After the Celebrity Comics run-down, which enthralled the Comicologists, we are back with our main theme of Comics Review. And what we have for this post is another yesteryear classic review for Tamil Comic fans, as we debut Mehta Comics (மேத்தா காமிக்ஸ்) in the Blogosphere.
Long time fans will remember that Mehta Comics was started in 1984, the very same year, when the much famous Lion Comics and yesteryear Rani Comics started their venture in Tamil Comics Industry. Eventhough, I won’t rate Mehta Comics, with more seasoned performers like Lion & Rani, the fact remains that they had their fair share of quality titles, which captivated Tamil Comic fans for a couple of years when it had its continuous publishing run, totalling up to 30 issues. (They had numerous re-runs, all with reprints of these line-up time in and again, but for obvious reason they don’t count towards the main lot.)
Until 1984, there were only two recognised players in the Tamil Comics arena. The first being the venture backed up by the Times of India Group, erstwhile Indrajal Comics, with their regional edition in Tamil language. The second was none other than our very own and the ever-green Muthu Comics. History of Indrajal Comics is well known in Blog-O-Sphere. Ref. Comix Planet
On the other hand, Muthu Comics was started by M Soundrapandian, and initially had Mullai Thangarasan as its Editor. In 1984, S Vijayan, the elder son of Soundrapandian, joined his father, and started working on launching his own dream project, in form of Lion Comics. Around the same time, Thangarasan left Muthu Comics, leaving Mr.Soundrapandian himself donning the Editors role for Muthu Comics.
Whatever may be the reason for his departure, it was very clear that Mr.Thangarasan wanted to give a cut-throat competition to his former employers, by coming up with his own title before the impending launch of Vijayan’s Lion Comics. He found an able ally in form of Ashok Mehta of Mehta Publications, in the same Southern Indian city of Sivakasi. Together they launched Mehta Comics in July 1984, with Mullai Thangarasan returning to don the Editor role.
Unlike its competitors Muthu & Lion, Mehta & Thangarasan decided to base their titles on a titular character, in the form of John Havoc; an estranged pilot who lost his license, due to an accident, and wants to win it back at any cost.
In the process, he is manipulated by the the British Intelligence Agency ‘Q Branch’, who promise to get his license back, in return for his help in their secret missions.
The missions meant that he had to fight the crime lords in different parts of the world, but he did it with the sole aim of regaining his license. Much of the stories of John Havoc always ends with him walking away in disgust from the Q Branch authorities, who would find some reason or the other at the end of the story to convey him that they couldn’t restore his pilot license. Havoc even though knowing that they are just buying their time to retain him in their service, would still continue to let himself be played as a pawn, hoping that he attains his goal someday in the future.
Havoc is another story arc from UK’s IPC Magazines Ltd, in their comics brand of Top Secret Picture Library. Surprisingly, not much is known on the creator details for this wonderful story arc featuring John Havoc’s adventures. The only references I could find on the web for the same were:.
1. British comics historian, Steve Holland’s Bear Alley comics post, and;
2. Fellow comics enthusiast Sunshines Weblog, from a fan’s account.
As much as like discussing John Havoc’s titles here at Comicology, it’s a long list, as other than Mehta Comics, he is said to have been featured in Muthu Comics as John Silver. I do have them in my collection, so can cross-reference it, once I get the reference to the original series, for a exclusive John Havoc post at Comicology.
But today’s post more importantly discusses about another Comic series, which was featured in limited issues in Mehta Comics, one of which was in in November 1985, priced at INR 2. It was Mehta’s #20 Issue, by which they had changed their Comics title as Ashok Comics (they eventually changed to Mehta again). The first on the list, which is said to have covered the initial episodes of this series, is not in my collection, so I will add it later with this post, when I grab the same. (Thanks to Chezhi, for the reminder).
The Mehta #20 issue, was titled Iratha Bootham (இரத்த பூதம்), and it spoke about the life and troubles of a ill-fated living being, named Terry, who is cursed in this world to live with a defaced figure, and as a semi-minded powerhouse, much in the lines of the character made famous by Marvel’s Hulk persona. The only difference being that while Hulk is an alter-ego, Terry was born with the god-cursed persona, to live a life of his own.
The disfigured and frightening physique, leads him to live a life away from the common men, lurking in the shadows and abandoned sites. But there was one person who loved him the most, his nephew and 12 year old Kenny.
Kenny finds one day that Uncle Terry was kept locked up all his life, in the secluded place at their home. He had just now killed Kenny’s father, who had been torturing him all along. But, despite these circumstances, Kenny understands that Terry has done them only in the act of defending himself, and also understands that he still is a small child at his mind and heart. So, he decides to escape along with Terry, now his only living relation, to fly away from the crime scene.
This Mehta Comics Monster issue starts with this scenario, where Kenny and his Uncle Terry flee from their home, in order to avoid a police patrol, who have come to know of the deaths caused by Terry, albeit unintentionally.
Readers get to witness the terrifying face of Terry, during this scene, and also there is a hint of his innocence, where he is shown to be unaware of the words "Dogs", even. Highlighting the fact that the secluded life of his has made him unaware of any external lifestyle.
During their stay, through a newspaper, Kenny becomes aware of a Scotland based doctor who is said to have cured the over-tempered people from their violent ways. Kenny decides to make the journey to cure his beloved uncle.
But, they are attacked by some goons, who try take advantage of them for a ransom, as their faces are now more known through a Police Vigilants on Run advertisement being continuously flashed on State Television Channels.
During their escapade, readers get to see the Incredible power of Terry, as at one stage he even manages to roll a police wagon over the mountain’s cliff, as they try to stop them from their search of a new life.
Kenny despite being wary of these violent activities of Terry, understands that he couldn’t do anything less, as the aggression was always started from the other end, and Terry just responds to shield them away from harms ways. He is determined to lead his Uncle to the Scotland based doctor, for a possible cure to his running rage.
In return Terry finds his lovable friend Kenny, as his only trusted ally, and silently follows on his quest to mend the ways of his beloved Uncle.
This one shot title spanning 64 pages, finally ends with the police officials arriving at the scene, and wondering how many more casualties would this fearsome creature lay on their paths before they get him under long-hands of law.
Readers are left to wonder, what happens next, as the final scene closes.
Even though, in the end page Mehta Comics had promised that there will be more stories on escapade of Uncle Terry and Kenny. They were never released, as far as my memory serves, and the abrupt ending of the story might have fused this title as a not so impressive one, for the first-time readers back then, which includes myself.
But recently I came to know about the original of this series, and after reading through it, I understood how good the whole storyline was which was shown in poor light by this venture of Mehta Comics. A clear lesson that, you shouldn’t zero in on the series, without having a dedicated mind to continue it for long.
Eventhough, the translation was well within standards, an area for which Thangarasan was known for during his stint with Muthu Comics, the story was mishandled starting with the very title of the issue (Blood Demon, if translated in its entirety).
By which they had put a wrong image over the character of Uncle Terry, which was to have been shown with a proper limelight. The Coupled with the chasing scenes, and gore action, many would construe to think him as what the title suggested.
Well, one of the good thing out of the whole scenario, was that we were exposed to a wonderful series, the Original of which is now available for the aspiring readers. And it is certain to put our thinking's and presumptions to a back-burner, when we meet a physically deprived person next in our life.
The Original for this Mehta Comics title was a Weekly series called Monster which debuted in the British Horror Comics Scream! in its first edition, released on March 24, 1984. Much like the Thirteenth Floor series reviewed at Comicology, this was also a weekly series which ran for 15 episodes in Scream. The story was abruptly ended, with the closure of Scream magazine on 30 June 1984, which was mainly due to a strike at the parent company IPC Media (International Publishing Company).
Scream was then merged with Eagle. Later, Monster along with Thirteenth Floor became the only series from Scream, which began their weekly run in Eagle magazine. Monster was continuously featured then on weekly episode which spanned more than a couple of years.
The 1st episode of the series was originally credited to Alan Moore (the man behind the recent “Supposed-to-be” blockbuster movie Watchmen, as it was adopted from his graphic novel by the same name), with an artist named Heintl. But from the very second episode the credits page started featuring Rick Clark as the scripter. Rick Clark is actually a pseudonym of John Wagner, who is more known to the comics world as the creator of Judge Dredd in 2000 AD Comic series.
John Wagner was born in Pennsylvania, United States in 1949, but he was moved to Scotland when his family shifted location. He started his publishing career when he joined DC Thompson as a Sub-Editor in 1960’s, and met his eventual long time friend Pat Mills in there. In 1971, they both left DC Thompson, and started doing freelance jobs in UK. During this freelance period, they also worked on a a handful of projects for IPC Media. Monster was one such series which Wagner went on to script during its entire run.
During his tenure with IPC, he is often credited along with Mills for their successful Battle Picture Weekly’s launch. Tamil Comics fan will remember that many of the wartime stories featured in Rani Comics and Lion Comics, during those yearly years all came from this IPC magazine. Ironically, Battle Picture was a direct competitor to Warlod Magazine, which was from the stable of Wagner & Mill’s former employer DC Thompson.
Mills, who is often credited as the Godfather of British Comics, then gave Wagner a chance to script stories for his new comics magazine 2000 AD started for IPC Media in 1977. Wagner went on to create Judge Dredd, his more popular creation till date, which also remains the titular character for the entire 2000 AD Comic series.
In 1980s, Wagner was one of the members who were famously touted as the British Invasion of American Comics, which was often dated to Alan Moore’s work on Swamp Thing & Watchmen. The so called Invasion, saw a number of writers from the 2000 AD Series, working for the US comics giant DC, and later with Marvel.
In 1997, Wagner wrote his first graphic novel, A History of Violence, which many critics consider as a good work even though it was a commercial failure. I recently acquired this title, and found it impressive enough for an exclusive review at Comicology, very shortly.
Wagner till date remains a prolific writer for 2000 AD Series, still working on majority of Judge Dredd series every year. He is said to be interested in retiring sooner, if we finds a suitable replacement to pen Dredd’s future series.
There is not much known about the Artists for the Monster series, which was Heintl for the 1st episode, but later was handled by Redonodo for its entire run. In all possibilities this could have been the pseudonyms of artists, much like how different creators worked during the Scream and Eagles Horror series run, to give their pseudonyms an Imaginary feeling.
There was a significant difference between the artworks of Heintl and Redondo, as the later’s work brought the seriousness of the comic series in display. Have a look yourself and take the judgement. (Pics Courtesy: BackfromDepths)
Overall it’s an issue, which certainly deserves its place in your collection, if you are a Tamil Comics fan, with a different taste. Looking at the relative recent past this issue was released, I hope everyone do have this already in your cherished possession. The English Originals can be found on BackfromDepths weblog. So enjoy reading, while the content lasts over there, and get to know of another golden series from the Golden age of British Comics Genre.
Origins of Uncle Terry: Staying on with the Uncle Terry or the Monster character, I was under the impression that the more famous Frankenstein character might have been the inspiration of this characterization too. But fellow Comicologist ShankarV shared an interesting fact that he shared much in common with the Quasimodo, a hunch-back character from the French novel Notre-Dame de Paris. After reading through the archives, it looks this character was the real inspiration for this comic series itself. Have a look at the image from a Movie, which was made on the Novel, and judge yourself.
But that doesn’t hide the fact that Quasimodo itself could have been inspired by the Frankenstein character. As the novel featuring Frankenstein was released in 1818, while Quasimodo made his appearance in Notre-Dame novel in 1830.
Thanks to Shankar, and his wide knowledge on every media. Without whom I wouldn’t have even known about the existence of this classic work.
And that brings us to the close of to our first ever Mehta Comics review at Comicology. Hopefully, you would have found it useful and fun reading, just like I felt while working on it. If so, then why not leave your comments to let others know, for which you could use the Comment section below.
Wish you all a Happy Week ahead. Have Fun & nJoY, while I will be back with another post shortly (to go with April Fool’s Day concept, which should have taken place in this post, but needed a little more preparation). Adios Amigos !