January 30, 2014

Story Boxes: Pratheek Thomas & Jasjyot Singh Hans

By Pavithra Chandrasekar

Writer Pratheek Thomas and illustrator Jasjyot Singh Hans, with their personal weapons of choice, combine forces seamlessly in their work in the graphic novel spectra, for one of the upcoming publishing house in this faction – Manta Ray Comics.

Manta Ray was co-founded by Thomas after he lost his job when the unfortunate recession calamity hit which led him to create Hush along with the publishing house with Rajiv Elipe. Hans always loved his comics and grew up reading Asterix and Archies which even led to his mother being asked the common deluded question if he wasn’t “too old” to be reading comics. “I started reading and understanding graphic novels while I was at NID, thanks to our coordinator, who himself is a comic book enthusiast. My first comic was done as a part of a course. And eventually I went on to work on one for my diploma project, Love like a Sunset by Manta Ray Comics,” he says.

Love like a Sunset was first released as a mini-comic later to be one of the three short stories from Twelve Preludes, a 66 page series written by Thomas. When asked about the reception of these releases, Thomas explains, “I think it’s still too early to judge the reception of Mixtape and Preludes. Both of these started out as Digital Firsts (the books are first released as DRM-free PDFs in a pay-and-download format before going to print) and they have not set our world on fire. But, the good part is that the digital sales are coming in with readers picking up these digital copies regularly. That’s the advantage of digital as there is no shelf-life/expiry date for them.” Hans adds, “Of course, it’s always great to hear what people have to say and take in all the feedback. But I think I was just glad people got to see it.”

Twelve Preludes

The graphic novel genre is still at a nascent evolutionary stage and people are slowly starting to follow the work regularly as it’s also finally beginning to break out of the “gods and demons” archetypes. Both Thomas and Hans strongly feel towards this as they are some of the core contributors breaking that trend with more humane relatable characters- “The main theme in Twelve is “choice”. Many of these characters are going to make a choice that will change their life forever. And within that overarching framework of “choice”, I’m telling stories about sexuality, identity, friendship, ideologies, courage, relationships etc,” says Thomas. Hans works on the themes that feel real and have a strong sense of human connect. Some of his personal work is simply visual and based on in-the-moment feelings, and is not meant to convey any major message. He says he usually doesn’t feel much affinity to fantastical themes and also finds such books hard to read.

Also as a keen observer and a contributor, Thomas thinks that there’s a growing interest in the medium in India and there are more creators/ storytellers and indie-publishers venturing into the space. However, he feels that there’s a lot more awareness needed amongst general readers. Hans elucidates, “I would consider myself the observer because I feel I’m still a novice in this field. It’s definitely gaining much more momentum than it was when I was, say, ten years old. More and more people seem to understand and have a grip on the comic language. The Indian mythology is very rich and provides for many stories that can be adapted into the medium, but Indian comics seem to be restricted by it. Our propensity of not being able to move away from mythology is making us undermine the storehouse of contemporary Indian stories. I, as an Indian comic book reader/ maker, would want to read a lot more of those.”

The research process precedes the process in both of their cases as Thomas tends to file it away so when the time comes in to write, he can just dive right into it. And as for Hans, it’s a back and forth process based on content and visual context. Both do a lot of drafts and repeatedly ‘Ctrl+Z’ without hesitation till they are satisfied with themselves and with each other.


Both Thomas and Hans prefer working on graphic shorts at this point- “Shorts are fun to work on with different collaborators and also pushes me to alter my style of drawing to suit the final vision, which helps broaden my range as an artist. Graphic shorts give me that freedom and gratification, at the same time I’m able to work on various other projects with a lot of interesting people,” explains Singh. Thomas adds, “I haven’t written a graphic ‘novel’, which is to say that I’ve not worked on a story of that length. I’m working on a longer story about a girl and her grandfather which could qualify as a ‘novel’ by comic standards.”

The duo have collaborated and worked on Love like a Sunset and The Small Picture. Apart from this, Thomas has written Hush, two stories for Mixtape I (The story ‘My Beloved’ in Mixtape is written by his wife, Tina Thomas), all the shorts for Twelve Preludes (the zero issue of sorts of the series and the 12 larger stories which make up the preludes) and is currently working on the aforementioned slightly long novelesque book. Hans meanwhile is working on the slightly long book for Manta Ray, a personal fashion comic, a few book covers for Penguin Books. He also works as a freelance designer for Chumbak Design.




When asked about their favourite graphic novelists, writer-illustrator duos and works, the two had equally large lists; with Mike Mignola and Fabio Moon & Gabriel Ba making it to both their lists. Hans’ also includes Craig Thompson, Orijit Sen, Becky Cloonan and Jamie Hewlett. Thomas’ favorites include Brian Wood (His 2005 Demo inspired Twelve), Matt Fraction & David Aja, Rucka and Gaiman. Also, when asked what advice he would seek from Gaiman if he were blessed with the chance to meet him, he says “I follow his interviews and Tumblr and one of the best answers he’s given is ‘”Put one word after another. Find the right word, put it down… (And) Finish what you’re writing. Whatever you have to do to finish it, finish it.”


This article was originally published in Kyoorius Magazine 16. 

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