With all this talk about dark matter and the dark energy keeping stars from plummeting off to oblivion, one is left with the rather unsettling thought that perhaps Mr. Darth Vader is in charge of the universe. At least when he is not having asthma attacks or playing dice with God. Contrary to what Einstein remarked, I do believe that there is a rather dicey game of dice involved in the running of matters. Why else would there be so many drastic paradigm shifts (clichéd as the term might sound by now) regarding the way we perceive our world among every sect except may be those of His chosen ones?
It has now been eleven months since the Mumbai Comic Con 2011 which incidentally was also our(Libera Artisti's) first, and I can't allow myself to procrastinate writing this any more. Not because I feel that eleven months is too long a time period - maestro of procrastination at your service here- , but because we all feel that the recent Bangalore Comic Con has been the first true milestone in the hitherto non existent comic history of India. Now don't give me that condescending look. Yes, I am very aware that comics have existed in our nation for over half a century now, but let's not fool ourselves into believing that our grown ups took them seriously and wouldn't have minded being caught dead with one all these years. Let's all first admit the fact that it was not until recently that our readers started considering comic books as a something beyond just picture books for children. Good! Now that we're all on the same page, let me get down to business
That would take me back to the oh-so-clichéd paradigm shift. But this time, the world in consideration is that of panels, artwork, and speech bubbles. It was in 2008 that I got the nerve to look at my two year long corporate career and say:
“F**k this s**t! I’m gonna quit and do something serious!”
“Like what?”, they asked
“Like comic books!”, I said
This was followed by a long silence and then a sinister remark that went: “He’s quitting his job to make one of those magazines with dull-witted stories about grown men in tights”
That was the scene just four years ago. And yes, for the first two years it did feel like we were stuck in the wrong end of the world when the Grant Morrisons, and Neil Gaimans(Gaimen??) of the world pranced around in green pastures. But we continued through the dark tunnel looking for the light at the other end. The first ray of dawn fell upon my sunken panda-eyes when The New Indian Express decided to publish my comic strip – Marcus and More. Soon afterwards I was mentioned, rather prematurely, in the Sunday Guardian article titled “Pioneers of the Indian Graphic Novel Scene”. Though I am fully aware that I deserved no such mention this early in my career, it did get us some much longed for exposure, and very soon, someone extremely nice and generous started funding our first ever full length graphic novel. And thus “Autopilot” took off, with me writing the story, Sinu doing the art, and Rosh the colors. Later on, we got Aditya Bidikar and Merryn John to do the lettering and graphic design respectively, for the first volume.
With the first Indian Comic Con, the scene started changing. People started taking comics seriously once some light was thrown onto the tip of the iceberg that is the full potential of this medium of storytelling. With more players entering the scene, there was now the much needed healthy competition that would fuel the desideratum for quality. Though we did not take part in the first Comic Con, it reassured us that we haven’t chosen the wrong means to earning our daily bread and compelled us to work harder and give it our best
In the meantime I started doing three other comic strips on my own – “The Urban Yogi” for FWD magazine, “The Blue Hamster Chronicles” for MTV’s Noise Factory, and the ongoing “Inappropriate” for The Indian Express - All fun projects that really helped me unwind and keep things light. It also helped me avoid the frustration that could’ve resulted from having to sit and write while Rosh and Sinu got to do all the fun stuff
The Mumbai Comic Con was the first that we attended and we did not have much to offer at our stall except a preview of what was to come. But the crowd was kind to us and encouraged us by buying our commissioned sketches and other promotional material featuring characters from the then upcoming comic. It was also the first time that we got to see so many people dressed up as our favorite comic characters walking around as though they truly belonged to our otherwise mundane world. Thanks to our friends who had dropped in to root for us, we had an amazing time, and we all came back loaded with the goodies that we bought from the other stalls
In Feb 2012, at the Delhi Comic Con, we finally brought out the first issue. I can’t thank our publisher, Dragonmill, and the men behind the mill, enough for the phenomenal launch ceremony that was organized for Autopilot.
The response was overwhelming. We sold 572 copies in three days, and none of us had known till then that signing so many books back to back could be so much fun. We thought that we had seen the best of our days…
...until, in September, Bangalore happened and blew us away
The Bangalore Comic Con was by far the best of the lot! Never before had we seen so many comic-lovers gathered under the same dome. We had two days of ultimate fun.
By the second day we were completely sold out. We also got to screen three animated short films by our super-talented boys at Dragonmill Media.
And what could have served as a better culmination to the event than our very own Cocoboy winning the best-costume award!
I am currently scripting the 7th issue. It’s going a little slow, now with the tv series (a spin off series based on one of the characters that appear in Autopilot) happening in parallel. Intellectual Property Rights is sometimes harder than rocket-science for us to comprehend. But thankfully, our publisher/producer – Dragonmill, is taking care of all that for us. There is a lot more from us (Libera Artisti and Dragonmill) in the offing; but for now, it’s time to say au revoir!
Photo Courtesy: Rosh, Sinu, Andy, Praveen, and Pramodh
Photo Courtesy: Rosh, Sinu, Andy, Praveen, and Pramodh