The Bangalore Comic Con 2014 Experience

There are days when you really can’t believe your luck. You start off your day thinking that you are heading for an adventure. But cut to 4 hours later, the wait is killing you and you don’t know if you will get a seat. This is nothing new. But when this happened to me, I got stressed. Called the office and all I got were laughs and concern. You might be wondering why is this relevant. You see, I was on my way to the greatest geek gathering in India. Comic Con Bangalore was my destination. So there, I couldn’t wait.

 
I wanted to head straight there and experience the Con in all its glory. The Comic Con is a meeting place and a sanctuary for all. If you love comic books, zombie movies, dress-up, TV shows, science-fiction, fantasy and books, then this is the place for you. A whole new world has opened up and you are all invited. A Con is three days of non-stop passion, noise, fan-dom, cheers, laughter and mayhem. In the end, your feet will hurt, your body might be sore but you will be sad to see it end.
 
First: Lets discuss what exactly is the Con? Con stands for convention. So yes, this is a comic convention. Before you roll your eyes and say that this is just for socially awkward teens who suffer from chronic shyness, stop! You need to realise that the Con welcomes everyone. From the ultra fans to the layperson, there is no judgement, no preconceived notions, no animosity, no cliques, no set agendas or groups. All you need to do is believe in something and when you share that belief, there is a coming together of minds and hearts. That is what the Con brings forth. This is the third year of the Bangalore Comic Con. I witnessed record breaking crowds and amazing people. I talked to people from all walks of life, who had come to share their passion. You might wonder why do we need this when we have groups online. The Comic Con is not just a gathering, it  is also a showcase. A showcase of art, artists, books, memorabilia, Q&A sessions and a chance to meet the heroes of the comic art world.
 
When I landed in Bangalore, it was late, approximately  midnight, or for the geeks: “Zero Dark”.
I found some food, ate a few morsels and attempted to settle in. But sleep wouldn’t arrive. Someone must have delayed the Sandman (name him please, for 5 points). I sat up and thought about my adventure which has led me to this point. I have had a passion for the graphic arts, fantasy and sci-fi ever since I could read. And in a few hours, I was going to be amongst my people. I couldn’t sleep. I dozed fitfully and awoke to a brand new day. The Day 1 of the Con!
 
Day 1:
 
If you have ever worked events or attended events, day one is filled with surprises. Some pleasant, some not so much. But heck, it was the first day. As I walked in, the sheer size of the space made me smile. The whole area was beckoning the crowd, as if to say, come one and come all, witness the madness that is Comic Con. The banners were up, the arches set, the ticket stalls prepped and ready. I walked in and found my people. With a smile and a laugh, they handed over my All Access Pass, the golden ticket to the Con. Around my neck it went like the Ring and at once I felt like Frodo, heading for Mordor. I was just missing my Sting and Sam. But hey, I wasn’t cosplaying. More on the cosplayers in a bit. Once I entered, I saw the stalls which filled the whole convention center. We had everything from toys to collectibles to Star Wars light sabres, to art work which covered the walls and the guest section. There were t-shirts and graphic novels, bobble heads, posters and much more. As I walked around… I ran into Jatin Varma, founder of Comic Con India. One of the coolest people in the whole Con, understated and quiet, he was walking around, keeping a weather eye on the whole place. It was his brainchild that brought the Con experience to life. While talking to him, I learnt that the Con would be expecting record crowds this year. When I explored the whole convention area, I found the Stars Wars space. Felt the force and played with a light sabre while fighting the Jedi (Sith for the win). Then I saw the Cyanide and Happiness stall. It was occupied by Rob DenBleyker, the illustrator. A down-to-earth guy who just loves creating hilarious cartoons. If you ever get a chance to meet Rob, just walk up and tell him how much Cyanide and Happiness has made you smile. He will grin and he may just create a one off piece just for you. Then trooped in the fans, the cosplayers, the parents and everyone in between. We got to see costumes from different animes and cartoons and TV shows. And let me tell you, they just kept on coming. In the meantime, the guests took to the dais. The panel consisted of David Lloyd, Dan Parent, Peter Kuper and Sana Amanat. 
 
Each of them are amazing artists and story tellers. More on them in a bit. The highlight of the evening was a skype call. You might be wondering “huh?” A skype call? Yes, it was a skype call from Neil Gaiman. The creator of Sandman and many more wonderful characters took time out to talk to us. We got to hear about what drives him and his passion. He loves to tell stories. By the way, he mimics his friends, Terry Pratchett and George R.R. Martin, so well. His insight into writing for a living was an eye-opener for all. At the end of the one and a half hour session, he took questions from the audience. Every response was met with cheers and hoots from the gathered crowd. The day ended at 10:30 pm. I got to the room at 11:30 pm and crashed.
 
 
Day 2:
 
 
 
Day 2 started a bit early. At approximately 4:50 am, there was a call to prayers. Roused from my slumber, I stumbled around trying to figure out how to block sound. But no such luck. I sat up for about an hour, waiting for sleep to arrive again. This is when you look at a clock and try to figure out how many hours of sleep will you get. Nocturnal habits combined with mental math, not a good combination. At about 12 pm, I reached the venue for Day 2. Now this was Saturday and I wasn’t prepared for the sheer number of the crowd. The masses teemed and milled around. There was a whole new feeling in the air. The Con was picking up pace. The cosplayers where getting their biggest guns out (this isn’t a metaphor, some of them got fibreglass guns). There was a whole new pace. Everywhere you looked, people surged. The lines stretched as far as the eye could see. 
 
On Day 2, we had sessions from graphic artists, Amar Chitra Katha. Shikari Sambu and Supandi were walking around. On the stage, Cure and World international cosplayers performed to roars from the crowd. We even had Dan Parent and Sana Amanat talk about their work. Sana Amanat talked about her upbringing and how it shaped her work. Being a person of Pakistani origin growing up in America, she was influenced by her parents and the society. She has created Marvel’s first ever female Muslim superhero. Dan Parent has worked on Archies and he was pleasantly shocked to see so many fans. The Day 2 cosplay competition was intense. There were some brilliant costumes. Oh also, each and everyone in a costume were kind enough to pose for photographs. Take a look for yourself.
 
Day 3:
 
 
The third and final day of the Con. This is when things went nuts. Prices were dropped. People suddenly remembered that they need to get stuff. Cosplayers were stressing about their costumes and their accessories. We got to hear from David Lloyd and Peter Kuper. David worked with Alan Moore and gave us one of the most iconic costumes of the 21st century. He made V. Yes, he drew this character who has now come to signify the whole anti-establishment movement. In his own words, he said that people should realise that they should not sacrifice their individuality, they should not take things on blind faith, they should question authority and the government and strike a blow for those cannot. Because if we don’t, the world that we live in will end up in the dust. He made an impassioned plea for us to strive for greatness and in doing so, change the way the world works. That was his story for the Con. Oh also, everyone who dressed up as V got their masks signed by him. 
 
Peter Kuper felt the same way about his work in MAD magazine. Peter works on Spy Vs. Spy. These two brilliant artists listened to every request. They even posed for selfies. And for some lucky bugs, Peter Kuper even drew on their shirts. There was a session from Rob Denbleyker where he showed us some of his cartoons and he took questions from the audience. And there was another cosplay contest which ended the night. At the end of it, the whole Con slowly came to a stop. The epic ride was one of brilliance and passion.
 
As I started to make my way out, I had to stop and personally thank all those people in this whole enterprise. From cosplayers from the Bangalore Anime Club to the other cosplayers, they were so kind and generous with their time. Everyone had something to contribute and smile about. There was this feeling of camaraderie and belonging. In 3 days, friendships were forged. I said good bye to the amazing crew and staff of the Con. They were a class apart. Wonderfully warm, sweet and helpful, they made everyone’s experience at the Con superb. Each and every person who walked out of there had something new in their hearts. I got to see good art made by passionate artists. They just need a minute of your time. Support Indian artists, trust me, they are getting ready for the big time.
 
On my way out, I turned to look back at this Comic Con. It was a first for me. But what a first! An almost mystic experience. I got to share my passion with people and they shared stories of their lives. There will be more about this soon. But this was the Comic Con. Three days of non-stop excitement, emotion and fervour. That’s all you need at the Con, passion and an open mind. The rest will take place on its own. The Comic Con Bangalore 2014 has been etched into my mind. And by the way, the Con is coming to Hyderabad soon. See you then, Space Cowboys. Peace!  

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