Bangalore’s first full fledged Comic Con, that took place over the weekend of 12th-14th September, was probably on the calendars of both ardent comic fans in and around the city of Bangalore, as well as people who just wanted to ‘see what it’s like’.
The repertoire of events and the international guest line up, including an interactive session with Rob Den Bleyker and a Skype conference with Neil Gaiman, however, wasn’t the only appealing thing to a follower of comics. The event also served as a launchpad for several emerging Indian comics and graphic novels publishers, such as Fablery, Aayumi Production, and Crimzon Studio, among others.
The Alternative sought to speak with a few of the more obscure Indian efforts out there, and got some interesting insight into the actual perception of comics in the country, and the hard work of the authors behind them.
Orange Radius Arts is a company founded by Raveesh Mohan, a comic book writer who launched his first work at Comic Con Hyderabad in 2013. Following this launch, he worked on two more issues until Bangalore’s Comic Con this year, where he launched the fourth issue of his main series, Parshu. The protagonist in Parshu is a young boy by the same name, a teenager just out of school who, Mohan emphasizes, is not a superhero. “He’s a realistic character who could be just like you and me, and could live in any city. Bombay, perhaps,” Mohan says. “Yes, he could even have a cell phone.”
Parshu has a pretty normal life growing up, but towards the end of his adolescence, he finds himself plagued by the teenage angst we have come to expect from comic book characters, but with a twist. Parshu realizes he was meant to be a warrior, and his self doubt and conflict are cleared once he discovers he is actually birthed from Lord Parshuram’s lineage. Following this, he fights through his obstacles and struggles with nothing but a weapon that he finds in his journey, and no magical powers. Mohan says, “What’s determining in one’s character isn’t that he or she be born with superpowers, it’s his actions. I want my stories to be about every day people and not superheroes,” and this theme is prevalent throughout Parshu.
This glorification of the strength within every day personalities seemed resonant throughout the Indian base at Comic Con Bangalore, as Tamal Saha, an artist who has worked with the author of The Caravan, said, “Our stories aren’t about people with great superpowers, they actually have their roots in a lot of Indian folklore. These are characters based out of places like Rajasthan, Chambal, and sometimes Calcutta.”
Their new launches at the Comic Con Bangalore this weekend, Devi Chaudhurany and Taranath Tantrik, are also heavily seeded in Indian culture, about which Saha said, “Devi can actually be considered a model for women empowerment – she has very humble, poor beginnings, and eventually goes on to lead a pirate army and win. Tantrik is about an investigator of paranormal activities, and together with his travelling band of vagabonds, he is part of a psychological horror story.” Saha had first worked with Shamik Dasgupta on The Caravan, a horror graphic novel, though Dasgupta is also known for his work on Ramayan 3392 A.D.
Quite a few of the Indian authors at Comic Con Bangalore seemed to have technical backgrounds, and Mohan himself is an engineer from Pune University who, after working for a few years, decided to quit his job in 2013 and devote all his time to doing what he’d always loved. “I had always had a passion for comics,” he says, and when asked if his career switch was a permanent one, he grinned, “Yes, there’s no way I can go back to work now.” Saha too was an engineer, and decided to start doing artwork for comics full-time in 2012.
Though their enthusiasm and passion for comics might make it seem otherwise, India’s reception to comics by Indian authors has plenty of scope for improvement. Mohan says, “Even though comics have always been around in India, there has usually been a sort of mythological theme to it, and there’s not much you can do with mythology but retell it.” He believes there needs to be a wider base of consumption in the market, and that only printing hard copies of comics is not enough. “We plan to increase readership by widening our online presence, and intend to launch our first web comic at the Comic Con Hyderabad later this year.”
Prabuddha Neogi, the proprietor of Speech Bubble Entertainment, seems to agree with the sentiment that Indians don’t invest enough in comics: “People are always looking at the maximum number of pages they can get for the least price. They’d prefer to spend money on buying video games and watching 3D films, over buying comics.” So what can be done to ameliorate the situation? “Well, the only solution is produce comics and graphic novels of an international standard. We also need to create incentive and better prospects for artists, so that they get paid more, can work more, and then create better comics. It’s a cycle, and it’s going to take time.”
Featured image courtesy: Crimzon Studio | Facebook