Manjula Padmanabhan’s Suki is the greatest comic you will ever read in India.
I was introduced to Manjula Padmanabhan’s work through Target, the children’s magazine (emphasis on “the”). Now, of course, she’s rather well-known for her play Harvest, for she won an Aristotle Onassis award, and for the children’s books Mouse Attack and Mouse Invaders ( I have both, thanks!) Did not get Suki until last year, and oh my god, I was blown away. This strip deserves respect, and a lot of our attention, so go right ahead and check out one of the collections.It’s witty, it’s completely whimsical, it’s exquisitely drawn, and it’s SO Indian! The strip is full of puns, visual humor, absurdist comedy, and grounded characters all of which feel very universal. I am reminded of beloved strips like Bloom County and Pogo. A huge part of the appeal of the comic is the wonderful hand-lettered dialogue, which almost take on a personality of their own. Look at how the line width changes in the different panels, as Suki gets more and more engrossed in her words. And check out that lovely signature!
I was lucky enough to find a copy of the original Duckfoot Press release of This is Suki, from where these scans have been taken. Penguin has recently released a copy of “Double Talk: The Best of Suki”, it’s priced slightly on the higher side (Rs 250) and available in all fine bookstores everywhere.
I thnk this was in the introduction to the collection – it seems not too many people “got” Suki when the strips came out, in the Sunday Observer in 1982. So there used to be loads of letters of complaint from readers who would yell at the editor for allowing such tripe to run in the periodical. Grrrr. Stupid, stupid rat creatures.
And just to show you that the lady knows her comics, here’s a slightly-old Rediff article by her about female characters in comicbooks, and her favourite.
On an aside, another cartoonist I remember from Target was Mala Marwah, who did a strip right below the letters’ page. Damned if I remember the name, will just have to go home and flip through my copies. Anyone know what the name of the strip was? It was something like Baiju-Bawra, or maybe a pun on those names.