An insight into the world of Comics & Graphic Novels

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India has a long tradition of comic readership. It gained popularity as themes associated with extensive religious myths and folk-tales in 1960s. Today, we have several foreign superheroes (Superman, Batman, Spiderman, Thor, Hulk, Iron Man, etc) and comic characters (TinTin, Mickey, Donald, etc) as well. Smita Dwivedi in an attempt to explore this dream world met with Gulshan Rai, MD, Diamond Comics; Jason Quinn, creative content head at Campfire Graphic Novels; Jatin Varma founder Comic Con; and Sharad Sharma founder, World Comics India and brings insights for our readers. Indian kids of 1980s-90s actually grew up reading comics. Summer holidays were spent reading heaps of comics rented from a local book shop for mere Rs 1 or 2 for a day…it was a great fun. The comic industry was at its peak in the late 1980s and early 1990s and during this period popular comics easily sold more than million copies over the course of its shelf life of several weeks. India’s once-flourishing comic industry saw sharp decline because of increasing competition from satellite television (children’s television channels) and the gaming industry, but again its gaining sheen. India has some of the best artists in the world. Production values are being raised all the time and more and more Indian writers are choosing to write for this genre. According to recent report, the world’s largest players like Walt Disney, Warner Brothers and Dreamworks are in the process of establishing a presence in India, to tap the local market as well as to build a low cost, high quality production base.

There’s no dearth of talent in India to create comics and graphic novels

–says Jatin Varma, founder, Comic Con India

Jatin VarmaComic Con India is dedicated to creating unique events and giving the fans, exhibitors and partners a platform to celebrate their undying love and passion for comics and pop culture. It is dedicated to expanding India’s popular culture by creating high profile events that cater to fans of not only comics, but also, gaming, movies, television, merchandise, toys and more.

On asking about the response and demand of comics and graphic novels in India, he added, “In my opinion, it’s certainly on the rise. I feel the boost given by films and popular television series around international characters, has certainly increased the readers’ curiosity to reconnect with comics. This provides a great opportunity for Indian content creators to push their books as well. Sales of comics at all our events are great, however, on the flipside, the not so efficient distribution system in India lets down a lot of upcoming publishers to get their books to readers. That is a major stumbling block to all publishers out there. Online retail has certainly helped, but I hope we are able to find a solution to fixing this distribution setup in the near future.”

Comic Con mainly publish their own titles, mostly in English with the average print run between 3,000-5,000 copies. “Our publishing label essentially complements our events and we re-publish out-of-print Indian comics titles, for example the Timpa series, which used be published in Indrajal comics,” he added.

Jatin is really positive about the comics’ industry talent pool, “We certainly have no dearth of talent. Our quality has certainly come up, but there is certainly scope of improvement.” While talking about digitization, he added, “The Indian digital reading market is quite small, it’s certainly something that holds a lot of promise in the future, we’ll certainly have our digital editions. However, right now the impact of this space in India is limited.”

As a message to readers, he says, “Let children read comics, you can obviously monitor the content, and comics really help foster a reading habit in children. I am living proof of that, I wouldn’t organize Comic Cons or publishing comics, if my parents hadn’t introduced me to the wonderful world of Tintin, Asterix and Tinkle, early on. And because of that I obviously am hooked on to comics but I love books in general as well.”

Graphic novels are a perfect way of engaging young minds and conveying ideas and messages

–says Jason Quinn, creative content head at Campfire Graphic Novels

Jason QuinnCampfire has been in operation since 2007. The company was the brainchild of Keshav Thirani, a successful engineer, who wanted to produce books that his own grandchildren could enjoy and get something out of. He saw immediately that graphic novels are a perfect way of engaging young minds and conveying ideas and messages. They always bring best of Shakespeare, Dickens, Austen, and many other timeless favourites. Not only that, their mythology line delivers the best in Greek and Indian mythology, bringing these ancient stories bursting into life and transporting you to a world of magic, mystery and fantasy.

Accordin to Jason, the market is growing all the time. Over the last four years, interest in the whole genre of graphic novels has really opened up in India. Adding more to it, he said, “In fact, I would say over the last twelve months we have seen a big change and graphic novels are now well on the way from being a niche market in India to being a mainstay within the mainstream publishing industry.”

Having all the titles available in English, they have produced a small selection in Hindi too, and he shared that the interest is growing and we are planning more Hindi translations of our books. As far as other international languages are concerned, many of their books are also available in French, Portuguese, Italian, Korean and others.

So how’s the response to which he happily added, “The demand for our books has definitely increased. There are lots of reasons for this. The likes of Comic Con India has helped to publicise the comic book scene across the country and media interest has shown people that comic books don’t have to be silly, but can be very serious, that they can hold even a reluctant reader’s attention and that they can convey messages and ideas in a way that will remain with the reader long after they have finished reading.”

They mainly aim at readers from 10 or 11 years upwards and recently released a brand new genre of Campfire Junior graphic novels aimed at the pre-school market. And discussing about pricing, he added, “This can depend on each title and the length of each book with prices ranging from Rs 195-399. Some of our books have print runs of 4,000 to 5,000 while a few titles go upto 10,000 copies or more. Gandhi: My Life is My Message is a recent release and is doing very well, along with Steve Jobs: Genius by Design, our adaptations of The Jungle Book, Alice in Wonderland and Pride & Prejudice and our graphic biography of Nelson Mandela.”

India being a best market for them, they do export around two thirds of their books abroad to the likes of the US, the UK, Europe, SE Asia, Australia and New Zealand. And talking about digitization, he shared, “Our books are also available now in digital. There can be no turning back the tide as far as the digital revolution goes. Publishers have to embrace it and welcome; we are exploring ways of making the most out of all the new technological advances that are available to us.”

As a message to readers, he says, “I would like to remind parents and teachers that children aren’t a separate species, they are people too. They need good, exciting and interesting books just as much as anyone else. Also, don’t be quick to shoot down people for reading comic books. On the contrary we should encourage our young to read. Just remember that pictures really can paint a thousand words and these books will remain with your child or your student a lifetime.”

Comics are not just for fun…
there’s lot to learn as well

–says Gulshan Rai, MD, Diamond Comics

Gulshan RaiDiamond Comics, India’s largest selling comics is being published in almost all Indian languages, it has attained an unmatched reach to every corner of India. It is providing the best comic literature to Indian children for the last four decades. Its unmatched quality, uniqueness, affordability, availability and credibility has made it an undisputed leader with loving characters including Chacha Chaudhary, Billoo, Channi Chachi, Chhotu Lambu, Pinki, etc.

According to Gulshan, the trade comic and graphic book publishing market in India is really big for them and on asking about the status of English language vs other Indian languages, he replied “English, Bengali and Hindi are having maximum sale in the ratio of 30%, 10%, 50%, while 10% sales account for other regional language comics.”

On asking about the response and demand of comics and graphic novels in India, he replied with affirmation, “Diamond Comics have maintained the accelerating sale and still we are maintaining it by selling over 2.5 lac comics every month and MRP varies from Rs 30 to Rs 250.”

Diamond comics are also being exported to Bangladesh. And he feels that Indian comics have much bigger sale than the foreign comic sales in India. The production quality of Indian comics is equivalent to the overseas publishers, he feels. On talking about digitization, he added, “We have digitized over 2,000 comics in all languages and are available on all the platform of e-sellers and m-sellers.”

As a message to readers, he says, “Choose the comics/books based on not only fun but also on education and Indian culture, religion and heritage.”

Comics are all joy…no attitude

–says Sharad Sharma, founder, World Comics Network

Sharad SharmaWorld Comics India (WCI) is a collective of grassroots activists, cartoonists, artists, development journalists, students, using comics as a communication tool as well as medium of self expression. These grassroots comics are drawn by common people reflecting their understanding of the social world (and not by artists). People living away from power centers rarely have their voices reflected in the mainstream. WCI parallels with the mainstream approach, and conducts several workshops aiming at empowering these voices and bringing out their own wall newspapers. The rich stories nurtured in the workshop are a reflection of the multi-cultural outlook of the society and this inspires them to adopt visual story format in the most cost effective manner possible.

Sharad started this as a movement and today, they have around 10 titles in English and around same number in Hindi. Most of the stuff World Comics produce from the ground is in local/regional language. According to him, “All the creators are common people of the country.”

Commenting on the response and demand of comics and graphic novels in India, he added, “There is less support to Indian comics’ artists. English language publishers are publishing the same auroras or same style of stories, and they are not ready to experiment Indian stories, forget about the Hindi and regional languages.”

Digital publishing being a crucial area in coming years, he seems sure that this will encourage self publishing.

BPI marches on

Publishing houses around the world are constantly absorbing the changes occurring in the publishing world and are discovering new horizons and looking for new vistas to expand their business. It will not be wrong to say that the publishing scenario today has undergone a sea-change. Not to be left behind, BPI India Pvt Ltd (an S. Chand Group company) has accepted the changes with open arms and has grasped all opportunities to reach to the zenith of success. Apart from books, puzzles, board games and stationery, BPI has taken a giant leap and has launched itself as client service providers in the form of content creators and art developers. Slowly but steadily, the company is uncovering the trends that are essentially shaping the content creation industry.

Starting with planning and strategising to development and execution, the dynamic and efficacious creative and editorial teams at BPI aim to create content that connect clients with the target audience and establish them as market leaders. Based on its credibility in the market, BPI combines its core assets—quality editorial, dazzling design and production efficiencies—to deliver compelling content that not only serve the purpose of the clients but also cater to the requirements of the target audience. The process involves planning the content to be developed for a book or premium product and finalising the illustrations or artworks that complement the product. With inputs from the clients, the product is designed and packaged to give it a unique look. Thus, the ultimate aim of the company is to strike a balance between the demands of the clients and the needs of the readers and offer value-based content at a premium price. Over a period of time, the company has built a solid client base not only in India but abroad as well.

BPI believes in forging cordial relationship with its clients and delivering the best to maintain long-term success, both for the clients and itself. Keeping this in mind, the company is fast marching ahead in the client services zone and discovering new opportunities globally.

Purple Turtle to publish book on “Financial Literacy”

Financial Literacy is the ability to understand how money works in this world. The whole system of earning, managing, investment and donation of money combines the financial literacy education. More specifically, it refers to the set of skills and knowledge that allows an individual to make informed and effective decisions with their financial resources.

Knowing the importance and requirement of Financial Literacy in today’s world, Purple Turtle is now set to publish Financial Literacy book by Insurance broker – Investment advisor, children’s author and educator Lucas Remmerswaal.

Purple Turtle, licensed by Aadarsh Pvt Ltd, is world’s cutest Turtle loved by children all over the world. According to N K Krishnanand, head- licensing and publishing, Purple Turtle, “With our focus to educate children in a fun manner, Purple Turtle also feels that it’s his responsibility to educate people more on Financial Literacy. With today’s growing modernization and globalization, people should be competent enough to understand their own finances and ways to deal with it. With our association with the author Lucas Remmerswaal, we intent to spread knowledge about this vast growing need.” “Book by Lucas Remmerswaal, will empower and equip young people with the knowledge, skills and confidence to take charge of their lives and build a more secure future for themselves and their families”, added Krishnanand.

AMITY University Press fascinates kids at NDWBF ’14

Attractively crafted stand of AMITY University Press at the New Delhi World Book Fair 2014 drew attention of young visitors during the nine-day exhibition organised strategically including two Sundays and two Saturdays in the show schedule to eventually pull crowds of school children on those four special days. “Of course, the fair schedule which includes weekend holidays really gives school children an opportunity to deeply explore the fair,” said Rupa Gupta, senior editor, AMITY University Press. She added that such mega fair helps them a lot to interact with kids and gain a way to figure out what children want to read.

AMITY University Press showcased a huge range of children’s books for pre-primary classes. “Our target group comprises children of I-V classes and for them we present a series of books on analytical skill development, question recalls and others,” mentioned Rupa. She further asserted that it was delighting to see young visitors around their stand picking up books to browse and enjoy the contents on the spot. Children’s books published by AMITY University Press are designed pertinently in terms of contents and print quality as per the needs of young readers.

Frankfurt Fellowship Programme 2014:
Focus on children’s and YA books

For the last 15 years, the Frankfurt Book Fair’s international Frankfurt Fellowship Programme has been supporting information exchanges and networking, while enhancing the professionalism of international publishers, editors, agents and licensing personnel. This year, the programme has a new focus on fellows from the children’s and young adult book segment.

With the new orientation of the Fellowship Programme, the Frankfurt Book Fair is sending a global signal about its commitment to the children’s and young adult book market. For several years now, the Book Fair has been engaged in this growing market with a range of activities and products. These include the Children’s Books Centre in Hall 3.0, the role as a supporter of the German Children’s Literature Award, and the concentration on children’s books in last year’s international Invitation Programme. At the same time, this year the Book Fair is expanding the circle of applicants to the Fellowship Programme to include people involved in the digital preparation and distribution of content for children’s books, such as product managers and developers.

“The process of internationalisation in the publishing industry is constantly on the advance,” says Juergen Boos, director of the Frankfurt Book Fair. “To reflect this fact, in 1998 we founded the Fellowship Programme. Every year, this aims to provide 16 different talented and highly qualified publishing employees with insights into the German publishing industry, and at the same time to familiarise them with the special characteristics of the international markets. We are delighted with the long-term success of this programme, and we are very grateful that so many prominent publishers and agencies allow their staff the time to participate in the Fellowship Programme.”

The deadline to apply for this programme is April 30, 2014. For more info, email at: rastogi@newdelhi.gbo.org

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