Simply put, comics are actually a series of illustrations put together and perceived as a continuous narrative. Yet, this genre of art and storytelling has garnered fans and followers the world over, over all these decades and almost a century (or more). From the Indian perspective too, comics have been part of our history and culture, if you consider old temple carvings, royal paintings, etc. If you think about it, it does work as a comic, looking at the continuing narrative of art which told us tales of old kings and empires, only not in panels and thought balloons.
But overall, when one compares the west to our Indian comics scene there definitely has been a rather wide gap. Maybe that’s because the exposure to comics that the readers in the west have received is far bigger than that of their Indian counterparts. Comics publishing is an old game abroad, and it has seen its share of changes, evolution and expansion.
Back home we have had our very own brand of comics reading. Right from Indrajal comics to Diamond comics and of course the evergreen Amar Chitra Kathas. Our older generation would swear by the ‘Phantoms’ and the ‘Mandrakes’, which they used to go and buy off the newspaper stand. Those, today, are collectors’ treasures! Amar Chitra Kathas have been a vast source of education, learning and entertainment for over three generations now, and till date, I personally think, is the only real comics line which defines India. We have also had Indian superheroes like ‘Chacha Chaudhary’, ‘Nagraj’, ‘Doga’, etc over the years to fill in that segment too.
But it is now, in the last three-four years, that comics readers in India have really found a place to fulfill all their comics needs. Comic Con India opened a whole new world for all and boy, do the comic lovers lap it all up! Along with the old publishers, we now see a new breed of independent publishers who are garnering the courage to be able to show their offerings to buyers and readers. I and my wife Diksha are definitely part of the brigade, since we self publish our comic titles such as the ‘Angry Maushi’ series, along with the quirky merchandise we make. And to our delight, there is a customer base for this. All this would not have been possible without pro-comics initiatives like the Comic Cons. And mind you, the Indian comic cons are at par with the international ones. I and Diksha had recently participated in the Middle East Film and Comic Con in Dubai and saw that our Delhi and Mumbai cons are equally well attended or even more.
It is now that people have woken up to the fact that India too has a talented pool of artists who can give international players a good competition. Even if we have miles to go with production quality, consistency and content, we still have an excellent set of new age content and it looks like there will soon be more of that. Readers have now finally got to meet their favourite writers and artists at the Comic Cons, and there is no better joy to the creators than getting good feedback from their readers.
And now with the advent of technology, we see a new wave of e-comics trying to make its way in. Ipads, smartphones, etc have made life more and more gadget centric, and somehow, generally perceived as replacing paper. This might hold true in certain media, like maybe news, documentation, etc. But I think this will never replace print in comics. A hardcopy of a comic book will be even more treasured as the digital comics wing expands (if at all it does). Nothing feels better than a comic book in hand. No colour enhanced display, no screen clarity or backlighting will ever replace the printed comic book. I personally haven’t had a great experience with these new companies offering a ‘digital distribution platform for comics’ and I think I’ll keep getting my comics printed, since currently I am working on the third part of the ‘Angry Maushi’ series. After all, the smell of a printed comic page can take you to a different plane, which maybe an ipad won’t.