Comics are not children's books. Why outrage over Comic Con handing out 'Saga' to children?

Comic Cons are not Disneyland. Parents should have been more judicious before taking their kids to the Bengaluru event.

 |  3-minute read |   26-11-2018
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Some are calling it a fiasco. Others, a crime. On November 22, a case was registered against the organisers of Comic Con, Bangalore (November 17-18, 2018) for handing out goodie bags that contained among other things a comic book Saga that has nudity and graphic content. It is another matter altogether that Saga is a highly rated, prize winning work — an epic space opera book series. I think the technical charge is of distributing pornographic material to a minor.

One aggrieved parent has spoken to the press of how she has brought her child to Comic Con ever since the child was four. Some may aver — a parent taking a four-year-old to Comic Con is as irresponsible as a clueless volunteer handing her eight-year-old an age-inappropriate graphic work. Or, a parent being violently against tasteful representations of nudity in art, or, of the human body in general is as damaging to a growing child. And all these points of view are valid in a progressive plural society.

Central to this imbroglio is a grave cultural misunderstanding of what Comic Con is and what it represents. In our Indian mindset, humour and play are reserved for children. The idea of the graphic novel is only slowly gaining acceptance.

Elsewhere in the world, the edgiest art and narrative find full expression in comics. Graphic art runs the gamut from history to hyper-reality, from science fiction to full-blown adult content and everything in between.

comic_112518051659.jpgWe must understand what Comic Con is. It is not Disneyland. (Photo: Twitter/@ComicConIndia)

As events that celebrate the best of graphic art, Comic Cons are supercharged adult events with a jam-packed sway of innovative games, videos, geek talk, merch, massive crowds, deafening music and visitors in full regalia. And whatever it may be, Comic Con is not Disneyland.

As journalist Shrabonti Bagchi puts it:

True and also, it was not that Comic Con targeted underage kids to hand over goodie bags. Only those who had booked tickets online earlier using valid credit cards were eligible. In effect, the legality is thus this: implicitly or otherwise the transaction was made with an adult and the responsibility lies with the adult and not with Comic Con to crosscheck or filter what material is passing to their children.

The breach of trust, if any, is in that misguided belief that the event is meant for children. And that is a cultural mismatch between reality and our notion of comics.

bengaluru-comic-con_112518051715.jpgComics are beyond Chacha Chowdhry. (Photo: Twitter/@ComicConIndia)

The outrage against this event has its voices too, and has spilled over in hot debates online across social media. Many parents have vociferously aired their indignation. The courts will have to hear out both sides in this one.

Ultimately, when the battlelines are drawn, it is yet another face-off between the push for greater autonomy in our cultural spaces and the wish to curb or impose limits.

While there are limits to parental vigilance and censorship, it may be time once again to review our cultural mores vis-à-vis nudity and return again to that tired example of the carvings at Khajuraho and Ajanta. Are we devolving into more puritanism as a society?

This tweet perhaps sums it up for now:

Also Read: Stan Lee: The man who unmasked the 'superheroes' in us


Nandita Bose Nandita Bose @nand_bo

Nandita Bose is a writer, poet and occasional reviewer who calls Bangalore home. She believes elections are essential for a healthy democracy as are critiques.

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