Getting your portrait done doesn’t seem too big of a deal, does it? But, what if the painting feeds on your soul? Well, if the artist behind Dorian Grey’s portrait is alive, it could be possible.
Inspired by Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, The Picture of Everything Else — published by Vault Comics — is a collaboration between writer Dan Watters and artiste Kishore Mohan. The novel is a spin on Wilde’s classic as it focuses on the supernatural force behind the story: Dorian Gray’s painter.
Set in early 20th century Paris, The Picture of Everything Else follows a pair of art thieves Alphonse and Marcel. Native Parisians, the duo rent a studio in Montmartre, the arty part of Paris. They are painters in a time when portraits are slowly being replaced with photography. As the duo isn’t making enough from their paintings to make a living, they moonlight as art thieves. However, when they accidentally break into the wrong house, the duo discovers that they may have inadvertently stumbled upon the identity of the man behind a series of macabre deaths.
The first book in an ongoing graphic series by Vault Comics, The Picture of Everything Else, according to Kishore, can be classified under the genre of ‘Gothic Horror’. “In Wilde’s book, Basil Hallward, the artist behind Dorian’s painting is killed. However, what if he didn’t die? What if a dark power revived him? There is a lot about him and his special abilities that are yet to be revealed. In The Picture of Everything Else, it is suspected that the serial murders are the work of Basil Hallward,” says Kishore, who has used a mixed media approach for the illustrations. “I usually let the story dictate the kind of art that I am using. I try not to be a slave of my style. Since this particular story is all about art, I have used acrylics, watercolours, and digital artwork.”
A former software engineer, Kishore left his job at an MNC on a whim one day as he felt it wasn’t his calling. Wondering what to do, he decided to start a blog and post the comic strip he had started called Marcus and More. “It had a Chihuahua in the lead and was a parody of everything that was happening around me. I had posted two strips on my blog when a leading English daily asked if they could carry it in their Sunday supplement. It was a confidence booster for me,” says Kishore, who went on to publish two more series with the daily.
While Inappropriate was a spoof on movies, his latest is FuturePast. “I have completed 170 strips of FuturePast. It is about a world that has no humans in it; it is run by robots. While some robots believe in a mythical creator called humans, a majority of them are in denial. It’s a satirical take on everything that is happening around us right now.”
The artiste was inspired to take up the pen and write a graphic novel of his own after nearly ramming into a buffalo while driving back from work one day. “What if it had been a bison, that too Yama’s (the Indian God of Death) bison and I had been killed? What happens then? Yama would be without a ride,” he says. This seed of thought led to Autopilot: A Traffic Novel, a graphic novel that revolves around Suku, an autorickshaw driver, who ends up having to play chauffeur to Yama.
A limited print run, with only 2,000 copies printed, Autopilot was launched at a Comic Convention in Delhi in 2012. After a successful launch, he and his friends decided to attend the Comic Convention at Bengaluru. “My friends, Roshan K, Sinu Chandrasenan and I, all of us crazy about art, had started a company called Libera Artisti (renamed Studio Dreamcatcher). We had made promotional animation clips Autopilot, which captured the eye of venture capitalists. They, however, wanted to invest in animation, which took me off the graphic novel track for almost four years,” he said. They did the animation for many films, including segments in Mani Ratnam’s OK Kanmani and Aashiq Abu’s Gangster. “We also did Adventures of Cocoman, which is about a lungi-clad superhero,” says Kishore, who has been collaborating with artistes from across the globe since 2015.
“Dan, who is an established comic writer (DC Comics’ Lucifer), and I have been discussing several projects over the years to collaborate. The Picture of Everything Else seemed like the perfect thing for us, as I am into the 1890s of Belle Époque Paris— a period of many changes, be it cultural or art-wise. When he told me the story, I remember thinking that here’s a project that’ll let me explore all that I’ve wanted to with my craft,” he said.
When asked about his upcoming projects, he says, “I am working on The Game, another graphic novel, which will be out this year. The Picture of Everything Else will also be coming out in installments. Four more volumes are coming out this year.”
The 38-year-old Thiruvananthapuram native adds, “Although India has a rich graphic comic culture, we haven’t started seeing comic as mainstream literature yet. This is a shame since the graphic novel is a wonderful medium for storytelling.”