No Comic Relief
The Adventures of the Bangalore Comic Con
It’s a sea of people at the Koramangala Indoor Stadium. A sign outside says “Free Entry.” It’s a weekend, so instead of going to the mall, everybody decides to stand in queue for an hour and enter the Comic Con and take a picture so that it can immediately be uploaded to Facebook. It was that kind of mood.Â Everybody who was walking in was being given wristbands at the entrance. After a point, the organisers were letting people in without wristbands. Two girls, who had just walked in, insisted that they get those bands. “We need proof that we were at the Comic Con,” they said.Â
Once inside, picture an indoor stadium with a stage on one side of the place and a walkway that extends upto some 20 metres. Beyond that, nobody knews where they were going ”“ it was complete chaos. Cosplay was the main thing at the Comic Con. I saw a girl dressed up as Han Solo. Nobody could guess who she was, so she revealed it after a while. There was a guy dressed as Gabbar Singh, I don’t know why. One guy showed up as Captain America, probably before the genetic experiment happened. Snake Eyes from G.I. Joe was damn happy that I recognized him. It seemed as if a majority of the crowd was there to either dress up as a character or take a photo with one. Joker seemed to be the local hit. At one point, Joker and Batman went up on stage and did a skit of sorts. It was like one of these inter-collegiate events with kids blasting with excitement and an MC who had no clue what to do.Â
I also saw a lot of people walk around with these Kooch N Keek bags. Koon N Keetch was plastered all over Comic Con ”“Â on posters, bags, etc so I asked around what it was. Someone told me it was a clothing line ”“ they had Saddam and Lenin on their long banners I think ”“ and someone else said it was a TV show, but nobody really knew what Kooch N Keen was. But the free bags with the branding seemed to be a big hit. I saw people all over the city carrying these bags. So this also seemed to be like the thing to do: come to the Comic Con, collect your free Kootch N Keench bag and leave.Â
I also got the feeling that running a stall was a thing to do for couples. I saw many young couples being all involved in running the stalls and getting hassled together. I think every year, a bunch of T-shirt designers get into the business and move onto something else the next year. There were lots of other stalls selling mugs, fridge magnets, posters, figurines and mobile phone covers at exorbitant prices. One of the many dazed first year students walked up to the Harper Collins stall and pointed to an Agatha Christie ”˜graphic novel’ ”“ Â they were large books with black covers and were packed in a transparent, plastic cover ”“ and mistook it for a folded T-shirt. He persistently asked the salesman at the stall: “How much for the T-shirt?” When he was told it was a comic book, he turned around to his friend and said to him, “Hey! They also have books.” To the poor guy’s credit, there were many too many stalls selling T-shirts with photos of Hollywood stars on them and framed posters of actors on sale.Â
Comic book creators and publishers plan book launches around these Comic Cons but it doesn’t make sense because nobody seems to be interested in comics. The organizers should set up swings and some see-saws or a merry-go-round and call the event a Cosplay Fun Fair or something like that.Â I found that a cosplay event would draw a crowd but anything else seemed pointless. I had an event as well on that stage in the middle of that moving crowd. There was no way to have a conversation with the audience and it ended up being similar to one of those weekend events at a mall where you hear people yelling into the mics. I ended up being an MC and was yelling out things like “Bengaluru, are you ready?” to get the audience’s attention. Soon, the audience were told that Legends of HalahalaÂ was being made into a Bollywood ”˜romcom’ movie with item songs shot across the world. I got a few reactions, some genuine.Â
There were other logistical issues like a single entry and exit point causing a bottleneck at the Comic Con. It was so crowded that nobody could move. In case of some emergency, a single exit would have posed serious issues. The toilets were stinking up the place and the ladies’ loo apparently didn’t have a door.
My friend Gokul, a comic creator and RTO inspector, came all the way from Kerala to attend his first Comic Con in the country. He’s decided to never attend another Comic Con in India. I’m never going to do a ”˜session’ like this again. There wasn’t a single comic that I hadn’t seen before. I picked up Osamu Tezuka’s Black Jack Volume 5 and Message To Adolf Part 2 at the Blossom Book stall. There were about 5 or 6 stalls with comics. I felt there were more last year. This Comic Con does nothing about comics. “Well, why should they,” asked Gokul. “I’m quite sure the organisers, cosplayers and the buyers and sellers got what they wanted. We are looking at a commercial fair from our comic creator perspectives, which in itself is a comic story.”
Comic Cons should pay some attention to comics and comic lovers. There should be a gallery to showcase comic art. They could feature a legendary artist’s work and show his work down the years, his original pages and spread awareness about comic art and how it is done. They could invite popular contemporary artists to conduct art sessions for aspiring creators and fans. I think there should be a separate promotion section for Indian comics. Some support for local comics and independent publishers would be nice. How about a platform to connect young artists to publishers? An original short comic story contest with a publisher tie in, to release a collection of the winning entries? Anything to make it closer to comics, please.