Paradiso

Aditya Bidikar (letterer), Dearbhla Kelly (colorist), Devmalya Pramanik (writer), Alex Sollazzo (colorist), Ram V (writer)
Image Comics
December 6, 2017

Inspired by a road trip, writer Ram V and his architect friend Rajiv Bhakat set off to see historic cities across India. The result is Paradiso, a comic unlike any other. Set in a post-apocalyptic landscape, the book focuses on Runaway Jack, an outcast and a loner whose main goal is to get into the city of Paradiso. I had the opportunity to interview both the writer, Ram V, and artist, Devmalya Pramanik, on their work on the book.

Paradiso Cover #1

Paradiso is a gorgeous, sprawling comic. I was curious as to how an idea for a story so big came to be. Ram was not only moved by the architecture on his road trip, but by his conversations with his travel companion, architect Rajiv Bhakat. “I think it was an overnight conversation on a train when we first broached the idea of basing a story inside a living city. Not a location with mere sentience but a setting with agency and personality—fear and doubt, love and longing. Once we had that idea, we wrote prose stories set in that world. Mostly short stories and vignettes which served as a great way of exploring the concept and take it as far as we could. That’s where the idea really comes from. My sci-fi influences and Rajiv’s architectural background and our love of storytelling came together for it.”

So what is the world of Paradiso? In a market that is heavily saturated with post-apocalyptic comics, I was weary when I picked up this book. I could feel my post-apoca-fatigue set in. But Ram was happy to ease my worries. “A post-apocalyptic world is very much a common setting as you say. But its popularity is probably because it provides a lens under which we can observe and ask questions of our characters. A state of constant duress, of sparseness, starved of hope. It allows us to look at the extremes of human behavior and actions. But the majority of the stories do this as a form of introspection.” Unsurprisingly, Ram’s views on the post-apocalyptic trope are easily seen in the pages of his comic. I was pleasantly surprised at the take Paradiso offered on an already overdone subject. I found that the lens of an anti-hero and a mysterious living city kept me hooked and wanting more.

On my first read-through, I found the scope of the story to be highly cinematic. You could feel the desperation in the people depicted on each page. Not only in the art, but the writing as well. Ram’s dialogue works brilliantly to set the tone of the scene. You can feel the tension or relief within every page and panel. It’s this movie-like feel of the comic that stood out to me. When I brought up how I viewed the first issue to be like watching a film, Ram replied, “I think part of it is a natural tendency, at least on my part. I’ve always written this way. Films are a huge influence on the way I structure visuals in my scripts. So, part of that is bound to show through. But I also think the epic nature of the story is separate from its cinematic nature. I also have a thing for longer stories. I like things to build up into a frenzy. I like loose ends that are tied up long after you first see them. I like a story where the theme reveals itself over time and isn’t heavily foregrounded. Paradiso is very much a patient story. One that goes to surprising places and with characters that change and evolve over the course of the story. I hope I’ll get a chance to see all of that happen. Every story should carry with it a little risk!”

The art of Paradiso is something to be marveled at. Artist Devmalya Pramanik contributed to the feel of Paradiso with work that created an atmosphere of pure magic. It has been a long time since I read a comic and paused to stare at the panels. Each one pulled me deeper and deeper into the story. When I spoke to Dev, he said he was inspired to work on the book because “I have always loved drawing atmospheric and dramatic moments. The smaller human moments combined with grand scenes of epic scale made this book irresistible to me, and inspired me to work on it.”

Dev’s influences for the look of this book were large cities with megastructures like New York, Beijing, and Shanghai. His love of the idea of drawing distressed cityscapes came into play heavily when designing the city of Paradiso.

I was truly impressed with Paradiso’s art—the fight scenes are so incredibly fluid in their execution. Characters look as if they move across the page. When Runaway Jack finds himself in a sticky situation with two cyborgs, Mr. Honeybad and Mr. Dandy, the ensuing fight is one of the most exciting fight scenes I’ve seen in comics in a long time. When I asked Dev about his process when it comes to orchestrating action scenes, he divulged that, “I love bringing movement into action pages. Make it flow seamlessly, and a thumbnail plotting it out is the best way to do it. Ram is always instrumental in the process. We pass notes on whether a page composition works and if he has a certain image in mind he wants particularly set in the page. But he usually leaves the action scenes to me. I feel like usually you don’t get into the real meat of the movement until you’re laying the page out in the 11- by 17-inch page. Deciding which elements to use to lead the reader’s eyes through the page and enjoying the action is what I sometimes improvise on when I’m laying the page out, but mostly I don’t stray a lot from the thumbnails for the page.”

The epic two-page spreads drawn by Devmalya Pramanik and colored by Dearbhla Kelly and Alex Sollazzo are breathtaking. There is a spread of Paradiso in all its glory and I find myself coming back to stare at the pink sunset reflecting off the derelict buildings, some crooked, some floating, as Runaway Jack takes it all in.

It’s one of my favorite pages and I made sure to let Dev know. “Thank you! Glad you enjoyed it! That spread was one of the most intense things I’ve drawn in the first issue and possibly in the first arc. The scenery in this book is very Mad Max crossed with Blade Runner. Futuristic buildings that have fallen to ruin and disrepair. And not just buildings to be fair, but structures like Aquarius point. Structures that speak of a time of maddeningly progressive scientific development. And that’s why the scenery in this book is so irresistible for me to draw. I’ve always been a fan of HP Lovecraft, and I say that because although there are no tentacled old gods in this book, I love the way he gives us glimpses into a gargantuan past that awes us. I attempt to do the same with Paradiso‘s city scenery, give the readers a glimpse into a past that dwarfs us.”

Image Comic’s Paradiso, written by Ram V, art by Devmalya Pramanik, is a cinematic post-apocalyptic tale like never seen before. For its sweeping visuals and amazing writing, I encourage you all to go out and pick up this book, available at your local comic shops December 6th.