Tag Archives: Indian Comic Con

Cover Lover

Can one really judge a book by its cover? Maybe not, but I love covers anyway. One can judge covers by covers.

Yes, that’s right. I said cover 4 times in the last paragraph. Moving on.

I listened, with relish, to a talk on creating cover art given by Vivek Goel at Comic Con India. It was one of the best things I did there, since it was brand new insight for me. I love learning about the technique and philosophy of comics, and a for-beginners introduction to cover art was delicious.

Cover art is not easy (and here I am not just talking about comics). They have to encapsulate as much of the story contained inside as possible. But how in the world do you do that? It is tough enough writing summaries and précises in 200 words, how do you reduce 200 panels into 1 cover, while retaining the right flavor and consistency? Well, often enough it doesn’t work, hence the old maxim about a book and its cover.

Comics covers are tougher in many ways because it is a part of what it represents. A written novel can have a photograph on its cover, or one illustration. But a comic cover art not only tell you the content of the succeeding pages, but is very much a bite of the comic itself. That way it will also tell you about the quality of the art to be expected inside.

John Berger wrote a book once, which you started reading from the cover itself. It was meant to show how communication began from the moment you have the book within eyesight, how we started perceiving signals right from the start.

So with comics this process feels amplified. Sample an example by one of my favourite comics artists, Will Eisner,

I haven’t read this book but the cover tells me it’s about The Spirit, and he faces non-human enemies. He’ll probably be trapped in a maze-like sewage system, and trying to battle his way out, outnumbered by the gremlin-likes on their home turf. And even if I am all wrong, the cover is still a story I’ve read.

A neat categorization was offered by Goel – three primary types of covers, being Mid-action Cover, Idea Cover and a Pose Cover. He further helped me out by letting me put his own work as samples of this division. So here are Vivek Goel’s 3 types of cover art, with his own works.

A Mid-action Cover is the most direct communication about the contents of the book – it picks a moment that best represents the story about to unfold. It is picked right from the action, and amplified.

The next is the Idea Cover which doesn’t represent the action, but the crux of the story inside. It won’t be an actual event, but will be like a metaphor.

And lastly the Pose Cover is one which is like a portfolio shot of the main character(s). It doesn’t represent any action, and instead is meant to attract us to the character. This works for the best superheroes as well as the deepest graphic novels.

Like with other categorisations, these three are also open to inter-mixing resulting in combinations. Take for instance Pose+Idea covers, like the last one. And maybe, if we try we can also come up with more than three categories other than these three. I’m sure it will be merrier.

And if you want to know more about Vivek’s work, he’s available here. He’s one of the most talented artists I’ve seen (and art is exploding in India, so that’s a great achievement for anyone), and what’s more, he a terrific person.

Re'CON'naissance

Comic Con came after a long wait, buzzed non-stop for two days, and went. It left me with half a dozen new comics, two aching legs, and a bunch of comrades in this comics guerilla movement.

Honestly I had never felt attracted to the idea of a Comic Con, you don’t get attracted to things you don’t understand. But the two days when it unfolded before me were like a blurry rewind of the main events in the comics story in India so far, which ended in my going “Aaaaah” and “Ahhhhh” (the difference is slight but important – one is a moment of realization, one is a moment of joy).

I am among the newest members of this league, not as a comics-lover, but as a comics soldier in the mission to give comics their due. People have been making, publishing and writing about comics for a while now. Some for 2 years, some for 5, some for 15 ! The sound of it is almost intimidating, but in hindsight I could rest easy, for the people I met these two days did not believe in a hierarchy.

I went in with little expectation, as I said. With luck I made a chain of acquaintances, all of whom summarily received my business card. Some even knew me, thanks to the Bloggers for Comic Con page. Likewise I had heard of my fellows the same way. A moment of surreal camaraderie descended when we had a group of new faces all identifying each other, not by their names, but by their URL’s. “Oh, you’re Comicology”, for instance.

We were all united by our curiosity of two things here, one was to see in person the people whom we only knew by their work (I met Abhijeet Kini for instance, who is a lot larger than I thought), the other was by our curiosity to see how big the comics scene in India was, and try and predict for our sakes how big it could become. On the second matter we safely concluded that the next edition, in Delhi or Mumbai or Bangalore, would be epic. Many times bigger and with much more participaton since this one proved the viability of it all. Organisers broke even, fans arrived in droves, sales were brisk. All good, my friend.

Rain played spoilsport on the last day, and at least two people I knew saw nothing except the indoor venue. But as a fellow blogger wrote, rains on the Con was also a sign of heavenly benevolence. That is the way I would like to see it too (though that’s from someone who had already made 32 trips of every stall there).

And, let me not forget all the costumed freaks. I didn’t expect more than one or two hapless souls to come in fancy dress, but lo and behold, many did. Freaks that didn’t let nervous pansies like me get in the way of the ultimate act of devotion to their comics. Kudos all you all.

I would like to mention names here, of people I met, with whom I talked comics, and who made these two days really bright and optimistic for me. Akshay Dhar, Vijayendra Mohanty, Saad Akhtar, Himanshu Singhal, Vivek Goel and Mayank Khurana. Credits to Rafiq Raja, (“Oh, you’re Comicology”) who gave me a lot of his time, and from whom I hope to learn what goes into a successful comics website.

Just one grouse. Can we please do away with the term “Fanboy”?

Following Conventions

A Comic Con is about to happen in India. You may ask “Yeh Comic Con Kaun?” though I don’t think you will. I will tell you either way.

A gathering of writers, illustrators, publishers and readers of comics, at a large venue, with a sufficiently informal atmosphere (that’s important) – say like the Jaipur Literature Festival is to books.

I had heard of this event, funnily enough in some comics themselves. It became such an uncanny experience, that of seeing fictional comics characters interacting with real comics creators and being told how they made these comics. Talk of existential crisis! Move over Pirandello. Readers of Tinkle in India might remember a similar story where a busload of familiar characters visit the Tinkle office in Mumbai.

What became clear even then was that this is where the audience gets to meet the creators, and this is where the audience comes as their favourite characters.

The chance to meet so many practitioners of this medium is really the carrot. Meet the parents of your dear fictional friends, all. See the people who are celebrities to avid readers. Really, why would a comics-lover want to pass that up? And it works both ways, since it allows each side (the producers and the consumers) to reach out to the other. And since it isn’t dedicated to any one person, the atmosphere remains art-centric.

According to me, comics exude a closeness between the creator and the reader like no other. The creators work largely alone, without many magazines wanting to interview them, without a team that assists you. The reader doesn’t go to a large theatre, they don’t discuss them in reading groups.

And that’s good, in a way.

But it is important to get out of home once in a while, and what’s better than a sunny February weekend? Everything that is not benefit-driven requires a culture that values it, and it is the same for comics. It is probably no surprise that the sharp rise in comics production and studies came together with the rise of Comic Conventions in the USA, Japan and Europe in the 1970’s.

It is the same here, since comics are seeing a re-birth in India. It works perfectly for me, being at the right place at the right time, to get to know more about the talent and plans of the practitioners in India.

And yes, I look forward to the costumes, to the book signings, the workshops, talks, releases, awards, and everything else that is a part of this culture, because I am a part of it too.

Indian Comic Con

19th-20th February 2011

Dilli Haat

New Delhi