deepad: black silhouette of woman wearing blue turban against blue background (Default)
[personal profile] deepad
So then, I met the whole entire world at Comic Con. No, really. Meeting [personal profile] swatkat and [personal profile] thedilettante was planned, even though it involved me going there yesterday again after Saturday's exhaustive recce. But we kept bumping into more odd and sundry people we knew, because I suppose the only thing better than a weekend at Dilli Haat is a weekend with Dilli Haat with Amar Chitra Katha. I also met not one, but two former neighbours, thus proving that no matter how far we may roam, the haat is where our heart is.

**


The cosplayers were, to a superhero, adorable. I'm so used to keeping my fannishness online and physically invisible that it gave me a moment's cognitive dissonance to see people so openly out. Poison Ivy turned out to be the classmate of my brother's classmate, and apparently I was only the second person that day to recognise her. Someone had the temerity to call her Tinkerbell. What is this world coming to when Disney's franchise steamroller crushes one of the most brilliant (and femmeslashy! Pam/Harley OTP!) Bat villains into obscurity?

There was also a baby Batman. At some point baby Batman was being dandled on the lap of an indulgent Uncle Two-Face, which is just crying out for the elseworld in which Harvey raises Bruce after the Alley Incident and thus grows up to be a well-adjusted tights-shunning young man whose nascent man pain shrivelled up and died in the faces of his coin-flipping faux father.

**


Of course, there was slightly creepy Superman. I mean, I am of the opinion that Superman inherently as a concept is creepy and bland at the same time, but this was a slightly different weirdness.

For a start, he had forgotten to wear the red outer underpants. As the evening became colder, it quickly became apparent that he had seemingly forgotten to wear any inner underpants. This was something that inevitably became somewhat of a talking point as we ran into people we vaguely knew.

It really didn't help that Superbulge was going around chatting up young women. "Have you seen Superman's crotch?" followed by "How can I avoid it?" was the new small talk while sitting at tables in the food stalls that put one right at lap level. I took the opportunity to provide An Educational Moment regarding dance belts and support thereof.

**


I must also give props to the young lady who was a character from Naruto. I couldn't see any manga distributers in the stalls. I know quite a lot of anime gets aired on Cartoon Network and Pogo and whatever other kids channels are out there, but I'm not sure how much manga gets released as a tie-in product.

There was one guy who was selling 'the first Indian manga'. I felt it was not the appropriate time to have a discussion about the oxymoronic nature of that term, and how, really, were we then going to give Hollywood the permission to make 'the first American Bollywood movie'?

There was, however, a Real Life Mangaka at the con. Blaft launched Yukichi Yamamatsu's Stupid Guy Goes To India, translated into English by Kumar Sivasubramanian. The mangaka sat next to Blaft publisher Rakesh Khanna, and at various intervals, Rakesh would stand up and read along (in hesitantly accented Hindi) a little announcement about having come from Japan and being a comic maker, while Yukichi San nodded along. It looked like a zen master had built a robot to do his bidding.

Of course I would not be surprised to find robots at the Blaft stall, given their stated avowal to obliterate literary fiction entirely from the face of the earth, by way of 'encouraging people to read comics about extraterrestrial robots, bleeding lizards, exploding donkeys, and defecating cyclopses'.

**


Actually, my second encounter with the Blaft phenomenon was even more surreal than the first. I've had a crush on the publishing house since I saw their cover for the first Tamil Pulp Fiction Anthology, and every succeeding thing they've put out has only heightened my admiration for their design and aesthetic sense, all without having read a single book of theirs. Yes, I am shallow, I fall for publishers based on their covers.

On Sunday, since I was accompanying [personal profile] thedilettante, who had a bright idea related to [livejournal.com profile] con_or_bust, things got much more strange and wonderful. (Including an communication via proxy with [blogspot.com profile] thirdworldghettovampire for which I am pre-emptively sorry for, Kuzhali!) But I shall speak of more about this anon, when I have pictures. Er, of things. Pretty, shiny things. (Not people, because I don't do the people pictures on the internets things, and would very much appreciate the courtesy being returned.)

**


Speaking of pictures, I think I managed to hit every stall, and couldn't find a single female artist. And I don't think I saw any female writers, either. Which is double weird, because two of the better known Indian graphic novels are written and drawn by women-- Parismita Singh's The Hotel at the End of the World and [wordpress.com profile] amrutapatil's wonderful Kari. (Which Harper Collins seems to have allowed to go out of print. WHY?!)

So instead I asked at every table where freebies were being handed out for something featuring the women characters. The pickings were unsurprisingly slim. I got a poster of a Princess Lunestra, from a forthcoming animated series called The Legends of Aveon 9. She's blonde in my poster, but was brunette in the stall's display. I asked one of the dudes at the stall and he muttered something about the vagaries of screen printing. On the website she's dark haired, though, so I might have to get a marker and recolour her hair for my own satisfaction.

Chetan Sharma, the director of Tripura, actually said that there was no scope for women characters in the film because he was trying to stick to the original source. Which, whatever dude, but OMG THE ART! ::flails:: It's so pretty! Check out Shiva getting down with his badass Pashupati self!

So the film apparently airs at random, unannounced times on Cartoon Network, but the DVD is being held up to be released along with the graphic novel, which was supposed to be out in Jan, but has been delayed till October. Chetan said the graphic novel will be closer to his artistic vision than the film, and I am all for delays if they mean taking time over lovingly crafted artwork. It really is stunning. Hurrah for pauranic retellings that are not the Ramayan or Mahabharat!

**


On the other hand Ari Jayaprakash apologised for running out of prints of his women characters, and said he'd send me one. I'm interested in reading The Kuru Chronicles, which wasn't actually launched since it wasn't ready, but which again, had gorgeous, starkly vivid art on display. Plus it has a female protag called Dakini from Sonagachi taking on dystopian Kolkata, written by (lady author!) [wordpress.com profile] anishasridhar. It's going to be self-published, which seemed to be a pretty popular option given the number of independent comic makers with a stall to sell their single title. These ranged from the print version of the webcomic Sufi Comics to Aakash Anand's abstract comic. On the one hand, this means that artists can ensure that the paper quality is exactly what they need for their precious babies; on the other hand, they may not always be able to do quality control for the vagaries of the printing process. Which leads to things like the first volume of a series being printed with blurry lettering.

**


Speaking of said series -- Ravanayan has one more issue to go, so I thought I'd wait to read it. The art was decent, with a sort of punk rock meets Gotham vibe, but I have to say, all these Ravan takes are disappointing me. They trot out the old Shiv-bhakt, Indra-conquerer anti-hero shtick, but they never actually transgress the Valmiki version. And this when there are alternatives canons where he wins Sita. And how about maybe unpacking some of that Aryan-Dravidian toxic demonisation thing? And also, noble but ultimately tragically self-defeating Ravana is three shades fairer than your ordinary rakshasa (who is always dark skinned) but never as fair as Rama (who is never dark skinned).

Krishna wept, people. What is it going to take to get us some actual raincloud coloured avatars around here? Dark-skinned topless men are pretty, just check out the mighty fine nubile gents on your local fishing boat. And considering how many comic publishers are operating out of Chennai and Bengaluru, there is really no excuse for this blatant colourism to continue, ACK be damned.

**


Ravana: Roar of the Demon King was the other one. Lush, fluid art that looked like manga meets Raja Ravi Verma. It was at the Campfire stall, which was a bit of a revelation for me.

See normally, I grew up looking at adaptations of classics with a jaundiced eye. Rewriting Little Women to fit a 30 page picture book format was my idea of blasphemy. I learned really early on to spot the dread words 'abridged' on the copyright page and put the mutilated thing away. But somewhere along the line fandom taught me to appreciate adaptations (especially cinematic ones) as one does an AU fic. Love it or leave it, the original is still there unsullied.

And so when I saw Campfire's graphic novel retellings of Kim and The Jungle Book, I was deeply amused. I think it's kind of cute that an author like Kipling gets reworked by Indian artists, who turn the end of Kim into a straight up Bodhisattva tale. And their artwork and production values are all uniformly top notch. I became an especial fan of the chameleon artistry of Sachin Nagar, who went from the Ravan book to a Disney-pop style for The Treasured Thief and then to the gritty sketches of Photo Booth.

**


Outside the Campfire stall a young lady was offering a lucky dip, with monopoly money type discount coupons. When I closed my eyes and looked away and pulled out a Rs. 20 coupon, she immedietly frowned sympathetically and told me to try again. So I did, nobly resisting the temptation to cheat and pick up the folded Rs. 50 coupon which a staffer had just tossed back into the box to be reused. [personal profile] thedilettante and I both ended up with Rs. 40, which, alas, they did not allow us to combine on one book.

I suspect that my sneaky plan to amass Rs. 100 discount vouchers from the inkfruit stall by way of asking my brother and his friends to go and retrieve them will similarly fail. Woe. For I saw a remarkable number of covetable T shirts. It seems (whodaa thunk?) that graphic designers are close kin to animators and artists and various drawing-wallahs, and so there was all sorts of delectable merchandising on display, from a kolaveri t shirt so that you can continue to annoy everyone, to a Super Kudi mug.

**


On the first day, we tried to track down the comic where the awesome superaunty in the giant banner greeting us on the entrance was from. We failed; it turns out she's Super Mummy, and only exists on a coffee mug with a washing line of superundies flapping valiantly behind her.

Then I managed to get confused by another aunty, compounded by the fact that the artist was responsible for the crowd illustrations in the background of the aforementioned poster. His Aunty was scowling and visible only on coasters and magnets. But he gave me her backstory - she's called Angry Moushi, because her last name is Angre.

"Heh, I bet she lives in a chawl in Khar," I said.

"Yeah! Why, are you from Khar?" he asked.

"No... but one of my cousins lives there..."

Obviously, it turns out Abhijeet Kini is friends with my cousin. The arm of the Mumbaikar is long and many tentacled.

([profile] koyal and [personal profile] noldo, I have told Abhijeet that Angry Moushi needs her own comic book, or Someone Will Have To Answer For It. JAI AUNTISTAN!)

**


The Comic Con was apparently presented 'in association with' (read: funded by) Disney and The Avengers. And yet I barely registered their presence. There was one double stall dedicated to a flat screen TV repeating the Avengers trailer over and over again, all 1 minute 30 seconds of it, and since I've been avoiding the fandom, it took staring at the cut out for me to realise that the Marvel behemoth has managed to make a multi-superhero movie featuring six white dudes and one white lady who was the only one to not get a movie of her own first.

Meanwhile [personal profile] thedilettante had a righteous rant about Disney getting rid of the lady from the title of Burrough's A Princess of Mars. The John Carter stall kept running a bunch of contests, and one of them involved holding a sword straight out parallel to the ground for five minutes. A petite young mom was competing as we passed by, and everyone was just staring silently at her. So of course we took it upon ourselves to cheer mightily for her, and were duly pleased that though her arm was trembling by the end of it, she won.

Actually, I wonder if Disney missed the memo. One single stall focussing on a Hollywood blockbuster when they have characters like the Princess brigade and the Mouse to pimp out and redefine copyright laws over? Looks like they were thinking this was supposed to be a knock-off version of the San Diego Comicon, or some other adult-fanboy oriented affair. I am meanly pleased that all the kiddies will go back clutching Chacha Choudhary and The Adventures of Timpa instead.

**


I think choosing to host it at Dilli Haat was a cool idea. No, it's not a convention, but why should it be? I like the idea of not going down the geek subculture hotel ballroom route, and instead turning cosplay into part of a semi-public mela. People bring their 4 year old to Dilli Haat regardless of her complete disinterest in Ikat saris and Madhubani lampshades; why not apply the same inclusive bazaar aesthetic to comic book marketing.

There's one sentence I agree with in this article:
The graphic novel market in India is a niche one and the real challenge for creators and publishers is to devise ways to expand the reader base. One of the pitfalls that the industry would do well to avoid is the easy construction of the intended reader as a comic addict and the super hero-mythology fanboy, and of comic-reading as a groovy sub-cultural activity.

I think smooshing together all the various kinds of sequential art into a haat is a great idea. I missed seeing Navayana's titles there, and Tara Books' exquisite picture books. I think there's a space for them at this kind of Comic Con, where you can bring your kids, and the graphic nudity is as commonplace and unfetishised as any aghori baba at a kumbh mela.

And I think it's kind of emblematic that one of [personal profile] swatkat's friends ended up spending all her money on a really pretty tussar sari from one of the regular Dilli Haat stalls instead. Like most of the stuff on display at Comic Con, the Dilli Haat shoppables are expensive, pretty things made by Indian artists, which you can admire over a plate of momos and kesar kaava from the wazwan stall.

Even superheroes are best served up hot with easy access to momos.

**


Apparently there was also a whole programming track with phrang comic BNFs and all. There were TOO MANY PEOPLE for me to notice. The kids were the worst; you'd be swimming through the ocean of humanity and feel them lurking underwater ready to mumble at your calves like baby sharks.

I did overhear one set of gentlemen who were doing a powerpoint presentation on RPGs though. Full marks for effort, dudes! May you be blessed with many new fanboys and girls to game with.

The final quote is courtesy [personal profile] thedilettante,who reports:
A Girl, in front of a superhero: Those aren't man boobs! ::poke, poke:: Those are synthetic!

(no subject)

Date: 21/2/12 06:05 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] sajia_kabir
I'm trying to avoid using credit cards and paypal, and in any case I prefer the experience of physical browsing. Although I might end up getting an e-reader, because I would love to take advantage of Project Gutenburg and other public domain classics.
The trouble with Chapters is that it's all self-help and celebrity marketing; books about POC tend to be written by white people. I was highly delighted when I was confirmed in my suspicions by an African visitor to my Sufi congregration that the African country she lived in had better bookstores than Vancouver. The thing is I live in the suburbs and I have to go way into the East End before I can find books that I want to read.

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deepad: black silhouette of woman wearing blue turban against blue background (Default)
Deepa D.

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