Let’s go graphic!
One of the easiest and most accurate ways of describing graphic novels is that they are like comics but instead of periodicals, they read like a book. They typically include overly attractive women and super powered roid-raging men with deep voices, capes and the occasional witty charm, excluding Spiderman of course.
Here's a spoiler: these super powered men usually have more than one love interest. On a more serious note, graphic novel does not just mean superhero stories. It is a broad term and can be anything from fiction to non-fiction to anthologised work, as long as it is made up of comic content.
Comics and graphic novels are globally revered and cherished. It is truly an art form that combines the use of drawings, sketches and storytelling. Even though comics and graphic novels were never really big in Bangladesh, there were some political cartoons that made it to publication ever since the British rule.
A popular novel back during the Pakistani regime was Titumir er Basher Kella. Another novel that came out of Calcutta during that time was Mahatma Gandhi's life story. After Bangladesh's independence, comics were mostly non-existent with only a few exceptions.
Ronobi was one of the first strip cartoons in Bangladesh. Muhammed Zafar Iqbal's Mohakashe Mohatrash was also published as a strip back in the day. For quite a while, there was not much except Ronobi and Unmad.
The earliest known use of the term, graphic novel dates back to 1964. The term became popular within the comics community and after the commercial success of Art Spiegelman's Maus in 1986, became familiar to the public. The collected editions of The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen also helped graphic novel's rise in popularity.
It was the late 1980s when graphic novels first arrived on print. Amongst the first were Richard Corben's Bloodstar and George Metzger's Beyond Time and Again. The latter - which was also a popular underground comic during that time – was published as a 48 page, hardcover book with the title, "A Graphic Novel." Another notable early graphic novel was The Silver Surfer and was by none other than Marvel Comics' Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.
Sharier Khan, who was a comic enthusiast ever since he was a child, was also involved in strip cartoons in the '80s. A fan of old-school Marvel's humour and Tintin's complete stories, he also wanted to get into the field of graphic novels. His first attempts at a graphic novel were in the '80s but none of them were ever completed.
It was around 2006 when he started to work on what would be his first ever graphic novel. After quite a few changes, Khan had perfected his first ever 92 page graphic novel and it was published in the 2007 Boi Mela as Laily.
Regarded as the first graphic novel to be published in Bangladesh, Laily was a hit among the public which eventually led to Khan coming back to write a Laily 2 due to public demand.
In between his Laily releases, Khan also worked on the sci-fi action comedic graphic novel, Cube. Cube followed the story of - yes you guessed it - cubes which if in good hands gave people really cool superpowers. The graphic novel also featured romance and intergalactic travels, making it a must read for comic and graphic novel fans alike.
With a few graphic novels under his belt, Sharier also released two graphic novels in this year's Boi Mela, the Somo's Mongol Mission Part 2 and Somo's Kalpa Shikari.
In 2015, the Centre for Research and Information also released a graphic novel series based on the autobiography of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman titled "Mujib."
The first episode portrayed the childhood of Bangabandhu as well as how Bangabandhu got involved in politics. It also shows how he earned the title of Bangabandhu and raised his voice to demand the independence of Bangladesh. The second part of this must read novel series is set to be published very soon.
Honon by Ahsan Habib and Songhat by Nasif Ahmed Pritom are two graphic novel publications from 2014 that are definitely worth checking out.
Now, Dhaka Comics has also joined the cause of graphic novels. While currently they have yet to release their first graphic novel, they are working on an adaptation of a Muhammed Zafar Iqbal's book titled, "Ruhan Ruhan" which was released in 2014 as two separate comics and is set to be released soon as a hard bind graphic novel. Dhaka Comics also has a whopping collection of 30 of their own original comics that people can now check out.
Graphic novels and comics hold a sanctuary in our hearts and in the hearts of generations hence, so it is important for us to help them survive at a place where comics and graphic novels have not picked up as much as they should have.
By Naveed Naushad