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    After the reign of caped crusaders in print, creators talk about the future of characters in pixels as they converge at the third edition of the Bangalore Comic Con, that begins today. By Aakanksha Devi

    IN THE three years since its inception, the Bangalore Comic Con has turned into the highlight of the year for geeks. More so after tying up with Reed Exhibitions (of the New York and Chicago Comic Con fame, among others). From the first ever Comic Con in India, in the capital city which brought in a humble `25 lakh and 20,000 people to `1.25 crores and double the visitors in Bangalore alone in 2014, the boom has come as a pleasant surprise, says Jatin Verma, organiser. “Fans have evolved from obsessing over superheroes to enjoying edgy even borderline weird content,” he says. “Character entertainment is a multi-billion dollar global industry and Indians or Indian themes are just a micro-percentage,” Sharad Devarajan, co-founder, Graphic India, echoes. It is currently a `75 crore industry, but expected to burgeon to `300 crore in the next 10 years, and both are confident that the internet has magnified the intimate act of buying a comic book into a global phenomenon. Abroad, creators are working to change the story-lines of characters that have been around for over 60 years. “Indian artistes are keeping up as well, by moving away from mythology towards sci-fi, anthologies and even desi manga,” Verma adds. Confident that vibrant gatherings of pop culture like the Comic Con will give the future of speech bubbles, bobble heads, comic books and graphic novels a boost, we meet some of the key people who’ll take us into the digital age.

    Mark Millar
    Creator, producer, writer

    EVEN non-comic buffs would get a thrill on meeting the upbeat Mark Millar. Most of his creations have been made into top feature films (think Wanted, Kick-Ass, Kick-Ass 2, and The Secret Service, released as 1Kingsman: The Secret Service) as he turned his boyhood fascination for James Bond, or crime fighting superheroes into edgy yet relatable characters. “Write characters you know really well and stay away from those you don’t absolutely love,” Millar says, explaining that when you like a character as a fan, when you recreate it, you do it with passion and towards an end which you will like as a writer and fan.
    On the rise and fall of superheroes, the Scotsman feels it has and always will be cyclical. “I don’t think we’ll ever get bored with superheroes. They’re tales of hope. As long as we are human with emotions, turmoil will always be just around the corner with a caped crusader following closely,” he says. “My stories on paper still give me happiness as if they are my children, so will any other form of my work. The online world is an endless tool for creativity. We can use it any way we want,” he concludes.
    Millar will chat with fans and discuss his work via Skype

    Holy Cow Entertainment

    AN integral part of the Indian comic book scene, Holy Cow founder, Vivek Goel, says he built his company like a true fan, ‘working from the ground up with solid plots and strong characters’. His colleague, Anirudh Singh, who collaborated on their latest book Shaitan, releasing today, tells us that it centres around an American black-ops team making their way to the island of Astola in Pakistan, to look for the mysterious Shaitan who has made the land uninhabitable. Moving on to the changing medium of books and global trends, Singh feels, “While the touch and feel of paper is great, nothing beats the reach of digital access. America and Japan are saturated markets now, while India offers both cultural and creative diversity. The future is all about being current. Who would have thought that a female Thor or a freckled Archie dying for a gay friend would be so well received,” he says. Goel ensures that one series is always completed before tackling the next project—‘unlike Japanese series which tend to tantalise the reader with cliff hangers and, boom, suddenly wrap up’. Comparing his writing and releases to his morning allergy sneezes, he jokes, “I do 12-14 at one go and then it’s over.”
    Sketching stages
    Fans can anticipate their first colourful female characters, a dragon from Bhutan. And another named Viridian, a Latin word for green. “All I will say is that the character is green and from Arunachal Pradesh,” hints Goel. And while most readers are familiar with fantastical places like Krypton and Asgard, the HC Universe brings the action home with relatable characters from Goa, Mumbai, and ‘little villages in India’. “We don’t always need to identify with Starling City or Gotham. By being culturally relevant, we connect better with a range of wider readers,” he signs off.
    Catch Goel at the HCE kiosk

    Paul Azaceta
    Creator, artist, publisher

    New Jersey-based artiste Paul Azaceta started his graphic career with Captain Marvel for Marvel Comics, and has since worked on characters for Punisher Noir, B.P.R.D. 1946, Amazing Spider-Man, Daredevil, Conan, and Northlanders. His latest project has him collaborating with writer Mark Sable, on two novels — Grounded and Graveyard of Empires—plus he’s working on his first ongoing horror story Outcast with Robert Kirkman from Image Comics. “Robert has come up with a twist on The Exorcist – about a young man, Kyle who decides to deal with the demonic attacks he’s been plagued by his whole life only to discover it’s bigger than he ever realised. I’m already eight issues in and I love it,” he says, adding that doing a creepy horror book has always been on his bucket list. Graveyard of Empires is a tale about zombies in Afghanistan, and is a visual, literary treat as well as a pithy social commentary on war, he promises. “We took a fun zombie action story and set it in Afghanistan against the tragic reality of war,” says Azaceta who feels that storytelling must be reinvented through technology even if it threatens the very existence of comic stores.
    “I see the future in a monthly digital comic with collections and trades coming out in physical books,” Azaceta says. He hopes that it will open up the market to ‘anyone with internet access’, thus boosting the reach of creator-owned comics and providing a glimpse into the world of the creator. “I make each character unique by adding my own tastes, interests and emotions I once experienced personally,” says the artist.
    He will be travelling to the city for a discussion at the Comic Con.

    Mukesh Singh2
    Illustrator, graphics and game artist,
    CG modeler and animator

    IF A single picture can evoke an immediate response from the viewer, the impact is enhanced greatly with comic books and their extensive imagery,” begins Mukesh Singh, illustrator and artist who has worked with the likes of Marvel, Virgin and Liquid Comics, and is currently finishing two books with an undisclosed European publisher. “They are a combination of words and pictures that deliver a story in unique ways that neither writing nor pictures alone can do,” he says, describing his favourite pop cultural genre of literature.
    Looking ahead
    Although cautious about the changing medium of reading from physical to digital, he too believes that the latter is here to stay. Plus, for graphic novels, where art is the real calling card of the medium, the colours are really brought to life in the digital format while ‘print often takes away so much of the subtlety of colours and shades’. “But then, there is something special about physically holding a well-loved book. The sheer joy of holding something tangible in your hands, of discovering hidden pearls in a library or a book store, the smell of newly printed paper. Or cherishing a gift copy with its signatures and inscriptions, of possessing a unique first edition, is sheer magic,” he tell us.
    Comics can transcend language, he says and the future in India is ‘ very bright’. “Because we don’t already possess a long established comic culture in India, with emergent technologies like tablets and smartphones and their ability to reach a wide audience, the opportunities are endless,” Singh foresees.
    His illustrated works will be available at The Entertainment Store stall

    Top priority

    Wading through the merchandise,
    workshops, photo-ops and discussions, we zero in on the highlights:

    ■ Game of Thrones fans will definitely want to meet and greet Daniel Portman, our favourite squire Podrick Payne, and Natalia Tela (who plays loyal wildling Osha) who will be at the event. Then, head to the replica of the Iron Throne specially created in a tie up with series producers HBO
    ■ Mark Millar and Greg Cappulo (creator of the
    current series of Batman) will participate in
    discussions via Skype
    ■ Celebrate your inner nerd at the Science Series. Kicking off the series is Vandana Verma, a NASA Mars Rover driver who develops software for robotic space exploration. She speaks live from NASA on Saturday at 1 pm
    ■ The Cosplay contest is taken to the next level with five categories this year – comic book or graphic novel, animated series or film, manga or anime, sci-fi or fantasy and gaming
    ■ Gamers ahoy! India eSports League will set up an extreme gaming arena with `1.5 lakhs up for grabs if you win. Plus, casual competitions on FIFA14 and Counter Strike Go

    Campfire Graphic Novels

    AIMING to entertain and educate through lively illustrated books on human values and unforgettable heroes, Campfire’s catalogue of over 75 titles covers classics, mythology, biographies and history. In the past six years, they’ve become leaders of the growing graphic novel industry in India. Girija Jhunjhunwala, director at Campfire Graphic Novels describes the graphic novel as “a sequential telling of a story in its entirety as opposed to a comic that may or may not do so.”
    Highlighting the importance of technology in storytelling, she describes the work as a creative collaboration between the artist or penciller, the inker, the colourists and the desk top publishing operator but credits technology with making it a streamlined process. “We have artists who work the traditional way and those who prefer to work on a tablet that allows them to draw, colour and use digital ink,” Jhunjhunwala says.
    As Indian readers are moving from Archies, Tintin or Asterix towards graphic novels with a perfect balance of text and visuals, for leisure reading, she hopes that even The Centre of Secondary Education may move beyond the prescribed historical Campfire graphic novels on Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King Jr and World War One to topical material in the future. “And while nothing can replace the joy of flipping pages, we are embracing a digital future with our e-books and apps,” she says.
    Check out all their works at the Comic Con

    Greg Capullo
    Greg Capullo’s work on Batman
    has redefined how one looks at Gotham’s saviour. Illustrator of the all-new The Dark Knight, he has reinvented the way we look at superheroes, focussing on the human side. While appreciative of the talent that is out there, what he likes least about the shift to digital is that there is a growing dependency on photos and leanings toward photo realism. “I believe comics are better served, in my opinion, by being something larger than life. Otherwise, why don’t we all hang up our pencils, pens and styli and pick up cameras,” he
    critiques, adding that often, it isn’t illustrators who need to change with the digitalisation of comics, but marketing. “At the most, I try and make very tiny faces more detailed so that people can blow them up in digital format!”

    Saurav Mohapatra

    One of the few Indian names to make it big in the global scenario, Saurav Mohapatra’s credits include writing for Shekhar Kapur’s Devi, Deepak Chopra’s India Authentic plus the graphic novel Mumbai Confidential, now available in a digital format. Some of his more recent work include The Way of The Warrior: The legend of Abhimanyu and Moon Mountain for Penguin and Gabbar, a prequel graphic novel to Sholay (from Graphic India/Westland). Clearly a trend-setter, Mohapatra happily credits his collaborators like Samit Basu, and artists Mukesh and Abhishek Singh for pushing boundaries. “There’s a lot more diversity in the genre now. Earlier, it was either all very juvenile or childish like Tinkle or Chacha Chaudhury, predictable superheroes and mythological tales. Now, we are tackling variety in comic themes and genres,” he begins.
    Fast forward
    Digital art has allowed him to collaborate and iterate over the production process of a graphic novel / comic book long distance, ‘and by 2020, comic books will be digitally read on cell phones or tablets’ he predicts, adding, “In a few years, printed books will become luxe collector items, valued mostly as personalised gifts.”
    Sadly, he doesn’t see comics becoming mainstream in India anytime soon. “It will remain niche but it’ll take us a while to become a mature market,” shares the creator, reiterating that print distribution is a very different ball game to online consumption. “The inventory alone will kill any fledgling business. My advice is to focus on digital and create print editions for proven properties along with merchandise,” he says. Crowd-funding could be the way forward for independent publishers apparently and his advice is, “Just write! Everybody has ideas but the hardest part about writing is writing itself. Artists need to build digital portfolios and get their art out where it’s seen.”
    His graphic novels and comics will be on display and sale

    Finding merchandise
    ■ For anime and manga stuff, head to Japanese brand IINE’s stall which will be stocked with tees, mugs, toys, posters and home decor

    ■ Kidrobot, Mimobots, Funko and National Entertainment Collectibles Association, all premier creators and dealers of limited edition art toys, gadgets, vinyls and lifestyle merchandise will be on hand, too

    ■ Hot Toys is set to showcase and sell their trademark Sixth Scale collectibles
    featuring film-based memorabilia

    ■ Indian merchandisers including The Entertainment Store, Band Box, Wacom,
    Art Beat, Bewakoof Brands, Hysteria, Wear Your Opinion, Kudi Firang, Planet Superheroes, F Gali, Sky Goodies, Bollyscope, Lazy Ninja, GraphiCurry, Below the Belt will also
    be part of the line-up

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