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From Spiderman to Tamil pulp fiction, Comic Con has it all to lure kids

Damini Nath
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3rd Annual Indian Comics Convention brings together comic book fans from across the country

Cosplay:A young girl dressed as Loki from ‘The Avengers’ during the 3rd Annual Indian Comic Con Festival at Dilli Haat.- Photo: Shanker Chakravarty
Cosplay:A young girl dressed as Loki from ‘The Avengers’ during the 3rd Annual Indian Comic Con Festival at Dilli Haat.- Photo: Shanker Chakravarty

It was a bright winter’s day in the Capital and visitors at Dilli Haat got an up-close look at an emerging sub-culture. The three-day Third Annual Indian Comics Convention which comes to a close this Sunday brought together comic book fans from across the country.

Young people dressed as characters from comic books and films mingled with tourists buying traditional souvenirs. There were girls dressed as Pokemons and Loki from the popular comic and film The Avengers . Wand-wielding wizards and Japanese Manga characters made the convention more like a carnival. The detailed costumes worn by some are an integral part of the comic book-related sub-culture internationally. Cosplay, short for costume play, is slowly becoming popular in India as well.

The event brought together fans and businesses connected with comic books and graphic novels. The convention featured stalls selling comics, action figures and other merchandise. Apart from that, it also hosted discussions and workshops.

There was an aspiring Spiderman (five-year old Hardik Prakash) who accompanied his sister, the ‘Pink Fairy’ (eight-year-old Vinayaka). Their mother Anita Sinha said she wants to pass down her love of comics to her children. “We used to read comics like Diamond Comics in our childhood. These days, comics are not easily available for children,” Ms. Sinha said.

Her passion for comics seems to have percolated to her young son. Ms. Sinha said, “Other children say they want to be a doctor or engineer when they grow up. If you ask my son, he says ‘I want to be Spiderman’.”

Comic Con is an attempt to create a space for comic books fans to interact with each other, which the founder and organiser of the event Jatin Varma found missing in India.

Mr. Verma said his motivation is “to get people who might be passionate about different elements of pop culture together”.

A boost to comic industry

The convention is the perfect venue for engaging with international comic publishers. It also gives a much-needed boost to the nascent Indian comic industry. With publishers like Vimanika Comics and Campfire Graphic Novels, experimenting with indigenous storylines, there is a growing realisation in India that comic books aren’t all about super-heroes and villains.

Comic Con brings independent, smaller publishers on the same platform as the industry leaders, Marvel and DC. One such venture, Blaft Publications, offers something different to readers.

“Basically Blaft deals with bringing all the different regional literature into English, so everybody can read it,” said Anitha from Blaft Publications.

With titles such as The Blaft Anthology of Tamil Pulp Fiction and Stupid Guy Goes to India, Blaft is making graphic novels appealing and relatable to a new audience, who may not be interested in conventional Western comics.

For Vimanika Comics founder Karan Vir Arora business is booming. His company publishes graphic novels based on mythologies with Shiva being a bestseller.

“The first three years, we [Vimanika Comics] made losses. We basically bled dry. But this year, money has started to roll in. Business is good. ” Mr. Arora said.

He explained that Indian readers do not have the same expectations from comics, as their international counterparts do. There is a gap in the market, which publishers like Mr. Arora are hoping to fill.

“People are bored with the same old superhero stories. I’ve grown up on those stories but now people want a change. That’s why we decided to keep the stories about warriors and gods,” Mr Arora.

While Comic Con has grown each year since its inception in 2011, it still has a long way to catch up with its Western predecessors. Last year’s event saw 35,000 visitors and sales worth Rs. 50 lakh.

“A small company can make a big change. We have nothing to lose,” Mr. Arora said echoing the sentiments of many at Comic Con.

It may not be a mainstream event, but at least it’s a start.

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