ACK Media | Price: INR 80 | Color | Pages: 72 | Size: B5 | HardCover
I hope everyone are enjoying another weekend with nears and dears, and to those in India, who are enjoying another long weekend, on account of Indian Republic Day, which falls on Jan-26. In keeping up with the spirit of India, here is an Indian Authentic Special Comics Post.
If you had spent your childhood in India and in 80’s and early 90’s, then you are sure to get an euphoria of sensation when you hear the name of “Tinkle”. Tinkle, is a Monthly Children's Comics Magazine, which was originally founded by Dr.Anant Pai in 1980, with the help of media-mogul India Book House (IBH), has had a continuous run spanning more than 600 issues, till date.
Dr.Anant Pai, who is fondly called as Uncle Pai, was a known figure in children's magazines, with his already well established Amar Chitra Katha (ACK, founded 1967), and the brand Tinkle only made him more famous among masses.
The idea behind starting a comic book series devoted to Indian culture and history came to Pai from a quiz contest aired on Doordarshan in February 1967, in which participants could easily answer questions pertaining to Greek mythology, but were unable to reply to the question "In the Ramayana, who was Rama's mother?"
He left his job at Times of India, and started ACK the same year, with the help of late G.L.Mirchandani of IBH, (who also took charge as the CMD of Tinkle late when it was formed), when most other publishers had rejected the concept. Later, he took on the role of writer, editor and publisher. The series went on to become a publishing milestone for the Indian comic book scene, selling over 90 million copies of about 440 titles (as per last count till the end of 2008).
On the other hand, Tinkle was an instant success with a circulation of 140,000 copies in India, at its peek, by which the comic book Tinkle has managed to capture the imagination of children since 1980s. Eventhough, it is now published mostly in English, but at the times of its popularity, it had its presence in many Indian languages. The 500th issue of Tinkle was released on Apr 18, 2004, with a grand function.
In 2007, Tinkle released 3 Collector’s Specials featuring 3 of their flagship characters, Kalia, Suppandi, and Shikari Shambu. I noticed this set on newsstands when they were reprinted early 2008, and grabbed them first-up. This special post, is to highlight the history of these Indian Genre characters, while introducing readers to this new collectibles.
#1: The Adventures of Kalia – “The Saviour of Big Baan”
The first Tinkle Special, collects some of the favourite stories of Kalia, the Crow, which is considered a flagship character of Tinkle magazine.
Kalia, the Crow made its first appearance in a comic in the first ever Tinkle issue on Dec ‘80. Luis Fernandes, the current Editor of Tinkle magazine, and an integral member of the Tinkle creative team, originally proposed this idea, amidst mixed reactions from his fellow colleagues, because of the sheer reason that Indian customs often consider Crow as inauspicious.
But, Anant Pai, along with another colleague, Subba Rao supported Fernandes in his idea, which motivated him to utilise the help of artist Pradeep Sathe to give his idea some form. The duo went on to create other support characters like Doob Doob, the Crocodile; Chamataka, the Jackal; and Keechu-Meechu, the Rabbits.
Sathe believed that the cartoonisation of an animal should not result in distortion of the animal’s anatomy, which made his drawings less cute. Eventually it turned out to be an USP for the series, contributing to its stardom.
Kalia’s storyline are typically depicted as him saving his friends (and even strangers, sometimes) like Keechu-Meechu, Elephants, from the claws of the carnivorous Doob Doob and Chamataka. While the majority of the fans felt this as a heroic act, there were some fan base who rated Kalia as interfering busybody, snatching away food from the animals, for whom the nature had intended them as a rightful prey.
The justification for this criticism, was soon felt by Fernandes, and he quickly tried to base the new storylines in a different setting, where in some stories Kalia was even shown helping, and rescuing Doob-Doob and Chamataka from several incidents. Sathe resigned from Tinkle in late 1983, and he never drew for Kalia again. Fernandes continued writing stories for a few months, after which new writers and artists kept the flag flying high, which has resulted in the Kalia series lasting till date, completing 28 years of existence, as of Dec ‘08.
C D Rane, the current artists of Kalia, adds “I’ve been illustrating this character since 1992, when Kalia’s creator Pradeep Sathe left for another job. When I first started drawing Kalia, I kept to the original construction and the way in which he had been formed. After noticing crows, I’ve made Kalia’s beak and wings longer and if I had to draw him in a crowd, I’d make him different by putting expressions on his face.”
But, the debate of Kalia’s existence is still a hot topic, which recently prompted a group of fans, to create an exclusive website which features a web-comic relating to the Death of Kalia. More than the humour associated to it, it goes to show that Kalia has made an impact in many children's memories, which they carry over even after their teens, and try to impart it to their kids, and so on.
Tamil Comic fans, will remember that Kalia used to be a regular feature in the erstwhile Tamil Children's Magazine Poonthalir (பூந்தளிர்), where it was named as Kaakai Kaali (காக்கை காளி). No wonder it continues to remain one of my favourite comic characters ever to have been released in India. Thus, this Special collection turns out to be a favourite pick for anyone who shared the same passion.
|Kalia in Poonthalir as Kaakai Kaali|
#2: The Adventures of Suppandi - “The Village Simpleton”
Suppandi made his debut in Tinkle No.27 in Jan ‘83. For a change, he was not originally conceptualized by the creators of Tinkle. He was born out of 3 narrative stories sent by P.Varadarajan from Chennai (makes me proud, as I a Chennaite too). The concept was rendered into comics format in Tinkle studios, with the illustrations by one of the famous yesteryear artists, Ram Waeerkar.
Even though, stories of dim-wits, always had an universal appeal, Suppandi fans would not describe him as a fool. He is more a simpleton, who gets into troubles because he insists on thinking for himself, then being dictated by the orders of his master.
Best example, is in the very first story, where his mistress wants him to call a doctor as she has a fever, but instead of following orders as any other domestic help would, he gets a brainwave and decides to treat her himself. The consequences of course are, as expected, disastrous.
No wonder, Suppandi was an instant success with Tinkle readers, as they were able to relate him to every day common man found in their locality (no pun intended). Readers were amused and Tinkle’s editor Fernandes states that they started receiving a lot of story contributions from Suppandi fans, and the editors realised that the simpleton with the funny, rectangular head, had come to stay. Suppandi is loved across genre, by children's, teens, and adults.
Ram Waeerkar carried on drawing for Suppandi till the early 2003, after which it is now being taken care by the talented Ram Waeerkar’s daughter, Archana Amberkar.
“I’ve given my identity to the character, though it’s a challenge to continue my father’s work. I’ve given him a squarish head and rectangular chin; also the parts I like to draw best.”
The popularity of Suppandi even prompted Tinkle, to introduce an offshoot comic series based on Suppandi’s early life, titled as “Little Suppandi”.
Tamil Comic fans, will remember that Suppandi was also featured in the erstwhile Tamil Children's Magazine Poonthalir (பூந்தளிர்), where the comic strip was titled as “Suppaandiyin Saagasam” (சுப்பாண்டியின் சாகசம்), which literally translates to the current title of Tinkle Special. Need I have to say that this is my favourite character too, as it goes without saying from the narration above.
|Suppandi in Poonthalir as Suppaandiyin Saagasam|
#3: The Adventures of Shikari Shambu: - “The Hunter with a difference”
By 1983, Tinkle was already on its way becoming the most popular children’s magazine. There biggest rival that time was another children magazine named Target, run by Living Media. Unlike Tinkle, Target was more a narrative magazine, with a few pages of comics.
Their flagship character that time was Moochwala by Ajit Ninan, which literally means a ‘man with a moustache’, who was a detective with penetrating eyes and a huge moustache.
Tinkle always wanted to create a character which can stand toe-to-toe against Moochwala. Subba Rao, one of the creators at Tinkle, once proposed the idea to the editorial team, to base a character in similarity to a character in the then famous TV Serial, I Love Lucy (which seems to be more classical for my genre’s liking), where he was described as a boastful but cowardly big game hunter.
Luis Fernandes then worked on producing the first story, which was originally named Shambu, before Subba Rao prefixed Shikari (meaning Hunter, in Hindi) to the name. Some of his editorial team-mates had reservation over the use of the name Shikari, as the Wild-Life Conservation theme was in its prominence. But, the sheer charisma of the name, they and Edtor Pai, decided to let it continue. But, contrary to the name, the creators ensured that Shambu never would shoot or kill any animal in any of its episodes. More than that, creators slowly even disassociated him from his trademark hunting gun, after few episodes.
One of the reasons for the popularity of Shikari Shambu, was due to the comical illustrations of the artist, Vasant Halbe. Halbe, who was a freelancer at Tinkle that time, had impressed the editorial team with his earlier works. One he was confirmed officially as the artist for the series, he showcased his character sketches, of which a drawing of Shikari with his Topi (hat) pulled down over his eyes, caught everyone’s attention. The sketch went on to be the among the flagship character of Tinkle.
Savio Mascarenhas, the current artist of the series, adds “I began illustrating Shambu only when Halbe retired in 1997-98. His style was brush/free hand drawings that flowed and it was tough to copy that. But I think both our styles have blended beautifully.”
Like Suppaandi, Shambu also has an offshoot series featuring his young life, titled ‘Little Shambu’, who was created and being drawn also by Mascrenhas. Till date the creators have managed to hide the eyes of the famous hunter from public viewing. A legacy it shares with the Lee Falk’s Phantom, where his pupils are seldom shown to fans.
Tamil Comic fans, will also remember that Shikari Shambu was a regular feature in the erstwhile Tamil Children's Magazine Poonthalir (பூந்தளிர்), where the comic strip was titled as “Vettaikkaara Vembu” (வேட்டைக்கார வேம்பு). I especially liked the way Shambu is made to run for his life, often fearing for his wife’s beating at home. Many believe that Shambu is fearless, but only his wife knows what he is really “capable of”.
|Shambu in Poonthalir as Vettaikkaara Vembu|
Dr.Pai adds “Amar Chitra Katha had to wait for four years to achieve some measure of success. In the case of Tinkle the success was instantaneous, perhaps because it came piggy-back riding on Amar Chitra Katha. The 40,000 initial book prints sold out, and new orders started pouring in from dealers. When I conveyed this news to Mirchandani, he was so moved that for the first time I saw tears glistening in his eyes. I have also often been asked questions about the title of the magazine. I remember Subba Rao, my associate editor, and I were pondering over various possible alternatives. When one of the staff members said there was a tinkle (meaning a telephone call) for me. Subba Rao said, ‘What about Tinkle as the title for the magazine?’ That is how it came to be Tinkle.”
On Nov 2007, ACK media announced the acquisition of a popular Indian comic book brand Amar Chitra Katha and Tinkle for $2.5 million and is reportedly planning to invest $15-20 million in the next 3 years, in digitizing characters like Suppandi, Shikari Shambu, in the form of TV or direct to home DVDs, as conveyed by Samir Patil, founder & CEO, ACK Media. Tinkle is eyeing the growing audience for children movies as Hanuman grossed a record $1.5 million - the highest-ever for the genre in India. Not just that, Tinkle comics will also foray into foreign bookstores in the US and UK to reach out to the large NRI audience in these markets.
Since the change in the ownership of Tinkle brand, the new company ACK-Media, has ensured that these collectors items never run out-of-stock, as they continue to do reprints, on a regular interval. So, you can rest assured to pick these copies whenever you find time to visit your local bookstore, and if not, you can always order them online on ACK Media’s website. No secret, that I am one of the frequent visitors to the online store. All the stories contained in these specials are from the original writer and artist, and the cotemporary cover design, which adds a classic touch to the series, is designed by Arjun Gupte.
To turbo-charge you for the same, here is a sneak-peek into some of the first page of the first ever comic strips featuring the respective characters, found in these trio of collections.
That completes our review of the Tinkle Collector Specials. If you liked this post, then I would be eager to hear your comments on the same, for which you could use the section below. On the next Tinkle comic post at Comicology, we will look at the other famous characters which were missed out from these collector items from Tinkle, but certainly are no strangers in the popularity among comic fans. Doesn’t that makes for an interesting wait ? Stay Tuned to know more.
And just for a reminder, the Voting for Best of 2008 is now complete, and the results are announced. Please pay a visit to the blog post, to appreciate the winners in different categories, and commemorate the first-ever Comicology awards, which will be a regular year-end feature hence forth, probably with few more categories as we expander to a bigger level. Thanks to all those who have voted and commented in the post already.
Before I close once again wish all the Indians spread across the globe, a Happy Republic Day. Let’s wish that our nation goes stronger, and wiser, with the unique blend of tradition mixed with our own ethics. Adios Amigos !!