazir also does not mix his political outlook with his artwork. “I’m politically very active but I choose to keep my work separate because I want people to appreciate my art as art. I try to stay true to my craft – promoting anime and manga culture,” he exclaimed.

For Sharma, the independent voice is about expression and it has been much the same for the children’s works in which she channels them. “Freedom of expression, teaching good habits, identifying good takeaways from this age is also about raising your voice for a cause because we have to find good things these days in the things that surround us,” she noted.

Moving on to the technical pros and cons, Homavazir shared, “Social media exposure and algorithms help expand the reach of webcomics, as a creator can promote on others’ pages and help build a community,” while Sharma as well as Bob-Bobby opined that these algorithms also force creators to post content frequently, which takes away artists’ freedom to post as they please and to measure an artist’s abilities and quality of work based on the subscribers and the number of shares.

Sharma spoke about the trolling and hateful comments that affected her freedom of speech: “I faced a lot of hate during my internship for Feminism India and elsewhere and that’s why I stopped doing political comics because I was unemployed and afraid for my safety.”

The twin brothers also added, “Digital comics are easily accessible, and all but you can’t smell them, smell them, which is very important to us, so the experience is irreplaceable.”

Daruwala signed off emphasizing, “I’m still a fan of hard copy, you can’t replace the experience of a physical book. As the times change, we can certainly adapt to new models, but that doesn’t mean we have to abandon the traditional medium. »