Thursday, September 8, 2016

STGCC 2016: Booth Highlight - Diva Speaks to Indian Artist Vivek Goel, Founder of Holy Cow Entertainment

Red Dot Diva finds it exciting when foreign comic book publishers decide to exhibit their wares in Red Dot Island. When she found out that Vivek Goel , one of the first time exhibitors at STGCC 2016, was linked to an Indian publishing company called Holy Cow Entertainment, and she began look up for their books on the Internet.

Oh, and what a treasure trove that was!!

Most of the residents of Red Dot Island are not totally unfamiliar with the vivid colour, smells and stories of the Indian people, as they have been part of our history and racial landscape for centuries. However, what the locals see or hear relating to the Indian culture is only the tip of the iceberg.

So, to see how Vivek Goel, the founder of Holy Cow Entertainment, take core Indian-centric tales and reach out to modern readers in this digital age, is a wondrous and beautiful to behold. The sample pages of their books on the publishing house's social media are filled with dynamic story panels and staggeringly beautiful art, not unlike those who might see on the structures of the Hindu temples dotting Red Dot Island.

Red Dot Diva had a highly enlightening interview with Vivek Goel, to find out more about his journey in the comic books medium, his company and their publications.

Red Dot Diva: Do tell us a little about yourself, your art style and its unique points.
Vivek: Well, I hail from India, had a love for comics since childhood and art is hereditary as my mother is also an artist. It's a part of my DNA but never took my artistic career seriously and finished my grad school and probably by that time the comic art ghost was taken out from my head. You see, India is a very strange country with full of Paranoid parents, haha.
Red Dot Diva:
I don't think it's just India. Somehow I think it's an Asian thing!
Vivek: When they see something is not flourishing in India, they will go to lengths to drag you away from that and encourage you to become a Doctor, Engineer. duh!! And in worst case scenario at least get a government job so that you can be secured. Although my parents were pretty supportive, post Grad Merchant Navy dragged my attention, so I started sailing. The moment I completed my 6 months on board I realized that this was not my cup of tea!!

Came back, started drawing (as a hobby) then someone told me you are good at it, why don't you join an art school, did that an one fine day I got my hands on an issue of Fathom drawn by the late Michael Turner and that was my Eureka moment and I was like "Damn!!! I can draw this", that was the beginning of my comic book art career and my parents finally realizing that I might have found my calling completely supported me :)

Stared my comic book art career as an inker which greatly helped evolving my pencil lines, did a lot of storyboards for almost every big and small comic book company (BTW, we only have 5 here in India) but later realized that this cannot go on forever, changing publisher year by year and the treatment was also not good with huge amount of exploitation.

I am heavily influenced by Oliver Coipel, Sir Michael Turner and Ivan Reis. When I mix them all with my own aesthetics, something new popped up :)

Red Dot Diva: What was the defining moment that made you decide to start up Holy Cow Entertainment?
Vivek: As I mentioned earlier, bet. 2008 - 2011 enthusiastic people were stating up a lot of smaller companies luring us and giving us a lot of opportunities and telling us that our work will be sold on a worldwide scale and all, we kept on working, getting aid on time during that because of one way or the other the companies started going bankrupt and started shutting down one by one and none of our work worth months saw the light of the day and because of that a lot of morals were broken down and most of the people drifted to the animation industry leaving around just 34 of us proper comic book artists.

That is when I realised that we need some kind of change in the infrastructure and shuffling the ways we have been making and selling comics since ages but what can one man do? BUT then I cornered myself and asked that IF NOT DRAWING COMICS, what am I good at, nothing???? Then if you want to change something and keep on surviving, you NEED to be that change! That was the day I started Holy Cow! Entertainment with just the 3 of us and since I already have had worked with almost every big and small publishing house I had the knowledge where they went wrong and what were their strengths and most importantly, I loved the post production and printing part and my favorite - Street salesmanship. Slowly and steadily, now after 5+ years we are 14 strong and growing :D

Red Dot Diva: What positive/ memorable *and* not-so-fantastic things you have experienced while being on this journey of being a growing comic book publisher in India?
Vivek: Pro's - I started off an in Inker and that changed my life as a penciller, learned how to sell books from a cabbies to a CEO's, there have been 15 comic con's here in India since 2011 and I have attended all - THAT is probably the best thing which could happen to someone like me who ALSO started his own brand in 2011 ;) I consider this as sign of god that I was on the right path. The variety of people coming to the comic cons here in India from various financial and cultural backgrounds have given me immense experience of salesmen ship.

In one work, now that I am writing this, I love the totality of this business and will keep on doing that till the end of days.

Con's - Financial exploitation of freshers, not giving due credit in the comics that I have worked on and that's just not me, there were so many like me which resulting into breaking up their morals and making them drift towards to concept art and animation films. India never had shortage of talents BUT with us 4-5 remaining here things have started looking bright as we all have molded ourselves into a proper structure and more than enthusiasm, we now work on proper budgets and annual plannings.

Red Dot Diva: It seems that Hollywood is also getting more interested in Indian culture. How did you feel about Pixar featuring the short animated film "Sanjay's Super Team" which preceded the screening of "The Good Dinosaur"?
Vivek: Yup, because almost 80% of it is still uncharted and unexplored, I have read a lot of holy books and let me tell you whatever anyone is doing, they are just scratching the surface, there is so much more then meets the eye when it comes to India and Chinese Mythology because these 2 cultures are the oldest in the world!! My apologies, I am not much into animation.

Red Dot Diva: Do the books published by Holy Cow Entertainment focus on re-tellings of Indian classical stories, legends and myths? Will HCE progressively be expanding other genres?
Vivek: There is only one series called as "Ravanayan" which focuses on Mythology. Its one of the 2 most popular poems all across India, the second being the Mahabharata. It's actually Ramayan but its being narrated by its main antagonist - the Demon king Ravana, we decided to call it Ravanayan. You see history is always written from the POV of the victors but this time you will read Ravan's side of the story. He is still the villain and dies the same death by Prince Rama but when the villain narrates you his own story, the whole perspective changes and that is why Ravanayan is currently running in its 2nd printing :)

Post that we realized that the future of any comic book company cannot rely only on mythological takes because they are finite and they have to end somewhere. We decided to introduce our 1st IP "The Aghori" which takes place in the current timeline and its genre is Supernatural. Aghori's are mystical beings who meditate in cremation grounds and use black magic for good and because hardly anybody knew much about the Aghoris (it's basically India's answer to Constantine ;), it became instantly popular and we decided to make it our 1st flagship character and then the road ahead started becoming clearer and clearer, we needed more IP's. We needed a universe, an HCverse where superhuman characters like Aghori exist and share the same universe - the Marvel way! Now, there are endless possibilities of doing crossovers, events, trying out diff. talents (writers/artists). This came as a natural progression.
Red Dot Diva: This sounds absolutely fantastic!

Red Dot Diva: What books are you reading nowadays? They need not necessarily be comic books.
Vivek: I mostly read Graphic Novels and comics because for me they are like textbooks, i crave for knowledge and they constantly teach me. I recently finished all 3 vol.'s of Blacksad (thanks Anuraj for recommending it - amazing stuff!), next in line is Batman by Tom King.

Red Dot Diva: What made you decide to exhibit at this year's STGCC? And what do you hope to achieve from your participation at the show?
Vivek: I have decided to exhibit the complete box sets of Ravanayan and Aghori, we have completed 3 more series but there is no point pouring everything on people who are almost new and or unknown with the concepts you have worked on. Let them soak on Ravanayan and Aghori series this time and by next year when they would have soaked HCverse, we will bring in more interconnected character and comics + There is a lot of original art and loads of posters that i am bringing in. I have heard that Singapore has value for original art :)

I hope to achieve a completely new and untapped comic book market which is completely new to Indian stuff, I need to drop their jaws :) Also aiming for making Singapore a regular market for Holy Cow comics by meeting some really imp. decision making people and most importantly, I am looking to make new friends, friends cum customers, their reviews, their likes and dislikes BECAUSE that will let us know how to raise our level to the western stuff.

We publish 7 comic books per year and sell the at great discounts through our own online portal ( So,in our absence till nest Sept. people can keep on continue with our stuff as we have PAYPAL :)

Red Dot Diva: For readers who are unfamiliar with Holy Cow's books, which titles do you recommend they should start out with?
Vivek: Ravanayan to understand our culture and the greatest warriors that walked the face of earth at eons back (for Mythology lovers) but mostly AGHORI - Because the HC universe building started with that, it was nominated in the category of series of the year back to back in the years 2013-14. Aghori IS our Alpha and Omega! (this is for those who would love to delve into a universe, from cities to dense forests and from deep seas to vast space....shhhhh!!!! Spoilers lolz)

Red Dot Diva love grand epics, colourful mythologies as well as supernatural tales. So, she is eager to get hold of these books at STGCC this weekend. If you want to get to know a little more about Indian culture, and love indulging in such stories, go say hello to Vivek Goel at Booth AA-14!

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