A look at the argument that cinema should have trigger warnings after the backlash faced by Todd Phillip’s “Joker”, starring Joaquin Phoenix.

Joker hit Indian movie theatres on October 2nd, to a lot of hype and excitement. The movie has been produced by Warner Brothers and Village Roadshow Pictures. Based on the famous character Joker from the DC Universe, the movie portrayed a very human depiction of his origin story; a major detour from most other comic book movies, due to its overall dark and grisly theme. The movie focuses on themes of loneliness, social isolation, mental illness, and suicidal urges.

The movie is a work of art which can put you through a myriad of emotions, but is it for everyone to watch? There have been concerns over how people would react to the movie because of the themes portrayed in it, with a national theatre chain in the USA going as far as banning face paint, costumes, and masks in all screenings of the films due to fears of violence. People also walked out of theatre because of the intensity of the film, and called for the need of a trigger warning at the beginning of the film about the themes portrayed.

In today’s day and age, it is important to realise how important mental health is. While not taking away from the artistic brilliance of “Joker”, it is important for film makers and artists to realise that certain topics and images can trigger people in a very negative way. Therefore, a warning beforehand is necessary so that those who do not wish to be subjected to things which might affect them negatively, are protected. We are finally living in a day and age where many people have been brave enough to open up about their issues, and where the importance of mental health is finally being realised. This should be translated into our media and entertainment too. While films depicting these issues should not be stopped because they are important, a trigger warning is necessary in various ways. 

Prachi Johri, a second year student from Indraprashtha College for Women says “In my opinion, I believe that “Joker” should have a trigger warning in it, because it’s firstly based on mental illness, and can be triggering for a lot of people. So a warning will make sure that people with such problems or triggers will not watch the movie, or bring someone whom they trust with them as a support if anything happens. Secondly, the movie is straight up validating murder and a chaotic movement.” 

“Taxi Driver”, an amazing and hard hitting film was released in 1976. Starring Robert De Niro, who also stars in “Joker”,  the movie was made around many of the same themes as “Joker”, however it did not have a trigger warning at the beginning. The very fact that this incredibly important conversation has come into play now just shows how society has opened its eyes towards the issue of mental well-being, and the important role it plays in our lives.

Prabhanu Kumar Das

[email protected]


The Hollywood box-office is most familiar to two types of films: the comic book films and the non-comic book ones. Starting with a few superheroes in metropolitan cities, this cinematic genre covers just about everything now, from fictional countries and Titan villains to miniscule heroes, and alien symbiotes, the list just goes on.

As the celebrated critic Rajeev Masand says, “Remember how the end credits sequence in the first Iron Man movie, all the way back in 2008, hinted at the idea of an Avengers Initiative? Who would have thought at the time that this is what it was leading up to!” Even out here in India, youngsters might not be aware of who won the Oscar for Best Actor or Actress but they would for sure know that Chris Evans plays Captain America and Jason Momoa plays Aquaman.
“2018 for me like other comic book junkies has been the best year. My friends and I dropped everything in the middle of our entrance exams to watch Avengers: Infinity War,” Ayaan Paul, a first-year English Honors student recalls. He added, “I didn’t speak to anyone for the next 12 hours after exiting the hall.” That’s the massive impact
comic book films have on viewers. 2018 has been an explosive and quite a diverse year for the comic book adaptation
pantheon, with three releases by Marvel Studios, two from Sony (again in association with Marvel) and one each from DC and 20th Century Fox.
Rise of Diversity
‘Wakanda Forever’ is the battle cry that ushered in the emergence of Marvel, representing Black Panther. The film
went on to win critics’ and fans’ approval, and became the highest grossing motion picture with a majorly black cast. This surely was a strong move on Marvel and Disney’s (its parent owner) side as, of late, cinema has been marred with demands for more representation of minorities (or in basic terms, all non-whites). Even Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse, the movie that closed 2018, has a black teenager, Miles Morales, as its lead web-slinging superhero. This showcases the possibility of Mexicans and/or Asians leading a superhero film on their shoulders in the near future.
Rise of the Women
Other than the representation of blacks, the representation that all critics complain about is an equal, and unbiased
representation of women. Thankfully, we are no more living in times of sexualised superheroines or damsels in distress. DC’s sole venture, Aquaman had Amber Heard (portraying Mera, the queen of the underwater realm of Atlantis) had almost as much screen time as the lead Jason Momoa. “I was not merely portraying a glamorous princess; the script required me to be a glamorous princess who kicks ass,” Heard remarked in an interview in early
The July release, Ant Man and The Wasp, had the superheroine’s name in its title, and focused on not one, but on three major costume donning, power-wielding ladies. While 2017’s Wonder Woman, showcased female militias, a similar force was represented by Dora Milaje in Black Panther.
While actress Angela Bassett, as the Queen of Wakanda, was nothing more than a caricature in the film, brain and brawn were still represented by Shuri, the protagonist’s teen sister who is like a female Tony Stark, inventing all sorts of gadgets and gizmos. The Dora Milaje, a special forces team of bald and bold woman warriors, was responsible for serving the nation of Wakanda.
Rise of the Villains
If this year was about the women, it was also the year of villains. Superhero movies (especially the Marvel offerings) were known to have some well-developed heroes, which is not the case for the enemy characters. The beloved Loki, the God of mischief (who met a sad end at last year’s Avengers: Infinity War) is one of the exceptions.

However, this year, Marvel offered two strong characters, those of Erik Killmonger and Thanos. Killmonger is the son of a Wakandan slain by T’Challa’s (the heroic Black Panther) who considers himself the rightful heir to the throne of Wakanda. Killmonger is a smooth talking, physically powerful soldier, who has some practical plans to advance this fictional African nation but these conflict with plans of domination and massacre which ultimately make us root for the hero. Despite this, after watching the movie, he makes you question the means adopted to bring balance in the society, something which is further intensified with Thanos, the villain in Avengers: Infinity War
(Hollywood’s equivalent of the ‘Dewaangi Deewangi’ song from Om Shanti Om).

Thanos wants to decimate the populations of planets to half, to keep society in equilibrium, a way which some college Sociology students might call ‘Malthusian’. If you think practically (with no ounce of emotion towards fellow humans or cute dogs), it does seem like a realistic idea to control issues like overpopulation, global warming, and high cutoffs in the University of Delhi (DU). Here villains weren’t just insane baddies, but also individuals driven
by a purpose.
Rise of the Genre
The diverse nature of the genre was further exemplified with diverse emotions. While Infinity War was a tear-jerker with so many comic book sweethearts literally ‘fading off’, we had Deadpool 2 and Venom with their own brand of bizarre humour. Aquaman took itself lightly, while Spiderverse offered an exquisite blend of drama and comedy.
We got some good music (Kendrick Lamar’s raps from Black Panther), and some bad music (Pitbull’s horrendous verse from a cover of ‘Africa’ in Aquaman); diversity seeped in everywhere.
With no more sky beams shooting out of New York towers, we had underwater technology, a whole colourful nation
sheltered from civilisation, and an even more colourful parallel suburban landscape, with a couple of different Spidermen. Most importantly, the fanboys and fangirls who themselves come from diverse worlds, got the entertainment they asked for.
Whether you call it Western hegemony or comic book fantasies dominating over realities, these movies are one of the few things that can unite people from all over this planet, and truly save them.

Feature Image Credits: Amazon, Calender Club Co, Vox, ABPosters

Shaurya Thapa
[email protected]

Comic books have always fallen into the territory of leisure reading, but there is so much more to it that it makes one wonder why it is not appreciated or recognized as literature.

Comic books are something we all reminisce about from our childhood. We all have grown up reading them, with stock characters and smooth narratives, and most importantly- the graphics. Some of us still continue to read them, owing to their neverending charm. However, comics, though a major part of popular culture and mainstream reading, have never received enough acclaim to be considered literature. Comic writers time and again have faced the scrutiny of not being taken seriously when compared to canonical literature. 

Comics have a varied meaning for everyone. I have grown up with comics being my oxygen. It started with the basics like Marvel and DC and later shifted to Manga, I am proud of my collections of them. They are addictive and something you can come back to again and again. They are quick to read, a major plus point, and with my current studies being so hectic, I would say I prefer comics if I need a break from studying medicine.” says Satvik Sagar, second-year MBBS student from University College of Medical Sciences.

The debate of comics being underrated, from a literary point of view, brings us to question, what exactly is literature or what should it ideally consist of. While many critics have debated fiercely on this matter, George Herbert Clarke in his work “What is Literature” published by The Johns Hopkins University Press, comments on literature and its terminology as: In spite of these apparently accurate narrowing of the field of true Literature, there still remains an uneasy sense of inaccuracy. Did the quintessence of Literature, did the thing-in-itself, exist before the invention of the arts of writing and of printing?….. Does Literature, indeed, consist actually of books and writings at all? Are these things veritably it itself, or rather its normal tools, it’s convenient and habitual but not indispensable means of communication?”

“Comics have a science and structure to writing it. Every comic has a different form of creating a gutter space, the purpose of that, the reason for the way characters are sketched, everything has a purpose. Being an artist myself, I find making comics challenging. It is not just jotting down a thought from your mind, visually. There’s a lot more to it and hence it should be considered serious literature.” Comments Heena Garg, a second year English honors student of Maitreyi College. She further adds, “Take the case of comics like MAUS. Who ever would have thought a comic can be made out of taking Holocaust as a base structure! The work employs represents Jews as mice, Germans as cats, and Poles as pigs. A symbolic attachment already and targeting social hierarchies. How is this still not considered under proper literature?.

Literature primarily gets divided into popular and canonical. While high literature has been admiring the works of Shakespeare or Marlowe, this ‘low’ literature should also be given its due importance. Till date, cartoonists and comics are not given their required appreciation. Till date comics are shadowed by the fact that they are “non-serious’’ and filled with graphic violence. 

Scott McCloud, American cartoonist and comic theorist, has been able to tear down the wall between high and low culture in 1993 with his book “Understanding Comics, exploring the formal aspects of comics, the historical development of this medium of narrative, its fundamental vocabulary, and various ways in which these elements have been used, presented as a massive comic book about comics, linking the medium to diverse fields such as media theory, movie criticism, and web design.

In his publication: Comic Books as a Teaching Tool Author(s)”: Carlo Vacca states,”It is not extravagant to say that the modern comic book has an ancient and honorable lineage, from prehistoric times down to the present day all ages of mankind have left stories in the picture from…..Someteachers proudly boast that they have never read a comic book in their life. However, an area which attracts several million boys and girls every year should engage the attention of language teachers, whose major activity is communication.”. Through his works, a popular question can also be raised, as to why comics are not seen as symbols of intellectual ability.

Many university courses are slowly acknowledging the comic book, and the art of comics and inculcating it in their syllabus. This might be a waiver for establishing a new field of criticism. Comic books have been accepted in the diversified branch of popular literature and are easily marking as books with high revenue earnings and audience appeal, especially amongst teenagers. However, the biggest stereotype they face to date is the fact that they are dismissed as a type of ‘pulp fiction’. A lot of serious and dark genre of novels have been published, focusing on key historic moments, hence being shadowed by more fanciful and elaborate themes.

Comic books are also deemed as a sort of “hybrid” literature. Heavy research is required to garner a critical appreciation of this form of art, which is not just a play of words, but also of images, abstract symbols, gutter space, ever-changing design, structures and plot lines.


The field of literary works will hopefully experience a dynamism in the future by offering a more inclusive space for comic books. Comics must be appreciated for their often intricate, and time-consuming image-text synthesis, making them the literature of the future.


Feature Image Credits:   tri-city news


Avnika Chhikara

[email protected]




The 4th Annual Indian Comic Con kick started on Friday, 7th of February 2014 at Thyagaraj Stadium, Delhi. Four years ago the Comic Con began as an attempt to promote the culture of comic books in India and bring together creators as well as comic book fans all over India. The convention saw a large number of people be it infants, adolescents, adults or the elderly as everyone came together to celebrate this festival of comics.


The stadium was packed with delhiites as they explored the convention and the new comics being released by various publishers and artists. Campfire Graphic Novels launched a World War One graphic novel, Holy Cow Entertainment launched two issues of their Aghori series and Orange Radius Entertainment launched a collector’s edition of their Parshu series. Comic Con gave all comic fans a worthwhile shopping weekend as well with merchandise varying from t-shirts to collectibles to glow in the dark boxers! Harry Potter fans could find their favourite wands or Harry’s Gryffindor sweatshirt, The LOTR fandom had a replica of the ring engraved with the inscription from the book driving them crazy while the Hunger Games fans could also find lockets and other merchandise to keep them happy. The V for Vendetta mask gained a lot of popularity this year as almost everyone could be seen flaunting it.


It was no less than a film festival as fans dressed up as their favourite comic or movie characters and showed off their talents in a contest for the best comic-character costume, you could see Jack Sparrow and his drunken antics, Jadis the White Witch of Narnia, Wolverine showing off his fighting skills, Hiccup and Toothless from How To Train Your Dragon, Spiderman, Batman, a desi version of Supergirl in the form of Super Kudi and many more.

Adding to the convention were talks by famous comic book writers – David Lloyd who has illustrated for V for Vendetta, Mark Waid who has worked with DC comics and worked on Flash, Superman and Captain America for Marvel comics, Gabriel B and Fabio Moon twin brothers known for their work in Casanova and The Umbrella Academy and John Layman who has also written for DC and Marvel comics. Their talks inspired budding artists in India who hung onto every word they said.

Image credits: Satchit Basu