Aren’t you surprised, to see a post at our blog, finally? Then you aren’t alone, as I for one is surprised on my own account. I was just finding a reason to be back, hoping to pit the blame on the usual suspect factors of day-job, and new found family commitments. But that option was used and re-used often, that they didn’t hold any credit, anymore. So, while having an inclination to be back, I was also trying to find an occasion for the same. And the occasions, there were plenty (more about it on a later posts), but the effort was equally demanding.
So, what brought me out of my cocoon to post only the 5th post ever at Comicology for this year (you read it right, and believe me, it’s the last thing I would like to boast about)?? Well, you can say from the title, as it is the Return of the Tamil Comics master themselves, Lion Comics, with the long awaited XIII Collector’s Special, finally reaching its subscribers, in the process making their first appearance for the year, 2010.
Do you remember that the last Lion Comics edition was released way back in Nov 2009, almost a whole year in between. So now you be your own judge, and tell me aren’t you surprised?
Jokes apart, this Collector’s edition was no doubt, one of the most anticipated edition ever in the history of Tamil Comics, the Southern Indian dialect, ever since it was announced a couple of years back (or was it in 2006?).
Questions were raised, on how this project could be feasible, as Lion Comics, had only tread a path of 3 mega specials, which were duly priced for INR 100, in the recent past. Even though the sales were said to be encouraging, the fact remained that many of the editions were unsold, until the last Chennai Book Fair.
And here, Editor was talking about bringing an edition, which was to be priced at INR 200, collecting the every possible albums released in a series, which spanned over 23 years for the finale (in its Original French run).
Everyone, right from the occasional readers, to the serious collectors, knew that it was a herculean task, a kind of which has never been achieved in any comics series, in any languages, world over (for a single connected series).
But they were hopeful, pitting their trust against the indomitable spirit of the Editor, whom the readers knew of through his past adventurous initiatives. With time passing year by year, that confidence was shaken to its deepest bottom, and to compound the issues, Lion Comics, which only recently had started to have some regular issues, suddenly went out of circulation.
There was no news whatsoever, either about the fate of the XIII Collector’s Edition, let alone the fate of the entire comics business of Prakash Publishers. Gossip-mongers, Critics, Opportunists, had their field day, and the niche crowd of Tamil Comics fandom, started to retreat, and was in danger of moving over to other hobbies (I see that some of them have already).
But, after much deliberation, delayed announcements, and multi-revised targets, XIII Collector’s Special – aptly titled “The Complete Collection” is here on our hands, at last.
It features two stunning covers at the front and the back, the originals of which were definitely an inspiration. But these versions looks to have built over on it, and has achieved a quite a reasonable perfection. Let your eyes be the jury.
No doubt, this would be the fattest comic series to have ever been released in India, collecting a single series. And no wonder, Editor, an often subdued proclaimer, making that clear on the cover itself, as India’s First.
As usual, the Editor’s and reader’s favorite Hotline, opens up the edition, and as expected it runs down to two full pages, detailing the adventures of publishing and editorial teams, to bring up this title into fruition.
Despite all differences over opinions pertaining to his step motherly treatment to the least earning comic business in his portfolio, I need to admit that, Mr.Vijayan has an uncanny knack of getting under the skin of an regular reader, on both counts.
He gets the pulse of the readers, their thought work, and their expectations (even though he often fails to fulfil them), andhe still manages to make a reader hook onto him, when he starts talking.
The humour laced words and writings in his editorial, gives us a warm feeling, and makes us feel proud of being a comic fan, for what he still has to offer. Even though, there would always be a man in us questioning his lack of interest, or his repeated failures to catch on a readership straits and patterns, you could still not help trace the amount of work which has gone through in bringing these mega-issue to us.
As a matter of fact, he explains how his Editorial piece, was the one which wasn’t completed in time, ultimately pushing the release dates further behind. As I gather from sources, not only that, even the Binding, which was previously not expected to be a huge task, seems to have a taken a toll resulting on further delay. As this heaviest book needed manual stitching and glue, something which wasn’t planned ahead.
Coupled with the financial restriction, of having to stick to the originally announced price of INR 200, even though it was made a handful of years earlier; and the inability to garner the expected amount of advance bookings, didn’t help to boost their sagging morals. But, they had themselves to blame for the non-interest of readers, as they failed to capitalise when the readership awareness was beaming and open-ended.
Despite all these shortcomings, much needs to be said that he considers himself as a comic fan, more than an editor, when he chooses a particular series for publishing. That’s exactly the one which keeps his niche readers still on his side, no matter what the shortcomings on the delivery.
I had made the booking for this collection, back when it was first announced. But, some accounting problems, led to my name being missed out from the original list. Hence, I wasn’t among the ones, who received the book first-up. After hearing that my good old friend, RT Murugan, had received his package, I ran helter-shelter to reach him and get one of his ordered copies for myself. The enthusiasm, I realized in doing so, which I long thought has seized as far as Tamil Comics was concerned, was the same as the one I had during it’s glorious run in the past.
|"The enthusiasm I realized, which I long thought was done for as much as Tamil Comics are concerned, was at the same level of good old days. |
Not Ego-Maniacs, Nor the Self-Proclaimed Star of Readers, can help achieve that. It needs Visionaries, and we are at good company in that count.”
I realized that the good-old-me, is still waiting somewhere in there, hoping to see a Tamil Comics Market, one in which he grew up and cherished, to attain somewhat a similar level, once again for good. Not Ego-maniacs, Nor the Self-proclaimed Star of readers, can help achieve that. It needs visionaries and those with the intent to remain in the market, and survive. Lion/Muthu Comics Editor is certainly, the one to count on that front.
Enough with my blabbering. Now that we are in the moment of rejoice, let’s look into our Man-of-the-hour, the XIII Special, more in detail.
But, this time I am excused from doing the honours, as Editor, has decided to dedicate a page, to show these behind the scenes personas, the creators of the series, who had captivated readers worldwide with their unblemished talents - Jean Van Hamme, the gifted writer, and William Vance, the talented artist of this legendary series.
Not one or two pages, can do justice to the works of these two gentleman in this series, so we would reserve it for a later blog post at our site.
But, along the way writing about the creator, Editor S.Vijayan, in his typical style, has thrown up another tantrum, by indicating that Van Hamme’s another famous comic series, detailing the adventures of fictional billionaire, Largo Winch, would soon be making its debut on Lion Comics.
He has just completed a series spanning 19 albums, and here he is referring to another legendary series, which has 17+ albums in its own account, and still counting?
Only time would tell, whether it was a comic fan in Vijayan, who spoke those words, or was he determined to pull it off, the same way like he did in the case of XIII (even though after two decades).
XIII – Search for a Man’s Self: Now for the showdown, we all had been waiting for, of XIII, and his quest to trace his origin. Like you, I am more than interested, to know the final outcome. Even though the original French run was completed way back in 2007, I had never read the conclusion to this series. French always remain Green and Latin to me, and the only promising English editions, were only running until the 6th album, by various US based publishers.
With the wait of the Tamil translated ones looking superstitious, I had to rely on the unofficial Scanlations of XIII volumes, in order to quench the thirst. But, the fate had it saying there too, as after Volume 17, the scanlation project on the series were also left hanging, with 2 volumes yet to come out of the domesticated workshop.
Then came the announcement that Cinebook, were to launch the series under their line-up. I was confident that we have finally arrived at a publisher, who were intent to see the series to its completion, in English language.
But, the issues were scheduled to be released at a rate of on album, every two months. At a rate, by which we would have to wait for another 2 years, for the final two volumes to see the daylight. We would see about the Cinebook edition of XIII, later in another blog post, as it deserves a special mention.
But, here now we have all the 18 volumes (one volume has been given a miss on the Original 19, about which you can read at the end of the post), which speaks long and deal about the XIII’s saga, in our beloved Tamil language, finally in one go. Not only that Editor Vijayan has launched a re-compilation of the 11 volumes original published under various brands, owned by them in the past, this time around he has also gone extra mile to name each volume, with an aptly suited Tamil version of its original title.
Seeing the wonderfully drawn covers in black and white, doesn’t really do justice to the works spent on it, but that has been the case of Tamil Comics, ever since, reminding us on the concept of Opportunity Cost - Often giving up the quality, to make it affordable to one and all. Now, it’s a topic out on debate, for sure. But, let’s push that aside, sit back and enjoy the series waiting to be unravelled before our eyes, which played hide and seeks for two decades of our life (unless you turned Franco, or you have got an acquaintance, in there). We are at the winning side, any case.
Here are the sweetly titled album covers, in Tamil, which finds its place in the inner pages of this mega collection. On my part, I have added the English editions, wherever available, for you to work out the best from both worlds. To start with editor has missed printing the first cover, which I guess was by mistake, more than the intent. So, I have made it up with the second hotlines, stamp image, to get the run.
Note that some of the covers have been used in reverse (negative side), which doesn’t make much difference, though it’s quite evident on XIII Red Alert, with the US President’s seal smiling at us, with an mirror-image. I guess this again, was a result of hurrying to see the edition on print, as pointed out by Editor himself.
Also, not all the 18 volumes published in this collection, belongs to the duo of Van Hamme and William Vance. As Volume 17 (Volume 18 in the Original), alone was drawn by Jean Giraud, the man famous for Blueberry, aka Captain Tiger (as he is christened in Tamil). His style is visible enough, but I have my own reservations as whether it fits the overall bill of the XIII series.
I would leave that to be decided by the readers themselves. For the Tamil Comics fans, here is a write-up on this particular album, by the most talented blogger, Kanavukalin Kathalan (a nickname in Tamil, meaning Lover of Dreams), over at his blog. That post incidentally, was his first in a long journey of blog posts.
Almost mirroring it’s Original French editions run, which dates back to 1984 (as a serialized form, in the then Spirou magazine) to the recent past 2007 (with the release of the last albums, 18 and 19). The Only difference - while the original was continuously released on a periodic basis, it’s lesser known counterpart, in Tamil language, had its proven start and stop show, all these years. Often becoming the envy of its ardent followers.
Editor S.Vijayan, a man who never misses to refer comics moment such as this, decided to write another One-Page Hot-liner, highlighting the fact, and the struggle behind all those releases, culminating to the dreamt Collector’s edition, which decorates our hands at the moment.
At the end of the day, despite all the achievements and accolades, XIII the series, has received over the years around the globe, a true fan will admit that it was way past his selling date, by half way through the series. It was unnecessarily stretched, despite coming to a logical conclusion, pretty early, as much as for me to date it to the 12th Album, itself.
The remaining albums, which tried to confuse and divert the readers to newer mysteries, never quite leave the impact, the former ones were able to generate at the heart of the readers. The series often meagre into a man on the run, much like the typical Hollywood action movies. The personal touch of the XIII, with the readers, had long lost its charm.
|"At the end of the day, despite all the achievements, XIII has received all over the globe, a true fan will admit that it was selling way past its due date. |
By the time the series wrapped up with Vol.19, XIII, had lost its charm among the readers.”
A point even noted by Jean Van Hamme himself, in one of his interviews, where he cited that the reason he made a close to the series, was that it was getting monotonous, and they clearly had no direction to take the character further. More on the interview can be read here.
This observation is also shared by the Editor S.Vijayan, on his editorial writing as mentioned in the Second Hot-line. As he rightly pointed out, when the cash-cow is milked by the owners, what would a meagre caretaker do on that account.
At the end of his Hot-line, Editor revisits the plan for the forthcoming issues, and his grand plan to make the 3 books subscription pattern, which he first made public, in the last Lion Comics issue #208. How would that turn-out, makes for an interesting wait. Editor also mentions that the Lioncomics.com would be re-launched. It’s pending for at least 3 years now, and would help to make our comics reach more masses, acting as an official mascot in the internet world.
Editor’s Flash-Back: Editor S.Vijayan, continues his recounting of the yester years of Lion and through its publication, in his Flash Back Series titled, Singathin Siruvayadhil (சிங்கத்தின் சிறுவயதில்!), loosely translated to Younger Ages: when a Lion was a Cub. You don’t need an intro for this series, which has become almost a second feature for our readers to turn-in-to, after the ever popular Hotline. It was missing out from the previous issues, but here it’s back again, in an issue which matters the most to the legacy of Lion Comics, spanning 25+ years.
On these episode, Vijayan, takes us through his first encounter with the stylist Bruno Brazil, and the evergreen Lucky Luke. But, as if as a co-incidence, or was purposefully drafted by the Editor himself, this episode of the Flash Back, also introduces his first encounter with the character, which is the one holding the hot-spot, in this out-of-world compilation. Yes, it indeed was XIII.
Enough, me talking about it, as you can find out those escapades, straight from the pen of Editor himself. (I hope he doesn’t mind me releasing the entire episode in one shot, as I couldn’t hold it off from the readers, who might not get this edition earlier, than others.)
Forthcoming Attractions: And as discussed in the Hotline at the start of the book, the concluding papers of this Collector’s Edition, lists out the forthcoming titles in the line-up.
Now you decide, isn’t that an Around-the-World coverage by a single publication?
Seven of them are the the INR 10 editions, all of which, could be obtained by paying a lump-sum amount, by using the coupon here. But, only if you aren’t a subscriber.
What would happen to the subscribers (including myself), who might still have some money reserves left, after the advertised Seven Rs.10 issues, is yet to be seen. I only hope that they would be accommodated in the next batch releases, as appropriate.
Apart from the forthcoming attractions, the usual backorder list finds its place again in this issue. I guess there are no major changes in it, as from the last one. But, for those who would like to keep it handy, for any backorders, here it is.
19 vs. 18 ??: XIII Mystery: And finally, to point out about the one volume missing out from the 19 set original editions, in this Tamil Collection. It was XIII - Album 13, which doesn’t actually fit into the overall storyline, at least to a greater extent. The XIII Mystery, as it was titled, was a getaway from the Traditional comic style, with illustration based story-telling, of two reporters who go around digging the dirt on the Mysterious XIII, and the people behind the conspiracy.
As expected, Editor has given a miss on this title, which makes the 14 to 19 on the original albums, being numbered as 13 to 18, to complete our collection. While, the Collector’s Special talk was being flown around the comic enthusiasts, many of them often debated, as what would be the album which will miss out from the Tamil collection.
Editor had long made it clear, through various advertisements, and hints on his editorials, that the collection would comprise only of 18 volumes. Many who have read the series, at least in various forms, guessed that Volume 13, would be the one missing out on the cut. And they were all right.
But, talk about our Editor not missing out from utilising the fame of XIII, even he has finally come good on promise to complete the series, he now projects the missed out XIII: Mystery volume as a possible INR 25 issue feature, in the forthcoming releases.
If carried out, it will be another first of its kind, in Tamil Comics, featuring illustrated art pages, and comics in between to talk about a serious plot, throughout an album. Let’s see how many takers are there for the concept.
So that concludes, our preview and you could say review, of the long awaited XIII: The Complete Collection. It’s a new beginning for Lion Comics, and one hopes that the promises to keep the flag afloat, is kept to its entirety at least, in this leg of our rebirth.
And just to sum up, the whole collector’s issue, here is a full blown cover which encompasses this fattest comic album series in India. If you haven’t thought about buying it so far, then this would no doubt make you to do so.
For sales and further queries, Contact: Prakash Publications @ 04562-272 649 / 04562-320 993
(or) send a Cheque (Payable at Par)/DD/Money-Order for INR 230 (Only for India), with a return address to
Prakash Publications, 89 Chairman PKS AAR Road, Ammankovil Patti Lane, Sivakasi 626 189
Enjoy your Read, Amigos. I am going to do that, myself. See you all, in the next post.