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

May 30, 2009

Paradox - A History of Violence | 1997

All the election fever which was going around in the country for the last few months, have finally come to a sweet end, with India Inc. decisively voting in Elections 2009 for a stable government at the centre. Let’s hope that the momentum shows enough strength in revitalizing the economic fortunes of the country, which took a beating, undoubtedly, by the global financial slowdown.

Iznogoud Mini At Comicology, our recent post on Iznogoud with a complete account of his Indian presence, has garnered enough interest among comikers. Being an Iznogoud fan myself, there is no joy abound then sharing all the info about one of the famous antagonists in Comics, with like minded people.

Rest assured that, with the list of Iznogoud titles published by Lion Comics, and the ones planned by
Euro Books and CineBook, may mean that this is only a start to the avalanche of posts reviewing the titles featuring this legendary Franco-Belgian comic character over here at Comicology. Stay Tuned, Comikers.

The topic for the current post, is a follow-up on the works of John Wagner, about whom we saw more during our Mehta Comics debut post, here.

Paradox – A History of Violence (1997)
ISBN: 1-56389-367-3 | Pg:300 | TPB | Size: B6
$9.95 / INR 125 (in India on Back-Issue sale)

This time around it is about his first ever works in form of a Graphic Novel, as quoted in there.

Small town Michigan wears a calm LookSo without further adieu, let’s move on to this issue, Cover-art of which is sure to turn-on anyone towards exploring it.

Life is moving at their slowest best, in one of the evening in a small town near down-town Michigan. Mild-mannered Tom McKenna appears serving his last regular customer, Bessy, at his soda-shop.

Hitchickers are Brutaly MurderedThe door bells cling, as the two disturbing figures enter the shop with a demonic freezed looks.

The trouble makers were just shown leaving a blood trail on the way to the town, by killing two hitchhikers cold-bloodedly for money. So, their intentions were pre-told as they enter the unsuspecting town locality.

Duo demands their CoffeeWithout heeding to McKenna’s advice that he is closing, they demand their Coffee. The premonition of trouble, thrusts McKenna to wrap up his customers, and serve the duo before he brings down the shutters. McKenna was wise enough in deciding to send his daughter Ellie, to tag along with Bessy, for home bound.

McKenna attacks the Trouble-doersHaving cornered McKenna alone, the duo threaten to deprive him off his life and money. Just when they thought that they have managed to make some free-lunch, they are shocked by the swift attacks McKenna manages to throw, in the process killing one and brutally injuring other.

A Natonal Hero is Born The next day, papers across country flash the news of the unlikely hero who courageously made his stand, helping to capture the mischief-makers. McKenna and his family suddenly receives huge fanfare and attraction. But McKenna is shown growing in concern, as he mysteriously starts fearing that the increased limelight may only bring more trouble.

Torrino confronts McKenna His fear turns to reality as the incident draws three more strangers to the isolated town, one of them an elderly man named Johnny Torrino. Dressed in Gentleman suits, the trio starts stalking McKenna and his family.

Torrino shows his brute strengthTorrino, who sports scarred face with an missing eye, confronts McKenna in his shop, quizzing about a long-lost kid from New York, named Joey Muni, who had left something with him: A cut finger, which hangs in a capsule on the neck of Torrino. A sight of which brings shivers down McKenna’s whole body. McKenna’s wife Edie, comes to help, as she quickly pushes out the trio, warning them of police action if they every trouble them again.

Back at their hideout, the trio confronts between themselves, as the younger sect believe that they mistook McKenna for someone else. But, they are soon silenced by the raging Torrino, The warring party arrives at Tom's placewho seems to have more power than his deputy’s, even at his old age. Feared by his anger, the trio decide to follow McKenna, even setting aside the warning they get from the Sheriff of the locality.

Tom confronts Torrino & Co After a lot of run-down of frequent visits, and anonymous telephone threats, Torrino, finally consoles himself that he may have a mistaken in identifying his man. But just as they were making it back out of the town, Torrino encounters McKenna’s younger son, Frank.

The resemblance of his face with his father’s, was enough for Torrino, to confirm his assumption, which sees him abducting Frank, and landing outside McKenna’s home. Torrino warns McKenna that he has finally found out his real identity, and it is time he comes out and gives himself up, or see his family massacred just before his eyes.

Joey and Richie ponder over their plans The resultant gun-shots and edge-of-the seat action, is sure to bring a chill running down your spine, as the Chapter 1: “A Small Town Killing” comes to a close on this Graphic Novel, which details how someone’s past life can come Richie faces his worst nightmareback to haunt him even if he desires to drive away from it. As they say, when you play and live life hard, then you have got to pay the price.

What did Joey do in his young age which has brought such hell to his new home, is detailed in the Chapter 2: “The Brooklyn Murders”, as it chronicles the life and trouble of two teenage friends, Joey and Richie who play hard, and use the shortcuts in life to earn quick money and fame, which sees them go separate ways.

After seeing that their is huge cash being circulated in the locality, Richie decides to steal some out from them, which was also to avenge his brother’s murder by the goons. Along with the reluctant Joey, the duo manage to make a run-down with local mobs, in a swift cloaked attack, and leave them bruised and killed, and having drained them of their booty, expectedly leaving them seeking for revenge.

Torrino corners young Joey/TomBut, Richie’s attitude of flashing his money all over, draws the attention of the mob leaders in the locality, who hand-pick him for slaughter. The trails leads up to Joey, as he makes a run for his life, followed closely by the underground mobs.

The scenes where he confronts Torrino, in an alley, and the resultant fight where he takes an eye-out of Torrino with a barb-wire, can’t be expressed in mere words. Incidentally, the talented artist did the same in those pages for us.

Joey gets a call from a dead manThe life comes back to present day, as Joey now in his new life as Tom, tries to mend the evil seeds from his past, as he reappears in the city which changed his life for the worst, as Chapter 3: “With Evil Intent”, closes this 300 page epic Graphic Novel titled, aptly as A History of Violence, and carries the same weapons used significantly throughout the novel on its cover.

As witnessed throughout in the graphic novel, It has surprise twists at the end too, as Joey receives a chilling phone call from his supposedly murdered cohort Richie, and the last scenes where he encounters his worst nightmare, is one to take the readers to witness a whole new level of evil incarnation, which is an embodiment of a evil man’s inner self.

Overall, HOV is a Graphic Novel to remember for long, at least for me.

John WagnerJohn Wagner, who wrote “A History of Violence (HOV)” graphic novel, was eventually his first attempt to establish himself among the bigger league in American Comics Industry. He was ably assisted by Vince Locke, who with his unique line-artwork was able to recite the dark and noir nature of the graphic novel and its intrigued plot, a fact acknowledged by Wagner himself in his Preface on the Graphic Novel.

Vince Locke (c) We have seen enough in detail about John Wagner, during our Monster review post over here, so let’s look briefly at the other creative genius behind this graphic novel, the American comic books artist, Vince Locke, whose expressive style of bringing the emotions of the characters in his artwork, formed a great combination along with Wagner’s writing style.

Vince Lockes Artwork on CCorpse-DVD Locke came to in prominence in 1986 during his work as the artist for the underground hit series Deadworld, which was a zombie horror comic set in post-apocalyptic world. Though the series was short-lived due to frequent ownership changes, Locke was one of the main-stay, during which the series achieved a cult status.

Buoyed by the success, Locke, soon contributed as an artist for the some of the famous comic series, including The Sandman, American Freak, Batman, Witchcraft, and eventually tagging along with Wagner in this memorable graphic novel, HOV.

You could read more about Locke’s work on his official site, who is currently busy with his artwork contribution to many a Role Playing Games (RPGs), an area where he would flourish for his noir-touch mixed artwork style, and a taste towards using watercolours heavily in his art-frames. Some of the images in his site was as scarry as it can get, for which a sample is given over here. So, it is not for the light-hearted :).

The idea of the Graphic Novel, HOV, came when Paradox Press Editor Andrew Helfer met Wagner in Scotland during a convention circa 1995. They have had prior stints of working together in various publications, before Helfer joined Paradox, which is a low-cost trade imprint of DC Comics, which was setup to concentrate on real-life stories, and drive away from the superhero theme adopted by DC.

So as per their established standard Helfer asked Wagner, to drive away from his Superhero works on 2000 AD series, and concentrate on providing something which involves Real stories with Real people. Wagner, accepted that challenge, and came up with an initial proposal which looked lot more similar to his other work on Button Man comic series. No need to say that Helfer rejected that concept, asking for more humanish characters.

History Of Violence (Vertigo Version) After another two years of hard-work, Wagner finally came back with the story which eventually found its place in History of Violence graphic novel, making it one of the memorable novels to hit the stands under Paradox Press brand.

But, due to the low cost mantra, and content, Paradox never really achieved its due credit in the American market, which greatly affected the talented work of John Wagner to go places. Wagner is still restricted to his work on 2000 AD, with his works on his world famous creation, Judge Dredd.

But HOV, as stated before, was one of the best selling novels released by Paradox, so when Paradox was wounded up due to low sales, the series was reprinted in DC’s another trade imprint Vertigo. By this time, talks were on about making a movie based on the graphic novel, and when it was reprinted again, the covers widely published this news, as seen above. Also note the subtle change in the cover-art, to hide the suspense of the graphic novel, and leave it for the movie to open-up.

History of ViolenceA History of Violence (2005): It’s a premonition that not all great graphic novels get their due recognition, when adopted into mainstream movies, a fact agreed among many comics fans. But the 2005 movie, for which the central plot was adapted from the History of Violence graphic novel, sure deserves mention in our HOV review post here at Comicology.

The Movie was directed by David Cronenberg, and had a mega star cast like Viggo Mortensen (famous for his role as Aragorn in Lord of the Rings Trilogy, as Tom/Joey), Maria Bello (seen recently in Mummy 3, as Eddie),
Ed Harris (the multi-talented actor-director-writer as Torrino, or Carl Fogarty in the Movie), and William Hurt (as Richie), with all contributing equally to the success of the movie.

The Opening of the movie, with calmly looking duo, slowly moving past a Motel, leaving a blood trail, is sure to have caught the attention of all movie lovers. Especially considering that there was no background score for more than 5 minutes from the start during this scene enactment.

More importantly Ed Harris’s still and scary slow-paced acting (he was undoubtedly the perfect choice for graphic novel’s Torrino’s character), and Mortensen’s renditions of a frightened man trying to save his present being haunted by his past. Bello’s acting ably assists in bringing out the character of a worrying and supporting wife through his husband’s struggle to take control of his sagging life.

The scenes were Harris and his goons, stalk Mortensen’s family were shot with a unique blend of suspense and thrill, which is sure to bring many a comic fan’s dream of seeing a movie made out of a graphic novel with all its essence, maintained at the same level as the Original. Top of the pick is the shopping-mall and house invasion scenes.

Cronenberg was the right choice to direct this venture, as he has the speciality to make movies with themes ranging in the darker aspects of human emotions and behaviours (who can forget the Sci-Fi movie, The Fly), and the plot of HOV was virtually his playground. Josh Olsen who adapted the Screenplay based on the Novel, also contributed to twists and scenario changes to make the movie interesting and packed for the 80 Minutes run-time, meaning it was meant to cut the past reciting witnessed in Chapter 2 of the Graphic Novel.

Tom confronts the thugs at the Diner (A Scene from HOV)It should not be forgotten, that the success of the movie also derives heavily from the reciting of Wagner and Locke in their graphic novel, which contributed heavily to the screenplay in many parts of the movie, which propelled it to a blockbuster of success, and landing William Hurt and Josh Olsen for Oscar award nominations as the Best Supporting Actor, and Best Adapted Screenplay, respectively.

Eventhough, the movie at many its places moves through the mum-scene way of story-telling, there were instances of genius in dialogues, when an opportunity was available. Two of the areas, which I felt touched where:

When, confronting with his son, who just broke out of a fist-fight at school

Tom: In this family, we do not solve our problems by hitting people!
Jack: No, in this family, we shoot them!

When, an irate Eddie after knowing of Tom's past life, quizzes about the choice of his last name - Stall

Tony: It was available.
Eddie: I guess I was available, too.

The climax of the movie is altered from its Graphic Novel counterpart, as that scene was too a risky proposition to have passed through movie censorship (if at all, there is one such in United States :)). But, looking at it from the movie point of view, the climax looked like a better fit. The movie ends with a silent dinner scene involving Tom’s family, which leaves viewers to diffuse whether they stayed together or not, after all that has gone through. All credit goes to the director and screenplay writer, for delivering such a power-packed movie.

Tom Stall & Eddie (A Scene from HOV) Apart from that, there were little-over dose of sexual romance scenes of Mortensen and Bello, which could have been avoided. But hey, aren’t we talking about a Hollywood movie? so it is well within expectations, as many would agree :). Not a movie to watch with your family for sure :).

Thus we come to the end of another review post, which featured one of the unique Graphic Novels I read in recent times. Thanks mainly to the Back-Issue title release, as a result of Paradox’s closure, through which this particular issue was available in India at a throw-away price. I wouldn’t have spent $10 to buy this comic for sure :).

Also to be noted here, that I should admit that, “Lover of Dreams” Shankar Visvalingam’s recent review post (in Tamil) on a graphic novel titled, From Hell, which was based on the notorious Jack the Ripper character; was instrumental in me getting down to read through this novel. The reason, I generally despise those comics, which have a noir style of artwork, but still doesn’t classify in the standards laid out in the present comics world.

But Shankar’s post made me realize that artwork has to more importantly resemble the plot for which it is drawn, yet maintaining a style of its own, and in that way A History of Violence was truly up-to-the mark.

With that note, I will conclude this post, and would be eager to read your comments on the graphic novel, and this review post in whole. And by the way, if you get a chance, to grab this copy, do not miss the opportunity to own an item which certainly deserves to be there in your collection. Have a Great and Enjoyable Weekend, ComikersAdios Amigos !

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.


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