(Last Updated on : 22/12/2009)
The origin of the history of comics in India was comparatively much younger. Until 1960s, any given Indian child had to quench his/her thirst with imported comic editions like Tintin (a French private detective), Asterix and Obelix (super heroes of Gaul, erstwhile France), Archie and Commando (war stories based on World War II), etc. However, with the tremendous increase in the purchasing power of the Indian bourgeoisie, arriving during the 1980s, comics became a fundamental part of the children's universe in India. With its popularity modifying in leaps and bounds, cartoons made inroads into the Indian television during the 1980s, thus forever veering the course of history of Indian comics.
Indian Comics During 60s and 70s
One of the earliest Indian comic magazine is the Chandamama. The magazine can be renamed as the perfect example of history of comics publishing in India. The comic's compilation was formulated from the adaptations of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata in the 1960s, into educative comics for children, caricatures in print media, and adaptations of American super heroes.
Indian comics of the middle years and its predominating era were tremendously influenced by the popularity of Archie comics and series like The Adventures of Tintin. In 1967, editor Anant Pai of the India Book House, finally had begun to set the balls rolling into a perfect line and length, by launching the series Amar Chitra Katha, the objective of which was to convey to children the immortal stories of historical figures and of those in religious discourses of Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Jainism and Christianity. The life of Lord Krishna was the first in this line up, joined in a rapid and vigorous manner by the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. History of comics in India however, cannot be ever complete and come to a full circle, without mentioning about the writers and their brilliant assays onto a world of rather uncertainty in those times. For instance, one of the early Indian comic authors was Aabid Surti, who had published the first 3 panel strips Dhabbuji, in the magazine Dharmayug, based upon the protagonist who is a lawyer by profession, in addition to being extremely entertaining. During the 1970s, Aabid Surti also had rendered life into a character Bahadur for Indrajal Comics, which turned out to be quite popular and could contend with other characters like Phantom and Mandrake, which was also published in the magazine.
Approximately in the same time, history of comics in India was just around the corner, re-visiting its most stirring of the metamorphosis ever to be seen again. Pran Kumar Sharma, the man behind what Indian comics is today with its glitzy feel, had begun publishing the comic Daabu. These initial experiments remained however the only ones in India during the 1960s, as Indian magazines almost utterly published only American cartoon strips on their pages. 'Pran', as Pran Kumar Sharma is universally admired, had created umpteen comic strips, like Shrimatiji, Pinki, Billoo and the still legendary and popular Chacha Chaudhary during the 1970s. These comics went along to be enlivened primarily by newspaper strips and popular early super hero based western comics. Standing in difference with Japan, where comics were quickly recognised as a potentially matured medium, comic readership in India had remained confined to children only and its content continued to be chiefly 'conservative' and 'un-intellectual'.
From amongst the regional India languages, history of comics in India was very much visible in the 'renaissance' of modern day West Bengal. During this nascent stage of comics from the 1960s or 70s, cartoon strips and comic books flew high to prosperity, as already understood, especially in West Bengal. Pratulchandra Lahiri had invested life onto two strips on a regular basis. These comic strips were published on an everyday basis for the Jugantar newspaper in Bengali and for the Amrit Bazar Patrika in English. Narayan Debnath is yet another memorable and adorable genius comic-creator, creating local strips that were published as books from Kolkata. Amongst his creations, Nonte Phonte and Handa Bhonda are very much still in circulation and have also led to enthusiastic production of animated films. Another one of Narayan Debnath's creations, Batul The Great, is esteemed very much as one of India's earliest super heroes, as it was conceptualised during the sixties. Mayukh Choudhury was another comics artist/writer, who executed stories in the action/adventure and historical genres, published in Bengali. Most of his work was published by Deb Sahitya Kutir, Kolkata, within the period of 1960s-80s.
Indian Comics During 80s
During the 1980s, Target, a children and youth magazine, had begun to take up the hint of the historical spanning of comics in India, thus beginning to publish two page comics. Detective Moochwala by Ajit Ninan and Gardhab Das, the singing donkey, by Neelabh & Jayanto, were its most cuddling and lovable characters. Target magazine turned out to be an honest trailblazer, as its artwork was original and of exceedingly high quality for its time. Manjula Padmanabhan, one of the few Indian female comic authors, brilliantly had executed illustrations for Target magazine. She also lent life to a female comic character named Suki, which was serialised in Sunday Observer in the 1980s. History of comics in India also did possess another notable Indian comic publishing house in its middle phase of maturation in the form of Raj Comics - home of characters such as Nagraj, (a Hindu super hero who has afterwards made the changeover to television), Doga, Super Commando Dhruva, Parmanu and several loveable others.
Indian Comics During 90s
During the 1990s, considered the most progressive time span of any Indian indigenous industry, history of comics and cartoon strips in India were also not far behind, in its literary excellences. The newspaper medium was most vociferous in issuing forth comic strips amidst its publishing of significant cover stories, thus ushering in the tremendous popularity of newspaper comics era, still very much in all English as well as regional newspapers. Newspapers thus had begun to publish more and more caricatures of Indian origin. The most fascinating aspect in comics publishing in the country is that, Indian law and democracy licenses journalists and cartoonists to discuss current affairs with rational freedom. Among the most celebrated caricaturists are Joseph Arul Raj, Ashok Dongre and Neelabh Bisen. India's latent potential and requirement of quality comics was an almost personified genre, which sadly had lacked institutes for the specialisation in comics art. As a result, Anupam Sinha had set everybody free from worries, by launching his own Anupama Academy Of Art for specialisation in departments of creation of comics.
Indeed, Anupam Sinha is very much renowned for illustrating some of the best Indian comics ever to have been related in its history. In contemporary times, his weekly strip superhero "Rudra" is being acclaimed as an ideal trend setter in Hindi newspapers like Dainik Jagran. Ashok Dongre is also well acknowledged for his Comic Strip SWAMI, based on the Infotech Business in India. Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray also has remained a caricaturist when he was young and has worked for 'The Free Press Journal', where cartoonist R.K. Laxman also had performed. Bal Thackeray is also acknowledged to have run a magazine named 'Marmik', which utilised cartoons and strips to transmit his political outline. The historical journey of comics in India did not just suffer any more in its once painful attempt to become admired by the public, what with the advent of newspaper cartoon strips under legendary personalities. Likewise, in Kerala, cartoonist V.T. Thomas, popularly recognised as 'Toms', had given birth to satirical comics. A legend in his state, V.T. Thomas's most celebrated characters are the prankster children 'Boban & Molly'. He had started his career with the newspaper 'Malayala Manorama'. However, V.T. Thomas was later occupied in a copyright issue with the paper and the court case was heard in the Supreme Court of India. He then had subsequently started his own magazine for his comics, which carry on to be published to this day. Rajneesh Kapoor is hailed as one of the few Indian contemporary cartoonists, who a regular newspaper strips in English, titled 'This is Our Life'.
Indian Comics in 20th and 21st Century
It can very well be witnessed that the history of comics in India, as it has passed down the line of lineage, has truly metamorphosed into something distinctly dissimilar from what it was like during the 1960s. The international intimacy was very much alien in those times, which, with the advent of the 20th and 21st century globalisation, has made international legendary comics producers, take supreme interest in the Indian erstwhile and mythological domain. Likewise, it can be said that the historical traversing of comics of in India has been much satisfying and has gratified every possible kind of reader of every age, be in during the 1970s or be it in 2009.
During the ushering in of the 21st century, a much esteemed partnership between Richard Branson's Virgin group and India's Gotham Comics, has led to a new company, Virgin Comics, motivated towards giving birth to new lines of comics, doused in Indian mythology and Indian history (much like the numerous manga series in Japanese culture). Thus, it can very well be comprehended that India's comic book history was no more alien to the western world, with men like Richard Branson foraying into Indian comics business only to make Indian comics shine towards further glory. The first series of Virgin Comics was published in 2006, to mottled critical reviews and Virgin continues to release new series each time. The principal icon of Virgin Comics however is the superhero, Devi, but other series have incorporated a science-fiction adaptation of the ancient Ramayana epic, a series based on the life of a supernaturally proficient Sadhu, as well as umpteen ones based outside India. The company in due course directs to create animated series, computer games and films, founded upon its property rights in the country.
The nearly current history of comic books and publishing in India has arrived in the format of Fluid Friction Comics, an International comics company with an Indian partner. The Company has taken Indian mythology as the basis of stimulation for their comic series. Their prime series DevaShard, is a kind of beautification on the life of Karna (the legendary and controversial son of Kunti in Mahabharata) and their future titles will also be based about other inherent characters from the Mahabharata. All these stories from Fluid Friction are founded in a fictional world based on a mythological notion of the Earth 7000 years ago titled Bhumi. The graphics excellence in the comics has been reproduced by an actually global team, boasting artists from both the eastern and western hemispheres. DevaShard was launched amidst much fanfare for the first time in India, just before Diwali in October 2008.
The every leaping and increasingly adored 'webcomic' medium, which is mostly committed to crisp online comedy strips, is also being utilised by a small number of Indian artists or writers. This pretty recent history of online comics in India was begun with Badmash, created by and aimed wholly at the Indian diaspora. This format is also looked to amplify due to ICT (Information and Communication Technology) literacy, an overwhelming number of white-collar workers and internet permeation in Indian households. "Curry Bear Comics" is another popular Indian webcomic that concentrates on three South Asian college kids and their 'white' friend. This comic is directed more at Indian College students living in America. Another hugely admired Indian webcomic "Fly, You Fools!", is directed at Indian citizens and deals with the daily hazards of life in India. The Indian blog "Daily Humor" is also known to publish webcomics and was featured on one of India's premier blogs, "India Uncut". Webcomics has a long way to span, in order to traverse to its historical journey of comics in India and verily affords a passage for artists who do not wish to propagate through published media. Self issuing of 'single panel gags' and other cartoons by Indian cartoonists is gathering gradual impetus too. Indian WebComics thus, brilliantly enlists and talks about works by Indian web comic artists and cartoonists.