Wednesday, January 27, 2010

IIPM News - Who moved my comics?

Only a superhero can rescue comic-book artists from becoming casualties of the animation industry...

Concerts, exhibitions, artwork and a display of acrobatics by none other than the elite fighter pilots from the French Air Force marked the celebrations of 50 years of France’s unique cultural export – Asterix and Obelix! As the French went all out to celebrate Asterix and Obelix’s birthday, their 34th comic book “Asterix and Obelix’s birthday – The Gold Book” was also launched. It’s been a while since a comic book created such a stir in our country. The spotlights have been fixed on the animators churning out exciting new films, and cartoons for television, which have all perhaps contributed to reducing children’s interest in comic books. Having sold 325 million copies of Asterix and Obelix comics, its co-creators RenĂ© Goscinny and Albert Uderzo are the best-selling authors of France. But in India, do comics even have an audience today?

“Channels like Cartoon Network and POGO have impacted the reading habits of children. They love to see the heroes on the small screen rather than read comic books,” opines V.G. Narendra, Managing Trustee, Indian Institute of Cartoonists. So, will it be a rare sight to see a kid spending his/her summer holidays reading comic books? Creator of perhaps India’s most famous cartoon character – Chacha Chaudhary – Prem doesn’t subscribe to the popular gloomy view about the comics industry’s future. “There was a set-back about a decade ago, due to television and other electronic media. But once again comics are coming up and their sales are increasing. This is also the effect of television and other electronic media. Like the sales of Superman and Batman comics increased because of the films, which also ended up giving publicity of the printed comics.” He has experienced the same effect with Chacha Chaudhary and relates how after a few episodes of ‘Chacha Chaudhary’ had aired on Sahara TV, there was a noticeable surge in its sales. “Both mediums are helpful in encouraging the market for each other. Now cartoons and comics are appearing on mobile phones and on the Internet, and films too are being produced.”

But where are the Prems and RK Laxmans of today? Most of us will find it very hard to recall the name of a single upcoming comic book artist.

About 20 or 30 years ago, a political cartoon used to appear on the front page of national dailies like Times of India and Hindustan Times and people liked to see the political cartoons on the front page daily. But now the whole concept of journalism has changed and the editors like to print photographs of film stars and film actresses and sports persons in place of a political cartoon. So, now cartoons have taken an exit,” says Prem, laying the blame for the decline of cartoonists on media’s shoulders. “Indian Institute of Cartoonists has plans to start on regular basis, courses and workshops for budding cartoonists,” says V.G.Narendra, who also mentions that, “A cartoonist in India earns a meagre amount for his art. Although, I feel cartoonists have the opportunity to grow in a number of animation studios.”

But will the future see iconic cartoonists like Prem and RenĂ© Goscinny emerge, or will there merely be animation studios with faceless artists; as Prem puts it, “…like a factory employing a certain number of workers and labourers.” While we can only wait to see how the future of cartooning shapes up, one thing’s for sure, that as long as there are children and a child inside every adult, cartoons like Asterix and Obelix and Chacha Chaudhary will continue entertaining – in print, TV and over the Internet.
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Source :
IIPM Editorial, 2009

An IIPM and Professor Arindam Chaudhuri (Renowned Management Guru and Economist) Initiative

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