Visualising comics as an educational tool

Consuming child-friendly content

Author: SavioMascarenhas, Group Art Director, Amar Chitra Katha

This vision of encapsulating our cultural heritage and social values in Comics transformed them from something frivolous to a powerful educational tool.

The story of a comic starts from an idea i.e. identifying the need for a particular story to be told to the masses.

Comics being more visually appealing than textbooks helps engage students so that they understand and retain the story in their long-term memory.

Textbooks at the most can tell you a story but comics have the power to let you become a part of the story.

Q)Take us through the history of Comics in India.

We are a land of stories and story-tellers. Over the years, Comics have been an effective medium of telling stories and an important platform of content consumption by our Children. In India, Amar Chitra Katha started 50 years ago to educate our children about our rich history, culture, mythology and stories of folklore, fables and parables like Jataka Tales, Panchatantra through comics. This vision of encapsulating our cultural heritage and social values in Comics transformed them from something frivolousto a powerful educational tool. Comicsas a medium of education has been responsible for nurturing generations of readers with the habit being passed down to the next.

Q) What is the story behind creating a comic. Enlighten us on the entire process.

  • Research& Scripting: The story of a comic starts from an idea i.e. identifying the need for a particular story to be told to the masses. This involves an editorial team which researches on the identified topic vetting several books, articles and other reading materials to prepare a script based on facts. The characters could range from historical figures like Asoka to social entrepreneur like VergheseKurien to a story told by Ruskin Bond, an award-winning English author.
  • Art & Design: It involves penciling, inking and colouring to represent the story in thescript as pictures. Penciling involves making the crude outlines of the characters. It requires a team of highly visually active people who imagine the words as a moving picture and sketch the characters. Inking is the second stage where you deepen the outlines making the pictures clearer. This is followed by colouring i.e. adding the colours and making it visually appealing.
  • Inserting Text: theLast stage is putting the dialogues as speech bubbles and completing the story. A picture can speak a thousand words and without dialogues, each can be perceived differently by an individual reader. So, putting dialogues in context to pictures enables us to read and interpret stories in the way storyteller would like to narrate it.

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Creating a Comic: Inking and Colouring

Q) What are your most recent works as the group art director of one of the leading comic book series.

My team has worked on a comic on Sardar Patel which took our editorial team a year of research and scripting. It is based on a book by Rajmohan Gandhi. We have also done a comic on Swachh Bharat where we have narrated the history of cleanliness in India dating back to Mohanjodaro and Harappan times to where we are atpresent. In addition to story-telling, we also suggest learning activities and social initiatives that students can be a part of to play an active role in Swachh Bharat. Thus, most of our works have sections of active engagement for the students to get involved in thecommunity.

Q) How can schools take advantage of comics as an educational tool?

The world has always been dominated by visual learners with men in stone age illustrating their stories through cave paintings. Over the years, people talking through pictorial representations hasn’t changed with themajority of children preferring pictorial content over something that is text heavy. Hence, it is important for schools to include comics as an add-onreading with their textbooks to enhance informed content consumption and retention in their students.

Comics can be aneffective supporting aid to the academic content of textbooks for e.g. Children can understand historical characters like Asoka through a comic on the same. Comics being more visually appealing than textbooks helps engage students so that they understand and retain the story in their long-termmemory. Comics are but a creation of a sequential act through pictures bringing the characters alive. Textbooks at the most can tell you a story but comics have the power to let you become a part of the story. Recently, several ICSE schools have included comics as part of their curriculum reflecting the fact that schools are also starting to realise the value of comics as an education tool.

Q) What are the different ways being used by your teamto engage schools presently?

In addition to visiting schools and recommending them to use comic books asanadd-on to the textbooks, our team is also conducting students workshops on creating their own comic books. The students are encouraged to doodle, sketch and write their own stories. The workshops are a huge success with schools asking us to come back.

Q) In the time of digital media, where do you see the future of comics which are primarily print.

Age group of comics primarily fall in the bracket of 7-14 years. In the pre-teens age, themajority of parents don’t give a digital device to the child and encourage inculcating reading habits through books. What more, going digital is just a format. In future, comics would exist but the format may change. Presently kindle and bookreaders are primarily for reading novels and still not comic-friendly. At the most, one can use their PC to read a comic as pdf.Our market research has shown that comics are strong in print and majority of the readers are quite young. Though comics may expand on digital platforms, they would still stay put in print as reading habits in India are still rooted in books.

About the Author

Mr. SavioMascarenhas

SavioMascarenhas is the Group Art Director of Amar Chitra Katha, one of India’s largest comic book series that is known for Tinkle, the fortnightly magazine for kids.His role in the company is to look into the art and design for both these magazines by heading a team of artists, cartoonists and colourists. He started his stint as a freelance cartoonist for Tinkle comics in 1992 and later joined as a full-time staff artist in 1994. While at Tinkle he has co-created characters like Mopes and Purr along with writer ReenaPuri, Janoo and Wooly Woo along with Writer VaneetaVaid and also created Super Suppandi and Adventures of Little Shambu.

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