Published: 27th April 2020
Appupen's five tips to understand and appreciate satire and graphic novels in quarantine
One of our generation's best graphic novelists, Appupen, describes the ideal graphic novel and how to appreciate the task of reading satire if you are new to the genre
Appupen’s life has not changed since the lockdown was announced. For a freelance graphic novelist like him, the biggest realisation over the past few weeks has been that readymade chapathis may not be as healthy as they seem. As for the work, he has just delved deeper into the darker dystopian worlds that he has created, now with the added perk of being further isolated from the rest of the world.
“This pandemic has actually edged us closer to the kind of world that novels like mine have warned of, we have come dangerously close to dystopia. So, we are all currently living in my reality, in a storyteller’s world. So, our job has become easier, it is less difficult for people to believe what we are saying here. Our imaginary world will now have to go farther away from reality!” he says.
Having lived and breathed dystopian novels for all his life, we asked the satire aficionado about a few works of literature that could help book lovers escape the troubling times around them. If you have been looking for a chance to catch up on the world of satire and graphic novels, here is the author of unforgettable graphic novels works such as The Legends of Halahala, Moonward and Aspyrus sharing an expert guide on how to appreciate them and what to look for in the ideal novel.
Five signs you are reading a good work of satire
1. Find a lengthy escape
One thing I know from my own writing and the graphic novels I love is that we keep asking our readers to take time off. With the lockdown, a lot of us have been forced to do this. And with this comes the understanding that the companies and institutions we worship will not stick by us during such times. Hopefully, it can be a wake up call. And this improved understanding is a good place to begin before you decide on a good long novel to lose yourself in.
A lot of you may still be in shock about finding yourself in a dystopian setting in the real world. As soon as the threat dies down, all the big movies will be talking about this. So, before they release Vampires in a Lockdown or something even worse, I suggest you find a novel that speaks about a world not too far from the truth. But the writer’s imagination is wild enough to take hours of our time before we slip back into our old lives. If you are a person who reads, this is a good time to start.
2. Grounded in the real world
I don't like the bubble that isolation brings. For people in our strata of society, it is easy to disappear into a bubble. And there are two sides to this. You can use it like your job to get away from everything else or you can use it to create something more. I have been a fan of dystopian fiction for a long time now. I like to think of some ideas that make a little sense or creative speculation from where we are.
I mean, there can be such a thing as too much fantasy. Aliens fighting dinosaurs may not intrigue everyone. It needs to make sense to us and the way we live. A good graphic novel is rooted in reality or at least in our mind space. And this could be an exploration of our mind. I would want to push people’s thought in this direction. And good satire has always been predicting great truths about the sort of situations we live in.
It is almost prophetic to an extent. George Orwell and Aldous Huxley were my greatest inspirations. They have always written about very ordinary and basic human journeys. Their work is about greed or abusing power. Basically, things that are predictable and how people act on it is also predictable. They speak about control and that is not too far fetched.
3. Exploring the mind
If you are an intellectual, you cannot afford to miss out on work like that of Aldous Huxley. When we speak of exploring the mind space, like I had spoken about, it requires more than just exaggerated worlds or creatures. Science fiction and graphic novels alike can shock you without having to suspend reality. A lot of the time, it is just as bizarre to simply explore the way we think and by delving into the depths of what make us human. A good novel is able to study its characters in depth.
4. The search for familiarity
In these times, you want a fantasy you can immerse in. Think The Lord of the Rings and the books that you kept going back to in your childhood. You do not just want to dip your feet in it, you want to get lost in it. And by this I mean that you are searching for a sense of familiarity.
In my books featuring Halahala, I would connect a lot of different events to the same world. If a graphic novel is able to create a good enough setting, you would feel like going back to it and finding out more. So, if you know that you are interested in that themes, you can find more threads of familiarity. And I recommend this especially because of the chaos around us right now. It would be a blessing to find a world you would like to visit over and over again.
5. Into the darkness
If you recommend a graphic novel with a flowery premise to it, I may not have the inclination to pick it up. But that’s just the way I’m wired. Most novels like the ones I’m speaking of will embrace a little bit of darkness as far as the themes are concerned. In fact, the appeal is the darkness. People go searching for it. But I’m not just speaking about any kind of darkness. Personally, I’m a worrier. I like to think of all the things that can go wrong. I enjoy doing that bit of worrying when I’m reading too. Take note that I’m not speaking of horror for the sake of shock. A good novel serves psychological fear. I’ll forget it if you shock me with some exaggerated light and sound, I don't need a story for that. You know you’re reading the right book when it explores darkness and makes you think.
Recommended Graphic Novels
The Contract with God
The graphic novel is a four part series that focuses on a resident of 55 Dropsie Avenue. In Appupen’s own words, Will Eisner is the father of all graphic novels. Most of his books are about ordinary people living in New York who manage to do extraordinary things
Read online: bit.ly/2XJxw2X
Written by Jeff Smith, the independently published American graphic novel series, Bone was released in 55 issues from 1991 to 2004. Appupen says, “For a lockdown, my best comic suggestion would be Jeff Smith’s Bone. Make sure that you get the black and white edition. This is the perfect thing to read when you are not well"
Read online: amzn.to/3cq1E7N
A French graphic novel, illustrated by Marie Pommepuy and Sébastien Cosset, is the story of people the size of flies who are expelled from their home and thrust outside into the wood. He says, “One of books I read most recently is called Beautiful Darkness. These are the most beautiful, dark stories that anyone can connect to. It is hand painted and uses beutiful colours”
Read online: bit.ly/2ykQpi9