Summer vacation, back in 1970’s till early 2000’s, used to be a nightmare for every Indian child, if it happened to be without comics. These comics were an essential part of their childhood. Those who read these comics still possess some sweet memories of their superheroes. Just as time changed these fictional superheroes, comics have disappeared from the book stalls but their charm still happens to exist in their fans’ memories.
With the digital world providing an opportunity to recall the childhood memories, everything is only a click away. Click on a particular site and read on your favourite comic, just like old times. India has always had a rich culture of stories, both fiction and non-fiction involved. Be it Panchatantra, Hitopadesha or Baital Pachisi, the comic industry was dominated by the foreign characters such as Phantom and Mandrake. Later joined by Flash Gordon, followed by India’s most successful action comic hero, Bahadur.
These comics were hit among children who used to keep them in their school bags, ultimately forcing schools authorities to ban it from schools. Meanwhile, in a bid to counter foreign characters, Indian comic market began in the mid-60s with a leading English newspaper launching Indrajal Comics.
“Like most kids, I too was a big fan of comics. In my childhood, good foreign comics were hard to find. Our exposure to Superman, Spiderman and He-man was limited to evening cartoons on Delhi Doordarshan. Most of the comics were made up of Indian tales with the occasional Archie or DC/Marvel comic input, procured from the flea market. I was obsessed to Indrajal comics”, said
No comic-lover can forget Phantom and her beautiful wife Diana Pamer. Mandrek and Lothar too had their own set of fans. India’s own desi version of an inspector, Bahadur Singh was loved beyond words back then. Back in the days, there were quite a few publishing houses, prominent ones being Diamond Comics (DC) and Inderjal. “I do not know much about the fate of others but I still love to read these comics because it connects me with my childhood memories”, said Bhawna Malik, a freelance journalist. “Who can forget the jingle of DC, that used to be aired on Vividh Bharti every afternoon on Sundays back then,” she added.
“Remember Spiderman, with his ability to cling to walls, superhuman strength, a sixth sense that alerts him from danger, perfect balance and equilibrium, as well as superhuman speed and agility. He fought with evil forces and wins everyone’s heart by his courage and presence of mind. These were storybooks and comics that most of us loved reading back then,” said Vishwa Prakash, an IT engineer in Noida.
Around the 1950’s , Phantom, Mandrake, Flash Gordon, Rip Kirby and other cartoon characters were dominating the comic market in India. The success of such comic books was followed by a swarm of publishers trying to emulate these titles. Inderjal comics brought the Indian heroes into the comic world. The comic strip was created in December, 1976 and the Bahadur series focused a lot on dacoits. The stories evolved with time and portrayed the changing face of India. While beginning with dacoits in deep ravines and the small town of Jaigarh, Bahadur later moved to tackling themes such as espionage. Though Bahadur’s portrayal also changed with time as the artists drawing the series changed. If you miss Bahadur, refresh your memories by visiting Amazon to find his comics online for just Rs 77.
Commando comics have been publishing stories of action and adventure for its readers since the 1960’s. These stories, with their mixture of excitement, danger, courage, and the dynamic artwork that accompanies them, have won a loyal readership over the decades. Some online versions of these magazines are now available for the readers. They were earlier available at a very low price for renting purposes in private libraries.
Satellite television has replaced comics as a source of entertainment over the past decade. Social media and gaming websites are another threat. Falling demand saw bookstore chains. Survival meant playing to their strengths. DC has always been focused on making its books, magazines and comics available across the country, including on E-commerce websites.