The entire world might have celebrated the New year 2009 in January, but for Tamil Comic fans, it had to happen only in the mid of February. The reason, our beloved Prakash Publishers (PP), have launched their first comics edition of 2009, in the form of Muthu #311.
Muthu #310, starring Martin Mystery, was released way back in Oct’08, and the last release from publishers, Lion #205, was in Nov’08. So, it is the longest break once again for Tamil Comic fans, which by now I believe everyone would have got accustomed to.
I finally received my Muthu copy on 13/02, after numerous calls to Lion/Muthu Office enquiring about the edition, as some fans had claimed that they received their subscription copy weeks back.
The reason behind this confusion, as I came to know of was that our publishers had received a sample set (of 20 copies) from their binders, and in “good spirit” they decided to courier them to select people first-up.
Obviously, I was not fortunate enough (or may be not in the elite club) to receive this initial dispatch, and had to wait a couple of weeks for receiving the same.
But it is definite, that our publishers would be refraining in future to send this batch release, as they would have surely got bugged by the enthusiastic readers’ repeated calls and queries on the availability of this comics issue :).
It’s a double bonanza, as it contains two classic stories from the 1960’s, with
- Buck Ryan (christened in Tamil Comics as Detective Julian) starring Norungiya Naanal Marmam (நொறுங்கிய நாணல் மர்மம்); and
- James Bond fame Roger moore starrer, Paavamai Oru Puli (பாவமாய் ஒரு புலி).
Here is the Editor’s own Comics-Time, where he puts-over his take on these classical stories.
Editor also silently describes the big debate which we had over the Martin Mystery stories continuity, with a hint that we may never see him again in Muthu. We had earlier discussed in our last Muthu Comics review, about Editor Vijayan exhausting all the English editions of Martin Mystery so far in our comics. So the great debate is answered, and I for one will be disappointed, as I felt Martin stories as a star attraction for Muthu Comics, which added all the more oomph factor for the otherwise most classic reprints, for which Muthu Comics has been now renowned for.
By now, everyone would have got their copies of Muthu 311, so let’s look at the storylines in detail for this Muthu extravaganza, on the way detailing the creators behind these series.
Buck Ryan aka Detective Julian, needs no introductions for Tamil comic fans, as he has made a couple of appearances in Muthu Comics earlier.
In this issue Ryan explores mysteries surrounding a series of kidnapping cases targeting the elite and the rich. The act is done so swiftly that some of the kidnappings even happen when the police force are right at the crime scene. Readers are left to wonder and ponder how this hideous crimes are committed without any traces.
But typical to Ryan’s style, he starts probing by piecing together the little evidences he gets around the crime scenes (for e.g., exploring a broken thistle) and figuring them out with other incidents happening around the city.
It should be noted that, Ryan gets a massive assist from unlikely sources, like people coming into complain about their problems, which makes his job even more easy, as he finally nabs the mysterious mob boss at his own layer. (Actually, the suspense of who the mob boss was long revealed by an advertisement featured in Last Muthu Comics. Maybe, Editor didn’t think of it back-then).
In between we get to see some sweet moments, like our local artists handwork on enforcing the censorship, without compromising the panels (which has become a de-facto standard for our Lion-Muthu editions), Julia’s Indian Saree Act (proud to see a reference to Indian females, even though Julia’s feeling that the cloth is too small for a Saree, might have been proven wrong, if the story was written at the present modern era pioneered by Indian actresses on silver screen).
Ryan packs a surprise of his own by playing as a dead body to enter the mob’s secret place. I should say I was surprised with this turning point, credits goes to artist-writer duo.
By the way, did anyone notice a probable reason why our editor decided to name Buck Ryan as Detective Julian? I believe he might have wanted it to rhyme closely with his assistant named Jula.
Also, the reasons may be that he would have wanted to avoid naming him with his original name, as Buck Ryan was already introduced by erstwhile Rani Comics to Tamil comics fans, as Raayan (ராயன்), closely rhyming with his real name.
But, long time Tamil Comic fans would have noticed that the Artwork is pretty different between these instalments of Buck Ryan stories, which has valid reasons, for which we will explore more on this classic comics hero’s origins.
Buck Ryan was original created as a fictional young private investigator, to be featured as a comic strip for UK’s Daily Mirror Newspaper. The creator of the series was writer Don Freeman and artist Jack Monk.
Don Freeman (real name, John Henry Gordon Freeman) (1903-1972), was the youngest of three children's to his parents, all of whom surprisingly had an inept interest towards writing stories right from their childhood. Freeman was the first among them to get his creations published for other audience, by joining Daily Mirror, at the early age of 15, initially as an Office-boy. But he was known to have contributed to the children's page of the newspaper as early as 1922.
He became assistant to Bertram. J. Lamb, who as "Uncle Dick" was the editor of the Mirror’s children’s pages, and he provided story lines to many of the titular characters featured in these pages. Shortly before, Lamb’s death in 1938, he took over as "Uncle Dick”, and continued to use the pseudonym for many of his creations, even though he also started attaching his name to few of them here and there. Freeman had an unique knack of writing scripts, which unlike other writers, were not just limited to series of text. In fact, his technique heavily relied on “rough” out the story, sketching it in “pencil” with his visualizations. This proved a great help to artists, who were able to grasp his works to their style, with his visual plots.
Jack Monk (b.1901) on the other hand started his career as an artist initially with UK’s Daily Express, creating a couple of comic strips for them. He eventually joined Daily Mirror, where he forged a long successful partnership with Don Freeman. Both of them initially worked together in adapting Edgar Wallace’s Terror Keep cult-classic, into comic-strip form. Eventhough, highly appreciated, the series couldn’t continue long, as it ended up with copyright disagreements. This is when the creators duo, planned to create a comic-strip series of their own, and the result was Buck Ryan, a brown-curly haired, young British investigator fighting crimes, and bringing the wrongs to justice.
The series ran in Daily Mirror from March 22, 1937 to July 1962, a tremendous run of 25 long years. Now that highlights why Ryan is shown with different art-styles, as there is a strong possibility that Monk wouldn’t have been the artist for all those lengthy years when the script ran. It could also be from the fact that 25 glorious years would have given Monk a lengthy hand to try and improve on his artwork over. But it should be noted that Buck Ryan was indeed a British classic comic strip, to be rated among the great fictional comic detectives of his time.
Freeman continued to script more comic series like Jane, Belinda Blue Eyes (both of which are often rated for adults for explicit content), and Garth (whom Indrajal & Rani Comics are more familiar with). Monk also moved on to Fleetway and D.C.Thomson, in the process creating more comic series like ‘Commander Cockle’, ‘Inspector Jelicoe’, etc.
By far, Buck Ryan continues to add glory to these two great creators from British Golden Age of Comics. No wonder our Editor S.Vijayan finds a place for this comic series time and again in his line-up.
This particular story of Muthu Comics, was collected in a Comic Book format in Australia, by a Comics titled “World Famous Comics”. Here is a cover of that Original, which was #9 in that series.
The recent 118 and odd page of Muthu & Lion Comics standard, prompts that Buck Ryan’s typical 60 to 70 page adventures aren’t enough to fill up the pages. So, we have an un-announced surprise appearance in form of James Bond fame Roger Moore, in another adventure of his.
We had earlier described the origins related to The Saint series, created by Leslie Charteris, which was christened as Roger Moore, by Mr.Vijayan in Muthu Comics. For the new-comers, here is a link where I have detailed the complete history of Saint Series in Comics form, while we reviewed Muthu #307, which also featured Saint as Roger Moore, in one of its stories.
Have a read, before you proceed further with this new instalment of Saint in Muthu Comics, as it contains a write-up about why our Editor decided to name him as Roger Moore.
Paavamaai Oru Puli (பாவமாய் ஒரு புலி, another wonderful title by our Editor), which is the 2nd story of Muthu #311, details another Saint adventure, where he tries to decode a mysterious death of his rich friend Laila.
During a party hosted at her palace, Laila decides to entertain her guests by playing as a Ring Master, along with her ageing Tiger pet, a sombre animal to say least.
But, in a sudden rage, the pet tiger kills her, during the show. Saint’s later probe reveals that the unexpected rage was actually caused by a chemically filled air-gun shot, brewing the suspicion surrounding her death.
The immediate heirs as per Laila’s will, are interrogated and the blame-game, and twists (for which Saint series are known for), unfolds in the following pages.
Overall, it’s another classic suspense thriller, which will make every Muthu Comics fan proud.
There were some sweet moments in-between, like:
- Saint confronts the seemingly arrogant cousin of Laila, by giving her a witty reply, for her derogatory talk.
- Laila’s statement during her death-bed, to not kill her pet, as she believes it was forced to that rage, highlighting her good nature.
- Saint swiftly finds the evidence of Air-Gun by exploring the Armoury cum Firing Range located at the palace, all the while talking to a murder suspect.
These speaks volume on the effort of writer-artist duo, who were able to capture the essence and style of the hit Saint TV Series, upon which the comics were later inspired in the second innings.
Saint is supposed to be a cunning Thief as per his original characterization. But, since Roger Moore played his role, it seems they decided to wipe of that origin and present him in equals to a private investigator. That’s how all his later adventures are portrayed as.
But, did anyone notice that the Roger Moore aka Saint series featured in the different titles of Prakash Publishers namely Muthu Comics, Lion Comics, and Thigil Comics, all had different styles of drawing. Even the last Muthu series where Saint was featured, had a different art-style, about which I had expressed my reservations.
But, surprisingly this Muthu Comics Saint title’s artwork is quite standardized, but it still doesn’t look like one drawn by Santiago Martín Salvador, who was the main artist of Saint Series in Sweden (and has previous experience of working on James Bond Comics itself, which explains his James Bond style artwork for Saint series too).
Obviously, there could have been a host of artists for the series, seeing its long run during its second innings. Hopefully, Editor would pick only from these pool of work, where the artwork is creditable, while selecting future Saint titles for Muthu Comics.
Overall, Muthu’s current issue is a Classic Collector’s item to behold, for all Tamil Comic fans. And Editor does leave us with a block-buster announcement that the forthcoming Comics Classics will feature the original size of Steel Claws Superhero act published decades back.
As promising it may look like, I would have hoped him to have chosen a classic Steel Claw story, rather than a cheap imitation of Superhero genre by Steel Claw, which marked the demise of this wonderful British Comic-Strip.
But, for the sheer reason that Editor is trying to re-introduce the A4 Size in Comics Classics (he tried it once last time for another Steel Claw adventure, but had cited poor sales as a reason for not continuing the same), let’s welcome the issue. Here is the cover of the original Muthu edition of the same title. If you can read Tamil, then don’t miss out from checking out Comics Doctor’s full-blown preview for the Steel Claw issue, here.
Talking about Comics Classics, the back-cover highlights the last Comics Classics edition published in October last year, Comics Classics #23. Mr. Vijayan is known for pre-producing the covers for many future issues, even before the issue is translated or in-production. So that may be the reason for this late advertisement.
As per the norm, we get to see the forthcoming Muthu Comics advertisement, which features one of my favourite childhood classics magician Mandrake (Lee Falk’s another master-works). Fans of erstwhile Indrajal Comics would remember that this story was featured in there issues back then, including Tamil. But it’s one classic you would want to read again.
Also, Editor lines up Reporter Johny (Johny Hazard) and Wing Commander George’s series as the probable issues following Mandrake adventure. Let’s see how long does it take for us to see those issues in the coming months.
The last time we discussed Prakash Publishers Lion Comics edition, we had the man himself making his presence felt at Comicology. Would that happen again, or was that just a flash in the pan? Let’s wait and see.
Also, did anyone notice that there are no advertisements about the XIII Jumbo Special with this month Muthu instalment. That clearly foretells that the release of the special issue will be prolonged further, possibly because Editor had complained about not achieving the targeted advance booking mark yet, on his previous issues. May be it is indicative enough for all those who haven’t booked their copy to do so.
Before we close the review, here is the original cover which was the inspiration of Muthu Comics #311 Cover. This time around it is from the Semic’s James Bond Series released in 1984. More about it here.
I will meet you all again with another comics review over here at Comicology. Adios Amigos !!