The last time I had a similar quiver in the belly was when my dad took me to those semi-urban fairs where you had the robotic future-predicting machines and the maut ka kuans or the “Pits of Doom”. After all these years of strangling and repressing the child in me, I was finally getting to go to a place where I could let him loose. With great anticipation came this unexpected pressure – “Where do you think you’re going ? You haven’t followed a single scrap of Comics in years ! What, wearing an ill-fitting Batman T-shirt makes you an expert ? Drop the act buddy. Who are you kidding !” Such sound advise would stop me dead in my tracks on a sunny day but not today. Today, the kid was driving the bus and there was no stopping him.
I got the “golden ticket” briskly and proceeded towards the entry only to be stopped by a bunch of young kids waiting to give you high-fives, just standing there with their sweaty palms raised up in the air. While I swatted away a couple of the meaty ones, I inadvertently muttered, “Too old for this, too old for this…”. One of them must have caught that and told the others. They burst into a cackle and said – “No you’re not… Uncle”. Hah ! Sweet little punks. Well, they didn’t really call me an uncle. I’m hurt that you actually believed that.
Okay, I have a confession to make before we move on with my enlightening journey. When I hear the word “Comics”, I think of Nagraj, Super Commando Dhruv, Doga… If you don’t know what any of those words mean, you are most probably a millennial whose birth was announced on Facebook to the joy of the world. Not me though. You see, us 90s kids, were born during the glorious days when people actually read books. We had these weekly supplements that came in with the “boring newspapers”. On the designated days, we used to wait for that day’s edition to come in. Once it did, all the siblings used to have a death-race to get our hands on them as if the first to read it would be named heir to Scrooge McDuck’s entire inheritance.
Chandamama paved way for an entire generation of magazines with a design language which was too refined to be called a children’s book.
Well, it was not for nothing. Those “mere supplements” had some of the most endearing stories with uncannily beautiful artwork. Chandamama paved way for an entire generation of magazines with a design language which was too refined to be called a children’s book. Nagraj was essentially our definition of the word ‘Superhero’ and we were captivated by his sinewy muscles and snake-projecting wrists. Sure, it sounds corny today but you had to be there to see how huge it was in our lives. Friendships were made and broken over who lent his/her comics to whom.
Today, walking into the Deccan College Grounds, I was a lost puppy. There was colorful costumes everywhere, adorned with some very convincing props but who were these characters ? Had I just woken up from a thousand-year-old cryo sleep ? I had imagined myself fan-girling with Chacha Chaudhari but there was no turban to be found. The initial anachronism soon gave way to acceptance – “Oh c’mon ! Did you really think you’d find those characters ? That was decades ago. They don’t exist anymore !” Of course they don’t. ‘Cause we killed them. By the time our generation had grown up, the age of the Internet had dawned. Globalization had hit us square in our faces and we had been flummoxed by all the “cool” things that came with it. Cartoon Network happened. I loved it too but now I had become engrossed with the Television and visual media. Our beloved childhood characters could never make that transition. They were thrown inside mouldy cardboard boxes to rot among the other discarded toys that we had grown out of.
By the time our generation had grown up, the age of the Internet had dawned. Globalization had hit us square in our faces and we had been flummoxed by all the “cool” things that came with it. Cartoon Network happened. I loved it too but now I had become engrossed with the Television and visual media. Our beloved childhood characters could never make that transition. They were thrown inside mouldy cardboard boxes to rot among the other discarded toys that we had grown out of.
If you are a millennial who is reading this right now with your devil-may-care attitude, let me tell you this. We had some of the most gripping stories in those comics. You have the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the DC Extended Universe now but we, too, had our own universes where the most epic battles took place. If you have Antman, we had Parmanu who could control atoms and molecules. Hell, even Antman struggled when he had to go down to the molecular level. Well, lets not start this again – the age old generation fight. But you cannot deny the fact that the only superheroes that you talk about are the ones you see in the movies. Some of you may probably follow DC Comics, etc. but there is nothing you can call your own. Nothing with that Indian flavour. The last good thing you came across was Shaktimaan and trust me when I say this, it doesn’t even come close to the range of stuff we had in our childhood.
Comic Con is great as an idea ! And its even better that its happening in our city but somewhere along the Digital Age, we have lost our originality. We used to be phenomenal story-tellers. Our scriptures and sculptures are the stuff of legends. Our monuments are living, breathing comic-strips ! (Look at Konark temple). Even though I am a die-hard DC fan myself, I was saddened and humbled by the absence of characters that we could call our own. It’s great that Mahabharata and Ramayana have seen so many adaptations in so many forms but we are too creative a race to be restricted to that. We need to create our own epics and grow out of feeling insecure about the epics of our ancestors. We don’t have to outdo them but can’t we at least try to tell stories ? All you need to do is pick up a pen and pour your heart out. Doodle, scratch, squiggle…do what you feel like, just tell a story. I think the day, we open up the floodgates of our dreams, we would have so many characters at our disposal that they would have to give a name to our style of comics and animation…
We used to be phenomenal story-tellers. Our scriptures and sculptures are the stuff of legends. Our monuments are living, breathing comic-strips !
Having said that, I would have loved to see a stall by Garbage Bin. That dude is a rockstar ! He holds the pulse to our lives. It was good having you Comic Con Pune. I hope in the next few years, throngs would come to watch an Indian artist showcasing his character and kids clamoring for his autograph. Until then, I would be a sideline spectator. Until then, its not for me…
Author’s Note: Keeping the rant aside, the author had a really good time at the event even though he felt like a noob most of the time. Some of the cosplayers were really cool (although surprisingly there was none from the Potterverse). His itch to attend a Comic Con has been satisfied for now but the game’s been upped. The kid has raised his standards and he is watching…a silent guardian, a watchful protector, a dark knight !
Check out the pictures here: