I am a sucker for good stories. One that keeps me engaged throughout. I love heroes (and heroines), the surprises and layers they encounter on their journey, and a happy ending. But, as Imran Azhar, founder and CEO AzCorp Entertainment, says, “there are different mediums of storytelling.” The for-profit enterprise that recently won Engro Foundation’s I Am The Change (IATC) Impact Awards believes that there is a hero in all of us. “The idea is to give as much power to the youth as possible. They have a voice, an opinion. We need to treat them as mindful and responsible citizens of the world.”
The important thing is content and storytelling; where you tell the story and how you tell it is secondary. AzCorp has launched four comic books (Team Muhafiz, Basila and the Street Crew, Sheeba and the Private Detectives, Mein Hero - I am a Hero), produced 16 audio series and more than 45 short documentaries. In just four years, their contribution within the community includes around 1500 school interventions, conducting trainings at youth centers, and partnerships with universities, involving the kids and young adults in creating local heroes.
Recipe of a comic book hero
“While working, we try to remember that we are merely facilitators and that 70 percent of the solution must come from the end users,” Imran tells Us. “We begin by asking what their superheroes would want to solve in their communities. And how would they solve it? A lot of critical thinking later, the children realise that heroes are not synonymous with Hollywood. They realise that superpowers, too, don’t define a hero since villains have them as well. A hero has to have basic traits, like compassion and selflessness. Violence for violence is not the answer. Also, no one can do it alone so teamwork is very important. So, in response to the question, a boy or a girl from Lyari, for instance, can identify themselves as a superhero when they save a friend from bullying or a stranger from body shaming. In other words, you are a hero - you can do something for somebody.
“Once the core message of empathy and helping others has been delivered, throw in some fantasy, and voila! You get content which is both realistic and entertaining.”
Note: AzCorp Entertainment is currently working on an app through which Apple and Android users will have free access to its digital content. Meanwhile, the comic books are also available for cash on delivery all over Pakistan. For volunteering, reach out to them at: email@example.com
Confessions of illustrators
Ever wondered what’s it like for those creating those awesome art that makes comics - heroes and everything - so endearing to us? From enjoying work opportunities that let them be authentic and creative to understanding their roles and responsibilities in creating good supplementary academic content, here are some illustrators from AzCorp spilling beans for Us.
That is even when one is going to an art school. There will be a course on it, no doubt about that, but you have to explore it in-depth on your own. The point here is you should not be intimidated at this point. A lot of young artists who want to enter this field are intimidated by lack of information because there is no guidebook for it. However, I think it’s pretty easy now to increase your knowledge base through social media.
During the early stages of my career, I started comparing myself with those who had worked for 10 years or more in the industry. It was a stupid thing to do. It took me a while before I stopped putting unnecessary pressure on myself and believing I’ll get there eventually. The deal really is to keep yourself in check and not be scared of another artist’s work.
If you are trying something really hard, think of it as a learning process. A good thing about this career is you can start drawing even if you’re, say, 40. It’s not like you have to achieve something or be at a certain level in a certain company by the age of 25. If you have an interest in illustration, then irrespective of what your circumstances are, keep doing it. Perhaps, you can’t pursue it full-time; perhaps, you are afraid your family would go ballistic hearing you want to go to an art school. There was nothing in my life that indicated I would formally be able to pursue art. But, I made it because I enjoyed it.
Freelancing has helped in this case. Most of the artists here and even around the world freelance. This way you can work on different projects and also cater to clients internationally. There is no barrier. What’s more, the community is always excited to welcome new people because there is a lot of work. They are eager to help as well. Look for people who are doing well and ask them specific questions. Don’t ask general questions like, “How do I get into art?” The community will only be able to help when they know what it is you are asking. And you need to show that you are being helped and you are making efforts. You need to be out there with your work consistently even if it’s not going well for you. In fact, that would make others help you more!