Events like comic conventions are proof that the world of comic books is evolving with the changing entertainment industry.
The Maruti Suzuki Delhi Comic Con (DCC), which kicked off on December 15 at the NSIC Grounds Okhla, saw its conclusion on December 17 with hundreds of ‘geeks’ thronging the place to live the rendition of their favourite fantasy world. While the event was a major hit among its niche audience of comic book consumers, it also catered largely to the audience who now depend on TV series, movies and similar media for their share of fantasy and fiction. Rob Salkowitz, in his book Comic-Con and the Business of Pop Culture, ponders on a similar situation and says “Comics are the hamster running in the wheel at the centre of this gigantic media contraption. Once despised as sub-literate and corrupting, they now command the money and attention of some of the largest corporations on earth.” Salkowitz was right as Delhi Comic Con, like the Comic Cons all over the world, welcomed premium brands like Amazon Prime, AXN, Myntra, OnePlus, Vodafone, Mountain Dew, Zomato and many more.
Fans dressed up as their favourite characters and cosplayers were seen clicking pictures with fellow fan members. A competition was also organised for these cosplayers who put in more energy in the event. The merchandise and goodies stalls fulfilled the wishes of fanboys and girls of either owning Harry Potter’s ‘Elder Wand’ or getting the Lord of The Rings’s ‘One Ring’. E-commerce websites came alive in 3D to make the best of the Delhi Comic Con. Seemingly in context, Salkowitz, in his book, continues to explain, “But the hamster (comic book industry) is sick – and the symptoms are probably familiar to any content- or marketing-based business that is trying to succeed in the new media environment. Sales have been in free fall, but digital distribution risks cannibalising the industry’s retail channel.”
While the buzz around selling and buying merchandise remained constant, the event hosted sessions with comic-book creators such as Saumin Patel, the artist behind Kaamotsav, Sailesh Gopalan, the artist behind Brown Paperbag comics and many others. International guests were present for the various special sessions spread over during the three-day event.
The second day had a session on the bestselling book franchise Jack Reacher, followed by a guest session with Sonny Liew, the artist behind the multi-Eisner award winning The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye. Creator of web comic series Dinosaur Comics and the writer of The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Ryan North, spoke to his fans and comic book enthusiasts on the third day. Apart from this, there was also a special guest session with the artist behind the Your Pal Archie and the Delhi Comic Con Archie in India cover, Dan Parent. Comedians Naveen Richard, Azeem Banatwala, Sahil Shah and Abish Mathew spread their comic charm as well.
Comic book conventions officially took off in the year 1964 in New York City. These conventions may be considered derivatives of science-fiction conventions, which began in the late 1930s. These were traditionally organised by fans on a not-for-profit basis, though nowadays most events are run by commercial interests for profit. Many conventions have award presentations relating to comics (such as the Eisner Awards, which have been presented at San Diego Comic-Con International since 1988; or the Harvey Awards, which have been presented at a variety of venues also since 1988).
Coming a little closer to home, it was March 1964 when the first comic book – Indrajal comic, Phantom’s Belt (Vetal Ki Mekhla in Hindi) was released and 2011 finally saw the inception of the first comic convention in New Delhi. The same year saw the demise of Anant Pai, who is widely regarded as the father of Indian comics. Pai began the first Amar Chitra Katha, a comic based on Indian mythology.
Events like comic cons are proof that the world of comic books is actually evolving with with the changing entertainment industry. Comic cons have actually converted the threat of other entertainment media into an opportunity by creating this unique type of media convergence. Ideas are generated everyday to allure people in the world of comics, back then through sketching and now through the huge arena of trans-media saturation and digital distribution. The change in the consumption of media while the the context of which or the meaning, remaining same points at something Canadian literary scholar Marshal McLuhan had put forward in the 1960s. The most central of his theories implied that changes in communication technology inevitably produces profound changes in both culture and social order – something we are all witnesses to.
Anmol Nayak is a final year student of mass communication at Xavier University Bhubaneswar, and an intern with The Wire.