Comics are big business, and the two-day comic convention in Bangalore was testimony to this. Sravasti Datta and Catherine Rhea Roy check out the Comic Con Express
If you sat at vantage point in the Koramangala auditorium, with an aerial view of the space, it was a throng of comic book enthusiasts, artists, graphic novelists, publishers and curious kittens. In one corner there was Batman, Indiana Jones or was it Shikari Shambu, and two zombies in a heated discussion about what to eat for lunch. From point of vantage you could also, count a dozen manic Jokers, more than nine lives for Catwoman, and no matter how hard you looked nobody was brave enough for Bane.
There was one Thompson missing the other, a spare Mask and don’t point when you see Ravan/ Yaman/ Anonymous Indian God with his mace.
Comic Con Express debuted in Bangalore with mixed reactions, a range of opinions and an overall sense of optimism from the organisers. Jatin Varma, founder of Twenty Onwards Media and creators of Comic Con India, says that the turn out exceeded expectations, “We saw a turn out of 25,000 people in the past two days and almost all leading publishers of comic books and graphic novels participated. Even the crowd was aware and well-informed.” Bangalore is among the chosen few cities in India because, as Jatin points out, “It is one of the biggest contributors to the comic book industry in the country.”
“The Force Wants You To Buy” screamed Yoda from a banner that was slung over a store that sold Star Wars merchandise among other things and publishing houses put up stalls with a collection of their comic books and graphic novels on display. Graphic novelist, Appupen of Moonward fame says, “Usually the highlight of a Comic-Con is either a new featured book or some big name from the industry paying a visit. What we had in Bangalore on the other hand was a walk-in commercial mela and the highlight was a bunch of people who were dressed up, waiting for a prize.”
“Even the stalls were just about average, I did not find any store that sold action figure toys, and whatever was available I could have found in the market. They could have done so much more to promote the scene, more workshops and tips sessions with artists. The idea is new in India and people are not sure what to expect, so it is important to criticise now,” he said.
The space was choc-a-block with new Indian comics that are still finding their feet and saw the launch of titles like Aghori, Templar and the re-launch of Timpa among others. “The response was phenomenal with so many new Indian properties. I bought a lot of Indian comics and hope that they go international very soon,” says music producer, Ricky Kej.
Mohammad Arif Vakil, founder of Sufi Comics and co-writer of The Wise Fool Of Baghdad, was easier to please. He is no stranger to the concept of Comic Con having been a participant at the San Diego International Comic Con he says, “The Comic Con Express Bangalore was organised well, better than I had expected and the turn out was encouraging.”
The crowd was a bag of mixed nuts, and came together very nicely with hardcore comic nerds, co-operative parents that came with Spidey junior and baby Batman, and people like Vidya Venugopal, a lawyer, “I was just curious, so I went with no expectations and was pleasantly surprised.” Francis Xavier, a graphic designer, contends that, “Over 30 to 40 percent of those who attended were comic book lovers while the rest were art lovers.” And his friend, Niraj, though not a comic book lover, attended it, “To experience the much-talked about event.”
“I went with no expectations and I was so pleased,” says illustrator Alicia Souza who had a stall with her cutesy interpretations of super heroes and her almost menacing, home-grown title, The Incredible Bulk.
“The buzz was fabulous and the people were so enthusiastic but there were so many talented graphic artists who I felt could have been paraded a lot more and a lot more insight, media and attention to artists’ and their releases.”
So while the Comic Con Express Bengaluru saw a mixed crowd at the Koramangala Stadium, the arena was a confusing maze of unnumbered stalls and no map. Crowds gathered at random corners to be clicked with their favourite cartoon characters and the more serious comic book lovers gravitated towards stalls such as Arun Prasad’s Vintage Comics and Muthu Comics. The event was a combination of creativity, tributes to comic book heroes, some lack of knowledge and mild disappointment.