New Delhi: Children were once the biggest patrons of comic books but their absence from the ongoing second Comic Con India paints a sorry state of affairs.
The Comic Con opened with much fanfare at the capital's Dilli Haat on Friday showcasing a huge range of heroes, both new and old, from Chacha Chaudhary to Munkeeman.
Acclaimed film-maker and creator of Munkeeman, Abhishek Sharma agreed that more children were now increasingly drawn to interactive media such as internet, than comic books. "This generation of kids is more tuned in to watch television or surf internet, than read comics," he said.
However, he didn't find this trend very strange.
"I'd say it is just organic growth. With increased avenues of entertainment, the kids prefer those which are more eye-catching. Most of the comic lovers are from our generation, who grew on a staple diet of Pran and Anant Pai's creations," he said.
From eight-page booklets to big graphic novels, the Comic Con presented a wide range of comics. The annual event celebrates the use of cartoons and comics in the ancient Indian tradition of story-telling.
The three-day event will showcase 80 participants and several interactive sessions and talks by renowned artists like Robert Crumb.
Indeed the comics with their increasingly darker themes and subjects seem to be catering more to the young adults than kids.
From epic tales being told from the antagonist's perspective, such as Ravanayana, to a graphic novel by Ari Jayaprakash based in Sonagachi, the world famous red-light district of Kolkata, the new comics seem to be breaking new grounds in story-telling.
Jayaprakash said this trend meant that comics were gathering acceptance even with more mature audiences.
"The central character of my story is an Aghori woman. It is based in an alternate Kolkata, which has become a dark place. Set in Sonagachi, the story has a lot of mature themes," he said.
Incidentally, Aghoris were the central characters in more than one novel. Aghoris are devotees of Lord Shiva and are said to follow practices such as staying in charnel grounds and cannibalism.
Indian superheroes, such as the Avatars of Vishnu, were also a big subject for many books. However, while the stories largely followed the mythologies, the illustrations had a lot of Western and Japanese-style Manga comic influences with elaborate costumes and character details.
However, despite the huge number of new books, the old favorites, Amar Chitra Katha and Raj comics titles such as Chacha Chaudhary, Billu and Pinki still drew a lot of connoisseurs.
"I love Tinkle and Chacha Chaudhary. I plan to buy several new titles," said Shilpa Lal, a 19-year-old self-proclaimed Pinki fan.
"I grew up reading Nagraj, Super Commando Dhruv and many other Indian superheroes. No new superheroes can replace them," said Sanyam Kaushik (26) a management professional.
A lot of content creators also showcased their comics as apps for popular smartphones and tablets. Amar Chitra Katha led the pack with all their titles available as apps for iPad.
Besides the comics, the Comic Con also hosted several events such as live entertainment, contests and a Cosplay competition. Cosplay is a Japanese concept where people dress up as their favourite characters and prizes are given for the best costumes.