“Comic Con is the biggest comics event to take place in India, where you can build relationships and do huge sales,” says Vivek Goel, the publisher and lead artist for Holy Cow Entertainment, one of the many Indian comic book publishers that has emerged and found success since the launch of Comic Con India in 2011.
Comic Con India founder Jatin Varma estimates that 50 or more new Indian comics will be launched next week at the Comic Con India 2014 in Delhi, which will be held at Thyagaraj Stadium from 7-9 February, with the chance of being seen by more than 50,000 fans.
Bigger than ever
Varma says the various Comic Con events around the country last year saw a total of 200,000 visitors. This year, he’s hoping for 300,000 visitors at least. “We’re going to add one more city to the list (probably Chennai or Kolkata, though the details are still to be finalized), and this year, Delhi is going to see the ‘real’ Comic Con. The three events we’ve done earlier were very small in comparison.”
“We will put on a much bigger show. There are going to be more international exhibitors, more speakers and guests, than before,” he says.
There will be more guests like Mark Waid, the prolific writer who has worked with both Marvel Comics and DC Comics on superstar titles like Batman, Superman and Captain America.
Talking on phone to Mint Lounge, Waid says he hasn’t read any of the works out of India, and plans to catch up with local content once he gets here for the Comic Con. He says, “Great comics are international and universal, and it’s always thrilling to find new voices.”
In November, legendary comic book creator Stan Lee premiered a new character, Raju Rai, the hero of a new series called Chakra—The Invincible. Bangalore’s Liquid Comics, the publisher of Chakra—aimed at an Indian audience, with only the character design coming from Lee—will be present at the Comic Con.
“I’m incredibly excited to be collaborating with my friends at Liquid Comics and their best-in-class team of artists as we launch a great new, thrill-a-minute superhero saga named Chakra—The Invincible,” Lee says in an official statement.
Comics, cosplay, cinema
While the inclusion of famous creators such as Waid, Gabriel Bá and Fábio Moon or David Lloyd is a big draw for comic book fans, Varma is clear that Comic Con India has to have more on offer for a casual audience.
That means stalls to promote movies, and other stalls for merchandise like T-shirts and posters that fans want. It also means bringing in more guests, not necessarily from the comic book industry. Shows like The Big Bang Theory and Marvel’s movies are regular fixtures at the major Comic Con events; Varma admits that bringing these “A-listers”, as he terms them, to India is going to be difficult, but he’s clear that they need to start building up to it.
Not everyone is too pleased with this shift in direction though. One author, who has taken part in Comic Con India since the first one in 2011, but did not want to be named, says: “They have decided that the only reason people want to come is for celebrities.” He admits that Comic Con India events are still important for comic book creators in India, but says: “They’re too focused on making quick profits. The smaller-scale shows are good for interacting with fans and building a culture. When you’re bombarded by stalls from Marvel and movie studios, will you pay attention to the small Indian company?”
Officially though, most creators—and fans—seem to be happy with the direction things are taking. Varma points out that the number of visitors has been rising steadily. “Revenue doubled each year from 2011, from Rs.25 lakh to Rs.100 lakh in 2013. Footfall has also grown steadily—we measured some 20,000 visitors in 2011, up to over 50,000 in 2013, and last year in our Bangalore event we saw 62,000.”
Delhi-based Ravi Sinha, a fan who is associated with the Manga fan club Nihon Bunkasai India, feels the same way. “There’s something for everyone, it’s not a perfect event, but they’ve been growing and adding things and steadily getting better. For manga and anime fans, it’s one of the best events in the year, with a lot of cosplay and prizes, though I’m really glad this year won’t be at Dilli Haat, where you really didn’t get space to breathe when it was fully packed!”
This will be the first Comic Con India Delhi 2014 in Thyagaraj Stadium—the stadium’s 50,000 sq. ft space will include an experience zone, where cosplay and talks will take place, an exhibitors’ hall where fans can buy comics and merchandise, and a food court.
The old and the new
While Varma talks about building mobile apps and bringing in more exclusive merchandise from around the world, Indian comics remain a priority.
Pran Kumar Sharma, known to most as Pran, the creator of Chacha Chaudhary, will be attending the event this year. The 75-year-old artist, who has created an astonishing number of characters and titles, will be getting a lifetime achievement award.
The fans, however, are just as interested in seeing the comics industry transition to a more modern era. Gaurav Mishra, a fan who works as a mobile app developer, talks about the lack of a strong digital strategy from Indian publishers. “If I want to buy the issue of The Walking Dead, I just have to switch on my iPad and I can get it. Why don’t any of the Indian guys have good setups like that?”
David Lloyd, the co-creator of V for Vendetta, partly echoes this sentiment when talking to us about the way technology has changed his work. He says: “Technology is fundamental to my latest work—as a publisher of a digital comic art magazine which sends great comic art directly to the reader without the unnecessary expense of print publishing. And of course graphics apps can make art easier to produce in many ways, but I use it as a help to creativity rather than as the main platform for it. I still like the sculptural feel of brush on paper,” he says.
Comic Con India Delhi 2014 will be held from 7-9 February, 11am-7pm, at Thyagaraj Stadium. You can book entry tickets on www.bookmyshow.com and www.comicconindia.com.
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