No other place in Delhi would have been safer than the NSIC Exhibition Ground in Okhla from 21-23 December with an umpteen number of superheroes gathered under one proverbial roof to celebrate a geeky affair known as the Comic Con.
Just like every year for the past 10 years, Delhi’ites again could not keep their inner heroes at bay and showed up all dressed as their favourite characters from tales of fiction that are comic books, video games and fantasy movies.
It was probably the “ultimate geeky wish” of Jatin Varma that brought in India the foreign concept of cosplaying, a performance art where the participants dress up as fictional characters.
“Honestly it was a personal whim. I was always into comics and I was also publishing comics back in 2010. So, for me, it was the ultimate geeky wish to be the first person to organise a Comic Con in India. And that started off the journey,” says founder of Comic Con India Jatin Varma.
Varma, just like the type of people the event attracts, is an avid comic book lover. Some of his favourites include, American Splendor by Harvey Pekar, Ministry of Space by Warren Ellis and Superman: Red Son by Mark Millar. The latter is being made into a film to be released in 2020.
Making comic books into movies has been quite a trend recently. And Varma agrees that the movies have had an effect on the popularity of Comic Con. “Yes, of course the ever increasing popularity of the movies, certainly helped get a lot of fans into the fold,” Varma says.
And at Comic Con, one could easily find comic book characters that have donned the characters as portrayed on the silver screen.
One of them was Joker, cosplayed by Ishan Singh, at the event. Singh was dressed in an orange suit in a rendition of the onscreen persona of Batman’s arch nemesis as portrayed by Joaquin Phoenix.
Joker does his Happy Dance at Comic Con India in New Delhi on Saturday, December 21, 2019. The Telegraph
Singh, original resident of Jammu who is now settled in Delhi, says he has been coming to the event for five straight years, cosplaying as different characters, including Dr Strange, Star-Lord and Wolverine.
Although Singh was cosplaying as Joaquin Phoenix’s version, he spoke like that of Heath Ledger’s Joker.
It is not for money, he says. “I like doing it,” he says, adding that he was cosplaying for himself, not the contest.
He wasn't the only one inspired by movie portrayals. Chetan, a resident of Delhi, came dressed as The Mandalorian, a bounty hunter of questionable moral conscience portrayed onscreen by Pedro Pascal — Game of Thrones’ Prince Oberyn, who refused to wear a helmet and had his skull crushed by the Mountain.
Chetan keeps his helmet on to escape the same fate as Oberyn and does justice to the character, going at length to master the art of cosplay.
The Mandalorian prepares to go to on bounty-hunting, at Comic Con India in New Delhi on Saturday, December 21, 2019. The Telegraph
Usman, another cosplayer, stands emotionless staring at the crowd, dressed up as the all-powerful Dr Manhattan from Watchmen, written by the British wizard Alan Moore.
Usman says he wanted to be the strongest being at the event, which is true as Dr. Manhattan is probably the most powerful person in the whole universe.
Nonetheless, he seems to have a better dressing sense, wearing a black suit, unlike Dr Manhattan, who prefers to be seen in his birthday suit.
Dr. Manhattan staring into the future, at Comic Con India in New Delhi on Saturday, December 21, 2019. The Telegraph
Apart from movies and comic books, some participants had original ideas for their cosplay.
Chirag, who was at the Comic Con for the second year, had given a dark touch to a friendly clown.
“I am dressed as Blueberry the Clown,” says Chirag.
The clown looks like it is from a dystopian future with claws of Freddy Kruger (A Nightmare on Elm Street) and a top hat of Mad Hatter (Batman, Alice in Wonderland).
The Blueberry Clown from a dystopian world at Comic Con India in New Delhi on Saturday, December 21, 2019. The Telegraph
Aradhya Kumar, a resident of Dehradun, was the Badge-man.
A man born of pop culture, Kumar was a walking museum show casing — in badges — the various TV shows, movies, and comic books that have had an effect on today’s world.
Kumar wore a T-shirt with hundreds of badges, including from eccentric sci—fi show Rick and Morty, gory and gratuitous Game of Thrones and giant franchise The Avengers, among others.
Badge-man, a walking pop culture musuem, at Comic Con India in New Delhi on Saturday, December 21, 2019. The Telegraph
Kumar, however, wasn’t the only museum at the event.
Amid a staggering number of stalls set up to fulfil the visitor’s superhero fantasies, stood the ‘Museum of Reality’ — an odd-looking box that was visually similar to a cramped-up haunted house.
However, the “museum” was not spooky in the gratuitous sense but fear-raising for other reasons nonetheless.
The creators of the box used visual mediums, from smartphones, twigs, and optimised cameras to show how we have destroyed our earth and are continuing to do so.
At one of the installations, if you were to wave you hand in front of the screen, you would become part of a smoke that has engulfed a bleak, dying city. And for this presentation, Delhi stood out to be the perfect place.
Other attractions, however, were not engrossed in reality, but present to fulfill your superhero dreams.
When three monsters team up to scare a little girl at Comic Con India in New Delhi on Saturday, December 21, 2019. The Telegraph
A wrestling-based stall gave you a photo-op to pose as the WWE champion and a Central Perk attraction let you on the orange sofa of the Friends much-popular café.
A shop set up by Bewakoof kicked the photo-op up a notch, using a green screen to put you in Wakanda or a war-torn battlefield.
Also, if you were to consider Bigg Boss participants as heroes, you could…. buy night suits that they wore.
The event, with or without Bigg Boss pyjamas, was a place to relax, especially during the current series of protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 (CAA), that has engulfed the city.
The Delhi protests was one of the reasons behind the lesser turnout at the event as pointed out by many participants. “The turnout is less than expected” says Ishan Singh (Joker).
Even though the protests across the national capital dwindled the number of participants, it could not dampen the spirits of the event-goers.
“It is a safe zone, a place to chill out man,” the badge-man points out optimistically.
At the event, no one seemed to care if the event was highly popular or not but focused on enjoying the phenomenon that takes place once a year, trotting around enthusiastically and in awe.
And it was the young volunteers who were the primary reason and the inspiration behind keeping up high spirits.
From dawn till dusk, these volunteers – unpaid – helped those in need and high-fived each and every person that came in with the same level of excitement from the first as well as the last entrant.
The men & women in yellow, who did not let a lesser turnout dampen people's spirits, at Comic Con India in New Delhi on Saturday, December 21, 2019. Kudos! The Telegraph
The event went on for three days with police maintaining security. However, with so many superheroes around at the event, nothing would have gone wrong.