Many Comic Book Ramayanas: Idealizing and Opposing Rama as the Righteous God-King

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Contribution to Book

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Comics and Sacred Texts: Reimagining Religion and Graphic Narratives

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Assaf Gamzou, Kenneth Koltun-Fromm


University Press of Mississippi


Jackson, Mississippi



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Religious Studies

Publisher Statement

Comics and Sacred Texts explores how comics and notions of the sacred interweave new modes of seeing and understanding the sacral. Comics and graphic narratives help readers see religion in the everyday and in depictions of God, in transfigured, heroic selves as much as in the lives of saints and the meters of holy languages. Coeditors Assaf Gamzou and Ken Koltun-Fromm reveal the graphic character of sacred narratives, imagining new vistas for both comics and religious texts.

In both visual and linguistic forms, graphic narratives reveal representational strategies to encounter the sacred in all its ambivalence. Through close readings and critical inquiry, these essays contemplate the intersections between religion and comics in ways that critically expand our ability to think about religious landscapes, rhetorical practices, pictorial representation, and the everyday experiences of the uncanny.

Organized into four sections—Seeing the Sacred in Comics; Reimagining Sacred Texts through Comics; Transfigured Comic Selves, Monsters, and the Body; and The Everyday Sacred in Comics—the essays explore comics and graphic novels ranging from Craig Thompson’s Habibi and Marvel’s X-Men and Captain America to graphic adaptions of religious texts such as 1 Samuel and the Gospel of Mark.

Comics and Sacred Texts shows how claims to the sacred are nourished and concealed in comic narratives. Covering many religions, not only Christianity and Judaism, this rare volume contests the profane/sacred divide and establishes the import of comics and graphic narratives in disclosing the presence of the sacred in everyday human experience.


This chapter focuses on the multivocal nature of the Ramayana epic in Indian graphic narratives from the 1970s to the present. There is now a wealth of comic book and graphic novel retellings of the Ramayana that have either been created in India or by Indians living throughout the global Indian diaspora, including: “Rama” and “Valmiki’s Ramayana” in the Amar Chitra Katha comic book series; the multi-issue “The Ramayana” line in the Dreamland Publications comic book series; the “Godavari Tales” issue in the Vivalok Comics series; the “Ramayan 3392 A.D.” line in the Liquid Comics (formerly Virgin Comics) series; the “Sita” and “Ravana” comics in the Campfire Mythology comic book series; the graphic novel Sita’s Ramayana by Samhita Arni and Moyna Chitrakar; and the graphic novel Ramayana: Divine Loophole by Sanjay Patel. Scholars have critically examined the Ramayana in a variety of popular media, from television to film to street theatre, but no one has yet done an in-depth examination of the Ramayana in graphic narratives. While Indian comics collectively present a spectrum of opinions about the god-king Rama and his moral idealism, there are two dominant narrative trends that arise in these graphic retellings of his story. The first trend is to uphold Rama as the ideal god-king by presenting Rama as the clear hero of the epic story both textually and visually, and by providing an apologetic defense of any of his deeds that could potentially be perceived as morally questionable. The second trend is to critique Rama as the ideal god-king by focusing the textual and visual narrative on other protagonists within the epic storyline, and thereby engage in a critical examination of Rama through feminist and/or subaltern perspectives.

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