Sony on Sunday released the first look of ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel titled ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-verse’ and fans across the globe went berserk at the surprise drop. The first part starring Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) as the Spider-Man in the expanded multiverse opened up to rave reviews and gained critical acclaim as well as an Oscar. The teaser trailer, however, caught the eyes of desis as a web-slinging Miles waded through India.
As the teaser opens, Miles follows Gwen Stacy through portals, and judging by the Indian classical sounds and Hindi texts appearing on the screen, Miles seems to be web-slinging across the country. While a global franchise seemingly paid tribute to the Indian comic book art, the industry finds itself in tatters at the moment.
SPIDER-MAN: ACROSS THE SPIDER-VERSE (PART ONE) – First Look
(A still from the teaser trailer)
Indian comic led the way in the 80s and 90s
In the 80s and 90s, India was considered one of the top five countries that produced superhero comics. Some of these Golden age superheroes included Nagraj, Doga, Parmanu, Shaktimaan, Dhruv, Shakti, and many more. The entire millennial generation grew up reading and savouring them.
However, comic books existed much before the aforementioned golden period as well. Chandamama comics in 1940-1950 were based on ancient Indian history. Then came the Amar Chitra Katha which became a cult phenomenon amongst the public.
The downward spiral
However, the comic book industry has been in a downward spiral in the post-millennial era. With the advent of cable TV, mobile phones, and most importantly the inability of Indian comic book publishers to reinvent themselves, the industry is slowly edging towards its end.
In the West, comic books, meanwhile are going through their golden age with big movie production houses spending millions to amalgamate the fiction of comics with the fiction of motion cameras. Meanwhile, in countries like Japan, the Manga Comic book culture is still growing and bubbling. So how did India manage to lose the plot?
Publishers running behind numbers
As Indian comic book aficionados grew in numbers in the 70s, the greedy publishers across the country went on a spree of churning volumes. Quality became a distant parameter as the focus shifted on quantity. Thus, the comic book source material became haphazard, too plastic, and at times outrageously bad.
For an industry that is solely based on fiction, the Indian creators could not find the middle ground and spectacularly soiled the bed.
Lack of comic book universe
Then came the lack of creating a cogent universe of comic books. Marvel Cinematic Universe is a term that most geeks and nerds across the world understand and use routinely in their vernacular discussion.
However, before MCU, Marvel had its own comic universe where the rules were different, the characters interacted with each other making the comic book reading experience fulfilling. The comic universe ensured that people invested for a long time and kept coming back to it, even after losing touch.
However, in the Indian comic scene, nothing of that sort transpired. Barring an occasional crossover, the comics mostly remained standalone. The characters remained in their bubbles and that led to saturation of storylines.
Compare that to Marvel or DC, their comic book universes encompass different multiverses. Meaning a Spiderman on Earth 616 might be different from the Spiderman on Earth 67.
Similarly, Barry Allen’s Flash on Earth-1 may be different from the one present on Earth-2. Thus, the creators had a vast playfield to explore their ideas, take their characters to new avenues, experiment, re-experiment and ensure that a perfect, digestible storyline is created which spans decades.
Moreover, the writers were and are paid comparatively better in the West while the Indian creators continue to work on minimum wages. The demise of Indian comic book culture was a mish-mash of a lot of external factors but mostly it boiled down to the failure of reinventing the comics with the changing times that led to the downfall.