City-based creators outline the world of illustrated books and eZines, working their way from Indian mythological inspirations to digitisation, modern super heroes and even fan fiction. By Aakanksha Devi
Comic-Con has become a sort of mecca for pop culture fans of all stripes, and one of the biggest launching pads in the city for new books, films, and exciting entertainment memorabilia. On the eve of its third edition, Jatin Varma, founder, Comic Con India, sounds especially gung-ho. “The past one year has seen a dramatic expansion of our shows and Bangalore fans will experience it now. We are putting together international guest appearances, exhibitions, activities and of course, the exclusive Star Wars zone,” he enthuses adding, “while the international comic community considers comics, graphic novels and illustrated books mainstream, India is still to warm up fully to the idea. But the future looks bright and very digital.” Agreeing with him are Bangalore artistes, writers and editors, who tell us more about current good reads, audience demands and the pressing need to move beyond copying Hollywood and rehashing mythology.
Reena Puri |Amar Chitra Katha
Pioneers in India in the comic book and illustrated literature, Reena I Puri, executive editor at Amar Chitra Katha (ACK), has seen the genre grow ‘across multiple platforms – from the art of story-telling to character depictions, from manual to digital formats. And very importantly from a much maligned to a much loved medium’. “Comics are now welcomed as respectable reading material. Fans want good art and a crisp content,” she tells us. One of the few publishing houses that focus energies on telling the ‘Indian’ story, Puri explains, we have our own style and space. Die hard ACK readers are still hooked on mythology, yet fables and folktales are also very popular – something reflected by the fact that this purely print concept had to be taken to the digital world, to meet the growing demands in this tech-savvy generation. “With the globe shrinking and technology bridging distances, our content based on Indian heritage will always be different but the art and the layout is already becoming quite universal. Even our Gods have developed six-pack abs and broader shoulders,” she jokes.
Satish Khemchandani | The Entertainment Store
At his Entertainment Store, the city’s only dedicated comic book, graphic novel and pop-culture memorabilia space, Satish Khemchandani knows exactly what local fans want. “Here, people like their superheroes and comic books, but they’re not obsessed. The real passion for comics is missing. But they are happy to give current trends a go — be it Superman or Kkrish. There is a relatability with DC comics and Marvel and more depth to the heroes, villains or even the side kicks because the audience seems to have outgrown the goofy stereotypes,” he tells us, referring to the change in storylines from ‘aliens who have powers taking refuge in New York and then a super villain destroying Manhattan to find him’.
Reluctant to speak of Indian films, Khemchandani nonetheless says we need to create something different. “Why not use the wealth of mythology, an ACK book and still make something fresh for an Indian audience. Digital distribution should open up a whole new avenue of readers because it is convenient. But a physical comic, will always survive thanks to die hard fans like me,” he beams.
“For the Indian audience, the deep passion for comics is missing. But they are happy to give things a go” — Satish Khemchandani
Samhita Arni | The Mahabharata – A Child’s View
She wrote and illustrated her first book at 8 and Samhita Arni’s, The Mahabharata – A Child’s View went on to be published in seven languages and sell 50,000 copies worldwide. She bettered it with a graphic novel, Sita’s Ramayana, in collaboration with Patua artist Moyna Chitrakar, making the New York Times Best-seller list for Graphic Novels in 2011. The Asterix fan believes that digital distribution will be a game changer. “It may be cheaper to produce comics and illustrated novels, and create more exciting content for smart-phones and tablets,” she says, also hoping for a rise in ‘niche’ indie products online. On content development in India, she feels that ‘the time is ripe for a line-up of mass-market comic book series in English and regional languages distributed through digital channels.’ “I’m very keen on creating interactive serial fiction – where a story is told in installments, and the readers can contribute content,” she says, lamenting that the publishing industry in India has not exploited the possibilities of digital storytelling fully. “We don’t have comic book editors that measure up to the standards in the West,” explains Arni, looking forward to interviewing her idol Neil Gaiman, the creator of The Sandman series, at the event.
“Many Indian creators need online exposure. The world outside still believes our comic industry is limited to Chacha Chaudhary and Amar Chitra Katha. ” — Sreejita Biswas
♦ Favourite comic character — Sandman
♦ Best film adaptation — Stephen Frear’s film of Posy Simmond’s Tamara Drewe
♦ A comic book film you’re most looking forward to — Sandman, particularly now that Joseph Gordon-Levitt is involved.
♦ Favourite Indian comic – Apuppen’s Legends of Halahala
♦ Dream collaboration — Shaun Tan
Pratheek Thomas | Kokaachi
A self-proclaimed ‘puny, geek with glasses’ Pratheek Thomas empathised first with Spider-Man, then Batman before discovering Sandman, Bone, Demo and ‘a host of other indie, non-superhero comics’ which now form the bulk of his comic collection. After his publishing venture Manta Ray shut earlier this year, he returned to comics — his first love, full-time. “My wife Tina and I formed Kokaachi — the Malayalam name of the monster that almost every child has been threatened with,” he explains of his new Bangalore and Cochin venture. “But I think our comics need to grow up. We’re still stuck churning out rehashed mythology, or desi versions of superheroes in the hopes of landing a film deal. Although, I do feel digital comics will bring in new readers and possibly even hard copy investors since nothing can beat the real feel of a book,” he informs, citing that as one of the reasons self-publishing got a shot in the arm via Kickstarter and other crowd-funding platforms. “On the other hand, the commercial success of Hollywood’s superhero adaptations has encouraged new publishing houses to cash in on this trend,” Pratheek explains. At their first public appearance, he excitedly tells us they will launch his new baby — Twelve (a 12-book series) and Janaki Mukku — their first colour comic book.
♦ Influences — Neil Gaiman, Brian Wood and Mike Mignola
♦ Style inspiration — Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan’s Demo
♦ The best comic series till date — Hellboy
♦ An over-rated series — Y-The Last Man
♦ Favourite Indian comic — Bahadur
Sreejita Biswas & Karn Kaul | StripTease
Sreejita ‘Solo’ Biswas and Karn ‘Sloth’ Kaul are the names behind StripTease, an online magazine that features comics, graphic novels, web-comics and everything in between. They make works of art, in any form, more accessible —online. “A lot of Indian creators need that exposure. The world outside still believes that the Indian comic industry is limited to Chacha Chaudhary and Amar Chitra Katha,” Biswas begins, as Kaul emphases that this shift is everywhere, from creator-owned material to the music scene. “Connecting directly to your audience is better than using middlemen,” he says, but not without cautioning that since it involves heavy reading ‘people still prefer to handle books than stare at a screen’. They both believe it is unfair to compare Indian comics to the West, but originality here is something they find lacking. “People rely on mythology heavily for inspiration. Though some comics are excellent, it gets tright after a while,” Biswas explains, hoping that their print edition will stand the test of time like the first Superman comic which recently sold for 2.2 million USD. The duo is working on the History Of Comics – a chronicle of comics in comic form and a space fantasy webcomic Tau — both slated to be a free online read.
♦ A character you wish you created — GLaDOS (from Portal)
♦ Top costume — Zatanna but more practical stockings
♦ Hardest part of the job — Story boarding and lettering
♦ Most over-rated series — Spider-Man
♦ Dream collaboration — Appupen, Joe Sacco and Alan Moore
Highlights of the Comic Con
Costume play: Dress up as your favourite comic, superhero and gaming characters for the popular cos-play sessions.
Book launches: Over 15 books will be launched including Aspyrus by Apuppen, The Kaurava Empire Volume 1 by Jason Quinn and The Caravan Prequel – Blood War #1 written by Shamik Dasgupta
Star Wars zone: Designed to resemble the bridge of a star destroyer with light
sabers, character figurines and inspired art.
Sessions: Rob Denbleykar, co-Creater of Cyanide and Happiness, Peter Kruper, an American cartoonist and illustrator, and web interview with British author and creator Neil Gaiman
Merchandise: IINE Toys, from Japan is offering of anime
and manga merchandise, apart from stuff from GraphiCurry, Chumbak and Planet Superheroes among others.
Cover Pics : Vinod Kumar T
Location Courtesy : The Entertainment Store