Delhi Comic Con 2015: Hits and Misses…

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Kickstarted back in 2011, the convention that was merely started with an intention to get Indian comic lovers together, showcase and share their knowledge, in a small gathering at Dilli Haat, Comic Con India has over the years traveled to other capital cities like Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and has managed to attract the attention of tonnes of people. And this year it paved its way into the massive NSIC ground, Okhla. After taking a 22 months hiatus, Comic Con India finally visited its home ground from 4 to 6 December with much grandeur and style.

Located near the Delhi’s Govind Puri metro station but a little farther on from Central Delhi, the Delhi Comic Con’s young enthusiastic volunteers welcomed everyone at the gates of the venue and were guiding one and all to the ticket booths, where two counters could be seen; one for the Super Fans who had booked their tickets prior to the event (priced at Rs 650 for all 3 days) and the other ticket counter where every daily tickets were being sold (priced at Rs 350).

Once the tickets were acquired, we proceeded ahead where Alto K10, the official Comic Con India sponsor’s cars could be seen lined up to drop us at the entrance of the convention, which was about 200 meters away. After getting done with the security check, we proceeded ahead and as soon as one entered the convention, a huge spacious ground filled with stalls could be seen. Inside the arena, about 200 stalls were there including: 5 zones and 4 signing stages for the international guests. The Delhi Comic Con was hosted by Vijay Sinha, who has been taking part in Cons around the country.

There was a separate space, ‘Indian Comic Village and Artist Alley’ a little ahead from the entrance which was specially allocated for the Independent comic publishers and artists to promote their talent.

As for the international guests, Comic Con India brought in Kristian Nairn, the Northern Irish actor best known for his role as ‘Hodor’ in the award-winning HBO fantasy drama series Game of Thrones; Rob Denbleyker, author of Cyanide and Happiness; Ty Templeton, Eisner Award Nominated, Comic Book artist and writer and Dinesh Shamdasani, CEO of Valiant Entertainment.

The 5 arenas were allotted to AXN, Alto K10, Star Wars Fan Zone, Nodwin Gaming and for Asian Paints. At the other end, straight from the entrance, was the main stage where book launches, special sessions and the cosplay competition were being held. There were food stalls, rest rooms and ATM facility at the venue for visitors to relax, be hydrated and have enough cash to spend 😉

DCC 1Many interesting stalls and concepts were spotted at the Con like Comics Power, which is the logo of World Comics network, that promotes Grassroots Comics and imparts skills to NGO’s staff and activists, students of mass communication and social work through workshops. Started by Sharad Sharma, these comics are drawn by common people reflecting their understanding of the social world (and not by artists). Another comic that was quite interesting was Tales of Tintin by Neha Rawat Battish as it told stories about dogs since Neha loves them and owns one as well.

When it comes to reading comics digitally, the Raconteur stall by Cornea Entertainment was showcasing what to expect next from eBooks. Their new app follows their tagline, ‘Where stories comes to life’ as they bring cinematic experience to books with immersive sound and animation.

Next in line was the stall ‘Battees’ which is a start up company by 2 girls, Harnehmat and Shivani. Their main adage is to spread smiles across faces by encouraging people to write and post. Bringing this lost personal touch back in our life, these postcards are made by animators and graphic designers whose names can be seen on back of the card. During the three day con, there were 2 cosplayers dressed up as Karan and Arjun, the mythological characters from Mahabharata that grabbed many visitors eyeballs. They were promoting the new card game, Legend of Vyas, a quirky card game that allows players to choose a legendary hero from the epic Mahabharata to play as, and summon warriors and advisors, cast spells and deceits, as well as invoke godly astras and powerful weapons to defeat their nemesis.

DCC 6Comic Con India, this time also got into cross cultural promotion by getting in Dhaka Comic Con organisers in Delhi. Many people were curious to know how’s the comic industry back in Bangladesh. It was a great exposure for both Indian as well as Bangladesh comics with few merchandisers willing to participate in Dhaka Comic Con.

Within the span of 3 days, many comic/graphic novel launches took place on the stage which included: World War Two: Under the Shadow of the Swastika and APJ Abdul Kalam: One Man, Many Missions by Campfire Graphic Novel; Amar Bari Tomar Bari NaxalBari, by Sumit Kumar that tells the tales of the Naxalbari uprising and the current Maoist conflict in central India in a comic form; Eldritch Chronicles by Vimanika Comics; Priya Shakti by Rattapallax; Haunted! by Aayumi Productions; Vrica Ascension Protocol by ICBM : Chariot Comic; SikhPark by Dalbir which a series of webcomics that tackles the life in the Sikh lane by examining it through lens of humour and a touch of irreverence; Holy Hell by Meta Desi Comics; Super Sikh Comic by Supreet Singh that stars Secret Agent Deep Singh, aka “Super Sikh” and his team, who fight for justice all over the world and a special session was hosted by Harper Collins with author Malik Sajad on his graphic novel Munnu – A Boy From Kashmir.

Coming down to the important aspect of how did the event fare for merchandisers, artists, cosplayers and more importantly for the independent comic artists in all 3 days.

DCC 2The 3 day Con witnessed a total fallout of 35,000 visitors and when asked the founder of Comic Con India, Jatin Varma if it’s been upto their expectation, he positively replied, “Frankly, the numbers are more than what we were expecting as the prices of tickets have been increased to Rs 350 per day. We are happy with the turnout and are now gearing up for the Mumbai Film and Comic Convention.”

Though the event had a good footfall, the exhibitors were looking forward to seeing more visitors mainly because the event was happening after a year’s gap. Day 1 being a Friday, had witnessed a low turnout of visitors as anticipated which improved in the next two days.

By almost end of the event, Indian comic publishers like Holy Cow Entertainment, ICBM Comics, Abhijeet Kini, Aayumi Productions, Vimanika Comics and artists like Saumin Suresh Patel, Ayan Nag, Ari Jayaprakash, Rohit Soni, Darshan Singh Grewal managed to do well in terms of getting a good opportunity to meet new people from the industry and even plan collaborations going ahead. But only a handful of them managed to make most of the opportunity – monetarily.

Holy Cow Entertainment’s founder, Vivek Goel beamingly said, “Comic Con India and I have a symbiotic relationship. We both started in the same year and I have no complains with Comic Con. I had bought in total of 3 boxes filled with comics and almost all of them have been sold out with just a few remaining. So I am a happy man at the end of day as many people approach me saying I love your comics and even those who are new, praise our artwork.”

As there’s always two sides in a coin, talking about the flip side for comic publishers, Vimanika Comics founder Karan Vir Arora said, “This time the sales have been less than what we expected. People have bought more of our merchandises roughly about 50 to 60 per cent whereas comics sold out at a decent pace, say 30 per cent. Seems like the purchasing power has reduced this time and one of the major reasons could be the ticket pricing and I have given this feedback to Jatin as well.”

As for the artists, though the sales was enough to have a break even cost or maybe less, all have echoed same thoughts that they take part in Comic Con India to meet their fans, make new people aware of their art and connect with industry folks.  

Stalls like Crossword, DK, Scholastic India, Hachette India, Simon & Schuster India that sell DC, Marvel, Star Wars and manga comics along with others had one major concern; the location. They observed that since this time the location was a little far from Central Delhi, the turnout had dropped as compared to the previous Delhi Comic Con that was held at Thyagraj Stadium. In terms of sales, comics like Batman, Avengers, Deadpool, Civil War, Asterix, Calvin and Hobbes were selling more. Seems like movies that are based on comics were the major hot sellers in the Delhi Comic Con. Since author of Cyanide and Happiness was at the Con, that triggered the sale of their comics.

DCC 5Majority of the stalls observed at the Delhi Comic Con belonged to merchandisers, so their views and experience at the event holds importance as well. Merchandises stalls included Planet Superheroes, Anime Pop Art, Bombay Merch, SillyPunter, Monkie.in, Tamaacha, The PurpleSack, Entertainment Store, Snutch, Kook n Keech and many others. Most of them had one common complaint with respect to the event; the management. The Purple Sack’s founder, Tanvi Gupta who has participated previously in Delhi Comic Con said, “The organisation is good overall but when it comes to management, it’s screwed. They don’t give us the confirmation about the stall booking and have to be behind their back for that.” Apart from this, exhibitors would like to have possession of the stall a little early rather than just the night prior so that they get more time to set their stall.

In terms of how well did the cosplay turn out; a total of 558 cosplayers took part in the cosplay competition and these are just the ones who have registered. There were many who also cosplayed but didn’t register for the competition, so Cosplay was definitely bigger and grander this year. Talking on what kind of response did cosplayers get from the visitors,the official photographer for Delhi Comic Con, Sudhanshu Singh said, “There were many visitors who came to Comic Con for the first time and very few of them were saying things like ‘I don’t understand what’s the fuss about dressing up like this’ but many others were excited to get their pics clicked with the cosplayers.”

“Comic Con India is a great experience in itself. Not only for the comic lovers but also for people who aren’t even aware of this concept of cosplay. I would like them to hold some more workshops for the beginners to help them with the cosplay as Bengaluru and Mumbai numbers were quite high compared to that of Delhi,” he added.

DCC 3
Photo credit: Sudhanshu Singh

The winners of the cosplay competition on all three days got the opportunity to attend the Beijing Comic Con. The winner of third day Cosplay Competition, Anjali Das who was cosplaying as Wonder Woman said, “I was really happy with Delhi Comic Con this year. The turnout was impressive and it really has picked up speed over the years. From my experience, it was quite cosplayer friendly, I didn’t face anything untoward. I’m also happy they had the standard ‘Cosplay is not consent’ board from comic con international. The next time, I’d like to see more stalls for artists and comics/books, though.”

Few major things Comic Con India should take into consideration are the ticket pricing, network issues, management and getting in more original works arts. Network has been one of the major hurdles for visitors who wanted to purchase things via plastic cards as the card machine couldn’t connect with the net. Though an ATM was there at the venue, it was a 5 minute walk till there which infuriated the visitors. Another concern raised was the fact that international guests and artists are being treated as VIPs whereas Indian artists are not getting that much promotion. It would be great if Indian comic veterans are also brought in so that people would get to know about India’s rich comic culture as well. Many comic fans who visited the convention were glad to see the budding comic artists but wanted to see more of original art works and stalls.

One of a visitor who was from USA said, “In US Comic Cons, we get to see a balance between the merchandisers, indies and artists. I would like to see more original art works rather than DC/Marvel. It’s amazing with the kind of work the Indian artists are coming up with and I have purchased a few of them as well. In the coming Indian Comic Con, I would love to spot more local artists, illustrators and comics.”

All said and done, Delhi Comic Con taking place after a 22 months gap was a huge success, giving a platform to the budding comic industry. There were many visitors who weren’t even aware of the Indian comic world and visited the Con for the first time and were astounded by the magnitude and popularity of it. They visited the booths, got enlightened about the comic space, took part in zone activities and did end up buying merchandises and few comics. Lastly, a special performance by the dancing group, MJ5 enthralled the onlookers followed by a great news for Puneites as next year, Comic Con India will be travelling to Pune city, testing waters with the Comic Con Express Pune.

For now, Comic Con India is gearing up for its Mumbai chapter, which takes place on 19 and 20 December, 2015.

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