Comic books were once the best travel companions. And they remain so in today’s digital world, with e-comics and web comics garnering popularity and reaching out to a wider audience — age no bar.
Sailesh Gopalan and Anuruddho Chakraborty are among the artists who are giving comics a new meaning with their e-comics platforms Brown Paperbag and Chariot Comics, respectively.
What is e-comic reading and how it is different from other online reading platforms?
“In India, we need to distinguish between two things — web comics and e-comics. E-comics being regular comics that come out in print and are available on platforms like Kindle, Readwhere, Comixology; and web comics being comics shared exclusively on the social/digital format, which may also find print runs later on.
“The latter obviously is doing great. E-comics, however, still have some way to go in terms of mass appeal, but I think with smartphone penetration levels increasing — and, more importantly, the higher uptake of digital payments than a couple of years before — we should see an upward trend soon,” Chakraborty told IANS.
ComiXology, an Amazon subsidiary, is a cloud-based digital comics service. With content from over 125 publishers as well as thousands of independent creators around the world, it provides a library of comic books and graphic novels.
Chakraborty says international platforms like ComiXology are gaining traction among local publishers and audiences alike, and even established brands like Raj Comics have forayed into the segment.
Comic Con India is one such initiative that brings Fandom Month every year. It is a four-week long digital initiative to reach out to fans and talk about comics, movies, TV, gaming and more.
Jatin Varma, Founder, Comic Con India, says e-comics have picked up a lot.”I think accessibility and even pricing makes e-comics popular. I personally still prefer the hard copies, but I have to admit e-comics are convenient, especially if you wish to try out a series instead of committing to buy the entire collection,” Varma told IANS.
He said this segment is growing at a good pace and the future looks good as it makes the reading experience more interactive on a tablet or mobile.
“However, it is not necessarily a threat to print comics,” he stressed.
For artists Zafar Khurshid and Anant Sagar, with Instagram and Facebook, it has become incredibly easy to post comics on multiple platforms in one swoop.
“Print in general is fading. While India is just seeing the beginning of its modern comic age, print worldwide is waning. There’s no doubt that the future is going to favour digital comics — especially as people get more and more accustomed to consuming content in this fashion. Having said that, there will also always be those of us who love to keep the physical alive,” Khurshid, who owns Meta Desi Comics with Akshay Dhar, told IANS.
Sagar, who writes and does art work for Khurshid and Dhar, says “e-comics aren’t always like your normal comics”.
“In most cases, they tend to be quick to read with comparatively simpler artwork as opposed to the detailed stuff we see in the likes of DC and Marvel. Artists don’t necessarily need to conform to a particular style, which I feel lends to the frequency and speed regarding the volume that comes out,” he said.
So how have the numbers of e-comic reading has changed over the years?
“From personal experience, I’ve been reading more of my comics online or I download digital (versions). I’ve started reading a lot of new stuff on websites, Instagram and assorted apps (like the one Marvel has). At conventions, a fair number of people ask us if we have digital versions. Even outside of conventions, I am asked if people can download our comics from somewhere,” said Sagar.
However, Khurshid feels that since they are still small and relatively young at Meta Desi, their works’ presence is still primarily based on a physical appearance at Comic Con India conventions.
Lastly, is the e-comic trend more apt for children or is it also finding clients among the older lot?
“I think e-comics cater to all age groups who have access to the net and devices to download them on. Keeping in mind too much exposure to gadgets when it comes to kids, I think it would be safer to say the youth are the real clients,” said Abhijeet Kinni, who has written strips of “Angry Maushi”, “Fanboys” and many others.