It was like taking a trip to the mall.
“Is that Raghuvendra Pratap from Uttaran on Colors TV? Oh my god it is him! So handsome in real life!” a salwar kameez clad aunty drooled over the mid-thirties bearded actor on stage.
No, I was not in attendance at a local garba night in Navratri, I was actually attending the Mumbai Comic Con 2017. I stood there in horror, sipping my Red Bull as my friend kept nudging me to move closer to the stage. The aunties in front frantically clicked pictures on their phones, (probably to forward it their mommy-whatsapp-group) and discussed the character Raghu, arguing over who he had impregnated - the patni or the woh. And whether the character was positive or negative.
Wow, I thought to myself, fifty shades of Raghu! What the hell was going on? This almost felt like the daily lift conversations my neighbor Suneeta aunty from 5th floor had with Savita aunty from 4th floor.
The Indian Riverdale
Within minutes of walking into the convention, I had to come to terms with the fact that this event had little to do with comics, even though the name suggested otherwise. In fact it had anything and everything to do with what was #trending. And by trending, I mean American pop culture. As a typical Indian middle class child of the 90’s, the first ‘comics’ I was introduced to were second hand copies of Tinkle, Chacha Chaudhary and Pinky (The Indian Luann? Adorable AF? No? Never mind). At the time, the extent of my knowledge of American English comics was ‘Archie’s comics’. Unlike this yuppie crowd, a Rs.500 DC/Marvel comic just wasn’t something I could afford as a child. My middle class knowledge of comics was going through an existential crisis among these SoBo (a term I was recently familiarized with) millennials.
The only section that belonged
Was I in the right place? What is this? India’s version of Comic convention or comic confusion? The answer stared me right in the face as I turned around. Three cool teenagers looked down from a 10X10 feet poster. With Gateway of India as the background - Archie, Betty and Veronica all dressed in Indian attire with the heading; ‘Comic Con 2017- Mumbai Edition’.
In attendance at the Mumbai Comic Con 2017
My friends decided we had not seen enough, and as we made our way through the crowd, I spotted the section dedicated for DC and Marvel. Now that was something that belonged here. It was still too soon to tell whether there was any comic left in Comic Con. So when I went on from admiring Wonder Woman and Thor, and I bumped into a stall of stuffed toys called ‘Huggable Inspiration’ (they had stuffed toys in the form of Mahatma Gandhi), I thought maybe not!
The costume wearing, poster acquiring fandom on display
It seemed like this platform, or the comics world at large was just not ready for our desi characters. But what about the American ones? Or the global ones? Wasn’t that the whole point of a comic con? Wouldn’t a well-informed comic fan expect more? Each time I bumped into a Daenerys Stormborn, Prof. Dumbledore and Eleven from Stranger Things, I wondered if this was a joke? Someone needed to explain why there was a pre-teen in an extremely non-innocent school girl outfit, posing in front of what was a make shift 9 ¾ platform. If she belonged there, so did our desi superheroes! My comic enthusiast friends who had invited me there were still hopeful when they spotted Darth Vader and to my utter surprise, even Son Goku from DragonballZ. But imagine our disappointment after spotting epic fail attempts on Harley Quinn (who looked more like a Trans sex worker in 4 Bungalows), the Joker (who looked like he fell into a vat of paint) and a 5’2”, 50kg Hulk. I could swear that with a few of the contestants it was difficult to tell whether they were homeless or just dressed up for Comic Con. I even overheard someone discussing how some of their friends just recycled their Halloween costumes from two weeks ago. I felt cheated!
Son GOKU from Dragon BallZ
As a Comic Con virgin, my expectations had been set by Big Bang Theory. Catching the dragon in its lair. Witnessing all the nerds in action, orgasming over their geeky games, obsessing over the toys, heated arguments about how Superman would kick Batman’s ass any day. Basically just to spot them being all Sheldon Cooper-ish in the place that was their safe zone! All I wanted was to catch a glimpse of the badge-buying, poster-acquiring, comic fans who wore their fandom on their leather boots, latex pants, light sabers and chaddis over the pants. I walked through rows of stalls with identical overpriced merchandise that were selling posters, phone covers and customized notepads of the famous TV soap F.R.I.E.N.D.S, Breaking Bad, and even wait for it… Audrey Hepburn! (Even I could bet none of them belonged at Comic Con).
Rows of stalls selling identical overpriced merchandise
Having seen enough of the comic confusion, we decided to leave. On the way out, I couldn’t help but feel bad for my friends who were more than excited for this, but were now reduced to complaining about how the event was no longer about comics, or fans and how it doesn’t even seem to be progressing.
Female Ghost Rider. Image source: Comic Con India
Just as we headed towards the exit, my friend pointed. “Look at that aunty ji tugging along her kid out of the ‘My Pony Zone’ - she’s telling her kid she has to catch a glimpse of Raghuvendra from Uttaran!”
Wow, this just turned into a trip to the mall on weekends. Shopping and celeb-spotting for the parents and fun rides for the kids. We collectively turned around to watch the kid protesting, and I stopped in my tracks. It was Suneeta aunty from 5th floor in the flesh, dragging little Chintu towards the stage area. Run!
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are independent views solely of the author(s) expressed in their private capacity and do not in any way represent or reflect the views of 101india.com
By Simran Dewan
Photographs by: Simran Dewan
Cover photo credit: Comic Con India