Regarding Indian Comics (Open Letter 2.0)

First of all, I want to give a HUGE thanks to everyone out there. My recent Open Letter regarding the state of affairs in the comic industry here in India not only got some lively responses here on the blog, but I also saw it being shared by both fellow creators as well as comic-fans on social media and generate some pretty intense and heated discussion – which by the way, were stunningly calm and interesting to read through.
This last bit is something that we so rarely see in online discussion that I was just a little bit amazed. Kudos to all who were partaking in the debating!

Now just so you know, the featured image I chose for this article is not just because it’s funny, but because the truth is that the sentiment is one that I have felt as a comic writer and publisher over the last 5 years – if I can hold on just long enough, this will turn out amazing.
And if you ask most of my peers out there in India, this image below from aptly named Generation Hope comic, is probably how a lot of us like to think we were when we started out:
hope3-450x338
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But the truth is that more of than not, how we actually feel at the end of the day has been more like this:
pvp20120801
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You should totally check out that webcomic by the way, it’s pretty darn funny!
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But enough trying-to-be funny/clever, let’s get to the main reason for this new post.
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poll result copyOne of the central points I gathered from the threads I read through and from the poll in my last open letter here, which is in fact something that both that post and most sellers are trying to understand, turns out to be very similar. I’ve attached the poll results as of this writing and as you can see, the primary points of interest for those polled are Story, Art and Price. (I’m stunned that almost 700 people actually took the time to vote here by the way!)
This concern is something that was pretty clearly central in the threads as well and so I decided to follow up that last letter and address this as a core query to ALL comic fans out there in the Indian audience:
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What is a good R.o.I (Return on Investment) to you as a readers?
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And before you say it, PLEASE don’t answer saying something esoteric like “good story” or “great art” or “original stories”. What I’m asking is something that needs to be addressed in a little more detail and my reasons for asking this are simple: if you can help us understand what you want more than the rest, we know where to focus our creative energies and which places are just a waste of our time and yours.
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1) There are original stories somewhere amongst all the indies, there are also great artists as well. If you look at our contemporaries out there today, even the big guns like DC and Marvel have learned that having a “house-style” of art only works to a point and have comics with a huge mix of art styles – the international indie-comic scene in fact having magnificent variants in art style from photo-real to almost child-like simplicity and just like any creative field, some try too hard and fail, some do alright and some are startling and unexpectedly amazing. The point being that when you say “good art”, that covers a lot of ground.
Do you want realistic? Highly detailed? Consistency? Cartoonish? Bright? Dark? Highly stylised in some way?
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2) And in terms of story, let’s be fair and say that not every comic is ground-breaking, not everything can be socially conscious and deeply profound or fantastically clever. Those are the ones that shine above all others and in published work in general tend to be the “hits” and best-sellers. They are the ones that every other comic aspires to be in some fashion, the greats, just like in any field.
But from a simple entertaining, quality point of view, what would you like from an Indian comic? Do you want horror, comedy, action, superheroes, realism, fantasy, sci-fi, mythology?
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3) Lastly, what do you expect a comic to cost? An average American 20-page single issue retails for no less than US$3.99 (roughly INRs. 270), and that is for say a single issue of Batman. A full-coloured 20 page comic.
Fine, maybe we can say that the average quality of those is better and more crisp and streamlined and I won’t argue that point. But then what is a fair price for an Indian comic to you? Before you answer though, remember that those bigger companies charge you $3.99 after printing maybe 20-40,000 copies to help minimise cost, because they can sell those numbers. We here can’t, not yet, and so having limited funds and wanting to bring you more comics more often, we do much smaller runs, meaning that we can only make the comic cheap to a point before we start losing money.
Now I’m not trying to guilt anyone here, just explaining the realities of business – and make no mistake that while I dislike focusing on that part of things, it IS a business and that I have in recent weeks heard the point of “R.o.I on my comic purchases” being brought up, it’s important for me to understand what the expectation is from you, the buyer.
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Perhaps we will have to stick to making black and white comics. Perhaps we will have to make them smaller in size or thinner paper or zero profit margin or only digital or something else – but to figure out how best we can make a comic that YOU would be happy to try at a price you are willing to pay, WE NEED YOUR HELP.
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So tell us. What we are doing right, what we are doing wrong, what you want and what part of that want are we succeeding and/or failing at – and maybe, juuuuust maybe, we can do some really good work together.
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I’m trying to see 2016 as a new year and new jumping on point whereby we in the comic-loving world can make huge leaps forward in bringing life to Indian comics that we ALL want to read and can be proud to call ours.
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Thank you everyone who has taken part in this discussion and been patient with me and folks like me. Without you, there is no comic industry to even bother thinking about and I remain hopeful that these posts and discussions will be stepping stones to help us get to that light at the end of the tunnel!
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Cheers all!

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