I first called this piece Indian ‘Devi’s, Western ‘Diva’s And The Dubiously Superheroic Aesthetic of the Slice of Fucked-up Femme-life. Then it sounded too long! But that is what it is all about, really…
It was a matter of real excitement when I got to know about Shekhar Kapur’s ‘Devi’ (the 21st Century Indian superheroine presented by Virgin Comics) from a friend.
Spoiler Alert: The magnanimous maiden in the cover is not exactly Devi, the goddess, but Daanvi, the demoness– the evil alter ego who, while infesting the human host Tara Mehta (or whoever in the Mehta family she could put her tentacles on), literally grabs her soul and shakes and squeezes till all the traits of greatness, kindness and other beautiful qualities oozes out. Daanvi is as hot and dashing as Devi and her human hosts are. But she is blue…dark-ish. And she does not comb her hair as well…
The following is a list consisting of traits of beauty and ugliness extracted from On Ugliness:
Beautiful: pretty, cute, pleasing, attractive, agreeable, lovely, delightful, fascinating, harmonious, marvellous, delicate, graceful, enchanting, magnificent, stupendous, sublime, exceptional, fabulous, wonderful, fantastic, magical, admirable, exquisite, spectacular, splendid and superb.
Ugly: repellent, horrible, horrendous, disgusting, disagreeable, grotesque, abominable, repulsive, odious, indecent, foul, dirty, obscene, repugnant, frightening, abject, monstrous, horrid, horrifying, unpleasant, terrible, terrifying, frightful, nightmarish, revolting, sickening, foetid, fearsome, ignoble, ungainly, displeasing, tiresome, offensive, deformed and disfigured (not to mention how horror can also manifest itself in areas traditionally assigned to the beautiful, such as the fabulous, the fantastic, the magical and the sublime)
Apparently Einstein had said this once: if we want intelligence in our kids, we should tell them fairy tales; and if we opt for greater intelligence, then more fairy tales it is! Now I am not entirely sure if it is one of those fake quotes that go in the name of the man who is most famous for being the traditional mad scientist role-model for any damn copycat of a CN animator, but the point hits home for us fairy tale suckers. Fairy tales teach us violence, obscurity and absurdity of life; possibly also some morals and hints of those morals being brutally violated while the reader is looking the other way– leaving it to the imagination of the virgin little brains (as if there’s such a thing, says Azzarello’s Batman) to develop on their own, to cope with all the real stuff, you know? This is what Wallace Wood possibly subtly shows in his pornographic adaptation (no prize for guessing of what) Malice in Wonderland: Alice is back after a rendezvous of growing and shrinking many an organs and this is what the withered white-haired mom shrieks out:
Sex apart, like fairy tales, in many ways comics teach us a lot about life in general. (Let us mostly restrict ourselves to full-length graphic fictions that I have read, okay? Otherwise I might just be able to finish this piece in about another decade.) There is not much that may happily call itself an immoral abomination and get away without being incorporated into comics.