My parents legacy to us kids is definitely the love for reading. Reading for us, at that age covered a wide range of books. It not only included the usual Famous Fives, Three Investigators etc., but also a large number of comics. There was the Phantom, Mandrake the Magician, Tintin, Asterix & Obelix; the Indian genre of Chacha Choudhary, Tinkles, Amar Chitra Kathas and even the war comics that my dad loved to read. However my interest in Graphic Novels was definitely an off-take from my hubby’s enthusiasm for the same. The price of these books being prohibitively high for purchase we restrict ourselves to buying only the most well know novels – the once that my hubby just “has-to-have” like Batman, V for Vendetta etc.
Recently on our trip to the mall, the book store was off loading non-selling graphic novels in a sale and we picked up a couple for a few hundred bucks. One of the books was Mike Grell’s “The Complete Jon Sable, Freelance: Vol 7”. The protagonist is a professional hunter (in an age when hunting was supposed to be a great adventure) and most of the book is set in Africa – which brought back memories of the Phantom comics read in the long past. What amazed me most about the book was the illustrations. The illustrated story-line was not confined to rectangular boxes like in the comics of yester-years, at the same time it didn’t have the exotic look of digitally created images. All the images were hand sketches, with deceptively simple looking lines creating a plethora of human emotions and animal interactions. The simplicity of the animal illustrations made me just want to pick up a paper and pencil and try it out for myself.
Hunting cats, lazing cats, growling cats, stampeding elephants, flying cranes – all drawn with the ease of years of practice and keen observation – beautifully brought to life the wilderness of Africa. The only other author who has been able entice his readers to fall in love with Africa according to me is Wilbur Smith. His books so strongly reflect his love for the continent that one just can’t help but become captivated by the land so skilfully portrayed by his mesmerising words.
“The rains opened their annual offensive with a midnight broadside of thunder. [ ]. It [the wind] came of the east and it frightened the trees so they thrashed their branches in panic; it drummed on the wagon canvas and filled the air with dust and dry leaves. Then came the rain: stinging like hail, drowning the wind and turning the air into water. It swamped the sloping ground that could not drain it fast enough, it blinded and it deafened.” – When the Lion Feeds
“It was a photograph of an elephant, an old bull. [ ] Somehow he portrayed the whole vastness and timelessness of a continent, and yet he was at bay, and one sensed that all his great strength was unavailing, that he was confused by things that were beyond his experience and the trace memories of his ancestors, that he was about to be overwhelmed by change – like Africa itself.
With him in the photograph was shown the land, the rich red earth riven by wind, baked by sun, ruined by drought. [ ] Then, over it all the limitless sky, containing the promise of succour, the silver cumulo-nimbus piled like a snow-clad mountain range, bruised with purple and royal blue, pierced by a single beam of light from a hidden sun that fell on the old bull like a benediction.” – The Leopard Hunts in Darkness