Amar is a Vedic science-fantasy mystery that follows Police Inspector Amar, a stable family man who goes down the dark path of self-destruction after the death of his wife and son.
Desperate to find whoever is responsible for his family's deaths, he travels to the Himalayas to seek help from an ascetic Guru who provides ancient clues on how to crack the case. With the help of the Guru, Amar time-travels to a parallel universe -- a possible future state of our own -- hunting the criminal he believes responsible.
Amar's path to salvation lies in confronting that madman, face-to-face, and stopping him before he plunges the world into nuclear armageddon.
This project started eight years ago and has evolved into a trilogy of illustrated comic style books. The third and final installment in this series is about to be completed and we are very excited to share the progress of the final book.
The original idea of Amar dates back to 2011 and a story writing workshop at Pixar where Stephan and I were working at that time. Due to personal things going on in my life, I really wanted to explore the idea of an event that is irreversible and how it affects the individual. What if our current self could actually drop in on that future self to see how they have been transformed because of this seminal event? Although I am a technologist, this question is clearly about consciousness.
Vedic philosophy provides a spiritual framework that aligns surprisingly well with quantum physics and the simulation hypothesis that forms the basis for time travel, multiverse, free will v/s determinism and all the other ideas that power science friction narratives. Because of this, I settled on a "vedic sci-fi" as the mechanism to explore this very personal question."
- Apurva Shah
The third book went through slight hiatus since we were busy with client work and Chrystin who had done the original illustrations was moving on to another project. Once we assigned Eileen Latinen to take lead on this book and start penciling from Chrystin’s thumbnails, we were rocking and rollin again. She took the original sketches that were created by Chrystin and laid out each of the 37 pages. She also colored in most of the pages on her tablet.
The project started with a lot of thought applied to the characters, the costumes, the scenes, and the overall tone of the story.
Design of the Characters
The evolution of a page
How do you translate a story idea into an illustrated vision? That takes many layers and iterations. The story that Apurva and Stephen came up with was then illustrated in quick thumbnails. This storyboard style thumbnails helped visualize the flow and narrative ark of the story. Did the story work? Did we get the point across from page 5 to 6? Did the reader get lost or are they following us? The thumbnails helped create a quick prototype. This was a more cost effective way to try out different ideas and play with the layout and flow.
Once the thumbnails were approved the artist went on to create tight pencils for each page. The colorist took over and colored the pages based on the color palette that was designed for each book.
The images above show the transition of page 16 from thumbnail to pencil to color. Each of the 37 pages in book 3 went through this transition with a few reviews and edits in the mix.
We are naturally curious and anxious about the future and a loft of sci fi deals with that. Also, time travel from the future back into the past has been extensively explored.
With Amar, we wanted to explore this idea of bifurcating timelines like a river splitting somewhere upstream. Quantum entanglement states that two particles that are dis-connected in space-time can actually influence each other.
So, is it possible for our present self to scramble these timelines? Ultimately it's a question of the boundary between free will and determinism.
- Apurva Shah
The Graphic Artists toolbox
This project has evolved over 9 years and multiple creative minds have worked on it. So we decided to ask each creator to share a bit about their involvement and stylistic approach to the project.
Eileen Latinen: I took over on colors for Amar from Chrystin for book 2 and then pencils and colors for book 3. Her work process started with pencil sketches which she would then clean up and color digitally in Photoshop. I spent a significant amount of time going over her work to identify color palettes and color moods in order maintain consistency.
There needed to be a breakdown of how colors were used for each location, time of day and lighting, and period in time. There was the challenge of taking an existing city and environment and turning it into the setting of a sci fi journey. Each page took time a research, to both identify how similar settings and characters had already been treated as well as to look into fitting new subjects into the existing tone. When I took over pencils, I changed my tactic to pure photoshop. Thumbnails, sketches, pencils, and color was all done digitally using different different brushes to mimic Chrystin's style. I also took a couple of weeks to break down each character and learn how to mimic the established art style. The final colors for book 3 were taken over by Kinshuk, who also went through a process of research and practice to ensure consistency.
In the end, this project had multiple people work together with a sense of positive understanding for each other's work.
Kinshuk Modi: Amar is a special project for me, not only is it my first professional project in US but also my first comic book project ever. I was assigned to color the panels after the inking process. The biggest challenge of creating a comic book is consistency of lines, characters, colors, art techniques and the list goes on.
Coming from a traditional background in animation, understanding the importance of this consistency comes very naturally to me. First thing I created was a library of colors tagging them with appropriate information of where to use them. This library is transferable from one computer to another, making it very easy for me to stay true to the colors. I also used water color techniques to create textured backgrounds. Watercolors are known for there wild brush strokes and free hand water spreads with beautiful gradients. I use a wet media brush to smudge my colors and create a line of graphical gradient to create a fluid background that resembles digital water color. I try to keep a certain contrast in the background to make the characters in front stay visible and in focus.
The other issue I ran into was matching my strokes and brush quality with the previously completed books. I came up with 3 brushes that would be my go-to brushes to create harmonious effect across several panels. Amar was a fun project and I am really glad to be a part of it.
You can buy the first two books on Amazon’s Comixology.
Meet the creators of the Amar Trilogy:
Concept: Apurva Shah
Story: Stephan Vladimir Bugaj
Illustration & Lettering: Eileen Laitinen, Chrystin Garland
Colors: Eileen Laitinen, Kinshuk Modi
Apurva Shah is a visual effects supervisors with over two decades of experience in film making at Pixar, Dreamworks, Prana Studios and R&H. His credits include Ratatouille, Finding Nemo, Shrek, Toy Story 3, Cars2 and Antz. He is also the founder of Whamix which has produced unique interactive apps such as La Luna: The Story Project and Daggers Drawn for the Economist. Amar is his first foray into graphic novels.
web: www.whamix.com, twitter: @whamix
Stephan Vladimir Bugaj is a writer/filmmaker who worked at Telltale Games as Creative Development Director, overseeing narrative and visual development for games such as "Game of Thrones" and "Tales from The Borderlands". Prior to that he co-developed two feature projects that were in development at Pixar. He also has several comics projects and indie feature films currently in development.
web: www.bugaj.com, twitter: @stephanbugaj
Chrystin Garland is an animator and sequential artist currently residing in North Carolina. She has worked as a colorist for the New York Times Best Selling series, Amulet, and has illustrated variant covers for several Adventure Time issues. When she is not drawing comics, Chrystin enjoys working as an animator, helping create games for children with social disorders.
Eileen Laitinen comes from a background in traditional animation including the animated short film, Rapunzel’s Etymology of Zero. Her career encompasses animation, design, and production for apps, e-books, games, and more recently VR/AR. Currently, Eileen is excited to explore how art and technology can overlap and the ever evolving ways people can create and express themselves.
Kinshuk modi is a recent animation graduate who has a motion graphics background. He come from a rich artistic heritage and has always been close to art. In his free time he like to go on water color painting adventures.
web - www.kinshukmodi.live, instagram:@kinshukmodi
PURVI SHAH, Creative Lead of Whamix worked closely with Kinshuk and Apurva to make sure Book 3 kept moving along and met all the launch deadlines. She is also in charge of marketing once the trilogy is complete.
SUNIL SHAH, CEO of Whamix was integral in approving this project from side of desk to making it a pipeline project.
"We are living in a time-space where multidisciplinary is increasingly gaining grounds against the myopic views. Through an engrossing and entertaining journey, Amar flawlessly walks the reader through seemingly diverse disciplines - Quantum Physics and Eastern Spirituality. Though I was not directly involved with the production of Amar Book One, I did get a chance to watch this splendid journey by my dear friend Apurva and his colleagues.
Even though the disciplines Amar heavily relies upon and exploits are some of my personal favorites, it's - the story, characters, designs, artworks and team's enthusiasm & commitment to the quality - convinced me beyond any doubts to approve and support Amar Book 2 & 3 as well as encourage the team in every possible way. As we are getting closer to completing the Book 3, I'm extremely happy and proud of Team Amar (Apurva, Stephan, Eileen, Kinshuk, Purvi & Chrystin)'s marvelous creation. And I'm very sure the readers will experience Team Amar's magical energy as well."
You can buy the first two books on Amazon’s Comixology. Book 3 will be available by end of July, 2019