Comicization: The Indian Version
For me, getting a comic book to read was not easy in those days of being a teenager. When I used to ask my father to buy me a comic book, he replied, “You can’t even complete your educational books, leave aside the comics”. Thus, it became a reason for my being fanciful and feeling jealous about one of my bench-mates in the class. He used to bring dozens of beautifully sketched glossy comics every week and would happily flaunt it in front of us. I remember, ‘Spiderman’ from Marvel Comics was one of them. In the evening, I would eagerly sit in front of our Black and White Television set at home to watch my most awaited programs in the DD Metro Channel, ‘the cartoons’. But, sometimes I lamented over why we don’t have a cable connection (especially to watch more cartoon channels). During the breaks, many advertisements especially targeting us would
In India Comics made its mark almost around late 1940’s. The distribution of comics in India is more recent than the European, American and Japanese industries, but is nevertheless more than 80 years old. Despite the publication of about 100 million copies a year, comics in India are still largely dominated by American characters. Our comics are slightly marginal in quality than the Japanese ‘Manga Cartoons’ thus local production remains marginal. One of the earliest attempts In Indian Comics was by comic magazine ‘Chandamama’. ‘Chandamama’ has published in more than 5 languages since 1947. It developed from the adaptations of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata in the 1960s, to educational comics for children, caricatures in print media, and adaptations of American superheroes.
In Assam, ‘Rongmon Comics’ was the first coloured comic magazine published in Assamese language. It started its first publication from February 2005. It depicts Assamese fables, stories from epics, folk tale, comic story, science fictions and general knowledge.
A partnership between Richard Branson’s Virgin group, and India’s ‘Gotham Comics’, led to a new company, ‘Virgin Comics’. In 2006 it geared towards creating new lines of comics rooted in Indian mythology andIndian history. The first series of comics were published the same year, to mixed critical reviews. The main icon of Virgin Comics was the superhero Devi.
In addition to the recent development of more mature comics, in 2004, Penguin’s ‘Corridor’, by Sarnath Banerjee, which was widely advertised as India’s first graphic novel, followed by a second foray in 2007. However, a 60 page comic called ‘River of Stories’ by Delhi based artist Orijit Sen, published in 1994 by ‘Kalpavriksh’, about the Narmada Dam Projects controversy, is an important precedent and can be regarded as one of the early Indian graphic novels. In 2009, the Virgin Group pulled out of Virgin Comics, and a new company Liquid Comics has taken over with the same core team of Gotham Chopra and his group. Their significant achievements include ‘Devi’, ‘The Sadhu’, ‘Snake Woman’, etc.
Based out of Mumbai, ‘Level10 Comics’ was founded in the same year. It owns a flagship publication titled ‘Comic Jump’ that is targeted at the 18-30 male audience. They experiment with a number of genres, namely ‘The Rabhas Incident’ which is a Zombie thriller, Shaurya which is about five young people with Super Human qualities etc. They have also published creator-owned titles.
The art of Indianization
Comic artists such as Grant Morrison’s ‘Vimanarama Comic’, and Marvel’s ‘Spiderman: India’ project, were the first major release by a large comic company. It introduced India-based artists’ talent to the mainstream, and which was published in India by Gotham Comics.
Newspaper Medium Comics
In the 1990s, newspapers started publishing more caricatures of Indian origin. Among the most famous caricaturists are Joseph Arul Raj, Ashok Dongre, Anupam Sinha and Neelabh Bisen. Anupam Sinha’s weekly strip superhero “Rudra” is being hailed as trend setting in hindi newspapers like Dainik Jagran. Shiv Sena Chief Bal Thakeray was also a caricaturist when he was young, and has worked for ‘The Free Press Journal‘, where cartoonist R.K.Laxman has also worked.
The increasingly popular Web Comic medium after the radical shift from the mainstream Comics is mostly dedicated to short online comedy strips. It has also been used by a small number of Indian artists or writers. The Indian blog “Daily Humor” also publishes web comics and was featured on one of India’s premiere blogs “India Uncut“. Also famous among youngsters, ‘Savita Bhabi‘, a web comic, is possibly the first pornographic comic in India.
Very recently a new genre of comics has come up. It is known as ‘World Comics’. The Indian wing ‘World Comics India’ launched syndicated comics service in 2004 headed by cartoonist Sharad Sharma. The idea behind this service was to disseminate information on varied issues to a wider audience. Mainstreaming unheard voices through newspapers is the key objective behind “Syndicate strip service”. These Comics are drawn in four-panel format and are converted into comic strip form, so that it can be circulated to newspapers, magazines and NGOs’ journals. Through this a voice from a remote region of the country reaches the mainstream and is heard across different parallels. These are comics maybe drawn by common people living in rural hinterland and remote towns of the country. So far this strip services were circulated in Rajasthan, Mizoram, Assam and Uttarakhand.
The Final Addendum
With the advent of India’s potential and demand of quality comics, but lack of institutes for the speciality in comics art, Mr. Anupam Sinha has launched his own ‘Anupama Academy Of Art’ for specialization in departments of creation of comics.
Moreover, at this time we see a sea change in the mindset of the youngsters and others. With the advent of ‘Cable revolution’ in India, the ‘Comics Readers’ have decreased drastically in the 90’s and the internet and video games have been pouring the salt over it. Children at this age hardly know who ‘Supandi’ is but they know about ‘Doremon’. It is quite ironical that this art is facing severe competition from all sides. Ten years before, thousands like me were compelled not to read comics. But now, we ourselves are ignoring not to read them. Thus, leaving a bleak question open, “Is it going to be another ‘Dodo’?”
Definitely not! On February 2011 A Comics Convention was held at Dilli Haat, New Delhi. It happens to be the first for India that took the San Diego Comic Con (Convention) as its inspiration. This signals its horizon to reach new heights in popularizing Indian Comics over its readers nationally and globally in a more creative and innovative way in the coming years.
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