Year Ender | How did the comic industry fare in 2021?

Like any other industry, the comic industry also faced a high time crisis during the onset of the pandemic due to the closures of bookstores and irregular distribution cycles. But not losing hope and confidence, many of our Indian comic artists worked remotely and managed to deliver their comics through e-platforms. 2021 saw many positives for the comic industry. We saw comic characters Lambu-G Tingu-G being adapted into animated series. Raj Comics Pralay Ka Devta will also be seen in a 3D animated series and 400 titles of Amar Chitra Katha will also be developed and produced into animated content! The covid imposed lockdown triggered the demand for local content which in turn gave a boost to the comic book industry as right from animation studios, broadcasters to production houses, all wanted a piece of these creatively rich libraries.

AnimationXpress got in touch with various comic book publications to know how they fared in 2021 and what are their plans for 2022.

Diamond Comics

Gulshan Rai

As covid had a severe impact on the entire comic business, Diamond Comics founder Gulshan Rai said, “Our main sales have always been from railway bookstalls, bus stands, newsstands, wholesaler books, and city stationery distributors across all states of India. Till March 2021, all the railway and bus stand books stalls were shut. Even the newspaper agents from different cities observed low sales; however, we had good online sales either through our website or WhatsApp groups. After March 2021, with the reopening of public transport services, slowly and steadily the book sales via stalls also improved.”

According to him, the sales of print media are affected mainly due to the internet and social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. “If the publisher maintains the print media with regular releases, then there is hope that the print media will come back to normal very soon,” added Rai.

In 2021, the publication signed various deals with ETV for Chotu Lambu and with Endemol for TV serials based on Diamond Comics heroes. They are also in the process of signing a deal with an international company for the audio version of all Diamond Comics’ characters in Hindi, English, and regional languages for FM. 

The publication also published customised comics for clients, and the latest releases include Ayushman Bharat, Ulala Comics, comics for Orbis (U.S. NGO for eye-care series), comics for Alex (for Glen pharm) and is currently working on comics for Dettol. The recently launched Dewali Dev comics is all set to get its animated version, and there are also plans to do a series of animated films based on their upcoming comic series Ashwatthama. 

Diamond Comics is currently in talks with various investors to start an OTT platform along with a YouTube channel based on all their superheroes. They have over 40 famous hot selling characters based on fun, magic, patriotism, fiction characters with adventure in space, and crime-related stories. 

Amar Chitra Katha

One of the beloved comics of India for over five decades, Amar Chitra Katha is known for its iconic Mahabharata, classic stories of Akbar and Birbal, iconic tales of Indian gods and kings, and much, much more. Talking about how 2021 has been for the publication, Amar Chitra Katha executive editor Reena Puri said, “I feel 2021 has been better than 2020. The pandemic could be dealt with and the enthusiasm for reading only grew. Working from home may have its drawbacks but the volume of work has doubled. We brought out several titles in print and on our app including Women Path-Breakers, Valiant Women, Vikram Sarabhai, Manik Prabhu, some folktale collections, Mahadeva and Meherbai Tata. We have also done a series on the Maritime History of India.”

Reena Puri

ACK is working on several commissioned projects, like the one with ISRO on Vikram Sarabhai, the Indian navy on the Maritime history of India, and is currently working with Tata Sons on some biographies and also reworking the biography of Lal Bahadur Shastri with the Shastri Foundation. 

According to Puri, during the lockdowns, there was no retail market and many of their younger readers gravitated towards the ACK app and the response was very positive and growing. “Apart from our regular readers, we have gathered a large number of readers on our apps. People are reading both in print and in the digital format but it looks like the love for print is coming back!” said Puri.

Revealing the plans for 2022, Puri shared, “There’s lots of stuff coming up. But my favourites are going to be the stories of social changemakers, tribal freedom fighters, folktales of India, and tribal folklore and mythology. There are some excellent projects from the ICCR as well which I am really looking forward to.”

Fenil Comics

Fenil Sherdiwala

With a vast collection of 8,000 comic books, Fenil Comics recently celebrated its 10th anniversary by making it a free comic book month and launched three comic books. Commenting on how 2021 has been for Fenil Comics,  the comic book creator, Fenil Sherdiwala shared, “The year 2021 was excellent for Fenil Comics. It was also my 10th year in the comics publishing business. In the same year, we sold out most of our previous titles. We reprinted them and restocked them. We released our special edition Faulaad Collector’s Edition, Exilium series, Captain ISI, Masterplan low rate edition, Fakebook, Masterplan rejected script book, and three more comics till the end of December including Bajrangi Collector’s edition, Zura Collector’s Edition, and Naadan.”

Talking about the partnerships and deals signed by the publisher, Sherdiwala said, “We collaborated with many international publishers to release their books in Hindi languages. We completed the Exilium series this year which is an Australian graphic novel. We also collaborated with a Brazilian publisher to release their character, Lobo, in Indian languages.”

According to him, the major challenges faced by them were an increase in GST on printing till 18 per cent, a hike in paper rates till 20 per cent, and raise in printing inks price till 15 per cent. 

Although there was an increase in rates, the distribution of comics in 2021 was far much better than in 2018, 2019, and 2020. “We broke all our previous sales records in 2021. It was indeed a good year for Fenil Comics,” said the founder

Revealing the plans for 2022, Sherdiwala added, “First, we will try to publish an incomplete series of Balram and crimefighter in this year. We will also release three more titles of Bajarangi and will publish some more international titles through the Fenil Comics publisher.”

Vimanika Comics

Vimanika Comics had a wonderful 2021 with its amazing venture into the world of NFTs and blockchain technology. Talking about how 2021 fared for the company, Vimanika Comics founder Karan Vir Arora said, “After the second covid wave, things have jumped up, and we are receiving more inquiries. We started 2021 by venturing into the world of NFTs; we are India’s first creative company to get into NFTs. We launched our limited edition collections and we are launching about five to six new NFTs every month. We also got up with our funds for releasing our new upcoming titles.”

Karan Vir Arora

To cater to the demand of digital comics, the publisher has launched various titles through the Readwhere application including Shiva, Kalki, Dashaavtar, Durga, and Kaala Paani comics among others. They are also planning to launch five to six more titles.

Listing out major challenges that faced in 2021, Arora added, “We lost a lot of business, as for the last few years we were not able to come up with new comics and our action figures business lost momentum. Due to this, we missed many of our good clients. We are working on reviving the comics and marketing to bring in more funds to get back on track. Earlier we had five to six departments under Vimanika, but due to covid, about four to five collaterals were wiped off and now we are back in business with a lot of action figures and new titles.”

Revealing the future plans, Arora shared, “Our future plan is to see our titles changing into animated series, features, games, NFTs, and anything related to newer technology. We are looking forward to a variety of designs in merchandising. From pre-covid we are aggressively looking into licensing and we are continuing it. As digital is the near future, we are planning to introduce more digital comics.”

Abhijeet Kini Studios 

Abhijeet Kini

Known for its quirky characters, Kini Studios excels in illustration, graphic designs, animation, and merchandising and holds titles such as the Angry Maushi series, Fanboys and Rhyme Fighters under its belt. Commenting on how 2021 has fared, Abhijeet Kini Studios founder of Kini Studios Abhijeet Kini said, “2021 was a busy year, and we finally got our Angry Maushi figurines out. They have been a huge success. Titles wise we didn’t launch anything new this year but are aiming to this year.”

Kini Studios has been doing very well in selling figurines and the response received from the audience was quite positive. “It’s been brilliant. They want more such collectibles.”

Talking about the major challenges faced during 2021, Kini added, “Largely the same as 2020, people’s priorities have changed and rightly so. After a chaotic year in 2020, people are very slowly getting back to normalcy and that’s where even our target audience may need some time to recuperate to normalcy and reading like before.”

Revealing the plans for 2022, Kini said, “We want to make more of our IPs come forth and be out there for the public to check out. Hence future titles can be spin-offs from Fanboys, more Angry Maushi, and a few more characters.”

AAN Comics

AAN Comics has always highlighted the war heroes of India, and 2021 has been quite a busy year for the publisher as it released back-to-back new titles including general Sagat Singh Valorous and Victorious, 1971-The Valiants, Lance NK Goswami among others. “2021 had been very busy compared to other previous years. There are a few major factors like the celebration of the Golden Jubilee of the Indian Army victory over the Pakistan military being the most significant event in the year. We are really busy in completing the projects connected with the 1971 Indo-Pak war and were able to release the books on Vijay Diwas (16 December),” said the AAN Comics founder Rishi Kumar

Rishi Kumar

The readership pattern has changed for the publication as the readers from armed forces approach them for new stories. Kumar elaborated, “Since the majority of our readers are from the armed forces and we keep getting inquiries from the military as what’s next? and in many cases, we have been approached by them to convert their stories into comic book format. These factors appear to indicate that our readership is increasing.”

AAN Comics has signed a major deal with Harper Collins India, the global publishing giant which will market and sell war comics. They have taken up distributorship throughout the country. “Before the virus, sales were really good as schools and institutions were ordering in huge numbers. Sales took a hit as we know the situation in 2020, almost everything was closed. 2021 has been a slow revival, however, the sales haven’t yet touched the pre-covid stage. It was the good old times,” said the founder.

Revealing the plans, Kumar shared, “We will be working on more war comics. There will be new releases in 2022, as we are finishing many projects by this year. 2022 will focus on a battle that took place in the past military history of India. One of the new titles Commandos-Deep Strike will be out this year. We are also considering entering the world of motion comics.”

Holy Cow Entertainment

Vivek Goel

The Mumbai-based publishing company, Holy Cow Entertainment (HCE) has published various popular titles including Aghori, Ravanayan, Asuran among others. Talking about how 2021 fared for the publication, HCE founder Vivek Goel said, “2021 has been a great year for us! We published the second volume of our crossover event called Operation Decay and the second volume of our best-selling series The Last Asuran Volume two – The Quest for Moonblade. Apart from these, we ventured into the Hindi-speaking market for the first time reprinting Ravanayan Hindi and Aghori Hindi Omni’s which have become bestsellers. Hindi market is on a boom once again after two decades!”

“Major challenges in 2021 were mostly financial as we were venturing into the Hindi speaking market and so had no idea how our Hindi translated books will be received and since Ravanayan and Aghori series are really big and so was the investment. We took a leap of faith and got rewarded for the same in the most beautiful way possible,” said the founder.

HCE signed a multi-year deal with two more artists and in addition to that, Holy Cow Entertainment came on board as an investor to another comic book publishing company called Yali Dream Creations and aims for a lot of fruitful projects and books from this collaboration.

Revealing the plans for 2022, an excited Goel shared, “2022 is gonna be huge as we are almost at the end of our most ambitious crossover event called Operation Decay and will be releasing the remaining three volumes back to back. Next is another Hindi collected edition called Shaitan Hindi. So with the grand success of our previous two Hindi collected editions we have decided to come up with two Hindi editions every year along with new releases. And last but not least we will be launching HC’s first female superhero called Dehek  in the second half of 2022!”