The History of Indian comics

The history of comics is almost as old as independent India. The first official comic magazine of India Chandamama was introduced in July 1947 just a month prior to when India got independence. Before that, the concept of comics was Alien to India. Britishers had some comics as part of cultural exchange but most of the Indians were not able to read them because they were not well accustomed with English at that time. However the concept of cartoons and colors do influence them. Finally, Chanda Mama was published in 1947 and marked the beginning of the comic era in the Indian history.

The history

Chanda Mama was first published in Tamil and its Hindi version came to years later in 1949  Chanda Mama had a collection of comic stories along with jokes and fun stuff like puzzles and questions and answers that appealed to the people of all age groups and idea of comics especially attracted children because of its new concept as well as the way of presentation which was quite entertaining.

However, the most popular and sophisticated form of comics was introduced in 1964 when Indrajal comics came into play. It was influenced by the west and most of its characters in the early times were directly taken from English characters like Phantom and Mandrake. Earlier most of the comics that were published were of foreign superheroes and characters and they were mostly in English. They were slowly adapted in Hindi and other regional languages and finally 1974 the first official Hindi superhero Bahadur was launched by the Indrajal comics. The first Indian superhero was a blend of West and East and he wore a kurta and jeans together.

The golden days

Finally an all Indian version of comics was introduced in 1974 in the form of Amar Chitra Katha. Although it was also influenced by western characters and fairy tales in the beginning, it gradually adapted itself to the desi versions and established itself as a source of mythological as well as historical characters caterers. It was able to inject as well as revive the interest of childrens in Indian Mythology and history. Some of its characters were adapted from mythology as well as epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata and it has some classical characters like Akbar and Birbal and Tenali Rama that are popular even now.

Diamond Comics came into picture in 1978 and it became an instant hit with characters like Lambu Motu, Chacha Chaudhary, Billu Pinky and Raman. Diamond Comics was mostly entertaining comics and it showed the way of fun and entertainment and brought the humour and the much needed fun part in Indian comics.

It also gave Indian comics its first skyfi hero Fauladi Singh that can do wonders and was more Les like a dedi version of Superman. Apart from it, Diamond Comics had some regular nice and popular characters like Chacha Chaudhari, Billu, Pinky Raman Channi Chachi and so on.

Parallel to Hindi comics also continued to publish other foreign popular characters like Phantom and Mandrake. The success of Diamond Comics was followed by Raj Comics which had some very successful characters like Nagraj, super commando Dhruv, Doga and many more.

The  success of Diamond comics was followed by lots of other comics in the market and lots of publishers came into play due to them. The 80s and 90s period saw the boom for the comics era when Indians loved Reading comics and they had a great market. But it all changed with the advent of cable and internet in the early 90s

Challenges ahead

As cable TV and then the internet came into play, it  provided lots of entertainment in different formats from movies to  casino games and gave the users lots of other options and comics became boring and stale art and forms of entertainment.

In 2000 some efforts were made to take comics digital which was quite successful. The readers were able to get back to their old nostalgic days and enjoy Comics on their Smartphones and on the internet. All this helped is reviving the glory of comics but it was not really at its best in any ways. Later on, some of the characters like Chacha Chaudhary were developed as TV characters and became quite successful. But overall the glory and success of comics that was there in the mid  80s and 90s was never repeated as it was not really able to catch the attention of its readers or adapt itself successfully as per the contemporary digital requirement.

However, there are lots of people who are always interested in going back to the old days and looking at their superheroes and characters that they loved and were brought up with. The comics industry needs to revive itself and it needs to adapt itself to the contemporary requirement and present itself in an interesting way that is acceptable to the digital and Modern Contemporary Indian smartphone user.

The comic world is gradually realizing the importance of getting contemporary and efforts have been made to revive the old glory of comic characters. Some of the characters like Chacha Chaudhary, Parmanu, Nagaraj etc. are expected to get a digital introduction soon. There is also news of some of the movies which are going to be based on these characters.

The revival

One should understand that old is gold and the present Times mostly evolves the recycling of the old stuff. Old music is being presented in an interesting way with almost all the old tunes and background music. The same format needs to be applied to the comics is well. The characters are there and they have their Goodwill. They simply need to be presented in a Modern Contemporary way and if this can be done, then the new generation is going to have an introduction to the old era and then gradually they might get back to the old habit of reading comics. The market of novels and other literature is there so it is not that people do not like reading. They just want the stuff presented in an identical manner and the comics world  will need to find the way out for it.


About the author

Tom Smith

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