Advantage India: Delhi’s Campfire Classics Hark Back to Golden Age of Comics

In Growth Markets by Edward Nawotka

• Indian graphic novel publisher Campfire Books has begun exporting affordable Western classics to the US and other English-speaking nations around the world.

• Among the advantages the company has is the ability to keep most of the work in-house. The company employs a bullpen of 20 full-time artists on staff to do with drawing and coloring, thus helping to keep the cost down.

By Edward Nawotka

DELHI: Indian graphic novel publisher Campfire Books is bringing their unique twist on the Western classics to the rest of the world. Indie publisher Steerforth Press is distributing Delhi-based company’s illustrated classics, mythological stories, and biographies in the United States, and there are plans to take the brand to much of the rest of the world in the coming year. Among the first six titles available in the US are Alice in Wonderland, Moby Dick, Frankenstein and The Time Machine; another 11 are expected to reach stores by the end of the year.

Campfire employs a staff of more than 20 in-house artists to do the drawing and coloring by hand and, as such, the delicate work is said to be a nostalgic throwback to the golden age of comics from the 1950s and 60s. Perhaps of more importance –- particularly to the academic market -– the books are 72- to 98-page, perfect bound, full color graphic novels and competitively priced between $9.99 and $11.99, a price point that is achievable because the content creation, as well as all the printing, is done in India.

“Certainly, one of the main competitive advantages of working from India, and the most obvious one, is cost,” says Campfire editorial director Andy Dodd, himself a native of the UK. “However, I feel there is a lot more to be gained from being here. Indian culture is something which intrigues people from all over the world. It is seen as vibrant, colorful and spiritual. It has an extremely long history, and Indian mythology is a source of intrigue and inspiration for those around the world.”

Despite being halfway around the world, the US is a key market for Campfire, notes Dodd. “In many respects, the US is ahead of other countries around the world in their appreciation of the graphic novel medium. This is particularly true with regard to the acceptance of graphic novels in libraries, and the acknowledgment of their literary value in schools and colleges. At BEA last year, I was pleasantly surprised by the number of teachers and librarians who expressed an enthusiastic interest in our titles. They were pleased to see us producing the kinds of graphic novels that would excite their students, whilst developing their language ability and visual literacy. We feel that, more than in any other country, the US will give us the opportunity to successfully sell our books, not only through retail outlets, but also into the education sector.”

Steerforth is also finding interest beyond the US and is handling distribution for Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, the Philippines and South East Asia. The publisher has forgone publishing any of their own titles to focus on launching the brand at home and abroad.

“With some titles that come from abroad you can look at the drawings and see they look like they come from Asia or the spellings are British, but these all look right and are localized for the US market,” says Steerforth publisher Chip Fleischer. “We expect them to sell very, very well.” The company expects to launch upwards of 70 titles in the US by 2011.

VISIT: The Campfire web site, where free shipping is available for worldwide delivery

DISCUSS: Is Reading a Graphic Novel Adaptation of a Classic “Cheating?

About the Author

Edward Nawotka

A widely published critic and essayist, Edward Nawotka serves as a speaker, educator and consultant for institutions and businesses involved in the global publishing and content industries. He was also editor-in-chief of Publishing Perspectives since the launch of the publication in 2009 until January 2016.