2021 Feb 17
We are all too familiar with those superhero comics but Achinthya Amarakoon has since changed the narrative on comic-strips in Sri Lanka. She is a Canadian resident artist, who started creating satirical comic strips whilst weaving in Sri Lankan influences. Most of her comics have fundamentally deep-rooted ‘male x male’ or ‘boys love’ narratives. In particular, the comics Sakkai Muniyai and This Fluffy Love published on her Facebook page ‘Papadamn’, are a stark reminder of how the comic industry is changing.
Although she works as a creative artist semi-professionally and on a freelance basis, her primary occupation is as a UX designer and frontend developer at an aquaculture innovation company in Canada.
Achinthya has always shared an interest for same-sex love stories more than the conventional love stories that most comics focus on. She finds that there is often both a tragic and dramatic element that paves its way through same-sex and ‘boys love’ stories. Ever since she was young, she often steered away from typical norms of storytelling, drawing fantasy comics, pushing her towards out-of-the-box ideas that did not typically exist in the comic culture at the time.
Not many artists in Sri Lanka have pursued an idea such as this, which is one reason why Achinthya felt the need to start writing Sinhalese same-sex comics and publish them for audiences based here. With this new digital age, the dynamics of creating comics have evolved as well. They no longer follow the all-too-familiar horizontal layout but are now published vertically to suit mobile phones and other digital devices. Hence making it easy to capture, screenshot and share a fan-girl moment.
Achinthya expressed that pursuing this venture was not always easy. She initially started off by publishing comics on platforms such as Tapas and ComicFury but was faced with negative criticism and backlash when she attempted to publish her work in a more commercial space.
As of 2018, Achinthya has been working on her first-ever long-running Sinhalese manga Sakkai Muniyai, of which the third and final season will be released this year. The comic is a fantasy story set in modern-day Sri Lanka inspired by local folklore.
She soon began uploading content for Sakkai Muniyai on a Facebook page she created called ‘Papadamn’. After gaining a lot of traction, it eventually manifested into her first-ever published comic book, citing it as one of the greatest accomplishments of her career. As she primarily focuses on ‘boys love’ themed comics, there are people in the LGBTIQ community who are thankful for being represented in this manner. Although a niche audience, there are ‘boys love’ fans in Sri Lanka who help establish this identity and propel other creative outlets to express themselves. Irrespective of her audience reach, Achinthya finds that her passion and self-satisfaction is a core motivator for writing about same-sex genres.
She feels that working in a field such as this poses its own set of challenges as it is an industry that has not been established in Sri Lanka and so pulling off long-term projects is tedious given the limitation in resources. This prevailing gap propelled Achinthya to start ‘Papadamn learns’ a page where she can share tips, tricks, and techniques for drawing comics. She hopes that through this page she can encourage other young artists to express themselves on a zero budget and a restricted time frame.
She has recently released the first chapter of a single-season story called This Fluffy Love, which is now available on Webtoon and Tapas and will also be publishing the third and final season to Sakkai Muniyai. For more of her stories, hop on to her Facebook page Papadamn.