As Chennai Comic Con debuts today, here are all the attending artists getting you into the groove

Our exclusive chats with artists Dan Parent, John Layman, Savio Mascarenhas, Akshara Ashok, and many others reveal what they are bringing to their panels. Cosplayer Suriya Banu also joins the chat
Artistes Dan Parent, John Layman, Alok Sharma, Roshan Kurichiyanil, Akshara Ashok, Roshan Kurichiyanil, Rajesh Nagulakonda, and Savio Mascarenas: Artworks by attending artistes and cosplayers
Artistes Dan Parent, John Layman, Alok Sharma, Roshan Kurichiyanil, Akshara Ashok, Roshan Kurichiyanil, Rajesh Nagulakonda, and Savio Mascarenas: Artworks by attending artistes and cosplayers

A celebration of comic books, comic book characters, cosplayers, artists and illustrators, movies and much more, Chennai Comic Con is quite a special event for all pop culture aficionados. As the city’s popular cosplayer, gamer, and anime nerd Suriya Banu, points out, “It is the only space where you can meet like-minded people. You might have a dozen other friends but they might not like the same kind of pop culture as you do. But here, you have the opportunity to do it.”

Naturally, for all those who are passionate about the reverence of Comic Con, there will be questions. And these are questions we have covered in our interaction with a huge list of headlining comic book writers and artists, both international and Indian!

Artists in the multiverse of comics!
Joining us for some exclusive conversations ahead of Chennai’s debut Comic Con are comic book artist and writer Dan Parent, known best for his work with the Archie titles; and John Layman, a seasoned comic book writer, known best for his original work in Chew, and with titles under Marvel and DC comics. John also gives us an exclusive bite on his upcoming work Suicide Squad: Kill Arkham Asylum, a comic book prequel to the recently released game Suicide Squad: Kill The Justice League!

Dan Parent
Archie comics are loved by many in India. An Indian adaptation was also recently released. Given your involvement with the characters in the comics for so long, what is your take on the same?

I loved The Archies on Netflix! The adaptation was wonderful. I watched it twice! I also loved the music. The characterisations were wonderful, and the movie had so much heart.

Having worked with many prominent publishing studios, and creating your run of comics, how different is your process for each?
When writing existing characters, I have to remember to stay true to those characters, even if I’m adding my twist to them. When I create my original characters (like in Die Kitty Die), I can have total freedom because I own that creation. But when I create a character like Kevin Keller, for a company like Archie, I can be more creative but still have to be within the publishing guidelines of Archie comics.

What are some Indian comic book characters you’d like to work with?
I like Chacha Chaudhury. He would be a fun character to work on.

What can attendees expect from your panel?
I usually talk about how I broke into comics, and how I got started at Archie. Since I’ve been there for 38 years, there’s a lot to talk about!

Any projects you are working on currently?
I’m working on summer and fall stories, reworking some classic characters like Young Dr Masters and Fran Frazer. I am also working on a secret project with a very popular writer that should be announced soon!

Also Read: Chennai cosplayers on the upcoming Comic-Con, the city's first

John Layman
How does it feel to be part of a Comic Con in a new city in India?

I’m so excited. I haven’t done a foreign show since before Covid-19 hit, and I love to travel. This will also be my fourth Comic Con in India, a country and culture I love greatly and I can’t wait to visit a city I’ve never been to before. I love the food, the people, places, history, colours and smells of the country.

Have you come across some Indian comics that you have taken a liking to?
Each time I’ve come to India, I’ve walked away with a fat stack of local comics. There is a tremendous pool of talented, imaginative creators. I can’t wait to see what Chennai has to offer.

You’re currently working on the prequel comic book series to the recently released Suicide Squad: Kill The Justice League game. Can we expect some drastic and iconic sequences like those occurring in the game?
I’m getting to play with some of my favourite DC characters, Harley Quinn in particular. Plus, it’s not part of the standard DC continuity, so regular comic rules don’t apply. The book is a solid ‘Rated R’ because of the bad words and ultra-violence. I get to kill recognisable characters in strange and interesting ways, which is fun.

How different is a Comic Con in India from those happening across the globe?
I go to conventions around the world and what’s most comforting is not what is different, but how much of it is similar. Irrespective of the culture, geography, or language, wherever you go, these conventions are filled with enthusiastic people with a mutual love of nerd culture and pop culture.

What can attendees at the Chennai Comic Con expect from your panel?
Honestly, whatever they want from it. I’ve been an editor, a writer, a letterer, a designer. I’ve worked for small companies, and big companies, and can reasonably answer just about any question given to me about the American comic book market (and beyond)! If you have any interest in comics and have a question, I’ll be happy to answer it. Any Indian co

Any Indian comic book publishing houses or artists you’d like to work with?
I’m always on the lookout for talented artists to collaborate with. My most recent Image book, In Hell We Fight, was drawn and coloured by a super-talented artist I met in South America. I always look at Comic Cons as a place of infinite possibilities, especially when it comes to meeting fellow creators.

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Our pick of top Indian artists to look out for!
With much to expect from internationally acclaimed artists, Indian publishing houses and their artists are also putting up quite the show at the Chennai Comic Con. With a dozen brilliant artists appearing from across the country making their way to Chennai, here are some that we suggest you meet.

Alok Sharma, founder of the Indusverse comic book series; Chennai-girl Akshara Ashok, who shot to fame with her hilarious Happy Fluff web-comics series; Roshan Kurichiyanil, an award-winning book illustrator, comic book artist and animator who kicked it out of the park as the co-creator of Cocoman, Kerala’s very own superhero; Savio Mascarenas from beloved names Tinkle and Amar Chitra Katha; and Rajesh Nagulakonda, are all set with their panels! In our conversations, they reveal what we can expect from them, and which comic book series or character would they love their creations to have a crossover with, what is it like being a comic book artiste in India and their advice to the next generation of artists. Excerpts:

How does it feel to be part of Chennai's first-ever Comic Con?
Alok Sharma: Chennai has been one of my favourite cities when it comes to Comic Culture. I am looking forward to meeting fellow comic book fans at Chennai's first-ever Comic Con.

Akshara Ashok: It feels amazing to be a part of Chennai’s first-ever Comic Con because it’s MY CITY. This feels truly special to me. I haven’t done an actual event in Chennai despite living here my whole life so I’m looking forward to this. 

Roshan Kurichiyanil: I have been involved with Comic Con India since their second-ever Con. As someone immersed in the craft of creating comic books professionally, Comic Con has provided me with an excellent platform to connect with fans of my work. Each time Comic Con expands to a new city, like Chennai this year, I am filled with excitement. This is a place where  I have a substantial following on social media and I am getting the opportunity to meet many of these folks in person. It would truly be an incredible experience.

Rajesh Nagulakonda:  Very excited to be a part of the Chennai Comic Con, as I lived in Chennai for 7 years and worked with Chandamama.  I am very thankful to Comic Con India for bringing comic creators and comic fans under one roof. 

Savio Mascarenas: Comic Con in a new place always feels special for every comic book fan. We look forward to meeting our fans and readers and we are super ecstatic!

⁠What's in store from your panel this year?
Alok Sharma: We will be bringing India's first Binge Read Graphic Novels from Indusverse with really diverse Indian superheroes for Gen Alpha and some really cute books for early readers.

Akshara Ashok: I have curated a bunch of cute products and comics people could buy. 

Roshan Kurichiyanil: I am excited to announce that I will be showcasing the first two issues of a comic book series titled Taara of the Stars, which I crafted in collaboration with an exceptional team of artists hailing from Kerala. This sci-fi fantasy adventure, tailored for pre-teens, unfolds against the backdrop of an  Indian school and is being published by Hachette India. After a prolonged hiatus from the domestic comic book scene, I’ve poured my accumulated experiences from collaborating with diverse talents within the international comic book community into this project. Additionally, I will be featuring products from our homegrown brand, Lilorosh, which my wife and I co-manage. Specializing in meticulously handcrafted items tailored for artists, such as toolkits and sketchbooks. Our products have garnered a devoted following among creatives worldwide.

Rajesh Nagulakonda: I am coming up with a picture book called Hanuman Forever and ever along with an exclusive poster collection. 

Savio Mascarenas:  I am coming with some very special and never-before-seen sketches of Tinkle characters Super Suppandi, Shambu and Mopes & Purr. There will be the Shambu collection of 10 books which were done over the past 20 years. The Shambu soft toy is also a new entry in the line of merchandise along with the T-shirts and badges. 

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What are some of the projects you're working on currently?
Alok Sharma: There are 3 New titles that Indusverse is working on currently. 

Akshara Ashok: I’m working on a children’s book and another comic book that I will reveal soon. Probably during the next Comic Con if I’m a part of it. 

Roshan Kurichiyanil: Aside from my work on Taara of the Stars, I'm currently involved in several projects with Dark Horse Comics as a colourist. One of these projects is a collaboration with Ubisoft, centred around an immensely popular video game. Over the past few years, I've had the privilege of contributing to various comic book projects for studios such as Dynamite Entertainment, Vault Comics, Image Comics, and Aftershock Comics on titles like James Bond, Giga, Blighter, Razor Blades etc. Recently, I completed colouring a book titled Skull and Bones for Dark Horse Comics, based on the beloved Ubisoft Pirates game. Also, at Lilorosh, we're thrilled to announce the upcoming launch of our latest project at the Chennai Comic Con. This project is a special collaboration between us and an uber-talented international artist, and we can't wait to unveil it. Join us at the Con to find out!

Rajesh Nagulakonda: Looking to publish my newly completed graphic novel adaptation Ithihasa written by Suraj Pratap. I am also currently illustrating 44 Acts of Violence, a graphic novel written by Krishna Pediredla and an augmented reality project. 

Savio Mascarenas: So, at the Bangalore Comic Con, I started sketching a series of Shambu, Suppandi Mopes and Purr on art paper. I have a bunch of them done and way to go. 100 is my target which I intend to finish by April. I will be displaying this series at our stalls at the Mumbai Comic Con

⁠What is the best part of being a comic book artist in India?
Alok Sharma: Well, we get to live our dream. Creating new characters and telling relevant stories we enjoy every second we spend on creating these books.

Akshara Ashok: For the longest time, people didn’t consider art as a career so I’m glad to see that changing slowly. My art has always been bold, touching on subjects people don’t usually talk about. I didn’t expect to receive such a warm welcome but people have been supportive throughout my journey. 

Roshan Kurichiyanil: Indians are inherently born with the gift of storytelling, shaped by the rich tapestry of mythology, folklore, and history that envelops our upbringing. For me, this diverse narrative landscape has been the catalyst for delving into my career as a storyteller. Comics, with their unique fusion of words and visuals, offer an enchanting platform for storytelling. As I explore this creative realm, I'm captivated by the boundless potential that Indian comics hold, recognizing that we are merely embarking on an exhilarating journey of exploration and innovation. Truly, there is nothing more thrilling than the prospect of charting new territories in the ocean of storytelling!

Rajesh Nagulakonda: I always try to explore newer styles with every subject I work with and publishers in India give that liberty.

Savio Mascarenas: For me, it's the joy of telling a story that reaches so many young children out there. Tinkle and Amar Chitra Katha have been at the forefront of inspiring and moulding the minds of generations. And I feel so proud to be a part of this journey and carry the legacy ahead.

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What are some of the challenges you explored in your journey and how did overcome them?
Alok Sharma: Every journey goes through its ups and downs and that's what makes a journey fun. When we look back and see the challenges we've faced be it societal pressure of a mainstream profession, peer pressure and other lifestyle decisions, it all feels miniscule compared to the love and adulation we've earned in the long run.

Akshara Ashok I think the biggest challenge I’m facing right now is censorship. Most of my comics about sex education and mental health get taken down. So I’m trying to figure out a way to still make this information accessible. 

Roshan Kurichiyanil: I started on my journey as an animator, but swiftly recognized that my true passion lay in storytelling, with animation serving as just one facet of this pursuit. Eager to explore the world of sequential storytelling, comics stood out as my prime interest. Back then, within India, opportunities for learning sequential art were scarce at the outset. I immersed myself in studying the works of other talented creators and gradually honed my skills, aided by the emergence of online tutorials. Despite lacking formal art education, my dedication to life drawing steadily improved my abilities. Collaborating with accomplished members of the international comic community proved transformative, as their guidance reshaped my artistic perspective. Whereas I once regarded each comic panel as a precious work of fine art, I now view them as integral components harmonizing to enhance the reader's experience on the overall page. This shift in mindset has led me to adopt a cinematographer's approach, prioritizing the seamless cohesion of visuals for narrative clarity. As I eagerly anticipate encountering new challenges, I remain committed to continual growth and learning in my craft.

Rajesh Nagulakonda:  There is an invasion of technology now and then. The only way to tackle that is to learn and ride with it. But I never deviate from my storytelling aesthetics. 

Savio Mascarenas: For a comic book artist, it's about being well-informed about your subject, and adapting to the technology. And keeping your readers engaged and interested in your art. 

Which character from a popular comic book series would you crossover with one of yours, if you had a chance?
Alok Sharma:  I would love to see a crossover between Spider-Man and Sam (hero fromStunt, my book). I would love to see them discussing their day-to-day problems as they fight the baddies in Mumbai.

Akshara Ashok: My favourite comic artist is Sarah Andersen. I would love to do a crossover with her character from Sarah’s Scribbles.

Roshan Kurichiyanil:: I would love to have Cocoman from one of my first comics, titled The Autopilot, cross over with Hellboy himself, in a story set in an Indian folklore world.

Rajesh Nagulakonda: Doctor Strange! I love the blend of quantum physics and Indian mythology.

Savio Mascarenas:  I would love to do an Asterix and Shambu crossover. It would be hilarious! Shambu is so much like Obelix, he loves to eat but, yes wants to stay out of the fight. I can imagine what antics Shambu will pull off after taking a few drops of the magic potion!

Also Read: Embracing Basant: We look at various elements drawn from the history and heritage of Hyderabad

⁠What is your advice to upcoming comic book artists?
Alok Sharma: Love what you do, and keep at it, the only way to progress as an artist is to know when to accept rejection and reject acceptance.

Akshara Ashok: My advice would be to always create what makes you happy. It’s easy to get lost while following trends now that social media is a big part of our job. So instead of doing what everyone else is doing, find your voice and style. Practice often and expose yourself to different kinds of art. 

Roshan Kurichiyanil: Draw a lot from life. Keep a sketchbook with you at all times. Learn sequential storytelling from movies and comics. Try to tell the stories that you can be honest about and keep your characters believable. Maybe start with stories about things, places and emotions that you know well and even though you take your characters into the weirdest of worlds, try and bind them to the reader using basic human emotions to forge a connection. Don’t wait to do the perfect comic. Start with one and start exploring.

Rajesh Nagulakonda: Read a lot of stories and they will inspire you to draw in whichever medium you are comfortable with.

Savio Mascarenas: Be persistent, focus on your readers and research well to keep them hooked on your art. This is a wonderful medium to communicate and tell a story. Everybody loves a good story. 
So, learn to be a good storyteller.  Experiment as much as you can, there are no rules to follow in making, or designing your comic. Make your own rules. And most importantly, listen to your heart and have fun while you are at it! 

Rs. 899 onwards.
Tickets are available online.
February 17 & 18, 11 am onwards.
At Chennai Trade Centre, Nandambakkam.

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