I grew up reading my dad’s awesome collection of comic books which consisted of Diamond Comics, Indrajaal Comics and vintage DC/Marvel comics. Later, I got into Raj and now defunct Tulsi comics — and my collection became the ever growing one. In between many small publications came around and went out of business the only because Raj and Diamond comics had a hold on the market for the respective age groups.
The sole reason behind other comic bookcompanies unable to grow up was lack of marketing skills and advertising options. By mid 90s crappy movies based on Marvel and DC comics had started coming, with no connection to the actual comic book interpretation, with simply having the characters from those comics. And even when these American comic books had their own shows on TV,Indian comic book industry stayed in the print area. By this time, Amar ChitraKatha kept printing issues with constantly improving artwork and stories and the only superheroes we had on TV were Shaktiman and Captain Vyom, which failed to create wonders in print. Also, Gotham Comics started bringing Marvel DC and other publications at genuine price, good enough for people to actually buy them, and read them.
Time passed by and during 2006 Gotham comics took a historic step that was said to change the graphic novel scene entirely. Gotham comics tied up with Marvel, and started publishing the story of Spiderman in Indian context. The story about a middle class teen, Pavitra Prabhakar, facing the usual problems of an Indian Teenager; it had marvellous artwork and story.Also, Gotham tied in with Virgin comics and a new line of comic books started coming in under titles, Ramayana 3392 AD had a new futuristic take on the classic story of Ramayana, coming out from the brilliant minds of Shekhar Kapoor and Deepak Chopra. Shekhar Kapoor also created Snake Woman a modern take on legends of Ichadhari Naags,Shakti, Devi, Sadhu etc. For a while everyone had an idea that this is going to change the graphic novel scene in India forever but sadly they all stopped publishing after a while and we returned to the same rusty phase.
After a gap of 2 or 3 years with new ways to advertise and better use of Internet, with the hype around social media, and blogging, we finally have a new breed of writers and artists who are ready to take chances. This started in 2009 when Shreyas Srinivas formed level10 comics and their first comics “The Rabhas Incident” a zombie story based in Bangalore came out. And after all this, the biggest game changer came out — as the first Comic Con India in 2010, Delhi on the lines of American Comic Book Conventions. Comic Con India proved to be a platform for comic book lovers as well as various Indian publishers, to promote their stuff.
Among the many awesome graphic novels, few of the notables are works published by Pop Culture Publishing, which consists of Ud Bilav Manus, Retrograde and Zombie Talkies. While you are reading this, Flipkart would have delivered me my copy of Ud Bilav Manus who is India’s first Bhojpuri Comic Character.
The Most notable name right now in the field of Graphic novels is Vimanika comics which has got a huge fan base in short time. They create modern interpretations about mythological figure with less violence making it suitable for readers of all ages. Their first graphic novel Mokshawas a huge success and they plan to do the same with Shiva and War of Independents. Jungle Book is coming in a new avatar by Campfire graphic novels and Holy cow Entertainment is on with Ravananyan.
While the creative content for these comic books arepretty original, the creators need to take care of the names of some characters, which don’t really sound original.But, anyway, the point being that we are competing right now with international players and a live action movie is needed soon. Two years back a Doga movie was too much in hype but then it all went off.
Comic Con India is the best way to promote but then there can be other ways too,like I got my first issue of Virgin comics after winning them on a radio contest. I also wish someone to reboot the Shaktiman Comic book franchise in their own style and rest of the stuff should look close to the modern Indian society– a graphic novel on CID or Rajnikant won’t be a bad Idea and a lot of work is to be done in the horror field, too. There are parts of Indian mythology which haven’t been touched.
Fans need to support these creators by not comparing them to western books — we are and will be a standalone genre of our own.