Reading Comics (Again)

I last purchased a comic book just before the Cricket World Cup in 1999. Till that time I had hoarded about 150+ of them and had probably read more than twice or thrice of it by borrowing it from friends and cousins. I was a comics nut to say the least. Even when I hadn’t learn to read, I had mugged up a comic book (probably one of the Pran’s Chacha Chowdhary and Sabu’s adventures) just from the narrations my parents and family did for me multiple times a day. I could recite it word by word then. Later, I started buying them. While other kids use to borrow or issue them for a day or two from those Stationary Shops (which acted as Libraries for comic books), I chose to buy as sense of ownership lured me more than just the joy reading. Surely, it was sort of a bragging right in those days. I used to eagerly wait for the next set (issues) of Nagraj, Super Commando Dhruv, Bhokaal, Doga, Bhediya and Parmanu which came out every week. I occasionally bought ever so funny Bankelal and for light fun, comics of Raman, Billu and Pinky. Even the genre of Thrill-Horror-Suspense was one of the things to cherish for. And then there were collectibles with Special Digests and Multi-Starrer to die for. Surely, I made life of my family troublesome by demanding 15 odd Rupees every week for a 32 page comic and sometimes 35 or something for the special one of 64 pages. Kindly note that I used to read only Hindi comics and had very rarely read those Archies or DC and Marvel ones.

Cover of Super Commando Dhruv’s 1st Issue and Origin Story: Pratishodh ki Jwala (The Lion subtly chewing away Jubisko’s hand)

So after purchasing last comic book in 1999, I suddenly stopped. May be because of ‘Board exams’ lurking ahead in a couple of years or may be I had lost interest. Also, other kids had moved on to Computers and objects of bragging rights meant something else. And then on one seriously regrettable unfortunate sad stupid nonsense day, we sold those comics to some junkyard dealer. [pause for sobbing for 5 minutes] Sigh. Not sure what was I thinking back then. I still regret that decision.

Anyways, keeping nostalgia aside, last week I watched ‘Batman v Superman | Dawn of Justice’ which led me to go back and forth on its reviews and links to the source materials, it took inspirations from. That led me to Alan Moore and Frank Miller, whose names I had heard several times but had never paid more attention to them. But then many reviews about Superhero movies kept mentioning their names and also the movie ‘Watchmen’ as it was directed by Zach Snyder and it was based on Frank Miller’s Comic Book (or what they strictly call with caution: Graphic Novel). I watched ‘Watchmen’ (Who watches the Watchmen? People who read comics) later the same week and was no doubt thrilled and excited.  Therefore, I reached the obvious conclusion that the sophistication of comic book writing/illustrations these guys had was amazing to the power of amazing. I wouldn’t waste time on praising or writing lengths about them because they are just brilliant.

This week from BvS to Watchmen finally led me to stop everything else and resume reading Comics again in 2016. (Strangely Marvel Movies all these years didn’t make me do so, though I haven’t watched them all as well. Deadpool did a bit recently because I want to see how was his crazy antics treated in the writing but even then I didn’t go ahead and read much). So, I thought I should read comics again and recently I read Batman Year One, The Killing Joke and currently on The Dark Knight Returns.

The Killing Joke
Screenshot from DC Comics’ ‘The Killing Joke’ by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland

These are some really interesting and must read books for any comics lover. Not only were they path breaking in themselves, they set up the movies we see today, they also were inspirational to the comics scene in India as well. My favorite characters being Dhruv and Batman share a lot of things. Dhruv is essentially inspired by Batman, having lost parents at an early age and then getting support from an honest Police Commissioner (Rajan Mehta: James Gordon) and both don’t have any powers of their own but worked hard to acquire them and so on. For Raj Comics, Nagraj holds the importance Superman has for DC Comics though Nagraj’s style resemble Spiderman’s powers more with both shooting off Snakes/Web from their wrists.

Of course, DC and Marvel started way back in 1930s and serious Indian comics in late 1980s, there has to be a huge ground to cover for us. But having said that, in terms of brilliant Artwork by Anupam Sinha and such and also the intent of the stories, is genuinely impressive. There are silly moments but seeing the larger picture is satisfactory. They still have to do a lot more and they probably must have done so in last few years when I was abstaining from reading them. Not only did they improve on stories, graphics, they also created some characters which are brilliantly mature. Doga for instance, is seriously dark and grim and demands a movie adaptation urgently. Bhedia sounds a lot like Wolverine but I doubt as it was the inspiration because the origin story is totally different. However, Tiranga is a blatant copy of Captain America. I don’t know if anyone reads Tiranga. Parmanu was way better and I haven’t seen much of him since a long time.

Anyways, I have ‘rekindled’ my penchant for reading Comic Books (and currently reading whatever I am getting my hands on). Reading them on Kindle doesn’t have the same feel and effect but reading nevertheless. Instead of cursing about the state of Comics in today’s times, I will start to read them regularly again myself. I also wish to buy a Collector Edition set of Raj Comics, preferably SCD. And if Raj Comics start making their merchandise seriously, I would have no qualms in buying Tees and Action Figures too.

Nagraj Crime King
Screenshot from Raj Comic’s ‘Nagraj: Crime King’ where Nagraj wants Milk

Now does the below page resembles something from the Dark Knight movie by Christopher Nolan?

Raj Comics’ ‘Kirgi Ka Kahar’…