December , 2017


It Happens Here :>


Connect the following: Saving up pocket money to buy them, non-stop discussions on them, fantasizing about saving the world from the clutches of evil, collecting their action figures, re-reading them until the pages have dog ears, marks and creases and for some, being downright obsessed with them. The answer to it is that these are the qualities found in Comics’ fans all across the world. We most likely started reading them because a kid in school had brought them or because an elder sibling thought they were the coolest things and we wanted to be cool. And what started as an attempt at being cool has forged into a life long love affair for a lot of people.

The all-time favourites list of comics (books and strips) is quite a long one. With superheroes, animals with intelligence that puts humans to shame and imaginative whiz kids battling it out to reign supreme, the popular ones are Archie’s, Batman, Asterix and Obelix, Spiderman, Tintin (the teen reporter turned 80 this year), X-Men, Calivn and Hobbes, Justice League, Peanuts, The Phantom, Garfield (holds the Guinness World Record of being the most published cartoon strip ever!) and a bazillion others.

Comic strips in newspapers. Credit: www.twentytwowords.com

Comic strips in newspapers. Credit: www.twentytwowords.com

“I absolutely love Batman. You can’t beat Bruce Wayne and Gotham City is eerily perfect. I love his Batsuit, the Bat-signal and I wish I could visit the Batcave. Everything about the series is great; the comics, the cartoons and the movies. I thought Dark Knight was the best of all the Batman movies. And the first comic I ever bought was a Batman one too.” muses Kiran, an engineering student. The reactions vary from one comic lover to another. Some like the stupendous superheroes, while others prefer to be blown away by the humour. “It’s fun to see how the adventures of a six year old kid (Calvin) and his stuffed tiger (Hobbes) can be so much fun to read. Whether it’s Calvin and his unimaginable imagination or Hobbes, who is surprisingly smarter of the two, the comic strip is the best. Bill Watterson uses his characters incredibly well and touches certain serious issues with an extremely sharp wit.” says Prakash enthusiastically when asked about his favourite comics. “‘Calvin and Hobbes’ is the first thing I read every morning in the paper. And I have a huge collection of its books too.” he adds with pride. What is common to most of the comic lovers though, is the fact that they don’t shy away from admitting their craze for them.

For years Indians relied on the likes of Archie’s and Tintin to fulfill their comic book hunger. Indian comic books were no where to be seen in the picture. But it started to change in the 1960’s and 70’s with comic magazines like Chandamama adapting the Indian epics Rmayana and Mahabharta. And with Anant Pai launching the Amar Chitra Katha series in 1967, the face of Indian comics started changing, but the characters were still mostly mythical and not original.  After a few unsuccessful attempts at original comic books, the revelation came when Pran Kumar Sharma, better known as Pran to the comic lovers, introduced Daabu , Prof. Adhikari, Pinki and the most famous Indian comic characters; Chacha Chaudhary and Sabu. Most of Pran’s comics were published by Diamond comics. The 1980’s saw the birth of the Indian comic book superheroes. Raj comics gave us Nagraj, Super Commando Dhruva, Doga and many others.

India's most famous comic. Credit: www.diamondcomics.tradeindia.com

India's most famous comic. Credit: www.diamondcomics.tradeindia.com

“Comics bring back wonderful memories from the past. There were many comics that I used to read but my favourites were Chacha Chaudhary, Nagraj and Tinkle. There were a large number of them and each one had a cult following of its own. I used to imagine myself in those situations most of the times and they acted as excellent stress busters. They were also a great topic to talk to friends at school. It’s a little sad to know that not many people are tuned into comics these days. The kids are definitely missing out on a lot of fun.” says Sumant, a twenty-five year old, who still takes time out to read comics.

Comics have always been evolving. Some say their origin could be traced back to the Egyptian hieroglyphics which conveyed the idea with the help of pictures. A majority of the initial comics were based on images. Words weren’t widespread until the word balloon came about. With the emergence of the likes of Underground, Alternative and Graphic comics beside the mainstream ones, comics continued their evolution in America. At the same time, the European (French, British and Italian) and Japanese comics could brag about their own contribution to comics history with their growing popularity. The growing fad of the Japanese comics, popularly known to many as Manga, through out the world is living proof of the popularity of comics even today. Movies and magazines based on Manga are widely sought after. In fact, it is so popular that it has a large number of awards dedicated exclusively to it.

The 1990’s saw the onset of something unique, something that would continue the tradition of comics but would change comic publishing as we knew it. Webcomics had been started and were appearing all over the net. Online comics, as they are also called, were published in websites and could be authored by anyone who had the basic tools. Spreading across different genres, there are close to 18,000 webcomics today. Their popularity, with the online communities and fan bases set up for them, is reaching  new heights. Some of the webcomics are now also being printed and published in newspapers.

The latest movie based on comics.  Credit: www.cmax.net

The latest movie based on comics. Credit: www.cmax.net

Comic books have always had a history of being adapted by the big screen, with the characters on paper getting flesh and blood. The reason could be lack of ideas on the film maker’s side or the box-office success (because the audience is already well acquainted with the characters) that isn’t quite guaranteed. The last decade has seen a giant rise in the adaptations with the movies being made on multi million dollar budgets with spectacular special effects in place. Some of the successful ones have been Spiderman, Batman, X-Men, Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Superman, Transformers and the newly released Watchmen. What is interesting is that each of these movies has various numbers of sequels being made on it.

“I think remaking comics into movies is a great idea. Because for people who have read the comics first, to be able to see their 2D heroes in 3D form is exciting. And if your favourite actor is playing the role, you’ll only like it more ‘cause you can idolize them all the more. I like Hugh Jackman as an actor and him playing Wolverine made the X-MEN series and X-MEN Origins better movies for me. I also enjoyed the Spiderman series.” Says Bharat, who likes to call himself a comic freak. “There is a charm in comics that is exclusive to them, which kids these days are missing out on. Once they realize it, they’ll read the comics before watching the movies. Today TV has taken over and converting comic books into TV shows is a good way of bringing them back into vogue.” adds the comic freak.

Celebrities in comics. Credit: www.artschoolvets.com

Celebrities in comics. Credit: www.artschoolvets.com

Comics seem to have taken another twist in the recent past with celebrities being introduced in them. One of the first stars to be given a comic character of his own was boxer Muhammad Ali, who was pitted against Spiderman in a 1978 edition. While Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran met The Joker and Jay Leno met Spiderman, Princess Diana was teamed with X-Statix. Not to be left behind, the Indians released their biggest stars into the fray. Amitabh Bachchan became Supremo in the ‘Adventures of Amitabh Bachchan’ and Rajnikanth became a special agent in a Tamil comic series. In a country where cricketers are idolized, it was only logical to dedicate comic books to them. As a result, ‘Sunny The Supersleuth’ and ‘Kapil Dev: Adventures of a Cricketer’ were born. The latest celebrities to be comic-ised are the American first couple, Barack and Michelle Obama with Mr. Obama joining hands with Spiderman and Mrs. Obama joining the ‘Female Force’.  “I think it’s an amazing idea to see your favorite celebrities in comic books, especially if you love them the way I do. It’s like a double treat, favourite superhero and favourite hero together. I hope they make a comic character of Hrithik Roshan one day. He’ll make a great superhero.” says Karuna, who wants him to join hands with Superman.

The irony about comics is that they were started to tell stories but have now become a part of the very stories that are being told. For all those people who already are big fans of comic books, it’s known that once you get hooked to them there’s no turning back. They let us take solace in them in a crisis, they let a part of us remain kids no matter how old we get, they let our imagination go wild and they let us enjoy the simple pleasures that are so hard to find. And for all those people who still haven’t gotten a hang of it, go ahead and take the leap. Comics give you freedom like nothing else!

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