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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

India Comic Con!

So it turns out that there is some glamour in comics publishing, after all. There we were, an unlikely grouping of guests (myself, Fantagraphics publisher Gary Groth, and Robert and Aline Crumb) in possibly the most exotic locale imaginable for a comics convention, New Delhi.

India has a rich literary tradition and, much like the rest of the country, its publishing sector is booming. The convention itself was held in Dilli Haat, an open air market that showcases crafts by artists from different regions of the country.

Setting up the welcoming banner.

Here's R. Crumb and Aline speaking at the opening ceremony on Friday (where they had Aline light candles to officially start the show). The Crumbs were very enthused to be in India; on Sunday afternoon they went to the famed Delhi neighborhood of Chandni Chowk, where Robert managed to find a treasure trove of 1920s and 30s-era Indian music (all in original 78s, of course).

This is a comics convention, after all, and what's a comics convention (or a D+Q blog convention report) without a bunch of people dressed up in costume?

Except the stakes are higher here in India: the Best Costume winner is awarded a trip for two to Disneyland in Hong Kong (the award was given out on three consecutive nights, to three different participants).

Superman, Wonder Woman, Supergirl....but who is this guy supposed to be?

There's also an "under 8" category in the contest. Adorable!

Now everybody in New Delhi has the lowdown on Gary Groth's first foray into publishing, straight from the man himself.

Gary was back on Sunday night where he served as interviewer for an extensive and all-encompassing spotlight on R. Crumb.

I had the pleasure of meeting Sharad Sharma, the visionary founder of World Comics India, an organization that now has 600 volunteers who venture to different areas (often to remote villages in India, Pakistan, and Nepal) to give workshops on comics. The workshops focus on using comics as a tool for journalism, giving voices to those who are otherwise silent in the media landscape.

And here's the wonderful festival organizers: Jatin Varma, Eshita Ghosh, and Adhiraj Singh. They were generous and hospitable beyond the call of duty.

India postscript:

What place on earth would be the farthest from New Delhi, if not in distance, then in sensibility?

That might be Amsterdam, which is where I spent a few hours yesterday while waiting for my connecting flight.

Just before renting a bike (this is Holland, after all) I visited Lambiek, the great comics store founded by Kees Kousemaker in 1968. Kees sadly passed away in 2010, but the store lives on in his spirit and is now managed by his son, Boris (who coincidentally just returned from a vacation in India last week).

I was very happy to see Klaas Knol again (at right), whose warmth and outgoing enthusiasm I remember well from when I first met him at the Drawn & Quarterly Lambiek exhibit in 1996 (in more recent years they also showcased a solo Marc Bell art show). Klaas has worked at Lambiek since the early 1980s and he's joined here by his colleague, Abel Schoenmaker.

I love the official Lambiek bicycle (comics deliveries to their clientele?). I noticed that this particular bike model (without the pictures) is popular in Amsterdam among parents, who use the giant basket in the front to transport their toddlers (I counted three kids together on one occasion).

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