As I reached my fourth year of Graphic Design at OCAD University, it was time to start my thesis. We were given two semesters to work on a project of our choice that highlighted our skills. I wanted to create something that I was passionate about and would enjoy working on for two semesters. An interest in the Marvel and DC superhero universes led me to create a comic book for my thesis project.
While superhero worlds lack diversity in their character depictions, I aimed to make a superhero comic book that would represent a character of a less represented ethnicity. I wanted to make a narrative that was tailored for the Toronto Tamil community.
Growing up Tamil in Toronto makes you realize that there aren’t many narratives that depict Tamil characters. It is rare to see characters in mainstream media that are relatable to Tamils. The closest we usually get is a brown person with an accent.
It’s always fun to see bits of your own life in other narratives, and I wanted to create a space where that would be possible for the Tamil community. Thus, I used this project as an opportunity to create a narrative that features a protagonist of Tamil descent in an attempt to expand Tamil representation in mainstream media.
I decided to make a comic book about a Tamil youngster, living in Scarborough, who suddenly learns of his supernatural powers. My desire to merge Tamil culture into this superhero narrative led me to introduce Thiruvalluvar into the storyline. Since Thiruvalluvar and Thirukkurals are a foundation of Tamil culture, I integrated them as fundamental elements to the story.
It felt perfect to adapt Thiruvalluvar’s character into my superhero story as his poems recite deep meaningful thoughts about justice and morality, and he can be viewed as an icon of righteousness. Those reasons later led to the formation of the series’ title Righteous Strike. An additional twist I added to his character is that on top of being a philosopher and poet, he is also an ancient sorcerer with magic abilities.
As of now, you might be wondering what the comic book is about. Righteous Strike is about the everyday life of a Tamil youngster named Theeran who suddenly finds himself empowered with otherworldly abilities. He lives an average life in Scarborough, facing personal problems at home with his typical Tamil family, until he meets Valluvar, an ancient spirit living inside his mind.
Righteous Strike contains many cases where the Tamil and Toronto communities can see themselves in the narrative, whether from the dialogue, the settings or even the characters’ actions. As the main hero resides in Scarborough, there are many references to Toronto and Tamil lifestyles that are portrayed with an aim to further develop a personal connection from the story to the reader.
Little details such as slang, trends and family interactions are incorporated into the narrative to make readers feel more comfortable and familiar with the sequences that take place. These details are mostly shown in a humorous approach that lightens up the mood.
Overall, this project was about creating a fictional space that depicts an ethnicity that is not featured in much of mainstream media. It was about telling a story more close to home for the Toronto Tamil community, allowing them to connect and reflect with the characters and narrative of Righteous Strike on a personal level.
Diversity in mainstream media is an issue that is increasing in awareness. Righteous Strike is my contribution towards more diversity. I wish to continue this series, with the help of the Tamil community, to create more narratives in which they can find themselves and enjoy the experience.
Representing Tamil culture in a modern way is something I not only enjoyed doing, but also took pride in doing. I view this project as a step forward in depicting diversity in mainstream outlets.
If you are interested in supporting this initiative and reading up on Theeran’s supernatural journey with Thiruvalluvar, grab a copy of Righteous Strike from the link below:
Be sure to tell your friends and family and spread the word about this new comic book tailored to the Toronto Tamil community!