Whenever the topic of comic books in India comes up, it mostly refers to the ‘golden-age’ classics like Chacha Chaudhary, Amar Chitra Katha and Raj Comics in their heydays. When it doesn’t, it is used to refer to international titles from houses like Marvel and DC available in India. What most of us, repeatedly, miss out on are the amazing titles and comic books being made right here, in our country, by an insanely talented lot of artists and publishers. These titles cover all kinds of stories, ranging from retelling our mythology to all-new, indigenous superheroes and more. We reached out to some of the most promising names in the Indian comic book industry right now and tried to understand what the contemporary Indian comic book scene is all about.
There’s no shortage of creators in India – and the comic book scene is no different. However, due to the prevailing image of comic books being meant for children, especially in our country, there hasn’t been a tendency to choose comic books as a means to tell meaningful stories. But that scene is changing now. Creators are working on developing something completely different and niche, the comic book scene in India is on the verge of a massive breakthrough.
One such major publisher in India right now is Holy Cow Entertainment. Multiple serialised titles like Aghori, Caster, Showcase and more form their portfolio. They also have a retelling of the Ramayana as Raavan’s story – check out our full review of the first three issues. They specialise in retelling Indian mythology in various ways and now they’ve even created a connected universe among their characters. Mumbai-based Vivek Goel, the founder of HCE, was formerly employed by Raj Comics as an Inker. He broke into the new comic book scene with Ravanayan back in 2011 and since then, Holy Cow Entertainment has made a name for itself in the mythological comics sub-genre.
Studio Kokaachi is another name that is doing something very different. Their focus is far away from stories of superheroes and mythological retellings – they focus on real life. Studio Kokaachi’s work isn’t dependent on a particular artist. It’s managed by Pratheek and Tina, who come from a background in comics through Manta Ray, another comic book studio that shut shop in recent times. In fact, they’ve continued Manta Ray’s Mixtape series on in Kokaachi. They even have some completely free to read titles under the mantle of Zero-Calorie Comics that you can download from their website. While their website might seem to be the primary way to get Studio Kokaachi’s titles, they’re also available in about 40 stores across India.
“The main problem right now is to educate the audience,” says Tina, “We, as an audience, need to overcome the perception that comic books either need to be about superheroes, magic and fantasy or something that has a distinct commercial selling point. At Studio Kokaachi, we’ve been creating content for a
Another interesting phenomenon that is contributing to the growing demand for mature comic books is the availability of mature video content. In India, the availability of high speed, accessible internet coincided with the growing popularity of video streaming platforms like Netflix, Prime Video and multiple homegrown platforms. Whereas content was primarily family-oriented before this, suddenly everyone had a device and individuals could be targeted. This led to the growing demand for more mature, dark and gritty stories from such platforms which have now primed the Indian audience for similar stories told through the medium of comic books.
One of the major issues that the comic book scene faces right now is distribution. While legacy comic book publishers like Amar Chitra Katha and Raj Comics have an established network of distributors, up and coming names find it difficult to find exposure at the same scale. “Most of the titles that are changing the comic book scene in India are from Indie artists”, says Karthik from Comic Clan, “These artists develop their stories, do the artwork, take care of everything on their own – even the selling. Naturally, they cannot manage to do it at a large scale without taking something away from the creative aspect of their work.”
Due to the restrictive margins put up by Amazon and Flipkart, it becomes infeasible for creators to rely on these platforms to drive sales entirely. Even though publishing houses like Graphic India have a slew of titles on
We reached out to Comic Clan to understand how their platform works. Started a mere 8 months ago
For a long time, Comic-Con has been the only forum for geeks to get together and form a community. While it has grown to a large scale event across multiple cities in India, somewhere along the way, the focus has shifted to TV and movies rather than comic books. That being said, Comic-Con is also a platform where Indie creators and publishers get to introduce their content to an audience that is hungry for it but largely unaware of its existence.
Graphic Jam!, Graphic India’s Facebook group for enthusiasts, is an online community where you will find more than 11,000 members sharing their own artwork, illustrations, characters or appreciating existing titles, franchises and work – not necessarily from Graphic India. Indie Comix Fest provides a platform for Indie comic creators to exhibit their self-published creations and reach readers directly. It is held across the country throughout the year and you can check events near you at indiecomixfest.org.
There’s so much more to talk about when it comes to the Indian comic book scene right now – both in terms of indie creations as well as titles from established publishing houses. Comics are cheaper to produce, easier to customise and can be sold to anyone of any age without any technical barrier in between. While distribution and visibility