As an author, artist and filmmaker, Bharath Murthy used to feel his country had no platform for original, short comics. This spurred him to launch Comix.India five months ago. The multi-lingual, black-and-white indie comic magazine, floated last October, focuses on original work by Indian creators — and is gaining popularity.
Bharath first put out a submissions call for the first volume in the hope that it would stir up the nascent comics industry. Today, several submissions later, he is optimistic that the magazine will not only encourage aspiring authors and artists but will also spawn a new generation of adult comic readers. A brief glance at the artwork and stories makes one thing clear: Comix.India is trying to move away from the child-centric comics of yesterday. It’s no retelling of mythology or folk/fairy tales; here they address adult themes and issues.
Take Dr L Prakash’s Ear Rings. The story is a true-life account of his fellow prisoner’s journey to jail. Although written in an almost child-like language, the art is stark with disturbing blotches of grey and black. That the writer is a self-taught artist is evident. Also finding space in the anthology is Sudeep Menon’s crime noir about a gangster in Mumbai called Just Another Job.
The magazine hasn’t received much support from traditional publishing companies. The loss of a major publishing house also meant the limitation for Comix.India’s budget for marketing. But this is the age of the Internet and viral marketing. The magazine was promoted on social networking sites like Facebook (600 fans) and Twitter. It also made its presence known in the blogosphere. Already, www.comixindia.com has members posting artwork, critiquing each other’s work and talking comics. The site also features a blog and a database of registered artists and writers to encourage collaborative efforts.
A wary publishing industry is one reason why Comix.India has chosen to self-publish, using pothi.com. “Comics companies in India operate on an archaic ‘factory system…like a 19th-century industrial model,” Bharath notes. “It relied on our mythologies that lent themselves to the comic genre. A publisher only needed to find the artists to ink and letter the product. Here, it’s the company — not the artist — who owns the artwork. If Volume One of Comix.India does not have a theme, with stories range from memoir to essay to historical fantasy and urban detective pieces, the second volume is on ‘Girl Power’, courtesy Bharath’s film (Fragile Heart of Moe) on the female manga artists in Japan. “We have no comics for girls in India, and almost all Indian comics are implicitly addressed to male readers.” The deadline for submissions to Volume Two is April 30.