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POSTED AT 04:15 PM 28-08-2016

Sri Lankan talent shines at Comic Con

New artists emerge as the previous generation passes on the torch

Courtesy Ishan S.

Highlights

  • Comic Con 2016 — A true gathering of Sri Lankan Geekdom
  • Broad spectrum of Sri Lankan creative talent on display
  • New generation of artistes ready to take the mantle from the old

Anyone walking into the J D A Perera Gallery on Horton Place last weekend (August 20 and 21) would have felt like they had walked into another world full of aliens, monsters and super powered ninjas. It was the weekend of Lanka Comic Con 2016, and the place to be for the true fans of geek culture in Sri Lanka.

An event that originated due to a bookseller's email going wrong, Lanka Comic Con is the brainchild of a group brought together by chance. The group, that initially met and organised geek meetups through Facebook, had always intended to launch a Lanka Comic Con. Their dream was realised last year with an event at the BMICH. One year later, the event has grown exponentially.

By noon on the first day (Saturday), the organisers reported that they had a registered participation of over 1,000 guests, including 250 cosplayers. This rapidly growing enthusiasm is testament to the hidden passion for geek culture in Sri Lanka that had hitherto had little opportunity to express itself.

 

The Torch Passes On

One of the most inspiring sights to see at the event was how artists young and old were present to share their work, portraying a promising evolution in the comic art form of Sri Lanka. From some of Sri Lanka's veteran comic artists with careers spanning three decades, to young blood revolutionizing the field today, a broad spectrum was present at Lanka Comic Con.

Veteran artist Jagath Kosmodara had started his career as a comic book artist at the young age of fifteen. Inspired by the colorful panels of Superman and Batman, he saw much enthusiasm and scope for comics in Sri Lanka in the early days of his 30 year long career. Unfortunately, the conflict that erupted after 1983 had caused the emerging industry’s fan base to stagnate. It was not until the recent golden age of the comic book movie in the west, which introduced new fans to the medium, that any signs of new growth became apparent.

Commenting along similar lines, caricaturist and digital artist Rohan Pituwala, said that there is no real comic book industry dedicated to Sri Lanka and that he wished that Lanka Comic Con could pave the way to extend the medium’s reach in the country.  Looking at the new generation and looking back at the old, Mr. Pituwala added that one of the main challenges his generation faced was the lack of reference material for them to expand their scope.

Veteran artist Anura Srinath, a maestro with cartoon, caricature, portrait design and watercolor works, was also amongst the eminent stalwarts at Comic Con. His vision was to the future, and he urged emerging young artists and writers to seize the opportunity that the boom in enthusiasm of a new age presented. He added that his generation was happy to pass the torch and to work together with the next to spearhead the formation of a comic book industry that is truly Sri Lankan.

 

 

A New Generation Emerges

The dream of a truly Sri Lankan comic book industry to satisfy the true Sri Lankan fan seems not too far off. Signs were already gleaming on the floors of Lanka Comic Con 2016 from a new generation of artists.

Perhaps the most notable was Sachi Ediriweera, who launched his maiden comic book Lionborn at the event. Lionborn is a twist on the classic Sri Lankan legend of ‘Sinha Bahu’. The first issue, which was selling out fast, showed an art form close to the pages of Conan the Barbarian, telling a tale very much inspired by Sri Lankan folklore. Sachi, who is also an aspiring film director and producer, has given this Lankan tale a truly international touch. The glossy pages of this groundbreaking first issue looked and felt like a mainstream American comic.

Another interesting vision came from young digital illustrator and game character designer Prabath Wijeyantha, whose vision of a Sri Lankan Superhero team is both unique and intriguing. His concept art of a super powered carpenter or “Wadu Bass” dressed in stereotypical white vest and checkered sarong, wielding a plasma saw and other typical carpenter’s tools with a sci-fi twist were not only hilarious but gave a much needed Lankan twist to a very western genre. He added that his work was homage to his own father who was a carpenter by trade, and that he wished to expand his concept to a Sri Lankan superhero universe.

These visions from the young and the old together with the passing of the torch of fandom and geekhood to the next generation was at the end of the day the true spirit of the Lankan Comic Con—an event that may pave the way for Sri Lankan talent to leave a mark on a world renowned industry, putting a smile on the faces of the world in inimitable Sri Lankan style.

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