2012, the Comic Con was coming to Bombay and I was totally kicked about being there! All my favourite characters under one roof, all those issues stacked up which I couldn’t find on Flipkart or Amazon. I was ready to splurge!
There was a massive crowd around the venue. For a moment it felt like being back in the campus for MoodI, only this was bigger.
I managed to get inside after a long wait in a slow-moving line, but the sight inside was totally worth the wait! Loads of stalls selling comics, merchandise, character figures, massive colourful banners; a huge stage setup in the centre which was talking about new launches, announcing results and of course people everywhere. I was like a wide-eyed boy left in a chocolate factory full of different sorts of candies and not knowing which one to go for first.
I quickly started filling my bag up with my sought after issues, lest someone else happens to pick that very copy up, already having spent way beyond the threshold where my wife starts with a cold stare,
Parshu is a next generation Indian Superhero series, narrating the journey of a young warrior battling evils (like corruption, terrorism, violence against children and women) that pervade Indian society today
The crowd demographic was, as expected, mostly 15-35. People were wearing their favourite characters on their T shirts and buying their favourite characters’ merchandise. But all these were pre-dominantly characters borrowed from the West. India did not have a character that this generation could identify with. The limited Indian publisher stalls were mostly illustrating Indian mythological stories in their own style.
I did not know this then, but my study of the Indian comics market had started.
The seed had been sown. I had seen a huge market, albeit only in one city. I had seen what is NOT selling. I had seen an opportunity. This opportunity excited me.
That week on, I started my research of Indian comics and graphic novels. I bought whatever I could find on Flipkart. I read and re-read, I got down to the specifications of pages used, number of pages, etc., but the heart of any story is the story itself. If the story does not grip you, does not leave you with a feeling of having read something you would want to read again, then it needs improvement. There were very few such stories which could keep me interested, but then I wasn’t the target market. I needed to understand the market requirements. Delhi Comic Con was coming!
At the Delhi Comic Con I went with only one aim – to understand the market. Walking around, I selected small groups of 3-4 people and engaged them in a quick conversation about their favourite characters, what’s missing in Indian comics, and what they would want to read.
This generation wanted to read but did not have much to lay hands on when it came to Indian characters. I started thinking of a story, a character that will fill the gap that was evident in the Indian comics industry. It was March.
I spent two months in coming up with a character – ‘Parshu’ – and a story around him. Parshu is a next generation Indian Superhero series, narrating the journey of a young warrior battling evils (like corruption, terrorism, violence against children and women) that pervade Indian society today. The first issue ‘Parshu: Origins’ is about a young boy leading a ‘regular’ life and how a series of events lead him to discovering his superhero streak. While writing the ‘Parshu’ series, I wanted to give the readers a believable character. Yes there is a mythological connect, yes Parshu has a special set of abilities, but is constrained by his set of vulnerabilities that will make the readers identify with him. Parshu is not your all-capable superhero, he doesn’t fly nor dodge bullets, but he is someone who will hold on that extra bit in the face of extreme adversity when others would give up, fuelled by unwavering courage and grit, he is someone YOU can relate to. I wanted to create a character which should succeed not just in India, but reach out to an international audience as well. Bangalore Comic Con was here and it was time to test ‘Parshu’.
My friend Ankit was excited by this idea as well and decided to come to Bangalore Comic Con with me. We got a few sketches of Parshu illustrated by Rahul, a freelance artist from Kolkata (who I found on Behance). Bangalore Comic Con was huge, the crowd turnout was fantastic.
We went about talking to people, again in groups of 3-4, and showed them sketches of Parshu along with getting insights on what could be done better. People liked the character and the way it came out. By now I had decided that I was going to try and tap this unmet market need.
I was like a wide-eyed boy left in a chocolate factory full of different sorts of candies and not knowing which one to go for first
Work on the first issue of Parshu: Origins started in July. Rahul was on board for the first issue. I also went to IDC to look for talent, and talent I found – Ali (class of 2013) came on board full time. With a team of 2 illustrators, we started full steam with a deadline of launching the first issue ‘Origins’ at the September Hyderabad Comic Con.
The initial forming and storming stages of this team were quite eventful. There were a hundred ideas flowing back and forth and a thousand re-works on each panel. Having started early, these delays could be absorbed without compromising deadlines. The best part of the ideation was that we came out with the best in terms of the first issue. It looked gripping, the illustrations were crisp and the story moved at a brisk pace.
The company registration was moving at a brisk pace. The company name had been decided – Orange Radius.
The next challenge was to get a good printer. We were able to tie up with an excellent printer based out of Mumbai whose work was near perfect. We were now ready with our printed first edition and had to get the brand noticed before we hit the Hyderabad Comic Con. Social media helped immensely, we created quite a buzz before the Comic Con. It was now time for the Hyderabad Comic Con!
The first issue ‘Parshu: Origins’ was launched at the Hyderabad Comic Con with merchandise and posters ensuring that the Orange Radius stall stood out. Our slot on the centre stage set the stage on fire with an awesome launch video which left the crowd awestruck. Instead of the usual launch interview and a few words about the issue, we decided to conduct a small quiz to get the crowd involved and to drive home the Parshu brand from Orange Radius. We were able to sell all our merchandise and almost ran out of our comics stock. The Comic Con organisers later called to congratulate us on an excellent showing for our first Comic Con.
If the story does not grip you, does not leave you with a feeling of having read something you would want to read again, then it needs improvement
This is just the beginning. We have already started work on another series which is scheduled for launching in January. The second issue of Parshu called ‘Rise of the Warrior’ is slated for early November release. Bombay Comic Con 2013 in December will see us launch our third issue in the Parshu series. We are also trying to tie up with digital comic hosting websites to take our brands to an international audience. Exciting times ahead as we are gearing up for the next set of challenges and opportunities that lie ahead of us.