We caught up with Jatin Varma, Founder, Comic Con India, to talk about cosplay, superheroes and all things geek.
Pop-culture is finally getting its due. Agree?
It’s a great thing for people in my line of business who aim to cater to passionate fans of pop-culture. Our local scene has mostly been dominated by Bollywood, along with a mix of sports and politics. But today, communities in India are building up around movie and TV content, comics, cosplay and even sneakers.
What is the theme of Comic Con 2018?
Comic Con is made up of many facets; there is never really a central theme, other than making it the best weekend of the year. We try to ensure that fans have a lot of fun at our shows, especially the ones coming in for the first time. This year, we have a great line-up of Indian and international talent coming in. I’m super-pumped about the merchandise for this year, especially some of the toys! Cosplay will continue to be one of the main showcases; in fact, we’re holding workshops across the country to help people figure out their costumes and join the burgeoning community. You’ll see a larger gaming presence, too.
What went behind introducing the idea of a Comic Con in 2011?
I had always been a comic-book fan, though it was a business need that kind of drove me to host a Comic Con. I used to publish comics, and I saw a space for an event like this to come in. Honestly, I didn’t approach it as a business, and I didn’t have any long-term plans. But as the business started shaping up, we created growth plans.
How has the reception changed since 2011? More mainstream?
It’s gone from something indie to a proper commercial entity. The reception has always been awesome! We’ve been able to cultivate a lot of various communities within the pop-culture sphere. The tremendous response from Indian fans has fuelled our growth.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced while hosting Comic Con in India?
Live events are always a challenge to execute in India—from cash-flow issues to infrastructure, and from permissions to taxation… And, since I didn’t come from an events background, it was a learning experience for me and most of my team. However, the biggest challenge remains infrastructure, as it prevents us from going into many cities.
Are Indians avid comic-book readers?
No, I don’t think Indians are avid readers, in general. I hope this changes in the future.
Who are your favourite Indian comic-book writers?
I’d recommend people check out works by Aniruddho Chakraborty, Akshay Dhar, Ram V, Zafar Khurshid and Samit Basu.
What comic-books did you read as a child?
I got started on a diet of Tinkle, Amar Chitra Katha, Asterix and Tintin.
You’ve published your own comics. What is your creation process?
I was the publisher, editor and curator. My aim was to find talent and encourage them to essentially go crazy. And most times, I got some awesome comics, like Ubima, Widhwa Ma Andhi Behen, Chairman Meow and Random Magazine.
What’s your take on cosplays in India?
It’s heartening to see the growth over the past seven years, and the role that we’ve played in pushing it. The pro cosplayers in India are now at the same level, if not better, than their international counterparts! I only see this space growing. I’d recommend everyone to come to Comic Con, and you could play a simple character like Sherlock Holmes or Chacha Chaudhary.
San Diego Comic Con is the biggest in the world. How far are we from becoming something like that?
When I started out in 2011, I used to think a lot about all this because I had no idea as to how it would evolve. Today, with all the experience that I’ve gathered, I don’t see a comparison or a need to match SDCC. That market is very different and much larger than ours. Our shows will expand in our own unique way, with a mix of international and Indian content.