The inspiration for writing this piece came from the introduction (in Wikipedia) of various comic book characters that I used to be a fan of during my adventures as a little kid in Lucknow. I remember very well, the times when these comic books were the sole means of 'timepass' (I know the purists will cringe at my use of non existent English words but let them!) of a single kid in the long and hot summer vacations when you weren't allowed to go out of the house because of the raging 'loo' (double entendre intended).
Let's see what these descriptions are like:
Note on Image uploaded: I used to read comics in Hindi. So I wanted this image to be a representative of the comics I used to read. But the website of the cartoonist Pran has English translations only.
Chacha Chaudhary: "...Chacha is seen in waistcoat which has a double inside pocket. He has a 'gandhi watch' to see time and enjoys eating watermelon with relish. Whenever Chachi nags him he takes off for a walk with Sabu and Rocket...
"Chacha Chaudhary not only fights them off and help the common man but also teach them moral lessons and good behavior. Most of the events end up with goons embarrassed of their deeds. You can see middle class dealing with everyday's problems. In a way Pran takes a whip at those problems still maintaining a happy go lucky feel with twinkling eyes and smiling faces."
I have a feeling that the guy who wrote this up was in the pay of Diamond Comics.
Sabu: "Sabu is an alien from the planet Jupiter, always faithful to Chachaji and provides the physical strength in time of need. He is huge and strong, about 20 feet tall. In some comics he is able to increase his size. He wears only a wrestler's kachha (briefs), a pair of ear-rings and a pair of gum-boots. Sabu decided to stay at Earth with Chacha Chaudhary when he tasted delicious paratha and halwa made by Chachi during his visit to earth. Sabu has a twin brother called Dabu and the giant earrings that Sabu wears had been gifted to him by his mother when he left Jupiter. It is said that whenever Sabu gets angry, some where a volcano erupts. (It is generally depicted in a small bracket in a corner). Whenever he performs an act of great strength, he utters the cry, "Hu-Huba!" Sabu eats 108 chapatis at one time,12 kilos of halwa and about 20 litres of lassi in one meal.
This is a perfect example of Wikipedia being as accurate as Encyclopaedia Britannica. No comic book expert could have got those figures right unless he was a totally wasted, wretched and jobless kid in a small town in India. I personally vouch for the accuracy of the above cited figure of 108 chapatis, 12 kilo halwa etc. I have read that issue in which Chachi gets fed up and cites this figure to sober up Sabu and shake him from his jobless existence. The ruse is effective and Sabu promptly scoots off to fetch sabji for Chachi from the bazaar. Ditto for the 'Hu Huba'.
Chachi:"...In one comic she is shown with stirring a giant pot with a ladle for Sabu and serving him more affectionately than Chachaji."
When you're a kid, somehow you don't get subtle undertones of marital infidelity/extra marital affairs in Chacha Chaudhary. I am sure that the little Harry Potter fans wouldn't have guessed that Dumbledore is gay from the nuanced writings of JK Rowling either.
"Chacha's comic with 'Raaka ki waapsi',' is one of the best selling comics of Diamond Comics. Apparently Raka was put to sleep by some potion given by a saint from Himalayas and buried in the ocean in the first time. On his return by another potion he was reduced to a small size, closed in a bottle and buried in a grave."
This is indeed true. For more dramatic consequences of this read a previous post Boy Meets Girl whose hero Ghongha Basant claims that it is his favourite comic book of all time.
Another comic book that took my world by storm was the "Fighter Toads" series. It was a cold hearted rip off from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series with the creators confident that Indian kids wouldn't know who the latter are. And they were goddamned right. We loved the Toads even though their comics were expensive.
Here's the Wikipedia entry:
"Fighter Toads are the four innocent but very brave toads. Fighter toads features in Raj comics. There names are Fighterr, Masterr, Cuterr and shooterr ("terr" is the sound that toads make in Hindi comics). These were created by "Dhananjaya", one of the friends of Super Commando Dhruva, another Raj comics character.
An inspiration from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, these characters became a superhit in their very first year. These comic books were of giant size but after some time raj comics reduced the size of these comic books to normal size."
Again, I vouch for the accuracy of all facts stated but for the "...innocent but very brave toads.." part.
As I re-read whatever I have written about the passion (by no means extinct) for comics that I have nursed for so long, I realise that one post cannot do justice to all those years spent in fervent hopes of getting one's hands on just one more comic book. So let me just finish off this part without concentrating on the other comic book characters that I was fond of. So although I focus on only the clownish acts of the Indian Comic book industry in this post, I will try to cover the other, more mature facets of the same in other parts of the series of posts that I plan to write in this area.
I end with a miscellany:
The following is the video that Raj Comics have released about Nagraj. It's funny to see the new emaciated version of Nagraj in the video as well as the Matrix ishtyle stuntmangiri that he indulges in. I don't know this Nagraj...my idea of him was the usual more macho superhero. Anyway...
The following, I remember well, was the first Nagraj comic book:
This is the first Super Commando Dhruv comics "Pratishodha ki Jwala" (I remember I asked this question in the India Quiz in Inci '07 of which I was the Quizmaster):
Read "Muft Dhruva ka ek Poster". I was a total sucker for such collectibles.
The following is Doga. The Dog-Raja (hence "Dog-A"??? I wonder...) who communicated with dogs. It was a pretty dark and very violent comic with multiple scenes of mutilation, bloody killings and gore all round. I remember we had named our PT teacher "Doga". The name was so popular that even he knew it and approved of it! I still remember the day when he was called to the dais in the morning assembly for some shit and the entire college was shouting out "Doga...doga...doga...". Boy...is this nostalgic! It was a cold winter morning in December (I think) with the dystopic fog that Lucknowites know so well covering us from head to foot.
Now we come to Bhokal. The fame of this character rested on his talwar (sword) and his popularity can be gauged from the fact that "Bhokali" meant brilliant/bond/chaapu etc before we had discovered the engineering lingo that forms the major chunk of our vocabulary now.
There is also Fauladi Singh-the android whom I believe was the first instance of Science Fiction used in Hindi comic book medium. I remember it being brilliant for its times. It was one of the reasons that I found Science interesting and it made me resolve that I would become a scientist when I grew up (in response to the overly cliched question that elders bug kids with "Beta bade hoke tum kya banoge?") (...That I changed my mind as soon as the World Cup '92 (Italy) aired on Doordarshan and promised to myself that I will become a footballer instead is a different question altogether).
And now, I turn my attention to my favourite comic book of all times: Bankelal. This was a real goofy character similar to Tantri the Mantri that you read in Tinkle. One of my earliest memories is reading the first comic book of this series (below) in my room with the sunlight from the windows falling slantingly on the book (a gift from my Uncle).
TRIBUTE: The inspiration for this post is Vishal Patel. I dedicate this wretched little effort to him and his pioneering work on the comics of the '80s.
PS: This is the longest, biggest and baddest post I have written, ever! Took me close to four hours.