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Dubai-based expat Sachi Ediriweera recently launched Lionborn, a Sri Lanka-based graphic novel

Dubai-based Sri Lankan expat Sachi Ediriweera launched a Sri Lankan graphic novel earlier this month at the Lanka Comic Con. Titled Lionborn, the graphic novel adapts an historical Sri Lankan legend with few creative liberties. The story can be described as a detective story set in the medieval ages.

Ediriweera shares: “The decision to adapt a historical legend came about because I was interested in retelling a story that is familiar to Sri Lankans. At the time, I started the project as an experiment. Little did I know that it would eventually end up becoming a full-scale project.”

Ediriweera grew up in Dubai for the first eight years of his life and then moved back to Sri Lanka to complete his schooling. He returned in 2011 and has been in the city ever since.

“As a kid, I was always a fan of syndicated comic strips and animated movies. This fuelled my love for visual storytelling. Back in Sri Lanka, I ended up pursuing my passions through graphic design and filmmaking. Though sketching was something I was good at, I never pursued it other than a hobby or the occasional storyboarding work I’d get,” he adds.

After doing filmmaking work and illustrations for a while, Ediriweera’s friends suggested that he try his hand at comics. He says, “It seemed to be the natural course as comics was the perfect merge between two things I was passionate about – visual storytelling and illustration.”

The process of finishing the graphic novel took him almost three years. He recalls, “I only worked on it with a part-time schedule and on weekends. Looking back, it’s hard to imagine that it took so long, but as this was my first comic project I spent a lot of time trying out things, and in certain cases, even revamping completed pages that were already illustrated.”

Creating the graphic novel involved teamwork and Ediriweera found all of his collaborators online through various platforms, which resulted in an ensemble group across the globe.

He says: “I am the writer and artist of the book and based in Dubai. Chris Lissman is the colourist and is based in the U.S. The chapter covers were coloured by Vinicius Townsend, who is in Brazil. Lettering of the book was done by Toben Racicot who is in Canada and Katie Kubert who might be a familiar name to comic book fans, joined as a Consulting Editor from the U.S.” Kubert is one of the editors at Marvel and has also previously worked for DC Comics.

The book is 192 pages and includes an additional art section with pin-ups by 16 comic artists from around the world. Ediriweera says that he is particularly proud of this section, as “it’s always cool to see other artists illustrate your character in their own style.”

When asked about his thoughts on Dubai’s burgeoning comic book scene, he says, “The manner in which the Middle East Film and Comic Con (MEFCC) has grown in the last few years is the best example of how exciting the comic scene is in the UAE. There’s a diverse audience following many indie and mainstream titles. One thing the UAE was missing earlier were dedicated comic shops as you would see in the U.S., but that too is no longer the case. So yes, it is indeed a good time to be a geek in the UAE.

“I have been attending MEFCC as a fan for years and finally participated as an exhibitor this year. It was a great experience and bringing Lionborn to MEFCC is certainly something I am looking forward to.”

Since Lionborn is a self-published graphic novel, Ediriweera says his current challenge is to get the word out about the book. When asked about future plans, he says, “I have a couple of new comic projects still in the development phase. I am quite interested in doing a science fiction story next. And of course, unlike Lionborn, hopefully I’ll be able to finish it in less than three years.”

Which comic book character inspires you?

“I think it’s a tie between Batman and Wolverine. Rather than fictional character quality, it has more to do with the creators behind some of my favourite comic books. For instance, Batman Hush by Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee is a wonderful example of storytelling. With X-Men, Uncanny X-Force by Rick Remender is one of my all time favourites and can be cited as a great example of a story that balanced characters and action well in a mainstream comic.”

Synopsis

When his sister Sivali is wrongfully arrested in connection to a young girl’s disappearance, Sheerdas returns to his hometown of Vanga seeking answers. His investigation leads him on a trail of secrets, betrayals and consequences from the dark reign and murderous past of his father, The Lion.

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