India is a country with diverse and excellent storytelling through mediums like cinema, music and literature. However, when it comes to comics, the reading and publishing culture is practically non-existent.
While the country’s slowly growing comic book scene continues to be dominated by mainstream comics, like those of Marvel and DC, the creations of independent comics are often drowned out.
To tackle that, here is a much-needed independent comic book event to promote up-and-coming artists by offering them a platform to showcase their work, network and collaborate with fellow artists.
To be held on Sunday, 8 October, the Indie Comix Fest (ICF) is back with its fifth edition in Bengaluru. This time, the event will see over 85 artists participating.
Helping the indie comics scene in India grow
“Back in the 2010s, Comic Con started in India. All the enthusiasts and artists got excited thinking it would be a huge platform for them. But very soon it became apparent that it was a market-driven event with a focus on the American entertainment business. When it comes to Indian comics, there is no industry. Yes, we have Tinkle, and there is Amar Chitra Katha. But that’s about it. Even though people are creating comics, nobody publishes it,” says Bharath Murthy, one of the main organisers of the Indie Comix Fest.
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Like-minded comics enthusiasts came together to start the first edition of the fest in 2018.
“Over the last few years, ICF has been a platform where people who are interested in expressing themselves through comics are coming together. They are putting out their work, and getting feedback from readers and other creators who work in the same space. It’s not like a book fair where the authors are not present. All you have to do to participate is fill up the Google Form on the website and pay a small fee for the table,” shares Bharath, adding that the only criterion is that your work has to be original.
“That’s the spirit of the event. Here, the artist can do way more than just sell their work. People can network, come together as a community, make friends, see what other comics are doing, and collaborate,” he adds.
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A space for original storytelling
Through ICF, the team hopes people will start to consider comics as a form of self-expression and original storytelling.
Bharath shares, “We want to tell the artists that through comics they can tell their own stories, personal experiences, and whatever they want. The medium is capable of that. Worldwide it’s happening. But in India, the realisation is coming a little late. It’s happening but it’s very slow.”
The entry criteria are the bare minimum so as to make it accessible for all.
He adds, “We want to say that comics are people’s medium. It’s not just for the elite or for a few connoisseurs of art. My belief is that comics are a continuation of Indian artistic tradition.”
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Publishers should come forward
Apart from a space to promote their work, what comics in India need for growth is a publishing ecosystem.
“A comic magazine format can help the artists in a big way. Manga is so big because they have weekly magazines that publish the works of comics in Japan. Everyone from construction workers to CEOs of big companies read comics. That’s what’s missing here,” shares Bharath.
People should start thinking of this genre of books as an important space.
He notes, “Comics are not encouraged in India. Parents think they are not good for kids, and consider them as cheap entertainment. That outlook has been around for a long time. Whereas worldwide, it’s a diverse pace with big publishing industries built around it. If there were Indian comics, people would read them. Just like we read Indian literature, and poetry and watch Indian films.”
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Bengaluru shows promise
Besides Bengaluru, the fest is held every year in Mumbai, New Delhi and Kochi.
“Every city has a different flavour in terms of the kind of visual art that you see in the comics. That’s an interesting thing to notice. Bengaluru is one of the better cities compared to the others. There is more participation and general enthusiasm around comics. I find that promising,” he tells South First.
While a platform like ICF helps artists in several ways, what will make the real difference is when publishers understand the importance of the forum.
“A space like ICF will help artists grow further. They’ll get to understand what’s working, what’s not, what kind of stories people want to read, how to improve their drawing style etc. However, if there was a publishing ecosystem attached to this, publishers could have picked up new, young artists and helped publish their works. That’s something we should work towards. Through the event, we want to enlighten the publishers that comics are a good medium and business proposition. Comics can create more content opportunities, they could get picked up to create animated series, web series, and multiple other content models,” shares Bharath adding that over 1,000 people are expected to attend the fest.
Spread the word to support independent comic artists and their work. Indie Comix Fest 2023 will be held at Rangoli Metro Art Center, MG Road on October 8, 2023
Entry is free for all. Click here to learn all about the rules of participation