Graphic illustration Farcreazy Farid invites Omar Mehtab into his sketchy world
So Lucky (as he’s also known) how did you develop an interest in comics and drawing?
My passion developed from an early age. I started off as a kid drawing doodles... not only on paper, but on the furniture too. My parents weren’t too happy, so they bought me sketchbooks to go crazy in. I would often draw cartoon characters like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. My maths book at school was also more like an art sketchpad. I used to draw characters from memory, and would put them in little situations or scenes. It was this combination of storytelling and illustration that got me into reading and writing comics.
So were your parents quite supportive of your talent from the start?
Very much so. I’m from an Asian background so it is understandably very difficult to find supportive people in the ommunity. They typically expect you to be a doctor or businessman! But my dad saw something in me and wanted me to really develop my talent and take my interest and passion to the next level.
You’re 26. When you say “I write comics”, people would typically think of Batman or Japanese anime or manga. Do you feel there is a lack of understanding?
You get a different reaction every time to be totally honest. I do tell people that I write and illustrate a series called Zomblicity, which is far from your typical Batman or Akira. I do obviously get influenced by such comics, but I try to bring individuality and a sense of myself to all of my works and stand out from the others. For example, I like drawing my comics all in pencil instead of ink, which is the most simple and natural form of drawing. By making these comics my own, and keeping them to the purest form of illustrating, I’m able to concentrate on the story and make the series the best it can be.
Where do you take the majority of your influence?
Definitely the Japanese comics. They draw such amazing detail on woodprints and vases, as well as on paper. A series called Akira came out in the 80s and broke out in the West. The reason it became so popular apart from the engrossing story was the focus on expressions. Emotions. I wanted to add that into my characters so people would understand what the character would be feeling in both the story and the illustration. My favourite Japanese series is Street Fighter, which was popularised through its game in 1992. The characters are so simple, but amazingly have so much depth. They were simple looking characters who had lot of back-story, and their personalities would shine through the page.
Graphic novels are increasing in popularity, why do they stand out so much from typical novels?
Graphic novels tell stories in an interesting way, and the illustrations play such a huge part. Rather than leaving it all to the reader’s imagination, you can pause and reflect on a given image and really identify more with the character that is presented. What they look like, what they go through, it is a fantastic selling point. To visually watch the story unfold makes it all that much more personal.
I guess that’s why you made Zomblicity! How did it all start, and what interested you in the Zombie genre?
I got approached by Robin Sandiford, who is the chief writer of the series, and my friend Libby who I graduated with. Robin saw my illustrations on Facebook by chance, and I got told that he was looking for an artist. He initially wanted to produce a short film, and wanted me on board for the character design and development. But as we sat down and discussed it, we decided that it would be best to create a comic series instead. In Zomblicity, we have two different timelines parallel to each other in the series, which really worked well and made more sense in the illustrations. It was still a difficult task but I loved the challenge. The main character, Curtis, drew me in and I sensed that there was a lot to explore with him. He is a very honest and laidback guy...a guy after my own heart.
It sounds very challenging and time-consuming though. How long does it take to draw an issue?
We try to do a page a week. We used to do a whole issue first and then upload it, but we didn’t want to hold out on our readers for too long. Some were getting frustrated with waiting so we did what was best for them. I draw a couple of roughs up every week, and finalised a page before uploading it. I also work part-time so I don’t have much free time to put into Zomblicity. But Robin and I are on the same level, so it works very well and smoothly in that way. We get along really well socially and creatively, and being on the same wavelength ensures that we get the best out of each other.
What other opportunities have you had with artistry or drawing?
I did some freelance work for Financial Editor, and designed from characters and flyers for a Zumba campaign. I also design tattoos too, which is a more popular use for my drawing ability. But the key thing for me is not to stop. I’m always challenging myself, or doodle in my spare time, just to keep my skills sharp and passion alive. I’m always excited and happy whenever I have a pencil in hand!
You’re only 26. Is this something you would want to do full-time?
I would definitely like to incorporate my storytelling and drawing into something long-term, yes. The funny thing about this is that you get writer’s block... or artist’s block! Your creative juices dry up, so you have to take a break and come back to it later on. Maybe in the long-term I would be able to get around this, but I’d also like to have a life. I did some dancing work with a Bollywood show once, and loved it as it was still creatively stimulating. So maybe I could mix together TV work and drawing. That’s my aim; to be as creative as can be.
Would you even infuse your Asian background or culture with the comics? Could it be a way to get those in the Asian community interested in graphic novels?
If the script demands, yes. I wouldn’t do it for the sake of it but I would definitely use it to my advantage. I don’t want to force culture into it unnecessarily. Just because we’re Asians, we don’t need our culture as a starting point, we just need support. Family support is the key I have found personally. Once you get it, or the community is able to accept artistic ventures as something worthwhile, then a lot of those interested will be able to naturally let their interest grow and rise. Jay Sean is a great example. He came from an Asian background and was able to make a success of his talent, even if it wasn’t prescribing medicine or using a calculator! We as a community do not know what we are capable of as too many are going for the safe option.
So what do you make of Saif Ali Khan’s recent film about Zombies, Go Goa Gone?
Zombie films are so popular in the West that I guess it had to happen back home too! There had to be a breakthrough somehow! They’re breaking the mould in Bollywood, so as long as their interest rises in a variety of genres, it’ll be interesting to see how it goes. Film is just like illustration; it is a form of art. Good luck to them - I hope the film does well!
Finally, what advice do you have for anyone who is into their graphic novels or want to break into the comic industry?
If they have a talent, they should definitely pursue it. No doubt in my mind. Comics and illustrations are something that you should keep on practicing. At the end of the day, there is so much talent being wasted because we go for the safe option. Do promotion work and get your name out there. Keep on doing little comic strips or get social in the industry. Always promote yourself. Don’t lose touch with it; otherwise it’s very difficult to get back into it! It’s a great thing. You get to tell great stories, and who knows where it will take you?
Check out Zomblicity at www.zomblicity.com