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'Comic Con' busts the myth of foreign fixation

There are, as it turns out, lot of reasons to make it to the first comic convention in India than just comics. Manoj Sharma reports.

delhi Updated: Feb 20, 2011 00:50 IST
Manoj Sharma

There are, as it turns out, lot of reasons to make it to the first comic convention in India than just comics.

Comic Con India - a first of its kind platform for artists, writers and publishers of comic books to come together and showcase their work - opened at Dilli Haat in the Capital on Saturday. The fun-filled event drew huge crowds on the opening day. One could see children posing for pictures with young men and women dressed as Harry Potter, Popeye - the salesman, and Jafer - the evil magician. Besides, there was a huge scramble among both children and adults to buy comic-based merchandise such as T-shirts, mugs and action figures, statues, and busts of comic superheroes.

But it is Indian mythology in comic form that stole the show. Most participating publishers have on display a large number of comics based on Indian mythology - which they say are a great source for 'edutainment'.

"Most parents want their children to read mythological comics because they are educative, entertaining and morally instructive. We are the first comic book publisher in the country to bring out educational comics on themes such as 'cities', 'inventions' and 'discoveries'. We hope to sell at least 15 lakh comic books this year, " says Ajai Shah, MD, Wilco Publishing House, which last week launched their comic imprint, Wilco Picture Library that has already brought out 52 titles based on Indian mythology, history and divinity.

His views are supported by Karan Vir, managing director, Vimanika Comics, which launched its new mythological title - The legend of Karna, Book-2 - at the event. "I launched Vimanika Comics three years back with a view to use comics as a tool not just for entertainment but also for promoting knowledge of Indian history and mythology. Unlike the West, where there haven't been many comic heroes after Superman and Batman, Indian comic industry has a vast treasure trove of mythological stories to draw from," says Vir, who derives all his comic stories from Indian scriptures.

Somnath Majumdar, manager business development, Green Gold Animation, another participating company, which created Chhota Bheem animated series, says parents now encourage their children to read comics with stories that are rooted in Indian traditions and culture. On the opening day of the convention, Chhota Bheem comic books based on the popular animation series, sold like hot cakes.

"In the past two years, we have sold about five lakh copies of Chhota Bheem comics," says Majumdar. The company, which also created the Krishna and Balram animated series, is selling activity and colouring books as well. These, too, are based on mythological characters.

Andrew Dodd, managing editor, Campfire, a graphic novel publisher which has put up a stall at the festival, feels that revival of interest in comics is a result of dynamic graphics and artwork. "Comic books in India lost out to television because the graphics on animated series on TV were more dynamic. Now the artwork in comics has become more suitable for playstation era. Besides, graphic novel and comics is a good way to get reluctant and struggling readers glued to reading," said Dodd.

The organisers are happy with the response the event-inspired by the San Diego Comic Con - has got on the opening day.

"It was not easy to convince the participants about the idea. This year, we wanted to focus only on Indian comics community; next year it is going to be bigger with international participation," promises Jatin Varma, 26- year- old organiser of the event.