After Hyderabad and Bangalore, it’s now Delhi’s turn to host Comic Con India 2018. The event, which opens on 7 December, offers a platform for comic-book artists to showcase their work, and for fans to celebrate cosplay culture, writes Rishita Roy Chowdhury.

 

Comic Con has been one of the most popular events for more than four decades in the West. In recent years, Indians have also embraced the fervour of this event, which celebrates the rich legacy of comic-book characters.

Since its first edition in 2011, Comic Con India has established itself as the country’s biggest pop culture event. This year, too, it is all set to return to the national capital with the 8th Maruti Suzuki Arena Delhi Comic Con. The event will be held from 7-9 December, between 11 a.m. and 8 p.m., at the NSIC Estate in Okhla.

So how did the biggest comic convention we have today begin? Looking at the craze for comics, a group of youngsters in Delhi decided to host the convention in their home city to avoid the expenses of travelling abroad for Comic Con. With that simple mission, the Indian Comics Convention was flagged off.

Jatin Verma, the founder of Comic Con India, said that the growth has been amazing: “We started off as a small show at the back of Dilli Haat, seven years ago, with free entry.” It has since expanded to multiple cities across India. Last year, Comic Con India hosted over 200,000 visitors.

Comic Con India has gained popularity among comic fans of all age groups. The previous editions saw people dressed as their favourite comic characters, special guests from the comic-book industry holding panel discussions, and interactions between illustrators and fans among other activities. A major attraction of the event is that the focus here is not just on international brands, they have space for Indian content as well—from comics and local television series to games and movies.

This year, over the course of the coming weekend, Delhi Comic Con 2018 will bring the whole comic industry and related fields—such as merchandise, games, toys, films and animation—together. The forum will also host celebrated national and international artists from the comic book and entertainment sectors as special guests.

The Delhi Comic Con will feature such internationally renowned comic-book artists as Peter Nguyen, John Layman and Declan Shalvey, along with celebrated Indian artistes such as Saumin Patel, Abhijeet Kini, Alicia Souza, Rahil Mohsin and Aniruddho Chakraborty etc.

John Layman, an American comic book writer, who will be attending the convention in India for the third time, said, “India has a thriving, enthusiastic comic community. I do as many foreign conventions as possible, and while the foods, language and cultures may vary, at heart comic conventions are mostly the same—a celebration of pop-culture and ‘geek’ culture. It’s a fun, joyous gathering of people who share a love for fantasy, superheroes, cosplay and gaming.”

Zafar Khurshid, an artist from Meta Desi Comics, talked about the kind of platform Comic Con provides to illustrators. “Indian comics have been around since we were kids—Tinkle, Amar Chitra Katha, Raj Comics. These established houses have always had a presence and an impact on our lives. But when it comes to any indie publisher in India—like Chariot Comics, Abhijit Kini, Meta Desi Comics, Holy Cow—Comic Con India is the platform. We do a majority of our sales and meet most of our new readers at these conventions,” he said.

Akshay Dhar, from Meta Desi Comics, also feels that the convention is a hub for networking and discovering new content. He finds it to be a helpful artistic platform, too. Besides reaching publishers and readers on a large scale, artists can pitch new ideas at Comic Con, share their portfolios and connect with indie publications.

To amp up the entertainment factor at this year’s Delhi Comic Con, popular standup comedians, like Varun Thakur from SNG Comedy, and Sahil Shah, co-founder of East India Comedy, have also been roped in for live performances.

Participant at Comic Con.

One of the major attractions for Delhi Comic Con attendees this time is the Game of Thrones actor Vladimir Furdik, who plays the menacing Night King on the famous show, and who will be present at the venue next week. He is expected to meet and interact with fans at the event, and divulge some new details about the show. This is especially exciting as the final season of the series is slated for a next year release.

Special “fan experience zones” have also been planned to ensure a world-class experience for visitors.

Even with the rising popularity of the comic industry in India, the “general decline of print media as a global phenomenon poses a problem for artists”, according to Khurshid.

He added, “The industry today is definitely very different from the Indian comics scene we all grew up with. Most artists still have day jobs or side jobs as graphic designers, or professional artists for ad work etc., because comics alone don’t pay enough, or there isn’t enough work in this field. So as far as the new Indian comic-book art segment is concerned, it’s starting to find some real foothold, but there are challenges. Comic Con India provides a great platform, but most of us still struggle with distribution. It isn’t cost effective to put our books in most book stores, which are facing challenges of their own, with so many shutting down every year. Online sales are easy enough, but require name recognition, which takes time and a lot of effort.”

Dhar remains hopeful in the face of all difficulties. “We have a long way to go. The audiences are growing and taking more chances on Indian creations, but we need that patience.”

So even if comics are part of a niche industry, the growth has been good. Comic Con India is focusing on reaching out to audiences digitally and getting them hooked by bringing them the best of content in terms of comics, TV, movies, gaming, cosplay and more. While the size of the industry remains small, the quality of the content is going up all the time. This is a scene that’s expected to grow with every passing year.

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