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Appupen Unveils New Novel

The Bengaluru graphic novelist is ready with his new silent graphic novel ‘Aspyrus’

Lalitha Suhasini May 14, 2014
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Appupen is already onto his next silent graphic novel  Photo Credit:  Shishir NS Siri

George Mathen aka Appupen | Photo Credit: Shishir NS Siri

Artwork from ”˜Aspyrus’

Artwork from ”˜Aspyrus’

The protagonist of George Mathen aka Ap­pupen’s third graphic novel Aspyrus, “a dragon-like dreamy creature with strange powers” was resting in an in­cubator even as the novelist wrapped up his debut graph­ic novel Moonward, which was released in 2009. Says the 35-year-old graphic artist, “The creature was born out of a chapter that I edited out of Moonward. It was just a fresh thought at that time. Now, I’m clearer about what I want to say and understand that the idea that I left out of that book has a lot more potency.”

Like his previous books, Moonward and Legends Of Halahala, Appupen continues to roll, yaw and pitch his take on capitalism and consumer­ism. He says, “The character of the dragon comes from my study of brands and is heavi­ly inf luenced by my advertiz­ing and branding work. Even its name, Aspyrus, is a corpo­rate-sounding word, which comes from the word aspira­tion.” Aspyrus is an incredibly likeable character, says Appu­pen. “He’s got a really likeable face. You see him and you think he’s real­ly cute and that’s his way of getting inside your head and once he gets in, he starts to suck. So he’s taking over the world. This character was designed by certain logos and products, which have a similar softness that appeal to everybody.” The central idea is that of the dragon that has enslaved sev­eral generations of minds. Says Appupen, “It happens to be a creature that feeds on people’s minds.”

A scene from the novel

As Aspyrus conquers the world and “grows into a more grotesque creature,” the denouement unravels ”“ a little girl whose father was led to his death by Aspy­rus takes on the powerful dragon. Says Ap­pupen, “Dragons are really cool in all kinds of fantasy literature right now and have a noble disposition but here, Aspyrus uses this aura as a ploy.” Trust the artist to twist accepted notions of fantasy and reality to show his readers the mirror. Says the art­ist, “Every book has some part of the artist in it. In this one, there’s somebody called the dreamer ”“ he kind of brings forth your fears and concerns into the story.”

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With Aspyrus ready to release on Harp­er Collins by the end of this month or early next month, Appupen has already begun work on his fourth graphic novel, also a wordless novel. Says the artist, “The idea of silent novels takes time to grow, so this is an exercise of three to four books with certain ideas specific to silent storytelling. You can’t elaborate on all ideas through silent graphic novels.” His as yet untitled next book is another silent novel set in the “White City” that was first referenced in his debut, Moonward. “It’s a tribute to a woodcut artist named Lynd Ward, whose work was popular in the 1920s and 30s. His work, of course, was a lot more detailed because he used wood. But I’m also trying to stress a lot more on art in the (fourth) new book, where each page will be one full page of art like a form of poster art, which also tells a story.”

Despite calling out various transgressions of modern so­ciety in his books, Appupen refuses to be labeled as an activist. He says, “It’s like any artist would like to address some issue ”“ all artists are socio-political activists. I should be doing a lot more if I were an activist.” We ask him what’s the best thing he’s heard about his books. The answer doesn’t surprise us. “One fellow quit his job after reading Moonward.”

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This article appeared in the May 2014 issue of ROLLING STONE India.

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