At the LACMA: Heroes and Villains and the Battle for Good in India’s Comics

“Heroes and Villains: The Battle for Good in India’s Comics” is one of the newest exhibitions on display at the Los Angeles Contemporary Museum of Art (LACMA). Located on the fourth level of the Ahmanson Building, the exhibition features a selection of comics, as well as sculptures, paintings, and other objects that illustrate India’s comic book history.The comic book exhibition is small: one room with 27 framed comic book pages, a few pencil and pen drawings, a video on how comic books are now created with computer software, and a table holding six comic books that viewers can hold and read. All of the comic books in the exhibition are in English and follow the typical American comic book format.One of the earliest comic book series created in India was Amar Chitra Katha, which means “immortal picture stories.” Created by Anant Pai in 1967, these early comic books depicted Indian divinities and were “heavily influenced by both European oil painting and modern print technology,” according to the museum plaque. Unfortunately, this specific comic book was not on display.From the six different comic book series showcased, only two were from the 1970s (Tales of the Mother Goddess, which focuses on the goddess Devi, and Valmiki’s Ramayana, recounting the life of Prince Rama, the incarnation of the Hindu goddess Vishnu); the rest were series from within the last 15 to 20 years.There are also some modern-day American comics inspired by Indian mythology on display.One adaptation looks at the story of Spider-Man, where the famous Peter Parker wears not just a full-body tights suit, but also a traditional Indian loincloth. Aside from Spider-Man’s residence in Mumbai, the storyline follows nearly the same plot, though it traces the life of a modern hero operating within the customs of India.At the end of the exhibition, Liquid Comics, an international comic book company that began in Bangalore, provides a small display on how comic books are created. Pencil and pen drawings from their Devi and Ramayan 3392 AD comic books are included, as well as the video simulating how these drawings are digitally filled with color. Liquid Comics also assists artists, writers, and editors from Bangalore, New York, and Los Angeles on collaborations to create comics and develop projects to take comic books to the big screen.There is not much emphasis on the artists who have worked to create the Indian comic book industry. The exhibition displayed work by artists born in India, but there were also works by American contributors.The installation claimed to focus on the way contemporary Indian comics continue to use the “tradition of recounting the extraordinary deeds of heroic gods and goddesses. In twenty-first century comic books, these Indian deities are visualized as modern superheroes brought to Earth to vanquish evil forces.”The installation provided hints and tidbits of this description, but was underscored by a lack of sufficient comic book examples.Heroes and Villains: The Battle for Good in India’s Comic Books runs through Feb. 7, 2010 at the LACMA, 5905 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles.

Facebook Comments

Leave a Reply