Business is now comic-al

“Why?” was my first instinct. Why and how can business books adapt into comics? Then it struck me that with the graphic novel gaining currency – fiction has always been considered the hallmark of imagination – showing a ‘How To’ series should be a more natural progression.

The little I have seen of graphic novels, too, does not intrude into the manner in which words are used. It is just a different way of seeing. Being personally more inclined to imagery and metaphor, the idea of a pictorial depiction may take away from the reader’s way of looking at the work. But then, if the work is different from one’s ‘area’ in a manner, then the graphics add rather than take away from what is being conveyed. It is like watching clouds and then you see flashes of the sky that has already been ‘painted’. It gives a different dimension to how we watch the cumulus disperse or words tumble.

Non-fiction of a certain kind lends itself wonderfully to such pictorial depiction. As a report states:

SmarterComics is to produce a line of comic books based on bestselling business, motivational and personal self-help titles. Among the titles coming out next month in graphic novel form are personal motivator Larry Winget's business bestseller 'Stop Whining & Get a Life', sales and marketing guru Tom Hopkins' 'How to Master the Art of Selling', performance psychologist John Eliot's 'Overachievement' and technology magazine Wired's editor-in-chief Chris Anderson's 'The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More'.

I do not read self-help books (ah, whining gives me a chance to dine and wine and, occasionally, shine), but it is a huge market and there could well be titles that I would find cumbersome to read because it just isn’t my territory but would like to know about. Of course, there is pretty much everything available on the Net, yet I would be curious about how a book like I’m Ok, You're Ok would translate in images. It is such a psychological journey and it just so happened that at around the same time I was reading Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman, which I think would be an absolute delight as a comic book. I do tend to visualise and even imagine while reading non-fiction, the drier it is the more vividly I think about the characters or ‘players’ or ‘scenes’.

Unfortunately, the publisher’s targets are the “Twitter and Facebook generations” for whom the books will be “lively, visually appealing comics, for a generation of readers who want valuable information in easy to understand bits”.

I think there is no specific generation anymore on social networking sites and the need for valuable information and easy to understand bits need not be seen as dumbing down. Serious issues can be dumbed down, poetry can be dumbed down in the manner in which they are interpreted. It would be quite educative if instead of drab graphs one can watch the more complex works made accessible, rather than easy. And the difference lies in placing before us a well-laid out meal and spoon-feeding.

Even at the most basic level, if the works reach a wider readership, there would be some who might want to explore it in greater detail.

To give another example, I discovered many old folktales in their pure forms after reading comics.

Long before Indian television gave us garish images of mythological caricatures, there was the Amar Chitra Katha series of comics. As a comic book aficionado, I admit that except for the Panchtantra series, there was not much that kept me regaled. It was a simple and simplistic rendition, but so are most text books. However, what these books did was to make children conscious of our epics. Anant Pai, the founder, writer, illustrator kept at it till his death recently, because he noticed that youngsters knew more about the Greeks than Lord Rama. Of course, he did not realise that this would become a household name for entirely different reasons.

From mythology he ventured into stories of real people, the heroes. Again, I can well imagine how much more wonderful it must be to read these with quote bubbles and loud drawings for a mind that is transfixed by butterflies and in a hurry to chase them.

One should hope children grow up and grown ups can retain a wide-eyed wonder.

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