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In conversation: Strip Tease the Mag and Bangalore Comic Con

India’s first ezine dedicated solely to comics and graphic novels, Strip Tease has a worldwide readerbase and fan-following. Here, in conversation with Eye, the Founders Sreejita Biswas and Karn Kaul discuss their journey and their stall at the Bangalore Comic Convention.



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A game of shatranj by The Painter of Oz, Strip Tease the Mag
You must get this asked often, but why “StripTease”? What compelled you to name your zine so provocatively? Were you challenging certain socio-cultural norms in calling it so?
ST: Starting from the very beginning, ‘twas a dark, stormy night. And there was rum. In conversation with a friend of mine, Ananda, we stumbled upon this name.Well, Ananda did most of the stumbling and I did most of the squealing. The name was PERFECT.

And our logic behind it? Strip= comic strips. Tease=we write about comics.
I never really thought of it to be anything but a very quirky name that explained what we were going to do perfectly. Me being me, I obviously didn’t connect it to anything provocative- I have quite the one track mind that way. And surprisingly, people took it in good humour. Including parents and even parents of parents.
But of course, recently a Hindutva fanatic took to shaming one of my artists publicly online for posting a Smriti Irani meme. Clearly, we are bad influence. And clearly India is a country that thoroughly lacks a sense of humour.
Also, just to make things clear to “fans” who keep writing in to ask me whether I’ll be stripping or not- the answer is “no”.

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A little bit of steampunk and a whole lot of Endless,Strip Tease the Mag

You are India’s first zine dedicated to Comics and Graphic Novels. Take us through the journey- what inspired you to create it, and who were the brains involved?

ST: We are? Yay!
But on a more serious note, I decided to start StripTease because people need to know about comics. Yes Superman and Batman and all of that is perfectly fine, but in my first year at JUDE I was horrified to realize that Sandman was something “new’ to people. Of course, nothing came out of it as long as I was in Calcutta.
Back to the stormy night in Bangalore, I was having a very random conversation with my roommates- Karn and Kushagra. And the idea for an ezine dedicated to global comics materialized. Of course, I didn’t want to work on it because I am singularly the laziest person you’ll ever meet. But Karn made sure that I actually got off my sorry little ass and got some fucking work done. Kushagra bought the domain name and Ved Antani, a tech genius all the way from Hyderabad helped host it.

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Rahul Jha for Strip Tease the Mag

You have a degree in Literature, where graphic novels still aren’t regarded as a part of mainstream literature, and still has trouble carving its niche in India. What caused you to take an interest in so specific a genre?

ST: Two statements that have been flung at me ever since I was a kid-
a. Comics aren’t for girls (and I still get hate-mail from people about how a girl can’t edit an ezine about comics)
b. Comics are for kids

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StripTease is an open platform for illustrators and comic enthusiasts alike. Who have been some of the most rewarding and memorable artists you have been in contact with as a result of it?

ST: I think the rest of the artists contributing will hate me for this. But this question is quite a no-brainer. The two most inspiring artists I have been lucky to interact extensively with have been Ojoswi Sur and Rahul Jha. Both of them are absolutely brilliant at what they do! And we are actually working together on a series of graphic narratives together. I will be writing, Karn will be story-boarding and lettering and Rahul and Oz will be illustrating. The book will be launched at the Mumbai Comic Con by a Bangalore-based publishing house, Fablery.
And when it comes to name-dropping, I will restrict myself to Stan Lee, Pablo Stanley, Sebastien Millon, David Lloyd and Rob Denblyker.

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Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas, Strip Tease the Mag

Growing up, what were your favourite comics and graphic novels that eventually led to the inception of StripTease?

ST: Asterix! I have loved Asterix ever since I Was a child.
As an adult, I still believe that Asterix is the best executed series of all time!
Apart from that, Joe Sacco, Alan Moore, Craig Thompson have obviously inspired me as well.

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Bat spirit, Strip Tease the Mag

StripTease is a copyleft zine. What are your views on the rampant plagiarism that is prevalent in this art?

ST: Can you do anything to stop plagiarism? Does shaming the plagiarists in public make a difference to them? The answer to both the questions is “no”. So as long as there is art being created, there will be plagiarists. Yes, I hate plagiarists, but there really is nothing that anyone can do about such scum.

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The Painter of Oz, for Strip Tease the Mag

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You are one of the few platforms in attendance at the Bangalore ComicCon. Tell us a little about your expectations of this ComicCon and what you hope to achieve out of it.

ST: To be very honest, I have no expectations out of it.
We had initially planned to launch a print version here, but due to emergencies, that’s been shifted to the Mumbai Comic Con which will possibly be held in December. As of now, what we’re hoping to achieve is establish Ramble Ink. It is a collaboration that makes custom comics on demand. Cool eh?
And as for StripTease, we just finished interviewing Rob from Cyanide & Happiness, Dan Parent (of the Archies fame) and Peter Kuper (of the World War III and Spy vs Spy fame). So I look forward to meeting them in person. Generally my interviews happen via email/chat or Skype. This is the first time we will be interacting with some “heroes” of mine. And of course, I will be interviewing David Lloyd too!! So this Comic Con is going to help me get an AWESOME issue this month!

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Stan Lee, Strip Tease the Mag

You also have a stall this year at the Bangalore Comic Con. Tell us a little about the stall, and how you plan to take StripTease further by it.

ST: We’re sharing the stall with Mumbai Anime Club and Ramble Ink. MAC needs no introduction, but Ramble Ink is a collective of people who make custom comics for a living. I think it is a brilliant thing that they do. They take real people and ideas and turn them into superheroes! They have a brilliant artist on board and I do see them going places- soon!

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Pink Floyd, Strip Tease the Mag

What are your views on rarity of Comic Cons in India? Do you feel it needs better exposure, and do you view this as something more than an event, a sub-culture, perhaps?

ST: If I answered this question honestly, I think I wouldn’t be allowed into any more Indian Comic Cons.

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The Painter of Oz, for Strip Tease the Mag

And finally, it’s no secret that you’re a fangirl when it comes to Neil Gaiman. Now that his attendance at the Bangalore Comic Con has been announced, how are you feeling? What are the wildest scenarios that you have in mind for this fateful meeting?

ST: I am trying to be optimistic about it. I really do not know how a video conference can do justice to him, but I am sure he would be mobbed if he actually did turn up at any Indian Comic Con.
But however, I do have a little cunning plan in place. Neil and I have discussed it thoroughly in my head and there is no chance that it’s going to fail. I can’t obviously get into details since it’s a secret, but I will tell you that there’s the TARDIS involved.

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Superman, Strip Tease the Mag

 

Catch Strip Tease at this year’s Bangalore Comic Con!

Interview by Manisha 

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