Friday, May 22, 2009

Indian Comics and Bollywood

A while back I was looking at a graphic novel from Indian, and it struck me it looked like a sort of Indian version of a Tintin bande dessinée - not that there's anything wrong with that. There was certainly more of a European influence, or at any rate a Belgian influence, than an American one; I thought. It was actually the first original graphic novel I'd seen from India, up until that point I'd only seen the Indian translations of Mandrake the Magician, and The Phantom. Oh, and one or two somewhat strange amalgamations of US superhero characters and Indian ones, working together on superhero business.

As much as I do love the Phantom and Mandrake, especially old adventures, the original work was much more exciting and it encouraged me to pay a little more attention to what is, after all, a very large and increasingly important market for cartoonists.

In fact, the Indian market is not only very large, it is vibrant and still growing. Small wonder then that this potentially lucrative, upwards of $300Mn industry, which publishes somewhere in the region of 125 million comics every year, has attracted interest from Virgin, Marvel Comics, DC Comics, and Disney. But it's the indigenous market that interests we fans of comicdom, because it has grown so phenomenally over the last 4 decades.

For many years, let's call it Pre-Pran Kumar Sharma (Pran), no indigenous comic character appeared in Indian publications alongside American and European strips. That all changed in 1960 when Pran's comic strip, Daabu debuted on the front page of Delhi's Milap. In 1969, Pran went on to develop Chacha Chaudhary, who along with his faithful sidekick Sabu, went on to become the most popular comic character in India. So popular did the character become that the TV adaptation of the comic strip strip ran six days a week, every week. In 1995, Pran was awarded the prestigious 'Man of the Year' award for popularizing comics in India.

Pran's Chacha Cowdrey is handled these days by the biggest indigenous comic book publisher in India, Diamond Comics, who amongst other publications also publish Comic World, a monthly comics magazine,featuring the adventures of amongst others, Archie, Garfield, Dennis The Menace, Beau Peep, Batman, Tarzan, James Bond, and Chacha Chaudhary, and I think British comic artists from IPC may find this a little extraordinary, Junior Rotter - which I think was draw by Trevor Metcalfe for Whizzer and Chips. It has a circulation of more than (I'm going to err on the side of caution here and say 20,000, but I did read it was much higher - any new info' would be much appreciated) copies per month.

In addition to publishing comics, the ever expanding and diversifying Diamond, whose stable of characters includes, Chacha Choudhary, Shrimatiji, Chacha-Bhatija, Mahabali Shaka, Agniputra Abhay and Ankur, has recently joined forces with License India to launch its catalogue as animated features, complete with full character licensing.

It certainly looks as if these are exciting times for comic book and cartoon characters, and indeed cartoonists, in India. Which makes a nice change from the doom-and-gloom over here and across the pond. The news looks similarly good in the field of animation. Just recently, Kids Animation India, part of the larger company Spacetoon India, announced, with the help of Bollywood actress Vidya Balanthat, the launch of its first animated TV series, Fafa & Juno, a cartoon about the adventures of a girl and a panda.

Pic purloined from Prokerala

I just spoke with my friend and fellow blogging cartoonist, Mike Lynch about this post and we touched on the fact our colleague Dan Thomson works for India's leading men's magazine, Royal (remember it is a magazine "for men"; although having said that, it is a very tasteful magazine). You can read Royal online here. He gets a nice credit on the magazine's staff rota too, which is always a nice plus for a cartoonist. I think we should add an example to this post, as it shows that the promising Indian market is also relevant to magazine/gag cartoonists.

All images remain the copyright of their respective copyright holders. Comic World copyright, Diamond Comics.


Anonymous said...

found you through Journalista. that old Phantom is ace. Indian comics look pretty cool. any recent copies you can share?

Techbee said...

Nice Cartoon Images..
Thanks for Sharing...

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