While they have not replaced conventional novels, graphic novels are steadily gaining ground in the city.
They are full of colours, quirky drawings, designs and words written in various fonts. Fiction comes alive in them, characters move about and stories unfurl in most imaginative ways. You might see an over enthused child reading them on the bus, subway or car. In bookshops, they enhance the very look of the shelves through their appearance. They are graphic novels, the latest pop culture in the city.
Gayathri, a 20-year-old student said she started reading graphic novels recently. “I always liked to read novels and story books. But now, I only read graphic novels and comic books after a friend gifted me a manga for my last birthday,” she said. She also said that mangas are her favourite in this genre, and she has bought quite a few of them.
Atulya, a parent of a school-going child said he wants his son, who is in primary school to develop a reading habit. “It is a good thing we now have so many comic books to choose from. I have bought many for him, and he loves reading them,” he said.
Shashi, managing director of Book Worm, a book store in Church Street said that the number of readers buying graphic novels has increased after the pandemic. “Nowadays we are selling eight to nine graphic books per day. Before the pandemic hit, we would hardly sell three to four such books per week. They have become especially popular among the youth,” he explained.
Uma Krishna Gowda, owner of the shop added, “Illustrated versions of books which have been widely read such as Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens or George Orwell’s Animal Farm, 1984 or Shakespeare’s plays are being designed and published. Apart from manga, which currently tops our sold list, these books are also being bought in large numbers.”
Nivedita, a student of Christ University said, “I find illustrated novels fun to read. They are attention gripping and dynamic. I would rather watch a novel than read it,” she said. Her friend, also a student, said, “Reading graphic novels is an immersive experience for me. They help me escape the dullness associated with plain, regular academic books we read in college.”
Karunakar, manager at Blossom Book House, Church street attributed the growing sale of graphic and illustrated books in his shop to an increase in popularity of TV shows and web series. “After they have watched a show based on a comic book series and liked it, they want to read the book the show was adapted from,” he explained. He further said that Amar Chitra Katha (in Kannada), manga and DC Comics’ books were most sold from the shop. In an article, Vogue India listed 10 shows based on comic books.
Prerana, manager of Atta Galatta, a book shop in Indiranagar said that in the last one year or so, the number of graphic book titles has gone up. She said, “We now have more graphic books by more artists to sell in the shop.” She however said that graphic novels by Indian illustrators have not had much popularity. “English language comics are preferred the best in reading circles, people do not really know about Indian illustrators,” she said.
Shamik Das, a freelance digital artist and visual designer based in Bangalore said, “People prefer graphic novels or comic books because they stimulate more senses in a reader than a traditional text–based novel.” He added that with the advent of globalization and free markets, it became easier to access and buy graphic novels and comics in India from across the world. “The demand has steadily risen since then,” he said.
According to a report by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, graphic novel sales increased by 65 percent in 2021 from 2020 and 21 million more graphic novels were sold in 2021 than 2020. The report also states that India’s Animation, Visual Effects, Gaming and Comics (AVGC) sector is expected to grow 2.2 times over the next four years, will constitute about 1.5 percent of the global AVGC market. Further, the report deems the sector as a sunrise industry which will boost India’s media and entertainment industry.
According to another Nov. 2023 Nikkei (Asia) report, Amar Chitra Katha’s sales (both digital and physical copies) are growing at a rate of 40 percent every year.
Regarding demand for illustrators in Bangalore he said, “There is demand for illustrators, but they are not paid adequately. Digital artists and illustrators are sought less overall and have lower pay scale as compared to graphic designers or fashion designers, for example.”
Harsh Snehanshu, founder of Cubbon Reads, a book club based in Bangalore said, “Since the group opened in 2022, we have seen more people being interested in and engaged with illustrated books. ”He explained that a large part of the club’s membership includes the youth, and comic books are especially popular among them. “Around six out of 10 people read a comic book at our gatherings, which is a result of surging preference for digital arts as well as shorter attention spans and imaginative capability,” he elaborated.
In November 2023, the 11th edition of Bengaluru Comic Con, attended by national and global graphic art enthusiasts took place in Whitefield: at the event, several comic books were launched.
Sumit Kumar, cartoonist and founder of Bakarmax, an Indian web-comic platform observed that the interest among Indian readers to educate themselves on matters of national importance such as politics, through illustrations, and through comical and satirical means has been growing.
However, he believed that Indian graphic works are yet to match the popularity of the West’s. He said, “Although Indian graphic novels are gradually becoming more popular, comic books are something readers always associate with westernization.”