‘Graphic novels today are being accepted by readers of all ages’

‘Graphic novels today are being accepted by readers of all ages’

By ANIRUDH VOHRA | | 9 July, 2016
Covers of some of the graphic novels published by Campfire.
A new exhibition on the history of the graphic novel, organised by Girija Jhunjhunwala, aims to change the way we think about this genre. Anirudh Vohra speaks to her about the show’s impact.

Graphic novels today get pride of place in the bookshelves of our literati. The true bibliophile has equal regard for the some of the best graphic novels published in recent years, as he has for the literary classics. And why shouldn’t this be? Graphic novel are excellent amalgamation of visual art and literary form. They’re like comic books, except much better. Teachers often use graphic novels to get their students reading. .

Telling Stories Through Pictures, an exhibition of graphic novels, aims to emphasise the central role that this form plays in literary and artistic circles worldwide. Curated by called Campfire Graphic Novels, one of the leading graphic novel publishers in India, the exhibition walks the viewer through various aspects of this form, shedding light on its visual impact and scope. Guardian 20 spoke to Girija Jhunjhunwala, director of Campfire Graphic Novels, about the exhibition, which is on till 31 July at the Central Atrium in Delhi’s India Habitat Centre. 

Q. How good is the market for graphic novels in India? And how well have young readers responded to them in your experience?

A. The market for graphic novels is a growing one. At the time we started publishing our books, international graphic novel publishers were already present in the Indian market and had patrons who helped in creating awareness and acceptability of graphic novels. We have made substantial headway in the educational sector, which has been our focus in the recent years, and are seeing positive results. Several of our titles have been recommended by the CBSE and KVS as extra-curricular reading. Few schools have included our titles like Alice in Wonderland, The Jungle Book and several others as part of their curriculum.

Q. Have things improved for graphic novelists and their publishers over the years?

A. Things have definitely improved for us as well other publishers of this genre in India. Today, graphic novel as a genre is being accepted by readers of all ages. There are more players in the field today, which in turn leads to more variety in subjects explored. We have an award-winning catalogue of almost 90 titles across four categories — Classics, Biographies, Mythology and History.

Today, our books are being sold not only in India but also in the UK, US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and continental Europe, which are our major markets globally. We have a tie-up with international publishers who bring out our books in ten international languages, including French, Portuguese, Egyptian, Korean, and Mongolian. In regional Indian languages, we have started publishing Mythology titles in Bengali.

Today, our books are being sold not only in India but also in the UK, US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and continental Europe, which are our major markets, globally.

Q. In today’s world, with people more than obsessed with technology, do you think reading has become a difficult leisure activity?

A. The answer is yes and no. Although technology has definitely taken away from reading-time, we believe that good books will always be read. If the books are interesting enough children will definitely want to pick them up. At Campfire, we believe that a book which is a combination of visuals and text can compel even reluctant readers to get into the reading habit, which is why we began publishing graphic novels in the first place.

Reading can never die. Today, we have online platforms like read Readwhere, Pocket Toons and devices like Kindle that publish e-books. These have been developed specifically to aid reading.

So, one can say that technology is actually helping in bringing the tech-savvy new generation back to reading.

Q. You have published several literary books in the form of graphic novels. How was they received by readers?

Campfire began with the adaptation of classics into the graphic novel format. The response to these adapted classics has been good, especially in the educational sector. Titles like Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Julius Caesar have done very well and continue to be in demand. Establishing our footing in the retail sector took some time, but over the years we have managed to gather a steady patronage.

Q. Do you think graphic novels have a great potential when they are used for educational purposes? Is it a good idea to teach history or mythology to children using this genre? 

A. Definitely. A graphic novel is essentially a narrative told through a sequence of images accompanied by dialogues and descriptive captions. It is now an established fact that a combination of visual and text aids comprehension and retention. Therefore, this combination, of image-text, used in a graphic novel can make complex subjects easier to understand. Teachers and educators have acknowledged the fact that graphic novels can play a vital role in education. Graphic novels have, in fact, even been used to teach complex subjects like physics and calculus.

A graphic novel is essentially a narrative told through a sequence of images accompanied by dialogues and descriptive captions. It is now an established fact that a combination of visual and text aids comprehension and retention.

Q. Tell us more about the ongoing exhibition, Telling Stories Through Pictures, which is currently on at Delhi’s India Habitat Centre.

A. The idea behind doing this exhibition was to showcase the medium of graphic novels and promote their usefulness as a tool for both entertainment and education. Graphic novels can make complex ideas and concepts less daunting through an effective combination of text and images. The exhibition contains a step-by-step guide on how a page in a graphic novel is put together. Accompanied by a selection of spectacular art panels from Campfire’s own books, the exhibition walks the viewer through the various aspects of a graphic novel, its evolution, its visual impact and scope. 

Q. How has the response been so far?

A. More than 100 to 150 visitors are visiting the exhibition, daily. Most of them are interested in buying our books and are sharing their details with us so that they can be kept updated about the latest titles, new offers etc. Many still confuse graphic novels with comics and the exhibition is proving helpful to clarify and demarcate the difference between the two. People want to know about the availability of our books at retail stores and online platforms which is a positive indication. What is notable is that even banks and NGOs have found the format interesting and are keen to explore it further. IHC being one of the cultural hubs of the capital, we have come across young artists who wish to work with us and new talent is always welcome. While most of the young working crowd is drawn to the Biography section, Shakespeare drew most of the media. Mythology has garnered the interest of parents and youngsters alike.  Parents particularly want to pick up classics and biographies as they feel these will serve an educational purpose.

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