Abhishek was kind enough to answer a few questions for us, drilling deeper into the meaning and philosophy behind Krishna as well as his creative process.
Panels: The story of Krishna is so vast, not only in plot, but in philosophy. How did you decide what to include?
Abhishek Singh: Each sequence in the book is symbolic of themes which signify different phases of our lives.
The story of childhood is about innocence, our connection with nature, the second sequence with Kamsa is about greed and it’s inflictions, then about the beautiful abstraction called Love, the yearning of heart, and that that it’s a bridge towards the universal love embedded in all things.
The last sequence of war is about the self destructive quality of humanity, about loss and hope, about point of views, and meaning of existence, realization of ever transient nature of life, a profound connectivity which exists between life and death.
There was much I had to leave out. The flow of the story was more important, I wanted to get into a few characters a little more, particularly, Rukmani, Krishna’s wife, Gandhari, Duryodhana’s mother, Subhadra, Abhimanyu’s wife (and Krishna’s niece) Bheshma, Sahdeva, and a few lesser known cha.
I consoled myself by saying that I will later use this book as a centerpiece to probably do the entire Mahabharata.
The other decision was to tell the story from Krishna’s point of view, at the time of him leaving the world, and being nostalgic and summarizing his life one last time in the mortal world. There is no one around, just nature, and him having a dialogue with the invisible heart of life.
P: You balance the narrative between plot and religion. Did you have to outline how they would work together, or did you find that the story progressed naturally?
AS: Theological spiritual subject matter can get very confusing at times, as it adheres to be explained with contextual terminology and longer explanations, to convert something complex into something simple by not making it boring.
For me, it’s a balance between letting the story take on it’s shape and offering it the creative nourishment of one’s emotions, and contemplations (which takes a longer time than research itself as that’s where we are restructuring our perceptions, worldview etc) and then weaving that into the story, just enough so it does not become preachy, but a personal statement, too.
My relationship with the story (beside its fantastic appeal) was very humanistic, based on certain questions about life and everyday stuff. For an example, people get nostalgic playing old songs… music becomes a way to travel into emotions, extract adrift memories, trying to constantly escape from the frantic mind, from the stressful life. It’s war everyday, isn’t it, yet good and great days find us, days of love and feeling lighter. It’s all happening around us and my intention was to bring it all to the surface and take some of the deeper ideas of consciousness, time, mortal existence surrounding Krishna and fuse them together.
Simulacra and Simulation, a book by a famous French philosopher Jean Baudrillard, which was given to the entire crew of The Matrix, talks about real and unreal, our perception of reality, the inspiration for that book was the “Gyana Yoga” part of the Bhagavad Gita which talks about various realities and their differences, they sing “tamso ma jotirgamaya” in the end credits of The Matrix, so you see there is much undiscovered material which I wanted to learn about.
P: It felt revolutionary to me to see Krishna drawn with a beard. Was that something you thought a lot about in the way you portrayed him?
AS: 1) Ain’t no philosopher without a beard.
2) In the martial traditions, Samurai’s, Kashtriya’s, the warriors use to grow their beards and hair, as if the lock of hair a sword cannot cut through, not even a catana, and the hair would camouflage their necks from afar.
P: Your art is so gorgeous and intricate. How long does it take you to draw, ink, color, and letter a typical page? What is your art process like?
AS: I worked both traditionally and digitally, for the pages for Krishna. I am not including thumbnailing here, I made that part of the scripting process.
Two to four days to complete pages, depending on the complexity. Sometimes I would color a whole sequence together.
P: One big question we’ve received: Is there anywhere that people can buy art prints from KRISHNA: A Journey Within?
AS: Not for now, but I’m on it.
P: Are there any comics or artists you’re excited about right now that you want more people to be aware of?
AS: Late veterans comic book artists from Europe, which finally are being published here in the US market. For instance, Sergio Toppi. He’s one of my very favorites. Second would be Phillipe Drilullete, his work will be published this year.
P: What do you have planned next? Will it be related to Hindu mythology like Krishna or Ramayana 3392 A.D.?
AS: There are two projects i’m working on right now. They both are based on original concepts, that’s all I can share for now.