Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Google+ Share on Reddit Share on Pinterest Share on Linkedin Share on Tumblr History is a complex and rich source to pull stories from. There are plenty of comics about the Renaissance era, Medieval England, and even the early Twentieth century to keep readers busy for a long time. However, some comics decide to focus on something completely different and out of our literary norm. THESE SAVAGE SHORES by Ram V, Sumit Kumar, Vittorio Astone, and Aditya Bidikar give us a story that takes place in a world we are not as familiar with as we should be. Taking place on the Silk Road in the 1700s, Ram V masterfully combines European vampires with Indian folklore to create a story of mixed mythology that we have yet to see. The story directly addresses xenophobia and colonization during the 1600s, but with a new and brutal twist. ComicsVerse was lucky enough to get the chance to speak with Ram V about his new project and the inspiration behind it. Ram V also shared some beautiful exclusive variant covers that will be available at various different websites! Check out the links listed under each amazing image for your chance at a variant cover. [Editors Note: This interview has been lightly edited for clairty.] Variant cover by Saumin Suresh Patel, exclusively at The Comic Mint ComicsVerse (CV): For those who may not know, what is THESE SAVAGE SHORES about? Ram V (RV): Briefly, THESE SAVAGE SHORES, is a story of vampirism and colonialism set along the Malabar Coast in the 1760s in India, against the backdrop of the first Anglo-Mysore wars. When a European Vampire on the run comes to Calicut aboard one of the first East India Ships, he discovers that the land along the Indus has its own dark legends and they are far older and at least every bit as dangerous. His arrival and the events that follow set into motion a story of monsters and intrigue as it weaves in and out of the real historical events of that time. CV: This story seems to play a lot with myth and legends. The story starts with a sort of creation myth, but there are other folklore elements at play. What was the inspiration for this story? RV: Myth and legend is part of the story, yes. But truly, THESE SAVAGE SHORES is a story of conflict, both literal and ideological. I don’t really know that there is a specific thing I can point to and say that it was the inspiration. I’m fairly well informed on Indian Mythology. I was doing some research on the Raakshasa myth when I realised how similar they were to the vampire mythology and how the first mention of a Raakshasa pre-dated the first real mention of a Vampire by a few centuries. Then, much later, I was watching a period drama set in the 1800s in the UK and the two ideas just clicked. A few months later, I was typing up the pitch for THESE SAVAGE SHORES. Variant cover by Alison Sampson, exclusively at Space Cadet Collection CV: One of my favorite parts of the comic is the art. From clothing and face paint to architecture, it seems you’re following a culture that lived (or even still lives) along the Indus River. Was there a certain culture or region you were following? RV: The story is set in the Malabar region of India and later in London. It focuses predominantly on the Zamorin (Samoothiri) culture of the port of Calicut (Kozhikode) — which was, at the time, one of the most prosperous ports in the world and part of a region that contributed close to a quarter of the world’s economy. There were French, Portuguese, Dutch, Arabian, and British traders who frequented the port and it was truly a thriving and productive part of the world. A large part of the story also happens in Mysore which was the seat of power for Hyder Ali who was an important Mughal ruler and one of the first to oppose the advent of colonial power and the East India Company. So these are very real cultures and places that continue to exist as monuments and ruins and historical artifacts to this day. I’ve always maintained that THESE SAVAGE SHORES is as much alt-history as it is supernatural fiction. CV: There is a series of panels that I found completely astounding. It’s where one character is jumping out of a building on fire. It uses nine panels that snake around the page. How did this panel movement come about? Was this Sumit Kumar’s doing, or something you came up with? RV: That was a fairly straightforward series of panels in the script. Then, Sumit came back with the idea to reverse the reading order on the central panels and I thought to myself, that’s brilliant. Sumit routinely finds ways to do that in the pages. He is just utterly incredible, immensely talented, and I hope he’ll be at the very top of the industry in the years to come. Yeah, I had a few suggestions for him afterward. But that idea is all him. And, it goes to show, in a good collaboration there is always room for moments of individual brilliance that lift up the whole work! Variant cover by Sarah Luchins, exclusively at Escape Pod Comics CV: Especially in this moment in time, the effects of the East India Company and the colonization of the region are just as important as they were when it was happening. Conversely, I feel a lot of these effects have been forgotten. Is there something you’re trying to convey to readers? RV: This is actually a really complex and interesting question for me to answer. I do think the scars of colonization run deep. They influence people, generations beyond the ones that have lived as colonized subjects. Societies and cultures create things, unique and indicative of the eccentricities of that place, time, and people. Colonization seeks to convert all of that to an efficient resource generating system. It is the macroscopic equivalent of taking someone and beating all the life out of them so they’re brainwashed into following orders. You’re killing the ability of a people to have dreams and ambitions. Language was banned, indigenous dance, art, and music was outlawed. How do you recover from something like that? But, I am glad the effects are being forgotten. I’d say it is important for societies who were once under colonial rule to move on. To leave behind that kind of colonial baggage and know and trust in themselves to build a future that is entirely their own. Maybe the colonizers should never forget what they did, lest we repeat the travesties of the past. But the colonized? They owe no one. There is no reason they must carry that baggage. I am very proud to see modern-day Indians excelling in art, music, film, industry without somehow being marginalised for their identity. Is there something I am trying to convey to the readers? Nothing beyond the story itself. I don’t believe in being didactic when it comes to making stories. I am presenting you with a story, a picture, a work of art. I have something to say through it but that is for me to say through the work. What you hear, what you see, is entirely up to you. If you can see my views directly mouthed in the story, I have failed in being a good storyteller. It is inelegant to do that. CV: The art in this story is absolutely amazing. The way Vittorio Astone colors Sumit Kumar’s art is just beautiful. The balance of colors really makes the story pop off of the page. What was it like working with them? RV: Absolutely smooth. I have worked with Sumit before and I have said it a million times. Sumit is the shining example of a consummate professional. His work is brilliant. He is actively involved and interested in the story, always communicative and on time. Just an absolute pleasure to work with. All of this beyond being very obviously talented. There is only one place he’s going and that’s to the very top. Vittorio came on board when we started looking for colorists. And when I saw the first test pages from him, I knew he got it. I knew that he had an inherent understanding of what the book needed to look like and that he knew how to work with Sumit’s inks. He elevates the art without overpowering it. He lends mood and tone by making richer what is already on the page. He has the confidence to cut back when he has to and express himself when he needs to. Just incredible to work with them as a team. I also want to mention Aditya, here. He letters the book and is, as always, stellar. There are parts of the issue where he does subtle things. A text bubble cutting across panel borders. A sound effect masked behind an object. The writing style on the captions. Everything adds to the reader’s experience of the book even if isn’t apparent immediately. To me, he ranks among the very best in the industry for lettering your comics. Variant cover by Christian Ward, exclusively at Forbidden Planet, Big Bang Comics, and Jetpack Comics CV: I hear you’re working on several new projects, such as BATMAN SECRET FILES and GRAFITY’S WALL. Is there anything you can tell us about these stories? RV: GRAFITY’S WALL is a graphic novel that I’ve just wrapped up with artist Anand Radhakrishnan, letterer Aditya Bidikar, and colorist Jason Wordie. It’s published by UK publisher Unbound and is a quieter, more personal story about teenagers growing up in modern-day Mumbai, thrumming with its vibrancy, art, and street culture. Again, a book that is about where I come from, but very different from THESE SAVAGE SHORES. It is entirely devoid of genre elements and is just a portrayal of the simultaneously inspiring and oppressing place that Mumbai can be. While I can’t talk about the actual work on BATMAN SECRET FILES. It’s Batman! When I published BLACK MUMBA in 2016, off a successful Kickstarter campaign. Not in a million years would I have imagined I’d pen a Batman story in 2018. So, it is thrilling and an honor to have my editors place such faith in me. CV: Between PARADISO, BATMAN SECRET FILES, GRAFITY’S WALL, and THESE SAVAGE SHORES, which is your favorite project to work on, and why? RV: It’s like asking me to pick which one of my kids I like the best. Impossible. I create everything with the utmost excitement, love, and interest.CV: Is there anything else you’d like readers to know? RV: I just want to tell them that I appreciate them all. I’m telling a vampire story in 2018 and a story that’s not set in a location that you’d expect most stories to be set in. And, I’m still getting so much love for this book. Readers are awesome. Not just for my comics. Anyone who takes the time to sit down, read and appreciate stories, you’re awesome. Much love. Be sure to pick up a copy of THESE SAVAGE SHORES, in stores October 10th!