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

Showing posts with label Rani Comics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Rani Comics. Show all posts

May 16, 2009

Rani Comics – Rise and Fall | 1984-2005

Comics industry in India has traditionally been dependent on the foreign publications. Publishers and Distributors believed that obtaining licenses from the foreign syndicates and comics publishers were more easy and cost-effective then employing artists and writers to create local comic strips or books. This started off with Newspaper comic strips, and saw itself being adopted by leading comics publications which entered this picture based story-telling field of India, like Indrajal Comics, Star Comics, etc.

American Comic StripsOther than the legendary Amar Chitra Katha (ACK), which revolutionized a generation of kids with rich knowledge of our roots and heritage, only a handful of few decided to pursue the local talents with some quality, most notably Diamond Comics, Manoj Chitra Katha (MCK), and Raj Comics.

British Comic Books But there was one common trait in acquiring International licenses among these comics publications. Their main source was the Golden genre of American Comics. Very few dared to go beyond the riches which were available in American Comics Industry, part of the reason was also due to the availability of American Syndication representatives (who were responsible for maintaining or licensing the copyright for these comic strips and books), who were available right inside our country. And this is where the Tamil Comics Industry in India scores ahead from the rest of its other state counter parts, by relying heavily on the British Genre of Comics.

The trend undoubtedly was started when Muthu Comics made its debut in 1972.

Muthu Comics #1 (1972)Muthu Comic 001starring Fleetway’s Steel Claw

The publishers were Sivakasi based Muthu Fine Arts, who had Mr. Mullai Thangarasan as the Editor for the venture. Muthu singlehandedly pioneered a generation of Tamil Comics, and was the first to establish the standards for the industry.

Contrary to the the Superhero comics adopted by the publications backed up by big media houses, Muthu Comics decided to pursue the riches which were available in the British Genre, most notably in England based, and now defunct, Fleetway Publications.

British Genre, unlike American Comics that time was more sentimental, and had a strong story-plot, which is often assisted by a equal dose of Sci-Fi storylines and characters, like Steel Claw, The Spider, Iron Man Archie, etc. (Pic: AkoTheeka)

So there were no surprises that the stories were well received by Tamil Comics fans, with the only complaint over Muthu being its irregular publishing, which often deprived fans from enjoying the titles uninterrupted. It took 12 long years for that trend to be reversed, with July 1984 marking a new era in Tamil Comics, with a host of 3 new publications joining the foray.

Lion Comics Logo

The first, Lion Comics, from the same publishers of Muthu Comics, with Mr. S Vijayan as the Editor. Mr.Vijayan is the son of Mr. M Soundrapandian, the founder of Muthu Comics.

Mehta Comics Logo

The second, Mehta Comics, from the same Southern Indian city of Sivakasi, competing toe-toe to against the launch of Lion Comics. Surprisingly, Mr. Mullai Thangarasan who was earlier at the helm of Muthu Comics, had shifted base as the Editor of this new venture.
To know more on this topic, read our Mehta Comics debut post here.

The third, Rani Comics, from the famous Tamil Newspaper publisher Dina Thanthi, based out from the capital city Chennai of Indian Southern State.

Different types of comic characters, strength in the storylines, magazine’s standard and packaging, Laminated Covers with stunning artwork and color, galored as the 3 newly introduced publishers tried to go one-up to each other, in the process entertaining the Tamil Comics enthusiasts for decades. Mehta Comics soon closed shops, within a couple of years, then being reduced only to occasional reprints often with prolonged gaps. This left Rani Comics and Lion Comics as the two most recognised competitors, along with the legendary Muthu Comics.

Rani Comics, claimed the upper-hand early in the competition by acquiring the rights to feature world famous British Secret Agent James Bond 007, in its line-up. What’s more they even entered Muthu & Lion’s sacred place of Fleetway publications, to acquire Cowboy and Detective stories also into their fold. Much of Rani Comics success in this dream run, relied heavily on its wide distribution network, which was laid well by the most successful Dina Thanthi publication. Another star attraction was their pricing strategy. It maintained a INR price of 1.50 for more than 4 years, and then maintained INR 2.00 for well over a decade. Lion always had to play the second fiddle to this mighty combination, until the popularity of Rani Comics started fading.

Rani Comics, despite all its initial success had to face the law of averages, as it started to lose it sheen, contributed heavily by the change of his Editor, and then bad character and story choices. The latter's translation in Tamil also added to the misery, with Rani finally closing shops in 2005, after a total run of 21 long years.

While looking back at these lengthier run, we could classify its time period into three generations.

  • Golden Age
  • Bronze Age
  • Dark Age

Let’s look into each of these generations, and the characters which were introduced during that period.

GOLDEN AGE: # 1 (August ‘84) - # 90 (March ‘88)

Obviously, the Golden Age starts and ends in the period when Mr.Ramajayam was at the helm of the affairs. Not only he lined up world famous characters, he also added enough varieties, by introducing Cowboy, Wartime, Science-fiction stories in their host of titles, thus going on to establish itself as the best known Tamil Comics during its time. During this time, it was the only Tamil Comics, which even overshadowed the legendary Muthu Comics and its counterpart Lion Comics, by a long distance, both in terms of sales, and wide reach.

Some of the famous comic stars who appeared on Rani Comics, during this time period were: (Many of them were used with original names in Tamil, the exceptions being differentiated with bracketed names)

James Bond 007 Three Cowboys Kit Karson Tiger
James Bond Three Cowboys Kit Karson Tiger
ஜேம்ஸ் பாண்ட் மூன்று குதிரை வீரர்கள் கிட் கார்சன் டைகர்
Johnny Hazard Shuja Inspector Aazaad Axa
Johny Hazard Shooja Inspector  Aazaad Axa
சாகஸ வீரர் ஜானி
(Adventurer Johny)
மன்னர் பீமா
(King Beema)
இன்ஸ்பெக்டர் ஆசாத் புரட்சி பெண் ஷீலா
(Rebel Lady Sheila)
Bruce Lee Billy Buck Ryan
Bruce Lee Billy Buck Ryan
ப்ரூஸ் லீ பில்லி ராயன் (Raayan)

My favourites out of this genre were: James Bond, Tiger, and the Three Cowboys.

BRONZE AGE: # 91 (April ‘88) - # 288 (June ‘96)

Without doubts it was the time when Mr. AM Saami took over the Editor’s role, after Mr.Ramajayam quit the post. All the hard work done by Ramajayam, was spoilt by poor translation, editing, and story selections. But, one saving grace was that the characters which were introduced during Golden Age, gave him a host array of stories to choose from, so he somehow managed to drag the publication for quite a long time, thus we can call it as Bronze Age.

Moreover, this was the time when apart from featuring the British Genre of Comics, Rani ultimately ended up bringing some American comic characters too, by tying up with King Features Syndicate (many of the stories they used during this time were also published by Indrajal Comics)

Along with the comic characters introduced during the Golden Age, the other notable ones introduced during this time period were:

Thillon Buck Jones Cisco Kid Modesty Blaise Phantom
Thillonதில்லான் Buck Jones  பக் ஜோன்ஸ் Cisko Kidசிஸ்கோ கிட் Modestyமாடஸ்டி பிளைசி Phantomமாயாவி
  Flash Gordon Rip Kirby Mandrake Garth
Flash Gordonஃபிளாஷ் கார்டன் Rip Kirbyரிப் கிர்பி Mandrakeமான்டிரேக் Gorthமுரட்டு காளை கார்த்

My favourites out of this genre, were undoubtedly: Modesty Blaise, Phantom, and Mandrake

DARK AGE: # 289 (July ‘96) - # 500 (April ‘05)

The period, when Rani Comics was clearly on the decline, started with the introduction of a cheaply imitated character out of Phantom’s legacy, called Black Tiger. He was followed by other locally drawn characters and stories, possibly from the North India’s underground publications. Now this says why the publishers always decided against utilizing the local talent. If this is what is in offer, then it better be the way they have agreed on international licensing.

Ironically Mr.AM Saami, who started the slide of Rani Comics, was at the helm of the affairs until the shops closed with Issue #500. During this period, to arrest the sagging sales, they even adopted going in for full-color editions, with a price of INR 5, the coloring of which was the poorest standards of all. Often resembling, that it was done out of water colors, and by amateurs in the business. Clearly, it was meant to end the way it eventually folded.

Some of the famous (?!) comic characters introduced during this time were:

Black Tiger Jadaayu Tyson Agniputra
Karumpuliகரும்புலி Jadaayu ஜடாயு Tysonஇந்திய  டார்ஜான் டைசன் Agniputraஅக்னிபுத்ரா

Not much are known about the origin of these titles, except the constant proof that they were owned by Diamond Comics in the North. If anyone can help by sourcing any original references for this title, please log your comments in the section below.

The Dark Age also saw a series of reprints from the golden oldies published in Rani Comics, in their new color format, but none could match the olden glory. There were some famous comic characters like He-Man, Thorgal, who also made their debut as an one-shot during this period. This period, also had the ignominy of seeing a home-made Modesty Blaise Comic Book featuring as an one-shot (thankfully, and obviously without any licensing). It was absurd to say the least, and it only contributed to the downfall by adding more reasons to eventual death of this legendary comic series.

Overall, even though it was hard to see the Rani publication close shops, it was at least satisfying, since no one could bear and witness the nosedive it took from his glorious times. Nevertheless, the memories it left back, were one to cherish for long. So here at Comicology, we will try to map those glorious days by attempting to review the titles one by one.

Note: This blog post is a summary of two Preview posts published earlier in the exclusive Tamil blog for Rani Comics, here and here . The reason for reproducing the same at Comicology, is to introduce the legacy of Rani Comics to other language friends, as requested by some of the regular visitors. It will better serve as medium to advertise the golden oldies released in Tamil Comics industry.

This doesn’t mean that the Rani Comics blog is discontinued. It is well within my plans, and new review posts for the golden oldies of Rani Comics will continue to be published exclusively on Rani Comics blog, while only a summary post with a link back to the original post, will find its presence in Comicology.

Everyone understands that Unicode-rich blogs suffer from the poor indexing of Search Engines, and this is a way to create a workaround for it.

Oct 27, 2008

CineBook – Thorgal #1-3 | 2008

Distributor in India: West Land | Price: INR 350 | Two-Volume Books | Color | Pages: 96 | Size: B5 | Laminated/HardCover

Well, I got behind on my comics reading, and couldn't complete Black & Mortimer series quite in time for a positive review before the long weekend.  Nevertheless, not to disappoint those visiting souls, I took up another great series for review, Thorgal from Cinebook.

Comics stalwarts would remember the Conan the Barbarian (or Conan the Cimmerian, as he is known also) from the Golden Age of American Comics.  We won't be overestimating, if we say that Conan series, single-handedly laid a platform for the sword-and-sorcery fantasy, and later revolutionized its form in a Comics base starting from 1970.  There were even a couple of Hollywood attempts to take the success, to the Silver Screen, an initiative propelled by the presence of Arnold Schwarzenegger in the lead role.  The popularity of Conan is bestowed by the fact that, there are still die-hard fans around the world for this hard-hitting Cimmerian, even when the world revolves around the Sci-Fi fantasy.

Thorgal 1: Child of the Stars
ISBN: 978-1-905460-23-6

Thorgal 01 c1
Thorgal 1: Aaricia (Vol.2)
Published: 2007

Thorgal 01 ic

There were numerous attempts made to cash-in on the popularity generated by Conan in the Comics format, by many writers and authors, but none were as successful as the Conan was.  But, little is known that in the same period, there was another Comics character from the famed Franco-Belgian genre, which was able to match upto to the popularity and adventures of Conan, and our topic of discussion, Thorgal.

Thorgal is a Belgian comic book series created with the blockbuster combination of writer Jean Van Hamme and the Polish graphic artist Grzegorz Rosiński.  Writer Jean Van Hamme is well-known to Southern Indian Fans, as he is the creator of the successful XIII franchise.  A series which is in plans to be published as a Collectors Item from Prakash Publishers,  who own the famous Tamil language Lion and Muthu Comics, being released in South India.

Jean Van Hamme

Jean Van Hamme

It originally started appearing in the TinTin Magazine, but was moved to hardcover volumes starting from 1980.  Since then the popularity of the series has prompted them to be translated into all the major languages in Europe. 

Thorgal series left no stone untouched, with its storylines uniting many legends into one, ranging from Norse Mythology, Atlantean Fantasy, and to an extent Science Fiction too.


Grzegorz Rosiński

Van Hamme is known for is intriguing plots, in his other works.  And that is shown in the way he has put Thorgal's origin and his hurdles growing-up.

Shankar's comment in the blog reminded me that I forgot to mention how the strange name Thorgal Aegirsson.  As per the plot (revealed in the Cinebook 1st album) he was named so by his adopted father, Leif Haraldson, as "Thor-gal Aegirs-son"; after Thor, the Norse God of Thunder (a prominant Marvel Comic Hero too), and Aegir, the ruler of the sea; because he considered Thorgal to be a gift from the Gods.

The punch-line of Thorgal Series 'The Gods Have Put a Man to the Test', is good enough to understand that he is different from his much famous compatriot, Conan. Unlike Conan, He is a guy who despises of wars, fist-fights, kingdom, or supremacy, and wants to settle down as a day-to-day family man, fueled by his unmatched love towards Aaricia.  The story quitely follows their adventures with us being reminded on this underlying family values, which Thorgal rates highly over any other.  The Artwork of Rosinski, is incredible, which adds all the more value to the Hamme's plot.  Have a look at the cover arts, as a testament to the fact. 

The successful combination, has so far published 29 Albums of Thorgal, with the last one in 2006.  So far, the entire volume put together has sold more than 13 million copies worldwide in all languages put to-gether.

Thorgal 2: The Three Elders of Aran
ISBN: 978-1-905460-31-1
Thorgal 02 c1
Thorgal 2: The Black Galley (Vol.2)
Published: 2007
Thorgal 02 ic

Coming back to the topic, Cinebook have brought this much acclaimed French series, to India in their English versions.  There are 3 Editions with this batch, with each one being a Two Volume Editions, which effectively means that they are 6 in total.  The way these volumes are bound are different from their original publication, as the Thorgal 1, in this series, actually encompasses the original volumes: 7:L'enfant des étoiles and 8:Alinoë;, released in 1984 and 1985 respectively.  The chief patron of Cinebook, Olivier Cadic, explains in an interview with CBO, that he purposefully suggested the change to the creators, as he felt that those individual albums, which briefs the childhood days of Thorgal and Aaricia, would serve as a good way to open up a series anew.

Thorgal 3: Beyond the Shadows
ISBN: 978-1-905460-45-8
Thorgal 03 c1
Thorgal 3: The Fall of Brek Zarith (Vol.2)
Published: 2007

Thorgal 03 ic

Likewise, Thorgal 2: encompasses Original Albums 3:Les Trois Vieillards du pays d'Aran (1981) and 4:La Galère Noire (1982); while Thorgal 3: consists of the Original Albums 5:Au-delà des Ombres and 6:La chute de Brek Zarith.  The Original Albums 1 & 2, which introduces us to the characters and location, have been left out from this venture, as Olivier feels that the Origins of Thorgal & Aaricia, are enough to fill-up the introduction rounds.

As to the present, Van Hamme has disowned himself from the Thorgal series.  But Rosinski has teamed up with Yves Sente (whom we will be discussing again when we review the Black & Mortimer series), to continue the Thorgal Saga.  So far they have released two editions, with this new team-up:

  • Album 30: Moi, Jolan - (I, Jolan) (2007) and
  • Album 31: Le bouclier de Thor - (The Shield of Thor) (2008)

in which the plot now hovers around Jolan, the son of Thorgal.  The new series  has so far garnered mixed reactions for the purists and followers of the Thorgal series. I am not going to provide a judgement on them, unless we have them on our hands.

Overall, I liked Thorgal series, as that introduced us to a world different from what we have witnessed in the sword-fighting medieval age described by other stories.  I always felt that no series could match-up to the Conan saga, but now I have been proven wrong

The next album of Thorgal, The Archers, is currently out on print from Cinebook in UK, but it is yet to reach India.  Cinebook have also announced two more two-volume-editions of Thorgal for 2009, showing their intention to continue with this successful series.

As a Bonus to this post, here are the back-covers of these 3 set Thorgal series, which has a small snippet about the supposed storyline, and a sneak preview of next title in the series.

Thorgal 01 c2Thorgal 02 c2Thorgal 03 c2












And before we wrap-up, for all the visitors from India and those of Indian Origin from other countries, wish you all a Happy Diwali.  For the others, its famously called as the "Festival of Lights", and for all proper reasons. Refer to the Wiki link to know more.

அன்பிற்கினிய தமிழ் வாசகர்களுக்கு, இனிய தீபாவளி நல்வாழ்த்துகள். இந்த பண்டிகையில் உங்கள் வீடுகளில் மகிழ்ச்சி பொங்கட்டும்; உங்களுடைய நெடு நாள் ஆசைகள் நிறைவேறட்டும்.

सब जनो को दिवाली के सुभ अवसर पर, मेरी आर्थिक सुब्काम्नाये |

Flash-Back: RANI COMICS - Tamil - #313 - 1 July 1997

Contrary to the popular opinion that Thorgal series was never printed in India before, I was just alerted by comikers, that it had indeed been printed in India as an one shot, by the erstwhile Comics publication Rani Comics (ராணி காமிக்ஸ்).  Luckily, I had a copy of this edition in my collection and this late-update is to compare it with the original version, released now by CineBook.

For the starters, Rani Comics was one of the famous Tamil Comics magazines in South India, from the house of Daily Thanthi (தின தந்தி).  It had a huge fan-following and had a marathon release for more than 3 decades. 

Though it revolutionized the art of Comics publishing in Tamil Language along with the fellow Super Heavyweights Muthu Comics & Lion Comics, many true comic lovers despised their strategy of editing the core artwork, and spoiling the plot, especially the post-Ramajayam period, as Editor of Rani Comics. Read more about them in our Rani Comics debut post here.

Rani Comics #313 Veera Siruvan
(வீர சிறுவன்) : Courageous Boy
Rani 313 Cover

This one-shot was released in July 1997 as Rani Comics #313, titled Veera Siruvan (வீர சிறுவன்) , which is an edited version of the Thorgal Album 1: Child of the Stars, listed in the main section.  The coverart is also inspired by the same Album.  And surprisingly he retains his original name, although eventually killing it by referring him as Thoragaal (தொரகால்).

The story revolves around the childhood of Thorgal, where he agrees to help the Dwarfs in their challenge with the Serpent King, to locate the Jewel made from a Metal that Doesn't Exist.  Due to Thorgal's secret origin of being a descendant from an alien race from the stars, he does carry an ornament from his ancestors which satisfies the Serpent Kings description.  Thorgal decides to travel to the Dwarf land accompanied by the Dwarf messenger, to gift his ornament and successfully evades the hurdle to claim his destiny.

Now, as is the tradition with Rani Comics, we get to see a lot of twists from the original storyline.  While briefing all them would be a big ask, I will try to keep it short with few prime examples.  To start with due to the size of Rani Comics (half the original), the one page artwork in the original, is actually briefed in 2 or 3 pages in the Rani Comics version, and the Original segregation of Child of Stars into three chapters is missing in the Rani Comics edition.  The story starts without a prologue about Vikings finding Thorgal as an infant.  Instead it is featured as a small snippet into the story when its framed as being told by Thorgal to the Dwarf Messenger.  This could be accepted by the fact that Tamil Comics is still new to a level, with the concept of Epilogue or Prologue may be a little hard to understand by one and all.

And as with the tradition of all Black & White prints, we get to lose the incredible artwork of Rosinski.  See an example from the scene where Dwarf Messenger talks to Thorgal in a Dark Night, with a camp fire.  While the original artwork shows that Thorgal is in picture, the Rani Comics version has completely made him a ghost in the dark.  A little effort from the local artist could have made it look better.  Take your own judgement below.

Original: Dwarf & Thorgal in Conversation
Thorgal 01 pg19
Rani Comics Adaptation of the same panels
Rani 313 pg17

The next up is close to the end of Chapter two, where the Serpent claims that he won the challenge, and is shocked to see the Messenger returning with the jewel.  Elsewhere, Thorgal dies in the battle with the Snake like monster.  But, in the Rani Comics adaptation, the Dwarf Lord himself briefs to the Serpent that the Jewel is here, and it is his portrayed as if that the Serpent in anger kills Thorgal, who actually hasn't reached the location yet (battling with the monster still on the way).  To top it all, in the Rani Comics, the immediate next panel after Thorgals death, is shown as the Dwarves celebrating their victory, while they just portrayed Thorgal being killed by the Serpent, and then they suddenly come to the realisation of him being missing.  Confusion to the core.  Have a look for yourself.

Original: Serpent being briefed on Stone discovery
Thorgal 01 pg30
Corresponding Rani Comics Panels - p56
Rani 313 pg56
Rani Comics - p57
Rani 313 pg57
Rani Comics - p58
Rani 313 pg58

But to top it all, Editor packs a surprise at the end.  In the Original, when Thorgal gets wounded by the Snake like monster, the Dwarf Messenger, sheds tears on his friends death.  But Goddess Frigg brings Thorgal back to life, and briefs that the tears which was shed on him would eventually be his biggest gift, as Tears of Love.  When Thorgal wakes up in his world, he is briefed by his friends that during his absence, one of the tribal leaders was blessed with a baby girl, who surprisingly had pearls in the shape of tears in her both clenched hands by birth.  Symbolic representation, that that is the gift to Thorgal from the Goddess for his courage, a girl who would later become his love for life, Aaricia.

But, we are into a great twist in the storyline, in typical Indian style, here the girl is indeed portrayed as the baby sister of Thorgal himself.  Oops, what a way to end a One shot story.  Editor A.M.Saami at work again.

Original: The Climax of Chapter 2
Thorgal 01 p32
Respective Panels in Rani Comics - p60
Rani 313 pg60
Rani Comics - p61
Rani 313 pg61

Since, this was indeed considered as one shot by Rani Comics Editor, he left out the 3rd Chapter of the Album where Thorgal travels to the sacred mountain to eventually meet his Grandfather, and comes to know of his origin.  Rani Comics adaptation, simply ends with Chapter two.

The idea of this comparison, is not to show Rani Comics under poor light, but only to create the awareness that how a good story could be spoilt in the hands of a wrong authorities. There may be people, who would still justify that Rani Comics was aimed at children, hence it was simplified for common understanding.  I don't buy in that concept, because that cannot be used as a yardstick for chopping of a storyline from its originality and changing it as per the wish of the editor.  They are quite a few publishers who buy-in this concept in India, the notable of them are Prakash Publishers from South India, publishers of the fabled Lion and Muthu Comics.

I hope you enjoyed this post, and as always, please do leave your comments in the section below.


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