Reviving the Local Comic Book Industry with The Dark Human | Sunday Observer

Reviving the Local Comic Book Industry with The Dark Human

In the wake of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and the abrupt excess of comic adaptations, comic books have re-entered the common global public consciousness in a big way. However, while comic books are bigger than ever, our local comic book industry has been lagging behind, struggling to find prominence in a culture that doesn’t lend itself to the success of comic books.

Enter, The Dark Human, a Sinhala comic book about a Sinhalese superhero inspired by Sri Lankan cultures and mythologies. Created by a team of two, writer Tharaka Caldera and illustrator Chamil Harshana Edirisinghe, they’ve combined their talents and interests to attempt revitalising interest in a dying industry.

The Dark Human: Issue #1 is available now at Red Dot Geek, Liberty Plaza and available for online purchase at grantha.lk.

We managed to catch up with Tharaka and he shared with us, their creative process.

Q : For those who don’t know, how would you describe your story/comic? Is there something you want to say with your story?

I’m an author and I’ve already written two books, one science fiction and a fantasy story, so I have a variety of different stories to write and for some stories you need to find different mediums and the idea for this story was there in my mind for a couple of years but couldn’t find the right way to tell it. Then later I decided this story would be better suited for a comic rather than a novel. It would also be great for a movie but to take that step I have to start with a comic.

I’m a fan of DC and marvel and the like, but I’m not exactly too deep into that stuff and I wanted to involve the Sri Lankan culture when telling the story. So if you look into the story you’d see the Sri Lankan spiritualism, religion and mythologies which I tried to incorporate into this comic to make it a very Sri Lankan comic story.

In this specific story I used mythologies like demons and old historical texts about village culture to tell an original story. To be honest I don’t really have a specific message or idea to deliver. To me, writing is all about self-actualization. I want to write stories. I have fantasies in my head and I want to write them out and that is what I do and I believe that my readers will enjoy reading my stories as much as I do writing them.

Q: You mention making a movie out of this story, would you consider that to be a goal of yours?

Absolutely, this story has great potential to be a Sri Lankan superhero movie and we have taken some steps towards making a movie out of this but it’s a big commitment and to adapt it properly would take a big budget and a lot more resources than is available to us right now. So that dream is a long way away but I’m still hopeful.

Q: How is the comic book industry in Sri Lanka, if there is one? What difficulties did you face getting started?

Unlike my first two books, which had a publisher, this comic was self-published for which we had some help from a friend in the publishing business. Later though, we plan to build our own publishing house for comics and from our second issue onwards we’ll work on our trademark associated with that.

I’ve already spoken to other authors interested in this as I have some storyline ideas and a dream of starting a comic book universe in Sri Lanka with our mythologies and cultures. It’s a huge project and I can’t do it on my own, so I reached out to fellow writers and illustrators.

Q: What comics, local or foreign, have been your influences? Are you a fan of foreign comics?

I’m a fan of superhero comics and though I’ve not read many comics I’m really into comic book movies, like the MCU and DC movies which I took as an inspiration. When it came to those stories, I wanted to ask questions like, what it meant to be a superhero, what it meant to write to superhero comic. Superheroes are like the modern day pantheon, like post-modern gods, so thinking of it like that it was easy to work on it.

There wasn’t much of anything similar to this in the local market. There were niche audiences for some comics, some in English and there are web comics too but I feel this is the first of its kind for this country.

Afterward, he pointed us towards his partner in crime and brilliant illustrator for his comic, Chamil, who shared his own take on this project.

Q: What made you accept working on this project with him? Did you have any interest in comic books prior to this?

Yeah, I did already have an interest in starting my own comic book and I do some writing on my own. I had planned to start a web comic but when Tharaka offered to collaborate I put that aside for now and focused on this. We have a lot planned for this series and more storylines even beyond that, so that is all that I am interested in for now. Perhaps in the future things might change.

Q: Have you had any formal training in illustrating? How has your experiences helped in this line of work?

I teach life drawing at the University of Visual and Performing Arts and that has helped a lot but self-training things like digital painting and the like were essential. They’ve been quite useful as I only illustrate. Tharaka has a specific idea in mind, panel by panel and he gives me the plan. I then draw up a sketch and sometimes I do make changes to better fit the story he wants to tell.

Q: Have you had any personal interest in comics?

Yeah, we used to have a lot of that in Sri Lanka but as of late that’s changed. Comics as they are, I had an interest in for a while now but I’ve never gotten into it as deep as I am, now that I help make one myself.

What advice do you have for any future illustrators for comic books in Sri Lanka?

The biggest thing is interest. If you have the drive and interest to keep at it, as it is very time consuming and demanding work, there’s no real need for formal training for things like this. They might give you an advantage for sure, but they are in no way necessary for you to succeed.

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