How can Comic Con India continue to stay relevant for Indian comic publishers

Started back in 2011 with a simple mission in mind i.e. to create unique pop culture events and engage with fans all across the country, Comic Con India has grown leaps and bounds. With the intention of avoiding the costly expense of traveling abroad to a comic convention, Jatin Varma with a group of comic enthusiasts came up with the idea of starting this pop culture event wherein we get to witness a young crowd coming and meeting one another, sharing their passion for comics, anime and manga content. Having begun on a small scale in New Delhi, Comic Con has spread its wings to fly across the cities of Mumbai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad, while managing to generate a strong buzz around the property. It has created a platform for budding comic publishers, as well as an equal opportunity for established players to broaden their customer base. With each passing event, Comic Con is growing immensely and new comic artists can be seen along with merchandise stalls and cosplay events on the rise as well. But everything has a flip side to it and though Comic Con India has managed to give platform to a niche industry, the question arises, ‘Is it doing justice to it?’ spoke with a few independent as well as larger publishers in the market to get to know their views on it. Excerpts:- Akshay-Dhar-150x150According to Meta Desi comics founder, Akshay Dhar, “Delhi and Bangalore Comic Con has always witnessed more of an adventurous and enthusiastic crowd. They have the friendliest and most welcoming crowd out there and these two are the main cities where we have the luxury of selling out our comics. Whereas, in the Hyderabad Comic Con with respect to the sales numbers, it’s not very lucrative; as people out there are more into movies and TV shows. Before Comic Con, India never had a comic culture as such but thanks to them we got a chance and it does gives us business. People who aren’t into comics also end up buying our comics once they realise that comics aren’t just for kids. The only area we would like them to work on is that they should find a way to get people more aware about the kind of things we do and promote indies like us.”   Pankaj NaikAayumi Productions founder, Pankaj Naik resounded similar views as Akshay; “People aren’t really up for buying comics. They are more drawn towards the merchandise stalls and other things around and this is witnessed mostly in Hyderabad and Mumbai. Bangalore has been comparatively better. Since we haven’t really participated in Delhi Comic Con, I am looking forward to it. One thing I would request Comic Con to do is give stalls at discounted rates to at least encourage smaller publishers and help them promote their work.  They should also look at giving more visibility options with the purchase of a stall and peripherals like standees and banners should not be charged separately.”   SanchitThe CEO and co-founder of Pepperscript publications, Sanchit Goel though took part only once in Comic Con Mumbai last year, he had a good experience. Since their brand was quite fresh in the market, they didn’t really get a good traction but he did mention that Comic Con is the best place for brand building and to meet new people. He adds, “The place is still more suited for merchandising and gaming and not really focused on comics alone. The mascots and comic characters are well known out here but the stalls are a bit too steeply priced. So I would like to still believe that I had a good experience, but the organisers need to strategise better in terms of providing a more conducive environment for consumption of books and comics.”   FenilThe Hindi comic book publisher, Fenil Comics founder, Fenil Sherdiwala had an unpleasant and ugly time at Delhi Comic Con. He took part for the first time in 2012 at Delhi and it turned out to be his last. He said, “Firstly, the stalls are overly priced and secondly, the main reason why I am not eager to take part in future is because I didn’t get the stall according to the layout displayed and I wasn’t even compensated for the same.” Having said that, when further probed what will get him back in Comic Con, he just said that he doesn’t have any intentions of returning but if he will be provided with heavy discounts or some scheme then he might think about it.   Manas-MohanWhere one guy had such a bad experience with the Comic Con authorities, ACK Media had a nice and friendly experience out there. Amar Chitra Katha’s CEO, Manas Mohan seemed content with the way Comic Con plays out. “We have received a great response at Comic Con. Once we wanted a huge area for our stall in the centre of the event at Bangalore to set up our arena, Jatin immediately saw to it that it was done. Bangalore has been our strongest foothold, followed by Delhi, Mumbai and lastly Hyderabad. Since Hyderabad is new, this was expected but it’s slowly improving and got bigger this year. We end up selling thousands of books at every location and it’s good to see people recognising our characters at an event where Marvel and DC Comics characters are more famous. When probed on a few suggestions to improve his experience he added: “The only thing I would like to see is the internet issue being resolved. In this fast paced world, we need to be connected with people all the time and in the Comic Con locations, we do face network issues due to which we kind of feel disconnected from the world.”   Jazyl-H-indexLastly we got in touch with The Beast Legion creator, Jazyl Homavazir who has previously taken part in Delhi and Mumbai Comic Cons. He feels that Delhi is comparatively better than Mumbai. Mumbai is the meeting point where as Delhi is the selling point. He expounds, “Thanks to Comic Con, more awareness is being generated and it has given exposure to the anime and manga space. We can see more of cosplay here but the reach is really good. One key element which kind of bums us out is the pricing factor. With ever increasing prices of stalls and limited amount of small stalls/pods, it kind of becomes difficult for independent artists/publishers to take part in it. Big brands can afford it but not independent artists like me. All said and done, Comic Con is quite essential and needed for comic culture to grow.”   Jatin_VarmaComing to the man of the hour,  founder of Comic Con, Jatin Varma to get his views on Comic Con becoming more commercial in nature and losing focus on promoting comic culture and what is he doing win back the publishers’ trust and confidence, he said, “I don’t really see it that way, I have no qualms about expanding the size of our events to include all elements of popular culture, this is the way it’s done across the world. And Comic Con India is a powerful platform, however success at the show is in the hands of the participants. Sure, we can influence the outcome a bit, but we cannot convert a visitor into a confirmed customer for anyone. It depends on your showcasing ability, selling ability, quality of the product/creation and at the end of the day, the intent of the visitor.” At the same time, he also expressed concerns saying, “If Comic Con was truly losing the trust of publishers, then we wouldn’t see all the publishers at all our shows. But I do see a lot of creators/publishers fizzling out after their debut, which is a concern to me. And I myself am a publisher, and have been so for the past 7 years, well before I started Comic Con in India. So, I do know the issues that we publishers face. But I am still pretty hopeful that one way or the other, the industry will find its footing and our events will certainly be leading the charge in bringing the fans & creators together under one roof.” Having heard from many comic publishers and artists, we just have one request to put forth to Comic Con organisers and that’s to give concession to the budding artists and publishers so that even they can happily participate in the upcoming Comic Cons. At the same time we thank Comic Con for organising and giving a great platform for the comic industry to grow. Comic Con India is gearing up for its Delhi chapter, between 4 and 6 December and here in Mumbai on 19 and 20 December, 2015. We at wish the organisers the very best and hope that the turn-out only grows in number.