George Mathen aka Appupen lampoons the current political scene with the comic series, Rashtrayana, featuring the superhero Rashtraman. The second edition of Rashtraman’s adventures was launched as an eight-part comic titled Rashtrayana II: Divide and Fool recently online. “I was hoping to publish it in September, but settled for online publishing because of the pandemic and lockdown,” says Appupen, founder of Brainded India, an online platform for independent visual art, satire and comics. “We wanted to do something extra on Brainded, for viewers this year, and it all sort of tied together.”The Bengaluru-based artist says the lockdown has been good for work. “I haven’t stepped out since March. The adventures got extended and I have added more heroes and turns since there was time. Creatively this is a milestone for me.” “It is a return to roots for Rashtraman who made his first appearance as a superhero in a web-comic published on Brainded India in 2015. Given the situation surrounding the pandemic, I felt the comic should be serialised and published online so that everyone can read it for free.” When the book is printed, Appupen says it will include additional material and outtakes.
Rashtrayana: Trouble in Paradesh was published in 2018. Since then, Rashtraman has been running riot in the fictional nation of Rashtria with his sidekicks including, Cowboy, PropaGandhi, Vigil-Aunty, Lady Justis, Batmanu and RhinoSara. In Divide and Fool, an older order comprising “radicals, rebels, leaders and loners,” challenge the rule of Rashtraman.The 41-year old artist has also done the stark and intricate Halahala series of graphic novels which started in 2009 with Moonward, followed by Legends of Halahala (2012), Aspyrus (2014) and The Snake and the Lotus (2018).Appupen, who has been quoted as being a fan of Rambo as a child, describes superheroes as the poster boys of comics. “They draw you in and fill up your imagination. Comics aren’t limited to any age or genre. In my work, I have consciously stayed away from superheroes until the theme of power became a preoccupation. It was an opportunity to satirise the much-revered superhero, an idea with immense untapped potential and relevance in the current state of the world.”He describes selling his book online as a natural evolution. “I can connect and interact with my readers, a presence that is both supportive and encouraging, through social media. There is also a growing number of young, sure voices in the Indian comic scene, which gives us hope for a more evolved culture of comics that supports the artist and doesn’t loot the reader either.”Rashtrayana II: Divide and Fool will be on brainded.in till December 31, 2020