Seeing as though it was Bangalore Comic Con last week, it seems very apt to write an article concerning the Indian comic book industry. Now, obviously the scale of Comic Con in USA is huge and therefore I was sceptical when looking at the Indian version. Surprisingly, despite its rich culture and unique beliefs, India doesn’t really have a history of celebrating nerd culture. A few years ago, if any 18 year old in India said that he read comics and manga and watched anime and cartoons, he would be considered immature, childish and daft for indulging in such things at such an old age. Anything that wasn’t as popular as the Bollywood film industry or sport seemed to be overlooked by the youth demographic and it was near impossible for anyone interested in the comic book industry to participate in basic things like cosplays. Pop culture in India is quite limited in its variety and desperately needs to expand to include aspects that have millions of passionate fans across the country.
Events like Bangalore Comic Con combine peoples love for comics, food, gaming, movies and television, and are a great way of creating a community feel for nerd culture.
Indian Comic History
The Indian comic industry was at its peak in the late 1980’s and early ‘90’s, during this period sought after comics easily sold more than 500,000 copies over the course of its shelf life of a number of weeks. But, due to increasing competition from popular Bollywood films and the introduction of satellite television, sales soon dropped and it seemed like India’s once flourishing industry was in sharp decline. You would have thought that because of all of the extensive religious myths and folk tales of Indian history that comic books would be an extremely popular thing.
The comic industry in India can near enough be separated into four eras – starting with popular US comic strips like The Phantom, Flash Gordon and Mandrake being translated into Indian languages in the 1950’s. The success of these prompted publishers to create their own comics and it wasn’t until the late 1960’s that the first comic with 100% all Indian content was published by Amar Chiltra Katha – meaning immortal picture stories (up until this point, comics were only enjoyed by children with wealthy parents).
Several comics were then launched in the 1970’s and 1980’s in an attempt to compete with the Western superhero comics. In the 1980’s comics like ‘Heroes of Faith’ sold 5.5million copies in India. However, the Indian comic industry deteriorated in the late 1990’s as there was a huge lull in sales as other forms of entertainment became more popular. After this dip, new publishing companies like Virgin comics have appeared on the scene and reinvigorated the industry.
When looking into the Indian comic industry now, it seems to never have been stronger. The comic industry in India seems to be here to stay and whatever the future holds, one things for sure – they have captured the attention of the most distracted age group – the youth.
Like any public event, at Bangalore comic con saw lots of people showing up having absolutely no clue about the majority of characters there. Luckily, instead of getting shouted out for being a poser like you would at a music festival, the atmosphere at a comic book convention is a lot more understanding and encouraging for newbies wanting to learn. An even more encouraging sign was seeing the number of parents bringing their kids to the convention.
All of these are extremely healthy signs for the Indian comic book industry and nerd culture in general.
India hosted its first ever comics convention in February 2011 and now is an ever increasingly popular pastime.
According to estimates, the Indian comic publishing industry is worth over 100 million dollars.