The 5th Mumbai Comic Con: A big fat fantasy party

As the Mumbai Film and Comic Con 2015 enters its fifth year, artists, graphic novelists, publishers and fans speak about their love for comics, comic merchandise and cosplay

They are here again. The Darth Vader masks, the living Stormtroopers, Princess Leia and face-painted Jokers roaming the city. It is after all the time for the return of the Comic Con. Though this connection would not necessarily be as simple for many people even in Mumbai, enthusiasts and participants say times are changing and fast.

Also read: The Mumbai Film & Comic Con had organised a board and card gaming session in November

 Cosplayers dressed as band members of KISS pose at  New York Comic Con  2015 in October. pic/AFP
Cosplayers dressed as band members of KISS pose at New York Comic Con 2015 in October. Pic/AFP

Jatin Varma, founder, Comic Con India, informs that this is only the fifth year of the event in India, and every year, it sees a growth in size and participation. After the success in Delhi, Mumbai and Bengluru, it reached Hyderabad this year. “The Mumbai Film and Comic Con 2015 will be the biggest in India till now, with international stars like Sylvester Mccoy, who has acted in Doctor Who and The Hobbit, Rob Denbleyker, author of Cyanide & Happines and Gavin Aung Thang, cartoonist and creator of Zen Pencils. The winner of the Cosplay event, where participants dress up like fictional characters and comic strip heroes, will be sent to the Beijing Comic Con,” he reveals.

Also read: Nicolas Wild, the graphic novelist of Kabul Disco chatted with mid-day before his first appearance at the Mumbai Film and Comic Con 2014

Japanese cosplayers at last year’s Mumbai Film and Comic Con
Japanese cosplayers at last year’s Mumbai Film and Comic Con

Bigger and better
This event has a total of 150 participants including publishers, artists, writers, television channels and a lot of comic merchandise. There are limited artist’s spaces for '12,000 each. The stalls can be rented for anything between '30,000 to '50,000, he shares.

A page from the comic series, Angry Maushi
A page from the comic series, Angry Maushi

Vivek Goel, publisher and founder Holy Cow Entertainment says that Comic Cons are a great platform for Indian writers and publishers who deal with the graphic world. “We get to meet our readers and our peers. Apart from getting invaluable feedback we also get to know our readers, which is fantastic. At least 30 per cent of our books are sold at Comic Cons. A lot of readers buy books only at Comic Cons after interacting with us. This is the 15th Comic Con for Holy Cow; in a way we have grown with Comic Con in India,” he explains.

Astra Force, a new comic will  be launched this season
Astra Force, a new comic will be launched this season

Holy Cow Entertainment will launch their latest one short, Ganga & Bhishma, which is the seventh book in series about lesser-known but pivotal characters of Mahabharata and Ramayana. His opinion finds echo in Kshounish Palit, who will be launching his debut graphic novel, The Missman. “I am launching it, hoping for readers and a dedicated audience. Last year, when I attended the Comic Con for the first time, I was surprised to see the crowd. I thought it would only be a few hundred people but it was way beyond a thousand,” he recounts.

Ganga & Bhishma, will  be launched by Holy  Cow Entertainment
Ganga & Bhishma, will be launched by Holy Cow Entertainment 

Jaineel Aga, co-founder and CEO, Planet Superheroes, points out that though books do sell, the popularity of Comic Con in India is still for the merchandise. “This is typically our space. We will have three stalls right at the entrance. This year, we will also have Johnny Bravo and Dexter (actors) roaming the venue.”

All are invited
As we wondered if it is only a niche, metro-specific phenomenon, Aga says that though smaller cities are yet to join the bandwagon, there is a growing demand. “Even though most of our customer base is from the metros, there is an increase in demand from smaller towns. We have broken the myth that adults don’t like to engage with comics. People want to wear T-shirts showing cartoons they grew up watching. That demand exists in the smaller cities too,” reveals Aga.

Sharad Devarajan
Sharad Devarajan

He, however, says it is not yet a great venture financially yet. “It is mostly a below break even situation because of the sheer cost of logistics, if you are not from the same city,” says an optimistic Aga. Mumbai-based creator of the comic, Angry Maushi, Abhijeet Kini, however, asserts that though merchandise rules the event, it has created a new reader base for comics in India. “All these years, comics have been seen as something that is exclusively for kids. (Click here to read about 'Angry Maushi' and more)

Sumit Kumar
Sumit Kumar

We as writers and illustrators of comics are now getting a chance to provide people with new material to read, and to show that comics are not just your Superman and Batman issues. We have tons of concepts and characters here in our own country,” he explains. “Since India’s comics culture has got a sudden boost, with general curiosity about the medium on the rise, people want to pick your work up. So, when I self publish my Angry Maushi comics, my aim is to get people to see what independent comics and genres like social satires and political satires are,” he adds.

Many like Hong Kong-based web zine creator, Gavin Aung Than, will be attending the fest for the first time. Than cannot contain his excitement about this annual event. “I’m thrilled because it will be my first visit to India. I look forward to meeting the local Zen Pencils (his web zine) fans,” he admits.

Sharad Devarajan, co-founder, Graphic India, publisher of several new comic artists, is optimistic about the future of Comic Con in India. He maintains that it is important to have new indigenous characters. “Our mission is to build characters, heroes and stories that tap into the creativity and culture of India but appeal to audiences worldwide,” he signs off.

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The guide's top picks of the fest

>> A chat with Sylvester McCoy, famous for Doctor Who and The Hobbit on December 19
>> An interaction with Rob Denbleyker, co-creator of Cyanide & Happiness on December 19
>> The release of Ganga and Bhishma — In The Epic Retelling Of A Lost Myth by Holy Cow Entertainment on December 19
>> Cosplay contest on December 19 with the winner getting a chance to attend the Beijing Comic Con
>> A special session with Gavin Aung Than, the creator of web comics Zen pencils on December 20.

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