While working from home this summer of 2020, our team grew quite fond of reading different types of written content, especially comic books! You’d find stacks of Marvel, DC and Anime comics lying around in our homes if you paid a visit. Our new hobby raised an intriguing question in our minds. Is there anyone writing comics in Pakistan? We had to find out!
We got in touch with a visual artist from Karachi, Pakistan, Umair Najeeb Khan. He is the creator of the Pakistani superhero comics 'Paak Legion.' This comic series is based on the story of 12 superhuman characters from 12 different parts of Pakistan. Each character comes with its own unique story, superpowers, and its own set of enemies.
With this series, he aims to break stereotypes about Pakistan by highlighting the country’s modern lifestyle through the visual medium. Generally, it is believed that comic books have little to no readership in Pakistan. But with the advent of the internet, the liking for comic books has skyrocketed, especially amongst young people who are now working on their own unique indigenous comics.
Other than his stint as a comic book artist, Umair has done a number of other notable projects as well, including publicity design for films Chupan Chupai, Kataksha & Pinky Memsaab, an EU campaign for Child Abuse and an animated music video forJhoomta Raha by Assad Hasnain.
I was always into drawing. I used to sketch anime and all the cartoons I used to watch as a kid. When social media started becoming a norm, I got exposed to digital art and started learning from Youtube when I was 16, I have been at it since. I got my first gig when I was 19 I think.
Paak Legion has been a very spontaneous project. I was researching for another project when the idea just struck me. It's purely inspired and also has adapted a lot of things from our culture and history.
My team and I chose this particular name because we wanted a name that represented us but was also modern. Since we are targeting both local and international audiences I didn't want the name to be too difficult or wordy. This was probably one thing that took us a while to settle with because it was going to be the brand's name. “Paak” means pure and also instantly relates to Pakistan.
Each character has its own story, its own struggles and aspirations but they are all connected through Paak Legion. I think the fact that all of them come from such diverse backgrounds, look so desi and even though they are superheroes, which is purely fictional, they have these attributes that make them so like us. This was definitely intentional while I was writing the characters. I wanted to make sure they are a true representation of us and that they are inclusive.
I feel like there’s bits of me in all of them, I see them as my children! I wouldn’t say favorite because I'm putting just as much effort and detail into each of their stories, but I do have a soft spot for Marvi. Mostly because she was the first character I worked on and she basically is the reason why the whole team came together, in terms of character creation – Not the stories! That we’ll see in the comics.
I work freelance and most of my time goes into commercial projects, so when I work on personal projects, I want to stay true to them and I do what comes from my heart. Bayabaan, Liddul Stories, Good Old Bachpan and Paak Legion, all of my personal projects are all very close to my heart, some of them were received well and some were not. I never really think too much about what the audience would think as long as I know I have given my best to the project.
My team for Paak Legion is very tiny. It's just me and my co-writer Iman Sultan who joined right when I started working on the first issue. We have had a great time working together so far, Iman is super talented!
I think the internet in a lot of ways made this possible. It connected the world and exposed us to so many different forms of art that is now being accepted and applied in the industry. We now have means and mediums to promote content, we see Disney and Pixar put out wonderous projects every year so eventually our audience had to crave the same locally made content too.
I hope they do. There’s so many genres that have not been tapped at all in Pakistan and it would be great to see fresh new content that’s different from what we see on the big screen every year.
It’s a great way to do it because it's modern, it’s not cliched and it’s also allowing new people to bring new stories and content forward. At the end these are just mediums, if the content is right, it will find its audience.
All in all it was a really new experience for me. I wasn’t just writing and illustrating, I was doing so much more. I had to figure out printing, logistics, packaging, customer service and what not since I self-published. It slowed me down quite a few times on the way but it was a great learning experience. Hopefully with more issues out, I’ll make the process better for myself and the buyers.
Paak Legion is currently on hold due to the pandemic. We couldn’t go ahead with the printing but now that everything is reopening, I’ll be announcing the release date of the next issue very soon. We have a whole 8 issue phase planned and all the issues are leading upto a big reveal. I'm super excited about that!
Other than that I'm publishing a children’s book as well called Good Old Bachpan. It's based on my own childhood that I have reimagined in these illustrations. It has been received really well so far on my accounts.
I’d say just get into and don’t stop. Don’t waste time in preparation. Just start with whatever you have and keep at it. Youtube and so many other platforms have absolutely free material to learn from. Be patient, be persistent and keep practicing.