The Lanka Comic Con Trust has been awarded a grant by the US State Department, to start a nonprofit, comic book press in Sri Lanka. It will be an art and literature platform for local creators, in all three, national languages.
"I wanted to create a sustainable comic book industry by offering printing at close to cost as possible," said Thilani Samarasinha, who came up with the idea for the press.
You see at lot of "Issue 1" comics in this town, but you don't always see them reach "Issue 2." Cost is the biggest challenge for local writers, artists, and comic book storytellers. It means creating is something they see looking back in the mirror, while getting ready for work.
But what if that changed?
What if the cost of printing was brought down, dramatically?
"I looked up the prices of printers, their specs, whether they could handle both volume and the right quality," said Thilani. "I went to Pettah and talked to paper suppliers, getting their bulk rates. Even my useless husband came, complaining."
Gradually she built a business model, for low cost, sustainable printing. The numbers worked, it just needed the equipment and supplies.
The American Center
Joshua Shen of the Office of Public Diplomacy helped us here. He liked the idea: he felt that after so many years of conflict, young Sri Lankans could use comics to to help bring communities together. He pointed out they could help, we just needed to apply and go through the process. Whenever we got discouraged, he urged us to keep working at it.
None of us have ever written a grant before. It was a bit like this:
The first comic the Lanka Comic Con Press will be producing is a Extra Ordinary, a supernatural story set in modern day Sri Lanka.
"I love comics by the big publishing houses, but they're about cultures that are not my own," said Thilani. "I wanted to write something about who we are. Contemporary, but about our history and culture."
Thilani was also keen to make sure that Extra Ordinary be written in all three languages, to make it a a properly 'Sri Lankan' comic. Translation services will also be on offer from the Lanka Comic Con Press.
"There are a lot of new comic artists in Sri Lanka now," said Nimesh Niyomal , the artist for Extra Ordinary, who previously did The Grey Walker. "But they are being pushed to digital because of costs. I feel a comic needs to be on paper."
"Nimesh, is a a total professional," said Thilani. "And he too wants to see a body of original, local comics, by other Sri lankan writers and artists."
We are hoping to have Extra Ordinary ready in time to launch at the Asus Lanka Comic Con 2017, but if not the creators will be on hand to talk about it. And of course, the Lanka Comic Con Press.
We're not ready to go public with the pricing yet, but expect a dramatically cheaper structure, allowing for both retailer and distributor margins, while maintaining a low price for the reader, and high quality printing.
Today, I am a very proud, useless husband.