The changing images

Comic world

The changing images

Be it depicting mythological stories, superhero tales or slice-of-life situations, Indian comics have come a long way. But the portrayal of women in them has been a subject of debate time and again.

 A woman is usually stereotyped as a goddess or a glamourous character in most comics and many women artists feel that she can be portrayed in bolder and stronger roles.

Shweta Taneja, a graphic novelist, feels that most female characters in mainstream comics mainly assist the hero. “They are there to just fill the roles in a male-dominated story. So while in stories revolving around a family, they are portrayed as the stereotypical Indian mothers, wives, girlfriends or vamps, in case of supernatural stories, there are shown as vengeful witches,” she says.

   “Most of these stereotypes exist because of our society itself. Women characters are not given enough space beyond a supporting role as they are mostly written from a man’s point of view. But then, there are alternate graphic novels, stories like Kari or the newly-released ‘Drawing the Line’ and other works, which explore the female psyche really well,” she adds.

Devaki Neogi, an illustrator, says, “It’s not just Indian comics. Many international comics also show women in a provocative way. Maybe it is done keeping the male readers in mind. The good thing is that the scenario is changing with more women artists entering the field.” 

Reena Puri, the editor of a popular comic, agrees.  “Earlier, the field was dominated by men. Women never considered comic writing as a serious career option. But now more women are taking the risk and trying out new things,” she notes. “More women have also begun to speak up and question their rights,” she adds.

Though the number of women in the field is still less, Shweta has never had a hard time finding work.   “The publishers, artists and editors, have been very welcoming,” she says.
Do writers introduce certain stereotypes just to sell their work?

  Shweta says, “As a writer, I do try to avoid as many stereotypes as I can. But I am also a product of the society and have grown up with certain views. So yes, I may unknowingly end up introducing a few stereotypes in my stories. This is true especially in the case of mythology, where you are only telling an old story again.”

Devaki feels that a woman character should be illustrated keeping the script in mind. “For example, if it’s a war-related story and the protagonist is a militant or a combat personnel, she has to be fit and shown wearing a uniform,” she explains.As Shweta sums up, “I am a storyteller first and aim at making the plot as exciting as possible. But at
the same time, I want my story to reflect the society and make the readers
think.”

 

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