Infinite Canvas: Slice-of-life and easy to publish, web comics have a special showcase at Comic Con Mumbai this year

A visual artist finds himself at a pop-up flea market in Bangalore. What he sees around him, becomes the subject of a comic strip. The result is a tongue-in-cheek take on the urban, affluent youth. By Delhi-based Sumit Kumar, titled Guide to Hipsters, this comic, exclusively available on Kumar’s web platform Bakarmax, will be a part of the upcoming Comic Con Mumbai’s new section on web comics.

The other web comic titles that will be showcased at the two-day convention this weekend, include Viccckkky (also by Kumar) and Japanese artist Shohei Emura’s Oye Chhotu, among others. While the former is a take on the archetypal college bully, as depicted in the Bollywood movies from the Nineties, the latter is the story of a puppy, born on the streets of Delhi, and its attempts to survive.

What makes these web comics stand out in the itinerary of the Comic Con is that they defy convention in terms of content. While most Indian comics revolve around mythology, history or superhero characters, these web comics borrow from the everyday. “Web comics allow you the flexibility to experiment and set your characters in your own universe,” says Kumar.

Comic Con India founder Jatin Varma says their decision to include web comics as a category was inspired by the growing market for this format. “A lot of talent goes unnoticed merely because they cannot afford to publish their work. We want to introduce them to comic fans,” says Varma, who has invited Bangalore-based Sailesh Gopalan to the convention. Gopalan is known for his web comics that he publishes on Facebook under the title Brown Paperbag. While 21-year-old design student borrows from the everyday for his content, his comics are usually restricted to four to six panels. His characters are mostly urban youth and the stories depict their quirks and dilemmas as they navigate through life. “There is hardly any comic satire on daily life in India. Most of the work out there is political. This is what made me conceptualise Brown Paperbag comics last year,” says Gopalan. For instance, while one comic strip by Gopalan shows what transpires when the family elders want to familiarise themselves with technology, another is a comment on the concept of privacy.

The web format also allows the creator the freedom to choose the platform to publish their works. While Gopalan prefers Facebook, Instagram, and the international indie comic platform Webtoons, Kumar created his own, Bakarmax, in 2014. Here, he also allows other artists to publish their work, if it fits in. “The stories I wish to tell are usually longer and a four- to six-panel format is too small to do them justice,” explains Kumar, who has worked with the news portal Newslaundry on political comics about Naxalbari and Kashmir.

Varma believes that while both Gopalan and Kumar have garnered a following, Comic Con might be able to give the web comics the impetus it needs for it to grow.

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