A convention for comic book geeks

Sunday, 13 February 2011 - 12:13am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: dna

An Indian Comic Conference — the first of its kind in the country — will give fans, writers, artists and publishers a chance to interact and exchange notes, reports Aniruddha Guha.

Every year, comic book fans look forward to news, videos, pictures and tweets from comic book creators, writers, artists, and fans who made it to the Comic Conference in San Diego. Together, they geek out on comic books, graphic novels and everything related — movies, action figures and gaming consoles. In June last year, the US convention saw more than 1.3 lakh people attending, with legendary comic book creator Stan Lee as one of the main attractions.

Now, Indian fans have a chance to celebrate their own Comic Con in Delhi from Feb19-20. Stan Lee may not be addressing the crowd (not this year, anyway), but leading members of the Indian comic book industry will be in attendance. The two-day convention will have publishing houses like Amar Chitra Katha, Vimanika Comics, Diamond Comics, Manta Ray, Level 10 and Campfire participating, along with some of India’s top comic book artists and creators.

“The idea is to get everyone in the industry under one roof and give fans a chance to interact with them. Additionally, independent artists who don’t know how to go about getting contracts with publishing houses, and those looking for distribution deals will benefit from the interaction,” says Jatin Varma of Twenty Onwards Media, organisers. “We’re all comic book lovers, and have been planning the convention for close to a year, but things sort of fell in place only around December,” he says.

Of gods and desi superheroes
The convention will have around 35 stalls which include retailers selling comic books, games, and action figures, workshops by animators, and releases of books like The Itch You Can’t Scratch, Random Anthology and UBiMa.

UBiMa is short for Uud Bilaw Manus, or Otter-Man, a crime-fighting vigilante based in — hold your breath — a post-apocalyptic Bihar. “The villains he fights are wily politicians and goons like Kann Khajura and Babu Ghadiyal,” says Abhijeet Kini, who is one of the novel’s illustrators. Twenty eight-year-old Kini says that the idea was to set a superhero story in a place you least expect it, and present it as a sort of a satire on Bollywood and spy novels.

The Indian graphic novel market may be growing, but most storylines oscillate between themes of mythology and superheroes. “It’s sad, in a way. Most comic books which are ‘Indian’ in nature borrow from mythology. Others replicate superheroes from the West,” says Kini.

But there is no escaping that, at least for a while. “The growing interest in comic books is mainly because we are exposed to many more superheroes from the West. Earlier we had only heard of Spiderman and Superman. Today, Hollywood films have introduced us to X-Men, Thor, Hulk and Green Lantern.” Doga and Super Commando Dhruva, both superheroes, are among popular characters in India, although Kini believes Chacha Chaudhary has been among the more innovative characters to have struck a chord with readers.

Tailor-made for India
It’s this growing interest in comics that has led to an Indian Comic Con. “With the market for comic books expanding and more and more publishers joining the bandwagon, it’s the best time for India to have a Comic Con,” says Kini, who is hoping to get in touch with leading publishing houses at the convention. “Earlier, I had to depend on working for magazines and newspapers to earn a living. But with more Indians taking to reading comic books in the last few years, it seems like I can now make a career from being a comic book illustrator,” he says.

Even though everything at the Comic Con will be predominantly ‘made-in-India’ — that’s the idea after all — there will also be representatives from international giants DC and Marvel Comics talking about the companies’ future book launches.  A big attraction will be the Avengers Toys store, selling collectibles such as action figures, cards, and games of Marvel’s superheroes like Captain America, Iron Man and the Hulk.

“For most of us, this will be party time,” says Valmik Babbar, who runs Avengers Toys. “It makes a lot of sense to have a convention here so that the local comic scene gets a boost. Indians will finally get a platform to understand how comic books are made and get introduced to a whole range of fiction that they have been hitherto unexposed to,” says Mumbai-based Babbar.

Comic Con India will be held at Delhi Haat on February 19-20 from 11am to 8pm. For details, log on to comicconindia.com

Tracing the Indian comic book

  • The distribution of comics in India is almost 60 years old. One of earliest attempts was by comic magazine Chandamama, which has published comic books in over 5 languages since 1947
  • In 1967, Anant Pai launched the Amar Chitra Katha series, whose objective was to educate children about historical figures and characters who featured in religious texts
  • Pran created Chacha Chaudhary in the 1970s
  • In the beginning of the 1980s, Pai launched the first Indian comic magazine for children, Tinkle, which was a big success
  • Later, Raj Comics came out with comic books about superheroes like Nagraj, Doga, Super Commando Dhruva, and Parmanu, which are still popular

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