Akshay Dhar writes from the Mumbai Comic Con:
For most people, Christmas is technically a very "western" and Christian concept, but something about the themes, the charm, the fun and the presents of course, has made it a truly global phenomenon not unlike the sugary-sweet movies that flood all our televisions during the holidays.
So 'twas, that less than a week prior to this past Christmas, the city of Mumbai played host for the 3rd year in a row to the travelling Indian Comic Con and it was an event to remember for all the children and their families.
Of course being Mumbai, the film capital of India, it is the only installment of the event that is known as the "Mumbai Film and Comic Convention" – though I daresay, the way conventions everywhere are these days, that name is nothing but a formality.
This year the location was shifted to a new location (the Mumbai Exhibition Centre) from its previous grounds further south in the city after many demands to do so from the local supporters and fans and after the increasingly over-crowded conditions of the previous year. The number of booths had increased as had the variety of things on sale and the activities to be found and of course – comics. Over the two days that the even ran, the crowds thronged the venue from morning right up until closing time with many disinclined to leave at the end of the day, a heartening thing for any event organizer and participant to see.
The kids went wild as their parents tried in vain to hold them back, enamored by the variety of stalls that included one that had face-painting where you could become your favorite character, another with specially made candy and of course the to-be-expected stalls with toys and games galore that are the pre-Christmas dream of all kids (and the stuff of parental nightmares!). But it was not all kiddie-fare–don't get me wrong. Though there were stalls with toys for children, there were also stalls with items for the serious collector including sealed He-Man figures from the old Mattel line and a host of newer items that had been imported just for the occasion.
Both days of the event were sprinkled with presentations all day long that included film and new brand promotions as well as launches of new titles like the graphic novel The Skull Rosary which is written by Shweta Taneja and published by Holy Cow Entertainment and Parshu by newcomers Orange Radius to name a few. The highlight of the second day for many though was the announcement of a sequel to the acclaimed comedy Tere Bin Laden by lead actor Manish Paul and fan-favorite director Abhishekh Sharma who incidentally is also the creator of Munkeeman, one of the comics published by Pop Culture Publishing that saw a new installment launched at this event.
Of course one cannot forget the prime target: the comics. Well there were the usual Indian fan-favorites like long-standing like Chacha Choudhary, the kid-mag Tinkle and ACK (Amar Chitra Katha) but there were also several newer and younger comic companies to be found. Independent publishers like Chariot Comics, Manta Ray, The Pulpocracy, Holy Cow Entertainment and Meta Desi Comics represented the new breed of creators who have spent the last few years creating new and uniquely Indian comic content like Zombie Rising from Chariot Comics which is a prequel comic to a rarity – an Indian zombie movie. There was also the new issue launch of Aghori by artist Vivek Goel, founder and lead-artist of Holy Cow, the inaugural release of Pulp Quarterly which aims to be an Indian comic journal, the self-published and riotous Angry Maushi 2 by fan-favourite artist Abhijeet Kini and the second installment of the genre-wide anthology Ground Zero from Meta Desi.
And last but not least, there was definitely no shortage of highly creative cosplayers floating amongst the crowd and stopping endlessly for photographs with fans – costumes ranged from the familiar like Darth Vader, Punisher, Harry Potter, Wolverine, Goku (and other manga to the far more creative, like pirate-Deadpool, the T.A.R.D.I.S, a working Iron Man suit and an elaborate Scorpian (from Mortal Kombat) to name but a few. Clearly cosplay is one of the aspects of comic culture that has carried over really well.
All in all, the event was a success as such events go and while it did suffer from the basic fear many have of such events – that the comics themselves were few and far between compared to the over-abundance of merchandise – I would say that naysayers should not be too quick to judge. While I'll admit that the crowd interest in comics varied starkly from extremely interested to disinterested, it is still a niche and one that has much scope for growth. Mumbai is a fairly robust city and made the event overall a success by all counts, though I do hope that in the future they show more enthusiasm for the comics than they have thus far compared to the other Indian comic events.
[The Meta Desi Comics Team]
For a nascent comic market like currently exists in India, the truth is that a purely comic convention would be unlikely to retain crowds year after year without the extra's and as such these extra's provide a source of income for creators and even organizers, allowing them to keep building and nurturing the industry. So, I remain positive and hopeful and look forward to the far more manic, energized and fanatic hub that is the main event next month – the Delhi Comic Con. Until then: Cheers all!
Akshay Dhar is a slightly quirky nutter but mostly a decent chap – he's been writing for several years now with stints at Maxim India, as a freelancer and comic publications including "Retrograde" from pop culture publishing and "Showcase: Sheshnaag" from Holy Cow entertainment apart from acting as EIC for Indian fan-site Comic Addicts. He's also the founder of the creator-collective Meta Desi Comics and loves to read, write, explore music, travel and aims to daydream further than anyone has done before!
You can check out his writing and artwork here: