Comic Con Mumbai 2017: Founder Jatin Varma tells us what to expect from this edition
There once was a time when to be a comic book fan in India was a lonely thing indeed. Access to the latest titles could be sporadic, and while you may have waxed eloquent over the new Justice League issue with your small circle of fellow enthusiast friends, there was nothing like a larger community you felt you belonged to.
In 2011, the very first Comic Con was held in India, in Dehi. Twenty five exhibitors signed up for the event. Five thousand fans showed up. Cut to 2017, and Comic Con has grown to have editions across five major Indian cities; last year, a total of 1,70,000 visitors showed up at these various events, and over 1,000 exhibitors came on board. Comic Con India also expanded its original scope to embrace not just comic books and graphic novels, but all of popular culture.
This weekend, Comic Con returns to Mumbai. Over 11-12 November, Hall No. 5 of the Bombay Exhibition Centre in Goregaon will witness enthusiastic cosplayers, pop culture buffs, comic book publishers and merchandisers, all rubbing shoulders. The Maruti Suzuki Mumbai Comic Con 2017 (as the event is officially called) promises to be "bigger and better" with an enhanced fan experience spanning the best of comics, merchandise, toys, experiential and gaming zones, international guests, meet and greet sessions, and more.
The special guests at this edition of the Comic Con Mumbai include Nick Seluk (creator of the very popular web comic The Awkward Yeti), David Lloyd (British comics artist best known for V for Vendetta), Andrew Griffith (comic book artist, designer and illustrator of Transformers comics series), Yishan Li (comic book artist for DC and Dark Horse Comics) and Nicole Marie Jean (pro-cosplayer).
On the eve of the Mumbai event, Comic Con India founder Jatin Varma spoke with Firstpost about the journey so far:
We're now on the seventh edition of Comic Con. Looking back, what are your thoughts on the journey over these years? Has the event in its present state matched the vision you had for it when launching it?
It's been quite an "eventful" journey! I certainly never imagined it this way and I honestly did not have any vision as such, beyond just doing the first-ever Comic Con (in India). All of this has happened as things moved forward and they certainly did for the best. I think as an event and a brand, we are still evolving and growing. And that's what keeps me going!
Could you tell us what you're most excited about in this upcoming edition in Mumbai?
There are so many things to be excited about — the comic book guests, the panels, the entertainment guests and the fan experiences, but as always it's the cosplay that I look forward to the most.
Do you think we'll ever get as big/popular as a San Diego Comic Con?
Yes, for sure. The events will certainly attract hundreds of thousands of visitors as we keep growing year on year.
I am also hopeful the Indian market will also grow at the same pace, with not just International publishers and studios taking us more seriously, but the market also growing for local content. As of now, we are tiny part of the entire pop culture world, but I am betting on us being among the biggest, sooner rather than later.
Were there any interesting behind-the-scenes stories from putting this edition of Comic Con together?
So, far it's been fairly uneventful and smooth. However, the real action begins once we actually get to Mumbai and the set-up starts. Each year there are so many fun things that take place behind the scenes at our shows — I hope to capture them all in a book one day! Hopefully I'll have a few to share post the show.
How have the Comic Con events happening in major Indian cities been able to help Indian comic book publishers? What has been the change observed in the industry from 2011 onwards?
It's really tough to create and sell comics in India; with our shows we try and provide an outlet for people to showcase and promote their work. Since 2011, we have certainly had a spurt in new comics being published and each year we try and support as many creators as possible.
Comic Con has also been able to create a community of support for comic book artists and writers in India, especially with the round-the-year workshops and other events. Could you comment on how this environment was fostered, and why it's important?
It was and continues to be a concerted effort by us to keep building the eco-system in the country and keep the connection with the community going and growing. It also helps us keep the shows in the minds of the fans throughout the year and acts as a great word of mouth marketing effort as well. In addition to our main shows, we organise almost 50 smaller events ranging from workshops, screenings, parties, quizzes etc.
Any interesting developments/collaborations/projects/initiatives that comic book fans and pop culture aficionados could look forward to in the coming months?
We have been testing producing original content a bit this year and we even have a dedicated Live Stage at all our shows this year, beaming all thats happening at the show LIVE to audiences at home. We plan to expand upon that in the coming year and produce a lot of fun content for our fans to consume, from articles, to videos and maybe more! Keep watching this space.
What comes next for Comic Con, as a brand, as a platform for the industry, and as an event?
That's simple: how do we make our shows better, what more than can do for our fans and partners. And how do we take the Comic Con experience to more fans around the country. That is what we'll be focusing as we move forward.
Maruti Suzuki Mumbai Comic Con
On 11 and 12 November 2017, between 11 am to 8 pm
At Bombay Exhibition Centre, Nesco Compound, Off Western Express Highway, Goregaon East, Mumbai
Check the event schedule here
Tickets available here