Comic Con India 2014 (Delhi) was fantastic!
There! I said it. As an independent comic book publisher, there’s not a platform I love more to showcase our work at Chariot Comics than Comic Con and if there’s apprehension on the overall sales of comics etc., worry not, Dilliwaalas seemingly have deeply lined pockets, even for comics.
But over the period of the last couple of weeks since the event, we’ve seen much debate and opinions on whether the event is just a merchandize-based cash cow or a sincere effort at establishing a culture (and in extension, a community) of comics in India.
What follows is largely a rant with one-part counter-argument, one-part independent publisher’s perspective; two-parts of personal opinion and dash of suggestions and advice (which as Indians is our birthright!). I am going to try and counter the said arguments head on, starting with the big two in this two part blog:
Issue #1: THIS IS NOT AN INDIAN F&%*ING COMIC CON!
Yes, the title is in all caps, since many of us fans, publishers, and journalists alike usually make that statement in all caps rage. In fact, I had an avid Indian comic book fan and supporter once tell me point-blank “people like us, we boycott Comic Con, it doesn’t feel Indian <sic>…it’s too international!” At that moment, on hearing that statement, when it should been a “F**K YEAH! Go Indian Comics!” moment, I felt a huge pang of disappointment.
Why? Well, because the statement and the underlying argument in itself are disheartening at many levels. Honestly, why shouldn’t Comic Con India be international? Why shouldn’t the best of comics from the big & small publishing houses in India compete on the same platform as a Marvel, DC, IDW, 2000 AD or Top Cow? In fact, shouldn’t one take delight in the fact that here’s a platform which puts a Holy Cow, Kini, Orange Radius or a Meta-Desi on the same billing as a Marvel or DC. Keeping that in mind, does it make sense to make vitriolic statements such as ‘boycott it as a non-Indian event’?
As an ‘indy’ publisher, there’s nothing we would want more than to be a part of an ‘international’ event.
Now let’s tackle the issue of people spending more on international vs. Indian comics. Admittedly, even my eyes light up when I see a DC collector’s volume at a Random House stall, and while buying I often wonder if someone would be willing to shell out $40.99 for any Indian comics one day. And it seemed like a disappointed prospect. But, you know what, a little introspection later, I realise they will one day, once we’re worth the $40.99. One day, some of us, as publishers, will come up with a Sandman, Sex Criminals, American Vampire or Lucifer and people will pay up the notional Indian equivalent of a $40.99 comic (what’s that? 1500 bucks maybe?).
So, I think it’s unfair to fib about Comic Con not being “Indian” – instead thank your stars that it isn’t. Comics are not to be confused with a national agenda – because Comics are exactly what they are – Comics. If you’re good enough, step-up, pick up your weapons; boost your superpowers, shell out the moolah and fight. Don’t get your undies in a bunch with faux nationalistic excuses.
And if you do love ‘Indian’ comics and want them at a Comic Con, just make the effort of finding us as much as we, as publishers, make the effort of finding you! We (all of us ‘Indy’ publishers) are all usually lined up together peddling our wares in one row at any of these ‘Cons’. You just need to find that row. Once you do that – you’re a true comic book fan. And I know there are thousands of you out there, many of whom I had the distinction and honour of meeting at Comic Con.
Issue #2: They should focus more on the Indian Titles and Publishers:
Ok, dear journalist – the Wikipedia of information on Indian titles and publishers – I see that you wanted to make a point. But sadly, not really Taken (insert Liam Neeson dialogue here).
Why? Just do the simple math and find out the percentage of Indian Publishers, their Events & Launches for Comic Con (as a piece of the total pie); and then add to that the Press Coverage received for Indian titles (for those who understand PR a little bit more, you could try the column coverage/cc method, mentions and opinion quotes to refine your stats). You’ll see the pie skewed enough (if not evenly) in favor of Indian ones vs. international ones and even the merchandisers. Come back to me with your findings and then let’s argue that point.
Essentially, my point is, that you’ll realize the focus and attention is enough – it’s how individuals capitalize on it that matters – just look at the engaging, fun launches and quizzes ACK and Campfire did this time round!
I mean, no one hands anything on a silver platter – no free lunches at the food court! 😛
And yes if you want more focus on the Indian publishers, don’t just write about it; buy our stuff, encourage others to buy and trust us when we say that we’ll get the attention ourselves after that.
OK. Publisher’s Rant over for Now. Feel free to share argue or call me out on anything wrong.
Part 2 coming soon and deals with Comics vs. Merchandise and Comic Book Outreach: Myth and Reality.