Those who are passionate about Comics among us would all agree that Comics in India, is largely an industry, which never got its due credit, compared to the ones which its counterparts in Americas, Europe, and Japan enjoyed.
Did we not have the talent, or the interest, or the creativity?, what pushed us in the back corner of the alley, when other industries flourished?
Much was to do with the way the then Indian comics publishers perceived the market, who instead of relying on the wealth which had to be nurtured within, were instead eager to tap to this business medium, by bringing in the foreign content for local publishing. What they did in the process, was to cut out the creativity, and uniqueness of Indian comics creators, who failed to get the necessary backing. And evidently, the success of such publications over test of time, remains the best lesson learnt.
But, not all players followed the suit, as exhibited by a handful of publishers, who stood different and were ready to go any miles to promote local content. Only a handful of them survived the TV and Internet era, and they remain to tell the story.
This month’s Hindustan Times newspaper carried a thought provoking account of the same, with inputs from Comics publishers, who belong to the later category - the legendary Diamond Comics and Raj Comics.
It talks about the survivors from the Dark Ages of Indian Comics, a period highlighted by Diamond’s Gulshan Raj, as between 1997-2003, when TV and Internet medium took over from traditional print runs.
The article talks about the current plans of those surviving publishers, in order to better align with the changing times.
One another interesting reference, in the article, is Raj Comic’s Sanjay Gupta’s acceptance that his creation, Nagraj, created in 1980’s and arguably one of the first and better known Indian Comic heroes, failure from establishing himself in the bigger league. In Gupta’s own words, a stature similar to Superman/Batman.
Eventhough, the real scenario under which these overshot money, could be attributed to the poor economy, and the need for newer investment fronts, the fact remains that the thought of Nagraj breaking grounds with Superman or Batman, cannot be realistic, keeping in mind the difference in the comic market as it was and is available in US, with the one we have/had in India, which are poles apart to say the least.
As much as we could mock the dream for all its ambitions, we couldn’t ignore that the intent was there, when the Nagraj character was envisioned. But was their equal weight of effort in planning to reach the big league? Let’s accept Superman/Batman evolved during time, mainly because that it was born in a language, which had a universal reach, and was contributed by the fact, they were the first of its kind.
On the contrary, Raj Comics concentrated its market only for Hindi speaking sect, thus, apart from the Hindi speaking states in India, it was never popular in the other states, and sometimes even unheard in some among them. If it could not break the Desi language barrier, did it stand any chance at the International stage?
At least, their present focus to reinvent the characterisation, and their increased focus on reprinting the older issues, in better paper quality and print techniques, should bring them into mainstream, and hopefully this time they would do it sans the limited language focus.
The best quote I can draw from the recent media article, was Karan Vir of Vimanika Comics’s assertion on the same quality lines.
..Someday I hope to make Vimanika the DC or Marvel of India. We may not be able to replicate their success in the print runs but I'm sure we'll get there in terms of quality and art.
That isn’t all. Hindustan Times, also carries another Comics article, aptly titled Comic Punch, where it looks in detail the present comics market, and then the future as it is being planned by the new and established players in the field.
Staying with the article, the current comic market in India, is said to be around 300 Crores mark, with an estimated print run 12.5 crores every year. Industry experts also believe that the market is expected to grow by 40% over the next few years, pooling in all those aspiring companies, to join the frenzy.
Diamond Comics, Raj Comics, Amar Chitra Katha (under it’s new ACK Media avatar), all seem to be gung-ho on taking their comics ventures, to the next level, in terms of animated and full-feature films, DVDs, Mobile and eComics.
On a reality check, there is no harm in comics publishers trying to tap into newer mediums, which is the need of the hour. But hopefully, they would realize the importance of staying true to the roots of print medium, which eventually opened up all these frontiers.
For reasons, they can always look back at another promising venture like Virgin Comics (now Liquid Comics), suffered at the hands of dreaming big, and losing their forte. Even though, they keep making news (including this very article in reference), it’s long time since they came out of hibernation, to prove that they still stand a chance in the industry. I hope I am proven wrong, but the Omen is strong enough, considering Virgin’s past track records. All izzz Well or hopefully will be :)
I guess this article, did turn out to a pretty serious mode, and to keep the comic spirit up, here is another article in the same newspaper, talking about the Walt Disney of India, Mr. Pran, the legendary creator of Chacha Chaudhary and umpteen other desi cartoon characters, which have been entertaining the kids and teens alike, for near 4 decades.
Well, I must admit, that I have outgrown most of what Diamond Comics throws at us off late, but the fact remains Pranji, is still considered one of the greatest icon in comics medium, as highlighted by the fan following he enjoys among kids, even today.
No wonder Diamond Comics, which still publishes Chacha Chaudhary and other Pran characters, into comics format, is easily the biggest comics publisher until today. But they can’t sit on their laurels, as other players including the newer ones, are going to take the fight to them. Comics readers are in for a treat, for sure.
In keeping with spirit of current times, here is a Pran designed cover art on occasion of Holi, which decorated the cover of yesteryear Lotpot, a magazine in which Pran’s legendary creation Chacha Chaudhary originally appeared in.
(Courtesy: Comic World)
Wish you all a Happy Holi, dear friends. Adios Amigos!!