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Comicon Express Mumbai : A Comic Addict’s journey from Delhi to Mumbai

22 Oct

It was a Friday night (yesterday, apparently) and the world was partying, while I was in the office, trying to wrap up my work as soon as possible so that I could go back home and finish my packing. After all, I was leaving Delhi early morning for Mumbai to attend the Comic Con Express – Mumbai representing Comic Addicts
Try hard as I might, it was 11.30pm before I could leave my office and reached home at 12.15am, past midnight, and was dead tired. Took an hour to pack up, another hour to grab a bite and rest my feet for a while and do my part of the preparation for the Comic Con. It was almost 3.30am by the time I was done, and the reporting time for our flight was 5.30am, so I decided not to close my eyes, coz if I did, I was pretty certain that I would miss the flight.
 At 5am I called Mayank and from his greeting it was certain that he had just got up!!! I told him to hurry up and left for the Airport. I reached at 5.30am and strolled around a bit and try to get some fresh air, for a change. I was expecting these guys to arrive any second. At 5.45am I called Mayank and he told me that he was just leaving his house!

Are you kidding me??? The boarding time was 6.30am! I took the PNR number and got the tickets, had 2 coffees while I waited for them. I was almost ready to just go and check in so that at least one of us would be there at the Con! Thankfully just as I was ready to walk in, a car stopped and out stepped the 2 addicts! Phew!

The Amazing sea link bridge
Cut. Check In. Cut Deposit Luggage. Cut Security Check. Cut. The idiots made me take my boots off. Cut. Final Call. Cut. Run. Cut. RUN HARDER. Cut. Running with my boots in one hand and the bag in the other. Cut. Just entered the feeder. Cut. Tied the boots while people stared at me as if I was a terrorist.  Cut. Finally got our seats. Cut. Stupid Security Drill. Cut. Take Off. Cut. Last minute Discussions. Cut. Final checks. Cut. Deepika Dozed off. Cut. Mayank too. Cut. I didn’t. Cut. Watched an episode of True Blood to keep myself awake. Cut. Landed in Mumbai. Cut. Got a taxi. Cut. Long way to the other side of the town. Cut. Hot Mumbai. Cut. Humid Mumbai. Cut. Crossed the magnificent Sea Link Bridge thingy. Cut. Thought it was a little narrow for a densely populated city like Mumbai (what were they afraid of? Stretching in the Sea, for God’s sake!!). Cut. Checked with a shop keeper. Cut. Reached the World Trade Centre. Cut. Wrong Gate. Cut. U Turn. Cut. Right Gate. Cut. Or so we thought. Cut. Got out of the taxi. Cut. Forgot my shirt. Cut. Went to the gate. Cut. Wrong gate. Cut. Right Gate. Cut. Enter: Comic Con Express –Mumbai!
The inauguration ceremony 
Oh man. What a sight it was! I was tired like a dog who had been pulling an ice sledge for the last 48 hours on my way here, just trying so hard not to sleep and as soon as I entered (which was from the Service Entrance, by the way), the first sight the hit me was a HUGE Avengers poster!!!
Zap. Sleep? What sleep!?! Tired? Who’s tired? Hurting? You can’t hurt me. I am Batman!
Headbangers Merchandise
Avengers blew my sleep and body ache! Next sigh, Headbangers Merc! Metallica, Slayer, Ozzy, Judas Priest Tee Shirts. Metallica Action Figures. Badges. Wallets. Everything Heavy and everything METAL.
That’s it. Who could even think of sleep after that??? Mayank and Deepika set up our stall while I went to wash my face and change in the Comic Addicts costume. It was such a rush meeting some old friends, some new ones, several ones for the first time after the Delhi Comic Con in Feb this year.
Akshay Dhar and Vivek Goel 
Saw Vijayendra Mohanty (Ravanayan), Vivek Goel (Holy Cow!), Akshay Dhar (Fellow Addict – Core Member no less, Retrograde, Werehouse), Shamik Dasgupta (another fellow Addict, Ramayana 3392 AD), one and only Kshiraj Telang (do I really need to introduce???), Abhijit Kini (UdBiMa!!!) and MANY other familiar faces.

Bombay Merch 

The good folks from Pop Culture were running all over the place trying to make sure that the cogs were running smoothly and that there were no gaps, nothing missing and basically plugging any last minute gaps. I was very pleased to meet some of our Bombay Correspondents, who had been introduced virtually – online but had never met in person. The cool Addicts who were holding the fort in Mumbai, and all of them have been doing a brilliant job, I must say, are: Aalok, Anubhav, Ashutosh and later joined by the funnyman Vinay and another really helpful volunteer and an honorary Addict, Aakash. Finally we set up the stall and your truly went for a prowl, both to click pictures for the viewing pleasure of all you good folk back home, who couldn’t attend this awesome event and of course, to scout goodies for myself 😀
I saw some really cool cosplayers and was pleasantly surprised! I was a little apprehensive after realizing the location of the venue that probably people might be reluctant to come all the way here just to attend a comic con, but I am SO glad to find out that I was utterly and completely wrong and I had severely underestimated the Comic fans in Mumbai!
Please consider this as a public apology for ever having doubted your dedication and love for the Comic books and all things comic!
Cosplayers!!

There were girls and guys dressed as Fred Flintstones, Naruto, Snow White, Hit Girl, She Hulk (YES, You better believe it and see the pics if you don’t believe me), an awesome Darth Vader, Asterix and MANY MANY more coming in by the minute!

Indian comic industry together with Comic Addicts team
The event kick started with small introduction and lightening of the lamp by the Mr Prem Kamath, Head of Channel V, India. Coincidentally one of the first events of the day was a presentation by Comic Addicts! So ALL the Addicts present took the stage, growled the calling call to gather all geeks and Mayank delivered a power packed and fun filled presentation, taking the audience through the whole idea of Comic Addicts, what, why, when who and where, discussing all aspects we aim to cover and the expectations our fans have with us and what all do we aim to deliver in the coming months! Believe it or not, but our presentation ended with representatives from Vimanika, Level 10, Holy Cow, Pop Culture and Campfire on the stage, together for the FIRST TIME EVER!!! Yes, You’ll probably want to see the pictures before taking my word for it, won’t you??
Our presentation was pretty well received and people started flocking towards our little stall to find out more about us, which felt nice, if I may say so.
I started the whole clicking pictures and explaining people about Comic Addicts. I tried to cover as many cosplayers as possible. Some of them were just brilliant and these addicts need all the encouragement they can get!

Launch of Retrograde
After a while Akshay’s magnum opus Retrograde was launched by VJ Manish and Juhi from Channel V. That was followed by none other than Karan Vir taking over the stage and introducing people to Vimanika, and launching his new publication titled Shiva: The Legend of the Immortal. This was accompanied by a very cool soundtrack for Shiva, joined by a live performance by Shahbaz Mansoory on percussions. And guess who decided to join us in the middle of the presentation? None other than the Lord Shiva himself!!! Yes, I know. We have pics to prove it, so have some faith, won’t you?

Sufi Comics

There was also a nice session by Sufi Comics, Green Gold Animation, which I am sorry to say, couldn’t cover in their entirety because of a sudden influx of dozens of Cos Players who demanded all my attention. Especially someone familiar, who was dressed as none other than Captain Jack Sparrow! Last Con’s winner Daanish, who was dressed as Jafar, was dressed as Jack Sparrow and looked absolutely AWESOME! Initially I thought it was one of those official Disney Costumes, one can order for a fortune from their website, but Capt’n Sparrow took me through each part of his costume and explained how he used different things to look like something else! The sceptic in me scrutinized EVERY part of his costume in the minutest details and believe me, if I am nothing if not a critic and cynic and if I was finally convinced about the authenticity of the costume being handmade, it HAS to be genuine! It was just mind blowing! No wonder he was one of the most popular Cos players this time around too!

Wonder Bai
Oh, how could I forget something so cool!?! Duh! We also had a sizzling hot Wonder Bai between us too!!! She is the Mascot of this Comic Con Express and was a fantastic looking cos player who totally loved her part!
The crowd kept trickling in and there were around 2000 odd people by around 3.00pm. We then had a nice session by the good folks at Level 10 who introduced us with Batu Gaiden and we also saw a kickass trailer of a Batu Gaiden ANIME!! YES!! That’s in the pipeline folks and from the previews it looks totally awesome!!!

Session with Aabid Surti
This was then followed by a very very interesting session with none other than legendary Aabid Surdi, who needs no introduction! He is one of the pioneers and a living legend of the Indian Comic Industry. He has created characters like Dabbu Ji and Bahadur and he shared his amazing experiences with us, including some very interesting facts about Osho and Raj Kapoor being fans of Dabbu Ji and Inspector Azad!
After the captivating interview / session, we were visited by some surprising guests. Bade, Chotte and Bhigi Billi from the music channel 9xM who declared the winner of the Cosplay!
The 3rd place was by Tarzan, 2nd by Jack Sparrow and the 1st by Nighcrawler!
Yes, you heard me. There was a Night Crawler, a Tarzan, A Rogue and MANY other awesome cos players!
By the time today’s proceedings ended, I am pretty sure we were visited by more than 4500 people!!! Which was an astounding and surprisingly pleasant number of people!

AGNI

The day closed with a performance of the band AGNI!!

Your humble correspondent (ok, NOT so humble after all) is dead tired but still not sleepy somehow! I just can’t for tomorrow!!! We have so many cool events lined up for Day 2 (sadly the final one too) and those who are in Mumbai and were unfortunate enough to not turn up today, this is an excellent opportunity for you to come and have the time of your life.
Trust me. Golden Kela Awards by Cyrus Broacha, Session with InkFruit.com, launch of Jungle Book, Preview of Amar Chitra Katha’s Sons of Ram, session with Holy Cow Entertainment and MANY more cool events are lined up for Day 2 and if you miss this, despite being in the city, I indeed pity thee!

Signing off… Dead Man Ridge!

EXCLUSIVE: From the desk of Vivek Goel…

4 Oct
 

AMAZING!! 
Dream a dream…
The only word that comes to my mind when I think of the Indian comic convention is “Amazing”. Trust me when I say this, Comic conventions are probably the best thing that have happened to the Indian comic industry in the last 10+ years.
Project Ravanayan and the minds behind it were totally unaware of it during the 1st Comic Con at Delhi and we, along with so many of our peers from outside Delhi, were not planning to visit it. But things totally changed as out of the blue an invite came to team Ravanayan (Vijayendra Mohanty and me) to attend the Comic Con and to conduct a workshop and an autograph signing session there. I spoke to my partner Vijayendra and decided that this is probably the best platform Ravanayan could ever get. I did not have any firm plan worked out to start Holy Cow Entertainment (HCE) by that time, I mean it was a bit dicy… I can now proudly say that it was the one of the few but best decisions that I took, that changed my position in the world of comics.

Project Ravanayan was received very well there and we made, displayed and sold two exclusive posters of Ravanayan just for the Comic Con. The ambience and the energy was just awesome, I could hardly see any kids there, it was just full of adults and that too doing cosplay – that’s what I call living for comics. For the first time in my life I felt like this is my 2nd home with so many like minded people under a single roof!!! I met at least a hundred different people eagerly waiting for Ravanayan to release – hell they liked it so much that after the convention fans tore away our standee too in their madness..lolz! But jokes apart I made a promise to myself that day, that from the next Comic Con I will not be outside a booth, I will be there inside one!!! Came back to my city and started working towards my goal and that was the turning point of my life as HCE was born!!!!
Being a Mumbaikar, I could not have hoped for anything better to have a convention in my own city, and that too when this will be the debut convention for HCE. I have a firm belief that this occasion will boost the comic supply/demand/awareness in Mumbai. Let me tell you that there is no shortage of talent in Mumbai and comic readership too, but they are not available freely in the market. 
To have a comic convention in my city is like witnessing the next stage of growth of a medium desperately needed here. Like I have said, the final battle was between Bangalore and Mumbai and there is a reason Mumbai won!! Also, World Trade Center Is a place to be, I have been there just once in my life and that too when I was a kid, its ambience is just amazing and I guarantee you that this event will be received tremendously by Mumbaikars, I guarantee u that!
HCE has a very special plan for the Mumbai Comic Con as we will be launching the 40-page double sized Issue #03 of Ravanayan over there, the occasion totally demands it.
To conclude: as I have mentioned many times in the past, HCE takes penciling interns and when I am asked by their parents about the scope of comics in India and how much their kid could earn by drawing comics, I just have to say that four new comic companies have come up in the last two years alone – and of course the comic conventions happening, if comics did not have any future in India this would not be happening and they do not ask for any further answer.
Actions always speak louder than words!
Thanks,
Vivek Goel (C.E.O. and Art Director)
Holy Cow Entertainment.

The Con is on!

1 Oct

Hello everybody and welcome to Mumbai’s first ever Comic Con. Not exactly, though, that’s a better part of the month away but for me, it can’t come soon enough. And now, let me explain why.

When I was a seven year old kid, somewhere in streets of Mumbai, I read in a newspaper about Superman’s death. Now, I wasn’t deluded — I knew that Superman is a fictional character; I wasn’t deluded into thinking that a real person had died. But he was real enough to mean something to people; so real that his death was news. And why not, if a man can fly, evade speeding bullets and melt lead with his eyes, doesn’t that make him human? Well, at least the papers thought so.
A year later, at a second hand book store, I found two issues of that storyline. I was elated! Inside that issue was a subscription form. Not knowing what a dollar is, I gingerly filled out the subscription form in that issue, and gave it to my father, who then told me about America, dollars, old subscription forms and shipping. There was another ad – for something called Chicago Comic Con (to the best of my memory) which advertised itself as the largest comic convention in the country. Whatever hopes I had of attending one of those were promptly crushed.
Now, a little less than twenty years later, India has already had it’s first major comic con – and the second one is coming in tow. Not only that, it has been so successful that it has been made an annual event, with another event being held across other major indian cities mid year. And this time it’s in Mumbai.
Oh. I understand we might not get to see international talent, I might never get my Jim Starlin & Marv Wolfman comics autographed, and I’m not deluding myself thinking that this is a worthy competitior to Chicago Comic con, Seattle Comic Con or the grand daddy of them all – San Diego Comic Con (or SDCC). But look! Look towards the comic scene in India. For a country still being tagged as a developing nation, we do have a lot of talent with these publications roaring:
India Book House
Diamond Comics
Raj Comics
Vimanika Comics
Random Magazine
Level 10 Comics
Pop Culture publications
And the newest entrée to this esteemed group, helmed by avant garde artist Vivek Goel,
Holy Cow Comics.
So, are people going to be worried about the lack of international talent? No way! Our pantheon of comic stars will be there in full attendance. We have our very own cosplayers, proud to strut around in attire which, on a road would attract attention, frowns and maybe whistles. What more could we ask for? And then there’s the recent announcement (I’m sure all of you here know about it) that Disney and Marvel are officially coming here! Seriously, you could have knocked me down with a feather!
And we’ve already had a lot of talent showcasing every month in the meetings and workshops with Leaping Windows, a library only for Graphic Novels. 
Ten years ago, this would have been called insane. Today, this is innovative…with a lot of takers. This is your chance to meet the virtual powerhouses of talent, both latent and in full technicolour.
So, enough about why you should attend. Rather, let’s just say….see you soon!

C.C.E.MUMBAI Cometh!!!

14 Sep

 

It was some seven months ago I found myself roaming through New Delhi’s “Dilli Haat”, dressed as a cheap homemade version of Batman with a paunch, along with my little brother who was a much more convincing Wolverine. Some people were even staring at us as if we were recently let loose from an asylum and were being allowed to mingle with the general public!

Most of the stares openly showed their displeasure at this freedom being given to delinquents like us, but did we care? At that point in time we wouldn’t have cared if the public had started stoning us or even if the cops locked us up.
We were on our way to The Indian Comic-Con!!!
India’s FIRST ever Comic Convention!!!
This was something I had dreamt about for several years but had expected it to turn into reality in at least my lifetime! But hey, what do we know? Dreams have a almost nasty habit of being realized overnight, when you least expect it!

Something magical had happened a few months ago. Facebook had informed us that there was a plan for a potential Comic-Con in Delhi. The word was enough to get me interested and I started following it up. Joined the page, asked the questions, responded to each post, argued, gossiped and spread the word, forced people to join, made them aware and pretty much everything I could think of doing – short of walking on the roads with a biggammajammi banner over my head! And I’d have done that too, but just didn’t think about making/finding a banner soon enough.


Anyway, I digress. So we were at Dilli Haat, in full costume, walking towards our dream coming true – and what a fine realization of a dream it turned out to be!! There were already people in costumes moving about, talking to each other, getting their pictures clicked and all-in-all having tons of fun!

We jumped right in, registered and Wolverine got instantly popular. We had worked really hard on his costume (Eh, actually the “We” was more of a “They”, rather than “Me”, to be honest) and it paid off. He was easily the most sought after cosplayer! We had oodles and oodles of fun the entire day! Got to meet so many people, several of whom have become very close and dear friends today! The second day it rained like hell but we didn’t care! We still came out, got wet, got pics clicked and had a complete blast for two whole days! DEFINITELY two of the most memorable days of our lives!!!

Team “Ravanayan” autograph session!

Interestingly I got a chance to be a Comic Addict only because of Comic Con! I met Mayank, he used to write under the title “The Adventures of M” at that time. He read a few of my reviews, noted my enthusiasm on FB about all things comics and asked me if I would be interested in joining his blog? I was busy with several other things at that time – music, work and what not – so I apologized and clarified that I might not be able to give him the amount of time he would expect from a contributing member of the group, but offered to do some guest reviews from time to time.

After I wrote my first article for him, I realized how much fun it was and that I could probably take out some time out of my schedule for it periodically. Slowly but gradually other members were joining the gang and we migrated from a small one-man blog to a group where we had writers with varied interest and everyone was completely addicted to comic books! And Hey-Presto: The name was changed unanimously to Comic Addicts!

So although I was addicted to comic, I wasn’t technically a Comic Addict. But thanks to Comic Con, I was able to take that step and get involved, rather than just standing on the sidelines and observing!
Even apart from Comic Addicts, I met SO many people who have ended up being great friends now. I met artists whose work I had seen and appreciated even more. I met people whom I had known online, but hadn’t seen them even once! And trust me, it wasn’t just me. Pretty much EVERYONE made good friends, increased their social base, got a positive, confident confirmation that we are NOT the only Geeks and Nerds around! There are a whole lot of them!!! Some even Geekier and Nerdy, so much so that they are the cool ones in comparison!
And the nominees are…

All this is courtesy Comic Con India. It wasn’t just an event or a convention. It was a movement, a chain, a reactive sequence of events, a veritable phenomenon that completely changed all our lives forever. For the better (I hope!!)

It might sound cheesy, but just think about it! If you were at the Con, just make a mental list of fellow fans and creators who you were in regular contact with prior to the Comic Con, and then compare it with who you now know AFTER attending the Con! Simply do it. You don’t need to answer or justify anything to me. I already know the answer!
For an event that was totally awesome and fun – especially for Fan boys like us – two days of festivities seemed just not sufficient! In fact, it almost felt worse than not having a Con at all!!!

Before all of this I had imagined such a thing but hadn’t really experienced it. Once CCI 2010 happened, I realized how much was I missing in life!!! It was akin to a tiger tasting human blood for the first! I have tasted of the charged energy that is the life-blood of the comics industry and two days are simply not sufficient! I want more. WE want more, don’t we?

All those goodies… *drool*

Well… Your wait it about to be over! After the huge success that was Comic Con India 2011 and after getting overwhelming response for another Con next year, it was decided to host another fest. But this time in the event would not wait a year, no – it would travel to distant Mumbai, months before the 2nd Annual CCI in Delhi next year! 
The venerable organisers of the grand event in their infinite wisdom realised that twelve months was far too long and created: Comic Con Express! A traveling convention that would give us something to satisfy our cravings between the yearly gathering from across the lands!
Comic Con Express – Mumbai, 22nd and 23rd October, World Trade Center, Cuffe Parade, Mumbai.
Huh. What on earth are you still doing here!?!
Did you miss that last line?
It’s just a little more than 41 days from D-Day!!! Why aren’t you making preparations to reach Mumbai by the 22nd of October?
Great Snakes! You’re STILL here?!
GO! NOW!!
The countdown has started my dearest fellow addicts, the clock is ticking!
So I’ll see you my friends, at the next Con… Be There
41 Days Remaining!