We love experimenting with a variety of books at the Young Readers' Club. Comics and graphic novels aren't shunned but appreciated as they deliver on some very unique reading experiences. Amar Chitra Katha (ACK), trusted by parents for its fine content especially when it comes to reading about Indian mythology & Indian history, Jataka Tales & Tinkle,
holds a very special place at the Young Readers' Club Talking Circle. This special preference is on account of the extremely well written stories and attractive covers as well as the vivid illustrations inside. We like to observe the cover, read the blurb before we decide to read a new book each time:)
How is our favorite comic made? How do they make sure it is always a fabulous read whether it is historical story, a story with a moral or even a biography of a famous person whom we don't know about!
To find answers to these questions and more, we invited Ms.Sanjana Kapur, the Associate Editor at Amar Chitra Katha to let us in to the processes involved in producing these marvellous books.
Identifying a promising story and thorough research
She gave us the example of ACK's book on Salim Ali, the renowned ornithologist and naturalist. We learnt that every piece of information about Salim Ali was verified from reliable sources. This includes details such as the kind of clothes and colors, he preferred to wear, was he right handed or left handed, etc,. These details we were told are crucial for illustration purposes. Being a comic, readers are likely to observe pictures in detail and gather lots of information thereof. Storytelling through pictures helps accentuate the experience of reading the story and hence even the smallest of details matter. Similarly, in some stories, the landscape matters. Research is done by accumulating the required information through loads of published material as well as snippets about the location available from a variety of reliable sources.
Storytelling through pictures helps accentuate the experience of reading the story and hence even the smallest of details matter.
Writing and illustrating the comic- the various stages
Once all the information is collected and approved, the scripting panel begins work. They decide what should be written in the speech bubbles and the thought bubbles. They also write down the requirements from the illustrators. This is done to ensure perfect coordination between the text and the pictures.
The illustrators begin working rough pencil sketches based on the requirements given to them. The scripting panel and the illustration team work together on the layouts, making space for speech bubbles, thought bubbles as well as for sound effects. The illustrators' pencil sketches are viewed by the scripting panel, changes made if need be, before getting transformed into the colorful illustrations we see in the Amar Chitra Katha Comics. We have seen advancements in technology transform our daily lives. It was interesting to learn about technological advancement making the illustration process less cumbersome and time consuming by making changes easily possible.
We have seen advancements in technology transform our daily lives. It was interesting to learn about technological advancement making the illustration process less cumbersome and time consuming by making changes easily possible.
Challenges that come along the way
There are times when space constraints occur which means sentences need to be shortened, panels get split, all along keeping in mind the pace of the story, showcasing the key illustrations and ensuring that all important facts/aspects are not missed.
Some projects involve a lot more work than the others.
Writing factual stories that span over several years, is extremely hard but very rewarding when the finished product appears. Taking cue from one of the young readers who showed his copy of ACK's Param Vir Chakra, Ms. Kapur shared how working on that legendary comic took them two years to complete, of which three months were spent on making corrections. For instance the illustration of the helmets used by the soldiers underwent changes over the decades and that change had to get reflected in the illustrations. Mythological stories involve research for verified written material and translations. The authenticity of these stories is preserved to reflect the era in which they were originally written.
ACK in recent times
In the recent past ACK has been trying to bring forth stories of lesser known people like Usha Mehta (a freedom fighter who ran a secret radio station during the freedom struggle), Anandi Gopal Joshi (the first lady doctor from India), to name a few. They have also diversified their offering by bringing inspiring stories from the Indian Army and Navy.
The pandemic and ACK
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted printing operations and hampered warehousing facilities. But, that did not stop ACK from ensuring that their books reach children no matter what. They moved to digital subscription app and made ebooks easily available on Amazon Kindle Store. It is likely that for some time to come, the newly launched titles will be available first as e-books and on the app and later on as print editions.
The children in both clubs at Talking Circles were eager to know more. Questions were not only about the comic but also on how one can write or illustrate for a comic? What should one study to get into this profession? How do you ensure that illustrations perfectly depict historic personalities whom we haven't seen in person? What is the technique used? We love being inquisitive on Talking Circles. That's how we learn to move to the next level. That's how we grow together.