The Indian comic industry is up and running at full pace post the pandemic and the majority of the artists, creators and publishers have utilised 2022 to its fullest to create and showcase new content to comic lovers. The Covid-19 pandemic was a bit of a challenge for many and several artists even went on hiatus but even the pandemic couldn’t force some creators to pull the break on their creativity. With Comic Con India back in the picture after two years of interlude, the artists and publishers have got a boost to get back in action and demonstrate their products. Bengaluru Comic Con which happened in November received a good reception from the artists, publishers, distributors and comic lovers as it was happening on-ground for the first time after the pandemic, whereas the Delhi Comic Con was also attended by people in large numbers. Now, the creators are eyeing Mumbai Comic Con which will happen on 11 and 12 February 2023, to exhibit their products. There have been several major developments in the Indian comic industry for 2022, be it Applause Entertainment acquiring Amar Chitra Katha titles for its animation adaptation, Amazon Prime making a live-action adaptation of Yali Dream Creations’ graphic novel The Village or be it Bakarmax’s first adult animated series Aaapki Poojita adapted out of their comics.
To further get industry insights and know how the comic publications fared in 2022 and understand their vision for 2023, Animation Xpress got in touch with various comic book publishers. Here’s what they had to say:
Amar Chitra Katha (ACK)
Being one of India’s beloved comics and well-known in Indian households, the publisher was busy in 2022 creating and publishing new titles across segments. In print, ACK partnered with Godrej and Boyce India to launch two biographies on the founders of the Godrej empire –
• Ardeshir and Pirojsha Godrej
• Naval Godrej
They also collaborated with a Mumbai-based NGO for Mumbai Gives and with Google India for Hoshiyar Heena, which will be seen in multiple issues of Tinkle Magazine in the comic book form. In 2022, they’ve also partnered with the government of India and several ministries. As a part of Azaadi ka Amritmahotsav celebrations, ACK launched four books: Women in Power, India’s Unsung Heroes, The Naval Journey of India and Tribal Leaders of the Freedom Struggle.
For ACK Junior, they launched The Magical Desert and for Tinkle – Tinkle Gold 2, Tinkle Holiday Special #51, 12 monthly issues of Tinkle Magazine, and 52 digital weeklies of Tinkle whose content differs from the magazine. The digital titles include – Tribal Folklore – Vol.1: The King’s Cook and the Fox, Tribal Folklore – Vol.2: The Lazy Cow and Tribal Folklore – Vol.3: The Invisible Monster.
Talking about the challenges faced in 2022, Amar Chitra Katha president and CEO Preeti Vyas said, “Paper shortage created a lot of challenges in meeting the demands of the print business. We have lost revenues and have postponed the launch of new titles due to the unavailability of paper. Another challenge we faced with our digital businesses is the availability of time for digital reading as children went back to school and normal life resumed. We were able to overcome this by introducing many new hybrid products and expanding our overall global digital reach.” She added that their print business has recovered successfully and their print revenues are the highest ever in the past six years.
Commenting on their new partnership with Applause Entertainment, Vyas said that it’s coming along very well and ACK is involved in the aspects of story selection, scripting and they also provide detailed feedback on the art/visuals.
The publisher launched several comics and animated sketches but some of their top performers were Sink Tank India, Dalit Card and Cylinder Bois. The major focus for 2022 was to launch the crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter for their show Aaapki Poojita, the campaign was one of the difficulties that Bakarmax faced in the current year but eventually, they were able to successfully complete the crowdfunding in December 2022. Their readership grew 3x since last year as the users were able to distinguish between the comics and animation content on the website. They also engaged in interesting projects and partnerships with brands like CRED and Digit Insurance as they created animated content and comics for them.
Talking about the talent in India, Bakarmax VP Rachit Varma said, “There is no dearth of talent in India in this space but I believe the major challenge lies in the kind of work they end up doing. More often than not, illustrators and animators end up working with larger companies doing mindless work whereas they would be better suited to work on more creative projects where they contribute more than just their art skills. So it’s up to studios like us to ensure that we continue providing that space where artists and writers of all kinds get to use their full potential and create their own original content.”
For Chariot Comics, 2022 was a comeback year after the pandemic as they had been on a hiatus. But on fans’ demands, they launched VRICA Descension Pact which is the conclusion to the VRICA trilogy and was their major launch for 2022. Chariot Comics also got its new website up and running. Also, their titles are now available on the Kindle platform. According to the publishing house, they are running out of digital print stocks of VRICA Descension Pact and their sales have bumped up.
Commenting on the deals the publisher engaged in 2022, Chariot Comics founder Aniruddho Chakraborty said, “A lot of our partnerships feature around creating branded content – whether that’s directly for a brand or through advertising agencies – I’m glad to note that we had a successful run this year too, on that front.”
Sharing his thoughts about the talent in the Indian comic industry, Chakraborty added, “We are at a stage where the artists, who have debuted or even worked with us (independent comic book publishers) are now working with international houses. And that paves the path for new blood to come in. However, is the comics industry in India a well-paying industry for artists? No, it is not. As a publisher I would love to pay as much as I could to an artist for the fantastic art they create – however, the margins and volumes are much smaller here, and there’s only so much one can pay from their pocket, which at least I usually do.”
Holy Cow Entertainment
The financial degradation caused by the two years of the pandemic made 2022 a challenge for the publication. But their readership wasn’t affected much as people started getting back to reading comics. Some of the projects launched by Holy Cow Entertainment in 2022 are Operation Decoy vol. 3, The Last Asuran vol. 2, Shaitan Singh Hindi deluxe edition and Caster #7.
Sharing thoughts about newcomers in the comic industry, Holy Cow Entertainment founder Vivek Goel said, “There is a sudden increase in the talent that I can see mostly because of lots of new emerging publishers as it gives hope to struggling newcomers. They need proper mentoring so that they can go in the right direction without getting exploited.”
2022 has been a year of production for Fenil Comics, they have completed lots of new series and many comic artworks so that they can release them in 2023. On the other hand, they have released Faulaad collector edition, Bajrangi autographed collector edition. They have also released the remaining parts of the Australian graphic novel series Exilium in Hindi for Indian readers. In 2022, Fenil Comics also arranged four interesting Free Comics Day events and they are planning to arrange such events in 2023 as well. Apart from that, Fenil Comics also collaborated with some American and Japanese publishers to release their titles in Hindi.
Speaking about the challenges faced by the publication, Fenil Comics owner Fenil Sherdiwala said, “Price hike of papers and printing ink at the international platforms due to Covid-19 pandemic and Russia-Ukraine war were some of the major challenges for the publishers in 2022. 18 per cent GST on printed books is another big challenge as automatically printed books have become more expensive for readers to buy.”
Overall 2022 has been an action-packed year for most comic publishers and artists. Comic Con India has been a cherry on the cake as it gave a boost to the creators and readers of the comics to come back on-ground and meet each other after a break of two years.