Comic Con Express – Bengaluru - 2012

Another year and another Express Event from Comic Con India. Our Pre-show coverage of the event in the Garden City.

Comic Con India – New Delhi - 2011

Get to know, more about India's first ever Comic-Con, how does it rate among the rest.

Chennai Book Fair - 2011

We catch up with the Annual Chennai Book Fair, and see what it has to offer for Comic fans.

Lion Comics Jumbo Special - XIII Collector's Edition

An inside look into a collection, touted as the biggest Comic Book released in India

Nov 30, 2008

News: Batman & Comic Break | Times of India | Nov '08

There are two interesting articles in Times of India related to our cherished hobby, over the weekend, which are grabbed at Comicology for your reading.

BatmanThe first article is from Times of India (TOI) - Chennai Times, 29 Nov 08 edition, which captures the readers uproar towards the authors' (Grant Morrison, in this case) decision to kill Batman in the recent issue, and his prodigy taking his place in the future series.  When will this creators get over the marketing gimmick for boosting sales; as they change, deface, and even eradicate the comics characters we have known for years.  First it was Sherlock Holmes, then Superman, and even Captain America.  Even the current set of authors at Marvel, went to a distance of erasing all the memory of "Spiderman" Peter Parker and Mary Jane's marriage altogether.  That has already put the next Spiderman Movie into a jeopardy.

All the times each one of them have been dramatically resurrected to life, after falling sales, and readers lull response.  And for all its trueness, this might be a same case again.  Imagine - you watching the next Batman Movie, when the character itself has become history in its original form. eeks!

For those who would like to have a sneak preview of Batman #681, which has the conclusion of Batman RIP series, described in this post as the "End of Batman", here are few panels from the issue. (© DC Comics)

Batman681-0 Batman681-1 Batman681-2

As you could clearly see that Batman's death is pretty inconclusive (paving the way for his return), and his prodigy Dick Grayson (or Nightwing in his superhero avatar) is shown taking over the Batman role at the end.

Here are some Official quotes about Batman's RIP storyline, which supports our theory, and a possible return of Batman solely in his Bruce Wayne avatar, and probably on a later stage as Batman Returns, while Dick Grayson or Tim Drake (the 3rd and current Robin) playing the role of Batman in future issues.  Much like the storyline of Superman Returns earlier.

Grant Morrison, Series Author: "This is the end of Bruce Wayne as Batman". 

Dan DiDio, DC Comics Executive Editor : "Bruce Wayne is indeed alive, though he'll definitely be gone for a while."

A unnamed DC Insider: "Wayne doesn't want to be a superhero any more."

Eventhough, I first thought that storyline sucks, it might give an option to see how the present authors actually take a different route in the Batman series, then trying to cash in on the legacy left by erstwhile, Bob Kane.

Take a Comic BreakThe second article is from TOI - Times Life, 30 Nov 08 edition.  It's a follow-up from our earlier article covered at Comicology about the growing interest in the younger generation in reading comics more than reading books, which is a new trend from the past where the kids more often preferred the Novels, and Written fantasies over the Comics medium.  The article advocates the need to take a break, with growing your Comic habit, and get the Boy inside a Man.

I would have given a miss to the second article, as it wasn't available for distribution in a few areas in Chennai.  Thanks for fellow Comicologist Pathy's tip-off, I was able to pick that up from the Bangalore edition of TOI.

Nov 28, 2008

CineBook - Blake & Mortimer #1-3 | 2008

West Land | Price: INR 250 | Color | Size: A4 | Laminated/HardCover

Finally, we have the much awaited review on the CineBook's Blake & Mortimer series here at Comicology, which was part of the batch of issues distributed in India by West Land, on July 2008.  It's another classic series from the Franco-Belgian comics era, a product of one of the famous European Comics visionary Edgar P. Jacobs.  It first appeared serialized in the Belgian comics magazine Tintin from 1946 (from the very first issue), and was subsequently published in book form by Lombard, due to its growing popularity.

It's story about two British men, Philip Mortimer, a Top Scientist; and Francis Blake, an Army officer, and follows their adventures through their science-fiction mixed detective investigations, even to an extent some historian legends, like the lost continent of Atlantis.  I wonder why the series wasn't named as Mortimer & Blake, as he is the main character in much of the adventures. Let's look at the background and earlier work of Edgar Jacobs, which formed a base for his famous Blake & Mortimer series, before we review the instalments from CineBook.

B&M 1: The Yellow "M"
ISBN: 978-1-905460-21-2

Black-Mortimer 01 Cover1
B&M 1: BackCover
Pages: 72 | Published: Jan 2007
Black-Mortimer 01 Cover2

Edgar P. Jacobs, was born in Brussels on March 30, 1904.  As per Jacobs he is known to have drawn from his early days of his childhood.  But, he actually made his entry in the arts through the Stage Dramas and Soap Opera's.  Despite spending much of his career on his first-choice, he never rose to a prominent role from filling up the extras.  So in 1940, he turned to his first-love full-time, by joining a magazine, and drawing for novels and tales.

The World War II gave Jacobs his first chance to draw for a famous comics script, in form of Flash Gordon, when the original American piece were banned by German forces in Belgium.  Eventhough, it lasted only for a couple of weeks, that gave him a base from which he could bring his inner urge to a proper shape, and he started working on his own take of Sci-Fi comic strip, Le Rayon U, heavily borrowing from the Flash Gordon script.

Edgar P. Jacobs

During the same time he was also working as a stage painter for Georges Prosper Remi's (known more famously for his creation TinTin under his ghost-name Hergé) TinTin adaptation into a play.  That paved the way for Remi to know about Jacob's works, and the two became good friends, which was instrumental in bringing Jacob's talents to a broader circle, when Remi hired him for recasting/restyling his earlier TinTin albums, like TinTin in the Cango, TinTin in America, etc.

Edgar Jacobs in TinTinEdgar P. Jacobs as Jacobini in
TinTin's Cigars of Pharaoh

The friendship between Remi and Jacobs grew so much, that Remi took the liberty to cast him under the fictional name of Jacobini in some of his TinTin albums, the famous being as a Mummified Egyptologist in Cigars of Pharaoh.

Due to his friendship with Remi, he was part of a team of writer and artists gathered together for a new TinTin magazine in 1946.

On his part, Jacobs wrote and drew his series Le secret de l’Espadon (The Secret of the Swordfish) for the first Tintin magazine, published on September 26, which was eventually the first series of Blake and Mortimer (B&M).

Because of its painstaking realism and plot-work, B&M was a worthy equivalent to the already established, Tintin series (which was created in 1926), from its start. But surprisingly, B&M proved more popular than the Tintin story that it accompanied and soon they were published as hardcover and softcover editions by publisher Lombard.

The success of the series, made Jacobs rethink his apprenticeship work with Hergé on his TinTin rework.  So, when Hergé declined his request to share the credit of TinTin publicly, Jacobs decided to concentrate full-time on B&M in 1947, and went on to produce eight big adventures until 1972, which all have become a classic collectors items. 

But the friendship between Hergé and Jacobs was not disturbed by this professional break-up, as they both shared respect to each others work and achievements.

Jacobs’ style and consistency, his plotting talent and his care in character-building vary greatly from one album to another.

Classic TinTin Magazine Cover with B&M
Ligne Claire as exhibited in
Ligne Claire
"Blake & Mortimer"
B&M 03

There are however many common threads between Hergé and Jacobs, such as the consistent use of Ligne claire (meaning Straight Line) drawing style, which was originally pioneered by Hergé.  Have a look at the example I picked up from TinTin and B&M, which clearly depicts the Ligne Claire at work.

It's a usage of straight line in the artwork with the same thickness, without any emphasize or shadowing on any work parts in a panel.  Style also uses strong colors, and a combination of cartoonish characters with realistic background details.

This style was heavily adopted by all the "Brussels school" artists, and that made them stand out from the other forms of artwork practiced by American and European genre.

It is a style, which is still being adopted by few artists across the globe, but not to an extent as it was utilized in 1950s, which adds a classic touch to the work of Jacobs and Hergé.

Let's come back to the Blake & Mortimer series released by CineBook with their distribution network in India in 2008.  There are 3 issues which are part of this pack, let's look at the synopsis of each of the titles, and their respective French Originals.  All these 3 issues were written and drawn by Edgar P. Jacobs himself.

1. The Yellow “M”:
(French Original: Album 6: La Marque Jaune, 1956)

A mysterious crime wave is sweeping London and nothing, from the Bank of England to the Crown Jewels, is safe. The identity of the criminal is unknown but Londoners are beginning to fear the symbol that is left at each crime scene, the Yellow “M”. Enters Philip Mortimer, and Blake to solve the mystery.

B&M 2: The Mystery of the Great Pyramid : Part 1
ISBN: 978-1-905460-37-3

Black-Mortimer 02 Cover1
B&M 2: BackCover
Pages: 56 | Published: Nov 2007

Black-Mortimer 02 Cover2

2. The Mystery of the Great Pyramid Vol.1:
(French Original: Album 4: Le Mystère de la Grande Pyramide, Tome 1, 1954)

Professor Mortimer, accompanied by the loyal Nasir, is in Cairo pursuing his study of Egyptology. With the assistance of his old friend, he deciphers some papyrus that was recently discovered.  His archaeological exploits soon turn out to be far more dangerous than he expected, as he calls on Captain Francis Blake for assistance but, as it turns out, Blake is the one truly in need of help.

3. The Mystery of the Great Pyramid Vol.2:
(French Original: Album 5: Le Mystère de la Grande Pyramide, Tome 2, 1955)

When news reaches him that Captain Blake has been assassinated by agents of Colonel Olrik at Athens Airport, Professor Mortimer vows to avenge his friend and sets out to discover the whereabouts of Olrik. Mortimer’s investigation leads him to the Great Pyramid where he begins to unravel the secrets of the Chamber of Horus, secrets that will lead him into the darkest depths of the Great Pyramid itself.

B&M 3: The Mystery of the Great Pyramid : Part 2 
ISBN: 978-1-905460-38-0

Black-Mortimer 03 Cover1
B&M 3: BackCover
Pages: 56 | Published: Jan 2008

Black-Mortimer 03 Cover2

However much I love the classic editions, Blake & Mortimer series were too slow for me, with far too much text interlaced between the artwork (one of the reasons why I took a long time to read and review this series from CineBook).

It seems to be the style of Jacobs to get his work in a style of novel, but that let's down the Comics medium which is known as a 'speaking art'.  Have a look at an example, which I picked up from the CineBook edition, The Mystery of the Great Pyramid.

The translators employed by CineBook for the English versions of B&M, should have had a real tough job to do, in working with all this text.

The famous Gilbert Gascard, (The creator of Ric Hochet, Reporter Johny for Tamil Comic Fans, and Chick Bill under the pseudonym Tibet), who served as an editor of TinTin magazine, shared the same feeling, which resulted in him taking years before reading E.P.Jacobs work in his own magazine.

But, with that said there is no denying the artwork and plots of Jacob is no lesser than any of the classics available at present.

B&M 02
An example of "Text" overshadowing the "Artwork" in B&M

CineBook have also released B&M 4: The Francis Blake Affair, in UK, which hasn't reached India yet. It's the 13th album in the series, and the first which was not written by Jacobs. I would be eager to read it when its available, to experience the new team which is handling the B&M series at present, which consists of one of my favorite writer Jean Van Hamme (XIII fame).

Edgar P. Jacobs passed away in 1987, and he was commemorated with a Sphinx on his cemetery tomb at Brussels, which is said to have a "collar beard", with a face looking lot similar to his famous character, Philip Mortimer, fittingly.

In 2004, the French and Belgian Post Offices worked together to dedicate stamps portraying Jacobs and his characters, which shows that along with him his characters were also immortalized.   For a complete list of work by Jacobs, visit this centenary memorial site, which is in French as with many other sites dedicated to Jacobs and his works, but we could still use the Google Translator, for exploring it.

Hope you enjoyed this post about the Blake and Mortimer, along with the author bio and background of the series.  If you want to experience the series, then grab the CineBook instalments, before they run out of stock.  It's worthy to be part of your classic collection, if you are a fan of them like me.

EdgarJacobs StampBlake-Mortimore Stamp   Jacobs & his characters: B & M
Immortalized on Stamps

Nov 23, 2008

Lion Comics #205 - Tex Willer | Nov '08

Lion Comics #205 – Tex Willer 
Lion 205 c1 Yemanin Ellayil [Footsteps of the Demon] - Part 3 of 3
116 Pgs | INR 10 | B6 | B/W | Laminated/Paperback

The 3 months long wait, to the climax of the latest 3 part Tex Willer series, has ended, as Prakash Publishers have landed their Lion Comics #205, on our hands, by the end of the month, which has closely followed last month's Muthu #310.

It's a continuation of Lion #203 & Lion #204, written and drawn by Caludio Nizzi and Fabio Civitelli, respectively, which were covered here at Comicology, when they were released. Explore the links above, if you missed out those posts.

Flash News: To read Editor S.Vijayan’s first-ever response to a debate on Comics blogs, refer to the end of the post.

It was surprising to see a Lion Comics cover-art utilizing the landscape format, as Portrait format had become a de-factor standard or norm since the re-launch of Lion and Muthu Comics. The last time this strategy was adopted was way back - nearly a decade, in the Lion #165: Nijam 1 - Nizhal 2 (நிஜம் 1 - நிழல் 2) exactly on Jan '01. Mr. Vijayan, the editor of Lion Comics, this time has decided to discard the original cover-art of the issue and seems to have utilized a Tex Willer poster from some other source (which is clear from the fact, that the scene doesn't depict the setup of the battle, as described in the inner pages).

I received my subscription copy a day later than the majority, so a delayed post helped me gather requisite materials for a complete coverage, and post with a different style, as they call in Hindi - 'Zara Hatke (ज़रा हटके)'.  So let's took at a little biography of Tex Willer (as it is a trend at Comicology) before we get down to this instalment of Lion Comics.

Created in 30 Sep 1948, in the backdrop of WW II, by writer Giovanni Luigi Bonelli and illustrator Aurelio Galleppini; Tex Willer can be termed as the most successful Italian Comics venture to have known to the world outside.

Giovanni Luigi Bonelli

Originally started for the then famous Bonelli Comics, as a comic strip (just like the other famous European/American classic comic characters), it has far outlived its other compatriots, in terms of longevity.

The story of the Original Italian Comics base and evolution of Bonelli Comics, has its long roots with the World War II.

Aurelio Galleppini

galep_arttexHollywood Movies and American Comics had been embarrassed by many European countries, including Italy, during WW II.  In 1945, when the war finally ended, Italy was among the many European nations anticipating a return to the good life that included great music, fun movies, and excellent comics. But a strange thing happened. When classic American characters like Flash Gordon, Mandrake and Mickey Mouse were returned to their Italian fans, the books proved to be less popular than they had been before the war.

Readers seemed to prefer the smaller-sized magazines that had been published in their absence, and the small print format called "striscia" (strips), that publishers had reverted to when they were hit by a paper shortage. Strips were smaller in size, with more pages and longer stories, and the Bonelli family - owners of a small publishing house in Milan, began printing these for popular distribution.

In 1948, Mrs.Tea Bonelli wished to re-open her publishing house and create new comic series. She therefore called Galleppini, and entrusted the texts to her ex-husband, Bonelli.

texThat's how the character Tex Willer was born.  Bonelli initially planned to name the lead character as "Tex Killer", but due to Tea's strong objection, it was changed to with a 'W' in place of 'K'.  The initial concept of Tex was him as an outlaw, but soon was characterized to be a good Samaritan, as a Ranger (Issue #3).  He is often referred as 'Night Eagle' (இரவுக்கழுகு), due to a costume and mask he wore on one of his earliest adventures.

Kit CarsonTex's closest friend and a part to most of his adventures is Kit Carson, an elderly man (He is older than Tex by about ten years and is drawn in his years of maturity with gray hair).  Actually, even though Tex Willer is a fictional character, Kit Carson is a rendition of the famous American frontiersman of the same name, who had close ties with Navajo's Red Indian Tribe (for which fantasy Tex's character is known for). 

Tamil Comic fans will remember that Kit Carson has regularly featured in the erstwhile
Rani Comics, in many of its cowboy stories.  Well, we can safely say that that Carson and Tex's Carson are two different people, as different comic writers and artists have used Carson in their popular culture in varying roles over the years, and no wonder Bonelli Sr. thought of it to be part in his dream project too.

There are many ladies in Tex's life, but only one is closest to his heart, his wife Lilith, who was the daughter of Red Arrow (chief of Navajo), upon which he succeeded as the leader of Navajo's and their official representation to the US Govt.  There are also Tiger Jack, a Red-Indian and Kit Willer, Tex's son who accompany him in his numerous adventures through the Wild-West, which ranges from Voodoo Magic to pre-historic Dinosaurs. 

The strong bond between Jack & Kit, is identically similar to the one shared by Tex & Carson.  In most of the stories, we see that when the team splits it is normally with the same pair.  It's said that Bonelli had thought about having a spin-off with Kit Willer as the lead, but he decided against it, and had him as the understudy of Tex throughout.

Bonelli wrote the stories of all of the Tex adventures published until beyond the mid-1980s.  And his fellow co-creator Galleppini, matched him up, as a continuous artist of Tex series for more than 4 decades.

tex0400tex0001In fact, all the Cover Artworks were done by him right from the Issue #1 (Oct '58), to Issue #400 (Feb '94).

Have a look at the those covers, and a symbolic representation of Artist change (and probably a premonition of his own death, as Galleppini passed away on Mar '94), with Tex shown waving Goodbye to all.

Eventhough Gallepinni was chief artist for the series for a long tLion 140 c1ime, he was ably assisted by a team of artists due to his illness, and volume of work.  But, until 1980's Tex was credited and signed only as "text by G.L.Bonellï and drawings by Galep", as the Editor feared reader reactions to the change in the successful pair.

Long-time Lion Comics fans will remember that the Tex #400 cover was re-used for Lion Comics #140 (1998), although it featured a different story (Yerintha Kaditham - எறிந்த கடிதம்).

Bonelli continued to supervise the production of Tex until he passed away in 2001.  After Bonelli Sr., his son Sergio Bonelli, who is also a comic book writer (he is the creator of Zagor, another popular Italian Comic Character, the costumes and trademark signs closely reminds us of Tex's), then took over the reigns of publishing Tex Willer Series.

The current publishing company which owns Tex and other famous Italian characters is named after Bonelli Jr., Sergio Bonelli Editore (Editore meaning Publisher in Italian).

Tex All Stars, their longest running Comics series has crossed over Issue #550, with a regular monthly release.  There are some other series too where the olden goldies are reprinted from the original Tex Series.

Let's come back to the current month instalment from Lion Comics, the story opens up where the Part 2 was left off.

Carson & Co. approach the shed where the egoist Major Wellman, and his partner in crime, Overend, discuss about their master strategy to ignite a war between Red Indians and US Military, and get benefited out of it in terms of power and money.  But Carson, and Kit intervene, and spoil their evil plans

On the other end, Tex battles a life or death situation, in a Wild Challenge issued by rebel Orso Vellace, who tries to salvage his damaged prestige among their tribe.  By which the premonition of Red Clout in the 1st Part to Tex Willer, about a Fast Bear and Black Eagle battling on top of a Peak, turns out in reality. As usual, Tex Willer comes on top and puts an end to the egoistic maniac, thus bringing the mini series to an end.

The writer doesn't forget to re-emphasize the human touch, by referring to the romantic interlude of Alicia (Sydor), and her untold love to Tex Willer, when the story concludes.

Italian Original: Tex No.477
Sfida selvaggia (Wild Challenge)
Jul 2000


Overall, it's another Tex Willer Classic, and leaves us gasping for more such stories in future.

Kudos to Mr.Vijayan for hand-picking the stories among the huge Tex Series (which does contain some goof-ups, like the one mini series which had a Dinosaur appearing suddenly), and translating them to Tamil without losing the original context

As far as the other main topic, which was highlighted in the Hotline, and has been going through a huge debate on blogs elsewhere, my vote is to the Increasing of Price and retaining the current form of Lion and Muthu Comics.  Which seems to have been the universal choice of 90% of our comics readers.

I don't share Editors view that rising the price to INR 12, will lead to an issue of tendering change at the vendors.  Because, our comics are available mostly in Petty Shops, and Railway Station Book shops, who all are known to have an adequate stock of Coins for change, and do their business on top of it.  As far as the subscribers goes, they wouldn't mind a small change in the prices, as that could easily be adjusted in the subscription amount.

The current format of Hard Cover/Laminated, B6 Size, is the best format which was ever practiced by Muthu or Lion Comics.  It helps protect and safeguard our beloved comics for a very long time in our collection.  So, my request to Editor is to maintain the current format and decide between pricing the future editions in the range of INR 12 to INR 15.  If Editor decides to make it INR 15, then we can hope that he increases current paper quality to be more whiter, thus letting us an option to witness the great artwork in its truest form.  Also an adoption of B5 as the standard size could be practiced, but that looks a distance dream.

Lion 205 Backcover featuring XIII TeaserLion 205 Editor's HotlineIn short, increase the price to INR 12, if editor decides to maintain the current format; or rise it by INR 15, to improve the size (to B5 preferably) and paper quality if he decides to up it by INR 15 (which looks highly impossible going by the choices Mr.Vijayan's normal preference over the years)

With the inflation, and global economical change, this isn't a price-rise which is going to make much of an uproar, among our comic fans.  Hope the good sense prevails on this topic. 

By talking about the price and other issues, Editor has given a miss for Singathin Siruvayadhil (சிங்கத்தின் சிறுவயதில்), his famous article for a second consecutive issue (பத்த வச்சிட்டியே பரட்டே...).  And, the earlier announced list of Comicologists who have booked for the XIII Special is also missing (பின்ன, என் பேரேல்லாம் எப்படி பாக்குறதாம் !!).

Editor Mr. S.Vijayan's response:

"Hi folks,
This is quite an awesome blog ! The kind of time & efforts that have been put into this website deserves the richest of accolades ! Hats off !
I'd have loved to post in Tamil too..but its no secret that my skills with the computer are pretty much akin to Sheriff Dog Bull's skills at maintaining law & order in Woodcity. So I'll stick to posting in English for awhile..
The interest and passion that you guys show towards comics in general & our Lion Comics in particular, is the tonic that I need quite a lot of times to revive flagging spirits. With a little bit more time I promise I'll have our Lion Comics website up & running again.
As for the dilemma that we are currently faced with regarding the price hike - one thing I've decided for sure is that we are NOT changing the size. Almost all our readers have advised us to continue with the existing size. So the option now is to contemplate : Either a price jump or a cut in pages. I will look at the length of the stories we have planned for the next 6 issues and take a call based on that. You will read about it in the next Hotline for sure.
And yes, "Singathin Siru Vayathil" will be back in business from the coming issue of Corrigan - "Maandavan Meendan". Not too sure if that's good news or bad..!
Have fun guys..I'll drop in again sometime soon."

As advertised earlier, the next issue will be Agent Phil Corrigan or Secret Agent X-9 extravaganza, titled
Maandavan Meendaan (மாண்டவன் மீண்டான்), who last featured in Lion Comics, back in 1995, in the Lion #112, Top 10 Special.  So, it's good that Editor is bringing back one of his popular characters, from the past.

Well, this turned out to be another big post, so let me put a stop to it, and meet you all in the next post.  Adios Amigos !

References: ubcfumetti

Nov 14, 2008

Teshkeel Comics - The 99 #0-4 | 2008

We have a new entrant to the Graphic Novels Biz, and this time it is neither from the American Stable, nor from the European/Franco-Belgian stables or Japanese Manga.  It's from the Middle-East. Surprising, as it may sound, it's a first worldwide attempt from a comics creator from Kuwait, Dr. Naif Al-Mutawa, founder and CEO of Teshkeel Media Group.

Naif al-Mutawa with his sonsTeshkeel Comics is the brainchild of Naif al-Mutawa, a 36-year-old Kuwaiti comics fan. He grew up in the US where he fell in love with Marvel and, after training as a psychologist, wrote kids' books on prejudice. He thought up his superheroes during a cab ride across London in 2003, with his sister.

The 99 are a quasi-spiritual version of the X-Men or the Fantastic Four.  The plot of the series, drawing on stories and history familiar to most Muslim youths, involves the great wisdom and learning that characterized the Muslim world at its apogee, when it reached from northern Pakistan to southern Spain in the late Middle Ages.

The writing for the series is at present managed by Naif Al-Mutawa himself, accompanied by Fabian Nicieza, known for his work on Marvel titles such as X-Men, X-Force, New Warriors, Cable and Deadpool, and Thunderbolts.

The 99 #0
Origins of The 99 Series
The 99 #0: BackCover | Pages: 64
Size: B5 | Color | SoftCover | Price: INR 30
99 #00 Cover1 99 #00 Cover2

The epic plot is based, Da Vinci Code-style, on a pivotal moment in Islamic history - the sacking of Baghdad by the Mongols in the 13th century. The wisdom, tolerance and spirituality of the Baghdad caliphate are coded in 99 gemstones just as the barbarians are at the gate, and in the intervening years they have been scattered around the world. The heroes' job is to find them before the bad guy does.

"To create the new, you have to tap into the old," Mr. Mutawa says of the deep historic connections in the comic. "The real goal is to teach kids that there's more than one way to solve a problem."

Although, as only God is allowed to possess all 99 characteristics, Mr.Mutawa is likely to peak with around 70 caped crusaders (so far 20 characters have been announced for the The 99 series, in which 16 have been revealed in the series released in Middle-East).

Five of "The 99," from left: Mumita (speedy), Dr. Razem (a gem expert), Rughal (mystery powers), Jabbar (expandable) and Noora (sees truth)

The characters in "The 99" are not all Arabs, but Muslims all over the world.  For example, Jabbar is from Saudi Arabia, Mumita is from Portugal, Noora is from United Arab Emirates.  There is even a character which wears Burkha.

But, as explained by Mr. Naif to New York Times, "There is where religion stops and Mythology begins.  I don't expect Islamists to like my idea, and I don't want the ultra-liberals to like it either".  So far, he has managed to get Kuwait's censors to approve the early mock-ups. But to keep the orthodox at ease, he has included women in head-scarves and plays it by the book as far as religion goes. 

The 99 #1
1. Of Light and Dark | Artist: John McCrea
2. First Steps | Artist: Steve Yeowell
The 99 #1: BackCover | Pages: 40 
Size: A4 | Color | SoftCover  | Price: INR 30
99 #01 Cover1 99 #01 Cover2

But what gives Mr. Naif the biggest edge is a seasoned team, including writers like Fabian Nicieza, who wrote for X-Men and Power Rangers comics, and a group of managers and advisers who are old hands in the industry.

In addition, "The 99" will piggyback on a distribution network Mr. Mutawa is setting up for a parallel project, publishing all manner of other comics in the Middle-East region. Teshkeel has signed on with Marvel Comics to translate and distribute their comics in the Middle East, and will soon begin publishing Arabic versions of Marvel's Spider-Man, Incredible Hulk, X-Men and others (Much like the Spiderman-India franchise created by Gotham Comics for the Indian/Asian markets).

The 99 #2
1. No Pain, No Gain | Artist: John McCrea
2. The Origins of Rughal, Pt.1 | Artist: Ron Wagner
The 99 #2: BackCover | Pages: 36
Size: A4 | Color | SoftCover  | Price: INR 30
99 #02 Cover1 99 #02 Cover2

Mr. Naif also briefs that he is in talks with Archie and DC Comics for similar deals. He says that Teshkeel has attracted $7 million from investors, based on the promise that he will turn his company into the largest comics publisher in the Middle East.

Last year, Teshkeel also bought Cracked, a defunct competitor of Mad magazine (Indian comic fans will remember that Gotham Comics tried to bring the MAD venture to India, in a failed attempt), which he plans to resume publishing, pitched to a more mature audience in the United States. He hopes those publications will encourage other media companies to take him more seriously and back his Muslim Super-Heroes concept.

The 99 #3
1. Problem Solving | Artist: John McCrea
2. The Origins of Rughal - Pt.2 | Artist: Ron Wagner
The 99 #3: BackCover | Pages: 36
Size: A4 | Color | SoftCover | Price: INR 30
The 99 03 Cover1 The 99 03 Cover2

Teshkeel Comics has tied up with Chandamama, to bring their The 99 Series to India, and South-East Asia.  So far there are 4 Issues which have been released in consecutive months in 2008.  We earlier covered the legacy of Chandamama, a well-known children's magazine of India, referring to their Collectors Issue. So this a good attempt from them to establish themselves on the Graphic Novel Biz, which I feel they missed out while being on top of the Children's magazines for so many decades.

The 99 #4
1. Shadowboxing | Artist: John McCrea
2. Baggage | Artist: Ron Wagner
The 99 #4: BackCover | Pages: 36
Size: A4 | Color | SoftCover | Price: INR 30
The 99 04 Cover1 The 99 04 Cover2

Overall, I believe that "The 99" offers a different kind of view from the traditional American, Euro/Franco, Japanese storylines, as it tries to break a new ground, with its roots from the untouched Islamic facts and figures, yet not going overboard in preaching or siding with any religion.  Mr. Naif has to be commended for that effort. 

But, all said and done, I still feel that the storyline could be little more interesting if it tries to establish a strong foundation and benefiting out of it, rather than concentrating on action-packed sequences, which are best left for the American genre, which thrives on it.

Also, I couldn't see the great dedication towards the artwork, compared to what was witnessed in the Origins issue.  It could be helped by the fact that there were a team of Artists (including Jeff Jhonson, and Ron Wagner) who were involved for the special Origins issue, and now the artwork is wholly in the hands of John McCrea and Ron Wagner, who have different styles, but fail to complete the background information in some panels.

Credits & Copyright Info Poster-1 : The 99 #0
The 99 04 Credits 99 #00 Posters1
Poster-2 : The 99 #0 Poster-3 : The 99 #0
99 #00 Posters2 99 #00 Posters3

Hopefully, the coming issues would be dealing with that, as they round-up their introduction of Super Heroes.  As of date, they have gone up to #14 with their Middle-East releases, so we are in for a continued release of this series in India, if Chandamama can promote their existence, and make a profit out of it with their Indian releases.  I am planning to cover them in batches, as their monthly release far outnumbers my group blogging regularity :-).

The packaging of the comics, is real value for money.  At Rs.30 INR, with A4 Size; 35+ pages; and waxed paper-quality, where the artwork really stands good; are a bargain.  Though, I would prefer the size of the Origins issue, which is easy to maintain as a collectible, at the same time not sacrificing the luxury of witnessing the artwork.  A4 Size magazines are little difficult to maintain.

The Credit Page lists down the team behind 'The 99' franchise.  It also carries the subscription details for 'The 99' in India.  As of now, they are available in major book store chains across country, like Landmark and Odyssey.  They are also at all places where the Chandamama used to be available, which includes Petty Shops, to small book-stores.  Thanks to the power of Chandamama's Distribution Network (Thanks to Dr.Satheesh for the info).  So catch them to witness a new form in Comics.

Hope you have enjoyed the cover-scans and some of the posters from the Origins issue, found along with this post, which carries some fine-piece of traditional artwork (not the computer graphics generated cover-arts which have become a de-facto standard with American counterparts).  As a bonus, The origins issue could be downloaded for free from the official website of The 99, to get you started with the series.  So grab it while it is still available.

Nov 13, 2008

News: Comics Hobby - Times of India | Nov '08

Well, it's first for us at Comicology, to talk about a news-article published in Newspapers. But, this particular article released in Times of India edition today, in it's Chennai special: Chennai Times, was related to the growing interest among young readers, to channel their source from the traditional novels, to other forms, including our interest, Comics.

Times of India - Chennai Times - Pg1 13 Nov 08I was never a great fan of Novels, and continue to be one till now.  Somehow, reading through pages and pages of literary work, despite being about any genre, was never my cup of tea.  That used to remind me much on my school day subject syllabuses, which could be a best alternative to your bed pillow, by the sheer size of it.  The much acclaimed Harry Potter series, I prefer to follow only in visual media, through their Movie franchise.

At times, I used to wonder, why not the nuances of Physics, Chemistry, Biology or History,  could have been best told if they are laid with pictures in between.  Didn't we understand history and its leaders much more through the great Anant Pai's Amar Chithra Katha (ACK), then they were told to us in our school History classes? At least, I did.

The best example of which was the type of picture based learning, exhibited in the recent Bollywood movie, Tare Zameen Par (Stars on Earth), which garnered huge recognition among the masses.  The movie is now designated to be the Indian entry for the Oscars this year, and its a worthy of every bit of accolades it gets, for re-emphasizing the importance of the change in our learning system.

So I was equally amused to see the growing interest of Comics among the younger generation, and the change of thoughts among elders, in the way they looked towards this interest, as exhibited in this article (have highlighted the passages with reference to Comics). 

Hopefully, they will boost the Comics Industries in India in the coming years.

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