How to start-up with your dream: An interview

Many, many young people dream of starting something new. It usually starts from a passion – and then a few can make a business or a profession out of it. Recently this blog caught up with such a head-to-toe passionate person – Sreejita Biswas – who left her early stage career to pursue her passion for comics. She started a webmagazine around comics which is now read around the world. She also writes columns on comics for newspapers and recently interviewed Stan Lee – a legend of comics. While she is yet to figure out how to turn this venture into a paying business – the magazine is definitely making waves. Those of you, who wait for the mirage of “right opportunity” and saving up some capital, will definitely find a direction you could possibly pursue and some inspiration from her experiences with Strip Tease. Let’s talk to Sreejita.

SreejitaHow will you introduce yourself to our readers, who are mostly law students or entrepreneurs?
If you like comics, we have news and views to share with you, if you don’t like comics, it is time you joined us on the dark side!

What is Strip Tease? Why did you choose this name? Do you face objections from overly conservative people?
Well, strip= comic strips; tease= the fact that we write about them and don’t sell them or share links for downloads.
A friend of mine, Ananda, helped us with the name. And we all thought it was some great wordplay! So far, we haven’t faced any objection from anyone. In fact, everyone has seen the humour in this. I guess we’ve been lucky and I guess, after all, people do have a sense of humour!

What kind of jobs did you take up after college?
Actually, I’ve been working while I was in college. I started off as a journalist with Times of India when I was pursuing my bachelor’s degree in English. I joined Rediffusion as a junior copywriter while I was pursuing my master’s degree.
I moved to Bangalore right after I was done with studies and have worked as a journalist with Bangalore Mirror and Explocity. Currently I am a freelance writer and columnist.

How did you stumble upon the idea of launching Strip Tease?
For as long as I can remember, I have loved comics. I grew up reading them and never stopped reading. With the years, I went on to be associated with HelterSkelter and wrote a graphic novel column for them called Sol’s Graphic Vein. That is when I started to realise that there are people out there who love this world as much as I do and more importantly, there are people out there who are waiting to know more about comics and are willing to convert into comic lovers. It was a little more than a year ago when I decided to do something about it. I didn’t want to start a blog and impose only my views on people. Plus there were works from other countries to talk about, webcomics, newspaper cartoons, retro comics and so much more that needed attention! Blogging about it would not do any sort of justice to it.
I wanted people to come up and talk about their views, share things that they have read with us and the world and I also wanted to encourage artists to showcase awesome drawings and doodles that they otherwise end up sharing only on their FB walls or blogs! And thus started the journey.

What kind of traction have you seen with the magazine so far?
It has attracted an incredible number of people. We are just three issues old and we’ve been covered by The Indian Express in three cities and Time Out Bangalore. We have contributors from all corners of the world. And our newest contributor, Jared A Conti, is a fan turned contributor from Pennsylvania who had just chanced upon the magazine. And it is simply overwhelming! None of us had expected this sort of love from people.

Tell us something about the team. Who all are involved?
Ved Antani helps us with our backend woes.
Karn Kaul designs the site and is our game comic columnist.
Kushagra Udai, Jaideep Khare, Ragini Nag Rao and Sumanas Sarma help us out with articles, sub-editing, tech and ideation and finally, Rahul Jha helped us with our first look, before the mag was launched and Vineeth Nair designed the current header.
I met most of the team online, in fact, there are still a good number of people I haven’t met in real life. I don’t know if I am biased towards people who love comics, but the people who I have met because of ST are amazing, fun and interesting and that just makes this journey so much better!

Can you share some insights on how you got so many people to contribute for FREE? I hope you realize that you have pulled off something very unusual.
Actually, no, I haven’t. A lot of Indian ezines depend on open contributions. The idea is not a new one, but it is overwhelming to realize that there are so many people from around the world who want to join us to promote awareness about comics.

How did you select the writers? How do you go about quality control?
Like Spider Jerusalem from Transmetropolitan says, “Everyone’s a fucking editor”. We at ST just take advantage of that and try our best to publish all the awesome ideas that come our way!

How do you see Strip Tease growing in the future?
Well, I would ideally like people all over the world to know about it. We have been asked this question several times, and for now, all we’d like to say that we are working very hard to promote awareness about comics.

Why do readers come back to Strip Tease? Do you know for sure, or can only guess?
Judging from the fan-mail we get, it is largely because we cover comics from all around the world. The great thing about comic fans are that they are always happy to be introduced to new things to read and new art to appreciate.

What kind of analytics have you deployed?
Google, my best friend.

When I think of comics, I realise that I have so far read very little – and there is a vast ocean of comics and graphic novels. I don’t know where to start if I want to read something new. Will Strip Tease help amateurs like me to discover good comics? How?
Well, we write about comics from the past, comics that are popular currently, comics related to video games, Indie comics, webcomics, toys modelled on comic characters and so much more. So for a new reader, there is a vast world to be discovered. Since we carry 12 (approx.) articles every issue, it doesn’t become intimidating to a new reader either.
PS- We’ll be featuring interviews with the legendary Stan Lee and Pablo Stanley for out August issue

You are giving so much time to Strip Tease – what happens to your career? How do you look at this? Do you think that Strip Tease is a good career move for you?
When I gave up my job a few months ago to get this started, pretty much everyone was horrified. It is a well-known fact that freelancers have a terrible time surviving in India. But that was one risk I was willing to take. As far as my career is concerned, I don’t know whether this is a good move or not, but I know this is something I had to do. It has been just a few months as a freelancer, and like everything else, it has its ups and downs.

You landed a column at a newspaper. What and how?
I do weekly articles about comics and everything akin for Bangalore Mirror. I used to work with Mirror a couple of years back. After the site was launched, the head of the features department saw it, and liked it and offered me some space in the paper to talk about comics. I obviously couldn’t believe it was happening till I saw my articles in print! Being able to write about what you really want to write about isn’t a lesson I was taught growing up, but looks like if you love something enough, it loves you right back!

Have you ever tried to write comics yourself?
Once when I was 15. It was a take on the Bengali fairy tales, Thakumar Jhuli, one book I have been obsessed with forever. However, that was just the whim of a 15 year old and after drawing a page I decided to stick to writing fiction. That is far simpler than trying to deal with both the illustrations and the writing. Back to the present, I have some original short stories that I would want to convert to comics/graphic novels and I want to work with mixed media as opposed to only illustrations. But this idea of mine is in its nascent stages. For all you know, I might just give up on it. Making a comic is hard work.

Just for our curious readers, can you briefly explain, what goes into the making of comics?
Briefly? Blood, sweat and tears. I am not even kidding about this! Okay, fine. I’m kidding maybe just a little. But jokes apart, while making a web-comic is easy, making a graphic novel isn’t. Starting with a writer and ending with a letterer, everyone has an equally important job. If I got into the details of that now, I wouldn’t know when to stop. But what I can say is that graphic novels are a great form of art and making good art always involves hard work and some great ideas.

How can our readers help you, if they are interested and inspired by your story?
They can help us by telling people about us and if some are into comics and they can contribute artwork or articles. Since we are a free ezine that is the best way people can help us out.

About Ramanuj Mukherjee

Ramanuj Mukherjee is former corporate lawyer and an alumnus of National University of Juridical Sciences. He co-founded iPleaders, a startup that is making legal knowledge and education easily accessible to everyone. You can follow him here: https://twitter.com/law_ninja or connect with him here: in.linkedin.com/in/ramanujm

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