BENGALURU: When one thinks of comics, it’s always been Marvel and DC. When one thinks of comic festivals, it’s always been Comicon. But what happens to those artists who create their own art?
In a dire need to support artists who independently create their own work, there is an emerging space that attempts at giving them a voice. Such an attempt has been made in Delhi and Mumbai before and has garnered good support. In a first-of-its-kind initiative, an Indie comics festival was set up in Bengaluru this Sunday, which garnered immense support and response from both the artists and the audience.
The organisers of the event got close to 35 registrations. Free of cost, the festival held at Rangoli art centre at MG Road gave an equal forum for all kinds of independent artistes - those who are established and those who’ve just set foot in this path.
What does independent or indie mean?
One of the organisers of the event and comic artist, Madhav Nair, defines ‘independence’ as being able to have complete ownership over your work. “To be independent is to have no higher power over you and to have no ownership over your work except yourself. It’s about how comfortable you are within your own skin.”
Graphic novelist and visual artist, Appupen, compares mainstream art to McDonald’s.”These are not in the mainstream. Much like Mc Donalds - the fast food of comics. They produce so many of those every month, they don’t know where to put it. What we have is independently created by independent creators with independent stories. The mainstream ones have the same story because the superhero has to continue the same series next month also.”
Why the need for alternative comics/alternative commentary?
As long as there is a mainstream movement or art form, there will be an alternative movement or art. The alternative commentary very rarely finds space or the agency to deliver or reach out to the people. As Madhav Nair puts it, “The problem is not in finding an audience, it’s about knowing what to do once you’ve found them. These indie festivals help you get your work where you might have put them in various places.”
Appupen says that he’s often questioned about Comicon when he says he’s a comic creator, “Peoples’ idea of comics is that which is there in the mainstream. The ones who came to this festival space said, ‘it’s nice but it’s not like Comicon.’ Not many know that independent comics exist. We need to have more such independent festivals that help showcase our work. I’m sure it is something that more people would like to get into.”
Falah Faisal, creator of Musalman has often been questioned and sometimes even threatened with death for his explosive content on Islam. Even though he’s questioned by his own parents on why he produces the kind of content he does he says, “I’m the voice your people need.”
He further goes on to say, “I thought that it was necessary to talk about the minority through comics. I was surprised why no one ever thought or wrote about the idea of ‘Musalman’ before me.”
Indie comic festivals provide an ecosystem for artists
The existence of alternative commentaries and art also requires that the alternative or independent art need to be supported. In the current scenario, an independent artist has less support and exposure, as compared to the mainstream comic industry. Appupen says it’s equal to supporting an independent film for example.
“None of these indie comic festivals would be able to afford a stall in Comicon. Each stall is 40 thousand or more per day. That means you need to generate that kind of income for the stall, or otherwise, they would not go for it. Now with independent comics, you cannot afford that. This shows that those stalls cater to somebody else, not us. It’s like the mall,” he adds.