Prime Edition

Basu & Carey team up for a period story
ADITYA MANI JHA  8th Jul 2012

An image from Untouchable: Blood and Bone

n a collaboration coup of sorts, British comic book writer Mike Carey (Lucifer, Felix Castor, X-Men Legacy, Hellblazer) and Indian author Samit Basu (The Gameworld trilogy, The Tall Tales of Vishnu Sharma) have teamed up for a one-shot graphic novel called Untouchable: Blood and Bone. The book was earlier released in digital format in the US, but Liquid Comics, the publishers, made it available for users in India for the first time on 20 June. Since then, a chapter every week has been posted on the Graphic India website.

Untouchable follows the story of young Vimal Dhatri, who was born of an Indian mother and a British father. Taunted and distrusted by both communities, Dhatri finds an unlikely source of support: a demon that is as much of an outcast as he is. The novel features artwork by Ashok Bhadana.

Speaking about the collaboration process, author Basu mentioned that he and Carey each wrote one half of the story, and then rewrote each other's halves. Basu said, "It was remarkably easy. I knew Mike would write really well and really quickly, and it was always going to be a challenge keeping up; what I hadn't expected was that he would be a really nice person and an incredibly generous collaborator, given his stature."

Given that the book deals, in part, with racial stereotypes and the horrors of discrimination of any kind, we asked Basu if they had to be extra careful about sweeping statements or over-generalisation. "It never came up," replied Basu. "Besides, it is set at a time when racism was the norm, when the word probably didn't even exist; characters who spoke in what we guessed would be their normal voices would merely be acting in accordance with the norms of the time."

Basu's prose books like the Gameworld trilogy and the recent superhero caper Turbulence have been praised for their inventive use of world mythology and cultural tropes. So what were the challenges of writing comic books as opposed to prose books? "I'm a prose writer through and through, and nothing can replace the joy of writing a book; you have complete freedom, complete control over the material and stand or fall by your own work," he explained. "But writing books can be a lonely process, which is why I also love collaborative work and have enjoyed it every time I've done it. Writing comics disciplines you. You learn to be precise, get things said without fluffing, to use every bit of space you have to optimum effect."

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