Hello, and welcome to a massive edition of the Indie Comics Spotlight!
You might recall that I featured Ken Bouthillier’s creator owned series, “Zindagi,” here on this very blog before.
If not, simply follow this link: Indie Comics Multi-Spotlight for 2-1-20! to read all about it, and about a bunch of other great independent comic books, too!
In that previous post, I talked about how Ken built his own comic book company, Zindagi Comix, based on his own title and the work of (so far) two other independent creators. We’ll talk more about all of that later in this very post.
However, I also mentioned at the time that Ken was running a crowdfunding campaign for the first Zindagi Graphic Novel.
Unfortunately, that campaign did not reach its goal.
Fortunately, Ken Bouthillier is not so easily dissuaded!
Therefore, Zindagi: Part 1 is now available in print and digital format for your reading enjoyment! (Links will be posted at the end of the ride, folks!)
For now: Behold the cover the of the graphic novel collection!
If you’re getting a both cosmic and spiritual vibes from that image, then you are receiving Zindagi’s signal correctly.
As I mentioned in that previous post, this story tackles the very meaning of life in the universe, and the fate of humankind as it relates to timeless cosmic forces beyond its understanding. Not bad for a first time comic book creator, eh?
Yes, this graphic novel collects Ken’s very first comic book work, and it is as impressive as debut as you are likely to see, in my opinion!
Now, even though this is for the most part a solo effort, there are a few other names featured in the credits box:
“Hindi Translation,” you ask? Yes, one of the issues collected in this volume is lettered in that language! “Zindagi,” after all is the Hindi word for “life,” and Hindu spirituality plays a major role in the story being told here.
Most of the art within this collection is presented in black & white, but there is a new piece in painted color available only in this graphic novel.
Check out one page from that new addition here:
There will be a sequel to this prologue in the second volume, and I can’t wait to see it. As much as I enjoy Ken’s black & white work, his painted art is something that I’d like to see a lot more of, too.
Speaking of that b&w stuff, here’s a page of it from Chapter 1:
Did I say this story was cosmic in scope? Right from the start, we have an entire planet beset by an ancient plague, a Guardian making a sacrifice to save the future, and a spirit of life itself being called to bear witness. This comic book does not drag its feet, people!
And that page: just look at that layout, the placement of the art and the captions, and how much story is told in those four panels. In other hands, this page could have been a painfully crowded mess. Here, it draws you in and carries you along with ease.
Already, you can see the influence of artists like Jack Kirby, Jim Starlin, and Steve Ditko, too. It’s all merged in with Ken’s own personal style of course, which we get to watch emerge and evolve throughout this collection.
I’m not going to spoil much of the actual plot in this post, so let’s move right along to the splash page from Chapter 2, eh?
Already, Ken has take over even the Lettering duties on the series, which were handled by John Michael Helmer, founder of Lucky Comics, in the debut issue. (I’ve written about that company here on the blog, too, but I’ll link to all of that at the end of this post.)
Ken has talked about how indispensable John’s help was in getting this series off the ground, and he particularly mentions John’s instruction in the craft of lettering a comic book and how crucial it is to the storytelling. It’s obvious throughout this collection that Ken learned those lessons well.
And again, I’m trying not to reveal too much of the story, here, but just look at this next full page splash from the same Chapter:
I really like that page for several reasons. Of course, it’s just nice to look at, but it also provides a very concise summary of the plot in way that does not clutter or disrupt the impact of the drawing itself.
And, again: cosmic? You bet. If that’s not enough, how about a serious dose of honest-to-Granny-Goodness Kirby Krackle in this very same Chapter?
I don’t think you would like Zindagi when she’s angry. I mean, she looks cool and all but dang. Back up, eh?
Oh, wait, you wanted some space ships in your cosmic space epic, did you?
Well, how about this splash from the opening pages of Chapter 3?
Uh-huh. I thought that might do it. And this is Ken’s first attempt at making his own comic book, in case you forgot.
But, what about Space Gods, you ask? If Kirby, Starlin, and Ditko are such influences, then surely there must be some images of nigh-omnipotent beings discussing the fate of humanity amongst the stars? Right?
Funny you should ask:
But wait, surely it’s not all star fields and light shows? Where’s all of the sweepingly impressive planetary scenery to provide more variety to the scale and scope of the themes being tackled in these pages?
Oh, sorry…I must have somehow forgotten to show you this:
And all of that’s packed into one solitary Chapter!
And, if you thought the beat slowed down, come on…and check out the just a little more than slightly symbolic cover to Chapter 4!
(Yes, that was a Public Enemy reference. Yes, I will provide a link to that song below. And yes, this comic book does make me think of the energy generated by Chuck D and his legendary crew.)
And, if that cover isn’t cool enough (and it is), take a look at the splash page that opens this Chapter:
The crude black smudges in the caption box up top are mine. There’s some spoiler-y information in there, and I wanted to show off this page without giving a pretty crucial plot element away.
On display here, besides the great layout and handling of the “walking down the hallway” perspective, if Ken’s ability to switch between wide ranges of focus with (apparent) ease. At this point, we’ve seen him depict landscapes, the depths of space, abstract cosmic beings, starships, and more, all with the same amount of effort and care.
And you don’t have to wait to see it all again, either. In this same Chapter, we get some more cosmic conversation:
And, some abstract conceptual pieces, like this first of two pages depicting Zindagi absorbing the history of humanity from a learning device:
A lot of beginning comic book creators only do a couple of things well, or have a narrow focus that they stick to before branching out. Ken does not seem bound by such limitations. This is good comics, people!
EDIT: Originally, I talked about the cover for Chapter 5 as being a wild leap into the photo collage style of later era Jack Kirby for Ken Bouthillier. Somehow, I completely missed that this cover was in fact created by Joey Mars, an apparently quite famous Provincetown artist that my not-very-cultured self was unaware of! I could say that I read the individual issue for Chapter 5 some time ago, and make all kinds of other excuses for my goof, but hey, Joey’s name is right there on the bottom right of the cover shown below, too, eh? Let’s just say that I am at LEAST sometimes a total goober, and get to the part where we take a look at that awesome cover again, shall we?
And here’s the cover in glorious color as it appeared in the original single issue:
And, here is the excellent bio that Ken wrote up about Joey in that same issue, which I also somehow completely forgot about like a doofus:
So! Now that the proper corrections have been made (get used to those; this is ME after all), let’s move on to the inside of the issue, eh?
Oh, and remember how I mentioned Ken’s ability to handle changes in scope and scenery? Well, here’s the opening splash page to Chapter 5:
And these next images come from the same Chapter as well:
More cosmic and spiritual shenanigans in space!
Up close and personal drama and consequences aboard the ship!
Afterward, Chapter 6 hits the cosmic imagery had once more with this opening splash page:
And then for all intents and purposes, the story told within this collection comes to an end!
But don’t worry, that’s not the end of Zindagi, and it’s even the end of this collection, for behold, there are….Extras!
And there’s a lot of them, too! At least 11 of them, in fact!
Here’s a few samples of some of them:
The “About Ken” blurb gets across the behind the scenes story of this series really well.
And hey, look: here’s my review of an issue of Zindagi that I posted somewhere back in 2019!
I’ve sure got a way with words, don’t I? Well, I have my way with them, at least. Or something.
Hey, look, a color cover gallery!
Now, I’m not going to share any images from the Hindi-edition of Chapter 7 here, since I’m covering the English version below, but I will share this blurb from Ken about how his partnership with artist Jim Gullett was formed:
So! Now that we’ve covered the excellent artifact that is Zindagi Part 1, let’s look at the issues that will eventually be collected into Part 2!
That striking cover is by Daniel Solano, an artist that Ken crossed paths with over at Lucky Comics. He’s one of the brightest stars on the indie scene, and you should all seek out his work!
Meanwhile, we are introduced to the theme behind this Chapter by the following caption box after we open the cover page:
Now, as Ken mentioned above, the pencils for this issue were rendered by Jim Gullett, and not by Ken himself. The intention is for Jim to finish penciling the remainder of the story, with Ken still writing, inking, lettering, and providing layouts, and so on.
I am on record as a fan of Jim’s art style, and I’m not changing that record now.
However, I will say that Jim’s work has a very different tone than Ken’s; it’s harsher and more “gonzo” when compared to Ken’s softer and more ethereal work.
The difference, even with Ken’s inking, is quite noticeable, and it does alter the feel of the story a bit.
It is, however, still really cool to look at in my opinion, and tells the story well.
It doesn’t skimp on the action, either! Just check out this page from Chapter 7:
This issue also includes a behind the scenes look at Ken and Jim’s process, in a bonus section called:
Jim Gullet provides the cover to Chapter 8, in which you can really see the difference between his work and Ken’s:
You can see a lot of what I like about Jim’s style right there all in one place. The energy, the intensity, and the distinctly unique look to his characters are all front and center here.
My only quibble is that the image almost completely overpowers the Title logo, which could have been avoided with some coloring, etc.
And, while it does make for a cool image, I will criticize the cover for Chapter 9 a bit:
This cover is made up of two pieces of preexisting Zindagi art, one being an internal image, and the other being the cover image for a previous issue. Again, it looks cool and all, but in this case, I would have preferred to see Jim’s standalone image, which is used for the back cover instead:
I kind of want a blacklight poster of that image, actually.
Yes, I will probably have a blacklight soon. It’s related to another comic book Kickstarter that I backed. Honest.
And, just in case you thought that a change in artists would have kept Zindagi from featuring those big, full-page cosmic moments:
Don’t worry: Jim can handle those just fine.
And that’s the most recent Chapter in the story of Zindagi, folks!
Check the links at the end of the post to catch up!
And, as mentioned above, there is a whole line of Zindagi Comix to check out, too!
Here are the covers to the three currently available issues of Jim Gullet’s Robolords series:
And the back cover to issue #3, which I think is pretty badass:
And here’s the cover to the horror title by Ed Stover, “The Harvest,” issue #1:
As you might imagine, I highly recommend checking out all of these titles, and you can do so by following these links:
You can also contact Ken Bouthillier directly and get yourself a signed copy of the Zindagi Part 1 graphic novel collection while supplies last!
I ordered mine! Go ask for yours!
Until then, I shall remain Max. And I’ll be reading comics!