Attend a festival in Mumbai dedicated to self-published comic books

Apr 28, 2018, 13:18 IST | Snigdha Hasan

As Mumbai gears up to host a festival dedicated to self-published comic books, here's looking at an emerging trend where Indian artists are breaking stereotypes associated with the genre

Graphic/Bharath Murthy
Graphic/Bharath Murthy

A gang of boys who go picnicking in a comic book store, wait with baited breath for movies on their favourite comic characters, and dress up as superheroes to win contests at comic conventions — popular culture will have you believe that this, in a nutshell, is the world of comic books and their fans. It might come as a surprise then that the world's largest comic event held in Japan is a congregation of over 30,000 indie artists, whose self-published comics are perused and bought by five lakh visitors.

This departure from the mainstream mode of publishing goes with the fact that the topics they tackle are not mainstream either — and superheroes are certainly not the mainstay of their works. It was on one such visit to Tokyo, Japan that filmmaker and artist Bharath Murthy witnessed the phenomenon up close while shooting his feature documentary on the comics sub-cultures of the country. "The event, called Comiket, has more women than men, and beats every stereotype there is about comics," says Bharath Murthy, associate professor of film direction at FTII, Pune.

A workshop from the first edition of the fest
A workshop from the first edition of the fest

While Comiket has no parallel in India even when it comes to mainstream comic conventions, it did sow seeds for something similar on a smaller scale. The Indie Comix Fest, which Murthy organised with writer and comics collector Aniceto Pereira, advertising professional Kailash Iyer and graphic designer and comics artist Chaitanya Modak in October last year for the first time in Mumbai, is now back with its second edition. And through the month of May, it will also debut in Delhi and Bengaluru. "There are online self-publishing platforms, which several Indian artists are using to put up their comics and print them on demand. We had always wanted to promote comics as a way of artistic expression. The fest is a celebration of self-published comics, where the idea is to bring the artist and reader face to face," explains Murthy.

When asked how the festival is different from Comic Cons, now regularly held across India, he says, while the latter are doing a great job in promoting comics, they tend to be focussed on merchandise and creating a buzz about movies related to comics. "They are like a big Hollywood juggernaut, which doesn't leave space for individual expression. This event is to promote zero censorship in your drawing and writing," he adds.

One of the entries for Blue Jackal's situation comics series on Rohith Vemula
One of the entries for Blue Jackal's situation comics series on Rohith Vemula

With close to 30 artists participating in the fest, visitors can expect to lay their hands on anthologies, serialised floppies, hand-pressed zines, fold-out comics, posters and screen-printed comics. The topics range from gags on working in the creative industry, and movie and TV series spoofs to moments of self-realisation in the rat race of urban metros.

Shrabani Dasgupta and Manmeet Sandhu from Delhi specialise in one-page stories that deal with love, angst, anxiety, gender issues and crowd mentality. The duo take permission to display their work by pasting it like posters at tea stalls, on neighbourhood walls, etc. "We are participating for the first time, and we are happy to know that we don't have to worry about going the populist way," shares Sandhu. Another participant is Bengaluru-based platform, Blue Jackal, where creative practitioners come together to contribute comics and graphic narratives. It has recently started a series of situational comics, where a call for entries is made based on a particular topic. The first series was dedicated to the suicide of student Rohith Vemula.

The democratic space for self-publishing, however, does come with the challenge of funding. But that doesn't seem to deter the artists, most of whom take on other financially viable creative projects, while the comics survive on pure passion. "What lies at the heart of it is you say what you want to say, and have fun while doing it," Murthy sums up.

On May 1, 10 am to 6 pm
At YMCA, Colaba.
Log on to indiecomixfest.org

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