Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Long Live the Comics

This article has also been published. I think it still needs to be worked upon. Well...


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It was heartening to read that the first copy of Batman, published in 1939, fetched
more than $1 million at an auction recently. The zeros added to 1did not make me happy, but the fact that 'Old is STILL Gold'.
I remember being a voracious reader of Batman and Superman and desi comics like Chacha Chaudhary, Billoo and Channi Chachi. The other childhood favourites were Chandamama, Champak and Tinkle. I don't know if any of the above-mentioned comics will be auctioned for millions of dollars, but they certainly could do with a new lease of life.
The comics, as I remember them, were of poor print quality. The language wasn't grammatically correct either. Yet, we were hooked to the comics. I remember waiting for the vendor to get us new copies and once they came immediately settle down to leaf through the pages gaily illustrated characters and the speech bubbles.
Looking back now I remember meeting Channi the Chachi with her rolling pin and her opinion on anything and everything and the smart alec Billoo in my neighbourhood.
I could relate to 'Raman' because I could sense my father and so many others like him trying to meet the ends with a dash of humour and dignity. The simplicity of 70s and 80s was reflected in those comics.
And, it was inevitable that with the advent of the globalisation and the Internet era, they faded into the background. I say, inevitable, because the owners/publishers were not foresighted enough to keep pace with the changing times. It was in 2003 when Diamond comic's popular character, Chacha Chaudhary with the tag line – Jinka dimag computer se bhi tej hai – made his television debut. Another desi superhero, Bahadur who fought with dacoits in 1976, is coming back in a new avatar. In 2010, he will be fighting with the terrorists in the Internet edition.
In the 80s it was okay to not have a TV; one could simply join the neighbours. In 90s it was not okay if you didn't have the Cable TV. In 2010 if you are not there in the virtual world, you don't belong to this world.
Although, I am old-fashioned and would prefer reading the print edition of the comic, I know that if it has to multiply its readership today, Net edition is a must.
In this race for survival, I hope that the endearing traits of the superheroes and the neighbourhood heroes and heroines like Billoo and Pinki are retained. After all, that's the reason why we still remember them and grab the collector's copy.
Batman, Superman, Chacha Chaudhary, Chaman Charlie, Gardhab Das, Tantri the Mantri – May you Live Long.

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