Thursday, May 24, 2007

Indian Comics vs English Comics

Now don't get me wrong. I have been brought up on a healthy (some say more than required) dose of “Amar Chitra Katha”s and “Indrajal Comics”[1] and later Tintin and Asterix, among other comics. Even today, I have a normal book-lovers' obsession with comics (and have been teased by not a few of my so called grown-up collegues). What I am trying to say here is that I am a fan of comics and graphic novels. But, recently every time I have read Indian comics, my reactions oscillate between uncontrollable laughter[2] and skin crawling.

But when I think of it objectively, there are not that many differences between Indian comics and their US counterparts[3], apart from an obvious difference between picture and page quality (I don't know why). After all, under it all, Nagraj is a mutant. Super Commando Dhruv and Batman are both products of superior training, and not acquired superpowers. If we had “dhaad” and “sataik”[4] in Hindi comics, we have “pow”s and “biff”s in English ones (and both are equally annoying after a while). If most things in Hindi comics are explained away by “tantravidya”, there is mutation and technology (if not alien intervention) in english ones. So, what exactly is it in Indian comics of today that get my goat whenever I get my hands on them?

To answer this question, I tried to make a list of things which made me irritated in the comics I read recently, and came up with certain points/questions:

  1. Errors: Shaolin monks called “ninjas” (collectively, not as name of one of them)? Chinese martial artist carrying nunchucks? I don't know the post-mortem rituals of shaolin monks or ninjas, else I would have said one of the earthquakes near Japan-China border must be caused by generations of ninjas and shaolin monks turning in their graves.
    And at the cost of sounding pedantic[5], I am pretty sure that the environmental conditions on Jupiter will make it impossible to have volcanoes there, much less android life forms. This might come under artistic license and fun, but after a while, it does get under your skin, and makes it impossible to see beyond these glaring mistakes/errors. Is this ignorance or simple misinformation?

  2. Unintentional Jokes: When a person is supposed to come to “eastern corner” of a specific geographic feature, can we expect to find a board hammered in ground there proclaiming a particular spot as “Eastern Corner”?
    Should a private plane of a wealthy satellite channel owner in today's day and age be a propeller-driven piece of antiquity? What happened to all jets in India?
    I am pretty sure Hindi is not a language well-suited to communicate action-words. You can separate “biff” on different lines, but cannot have “dh-aa-d” on different lines, can you?

  3. Copy: I am aware that US/UK comics are around for quite a long time, and they too get repetitive or sound like copies of each other after you have read them in sufficient quantities. But then, so many ideas in Indian comics sound like obvious copies of other comics (a league of superheroes in particular country is one such idea) that they get irritating pretty quick.

And don't even get me started on Indian Superheroes on television.

Of course, this is not an exhaustive list by any means, and is a list of my opinions after all. Do you think I have missed any points? Have I misinterpreted/misrepresented anything? What do you think about Indian comics and superheroes?

[1](remember Phantom, Mandrake, Flash Gordon and Bahadur?
[2]After all, there is a “comic” in comics.
[3]I haven't been exposed to many comics from other countries, that's why.
[4]Can't spell it any other way, can I?
[5]Who said geeky?

Quote of The Day:

The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.
- Albert Einstein


SiD said...

I have grown up only on Chacha Chaudhry and to an extent Champak but enjoyed the post.. specially the "eastern side" thing :)

and if that Jupiter and volcano thing is referring to the great Sabu... then I may add that volcano didn't use to erupt on Jupiter...
"jab sabu ko gussa aata hai to KAHIN jwalamukhi fat ta hai"
they used to erupt somewhere on earth only!!!

Fleiger said...

@Sid: The "Eastern Side" was a side of a large forest in China where Nagraj was supposed to meet someone (and I spent two pages wondering how Nagraj is going to find someone given such sketchy direction. Turns out I needn't have worried)

As for the Chacha Choudhari and Champak... the main problem with Indian comics industry is the perception that comics are only for kids. (And this was also a consensus on Desicritics, where this has turned out to be my most popular post till date)

I would change that volcano thing in post, but I put this post up 5 times yesterday, and every time succeeded in completely breaking down the whole blog. So, my current motto is "Handle With Care!!! Fragile!!! This Side Up!!!"

SiD said...

yes.. the perception is that comics is for the kids... but I guess, if you can derive pleasure out of it at any age...then why not..
I still like to see Tom and Jerry whenever I can.. and get a good laugh out of it..
LOL @ nagaraj finding the eastern side.. as I said, that was a pretty good observation :)

Neihal said...

ok I loved reading Naagraj and Dhruv.

Say whatever you want :P

but I agree when you say...comics are not just for kids, or is it we are still KIDS, ok who am I kidding. :P

Princess Stefania said...

Somehow, I don't think you can compare a Tinkle Comic Book to a Calvin and Hobbes.
More detailed comment later, I have to rush.

Fleiger said...

@Sid: You can... but most people don't think that way, hence there is less investment, less quality and less attention details.

@Neihal: I like to read them too, but then I make sure the floor is clean and soft and there is a punching bag near me which saves my laptop. ;)

I like to think I am still a kid (in many things, not all)...

@Princess: Of course not, Tinkle and Calvin are in complete different category.
Waiting for detailed comment.

Amrita said...

Hey Fleiger - you've been tagged!

Princess Stefania said...

Sorry ;)

My mum lost my modem and I've been internet-less for nearly two weeks.
Five minutes on a friends computer to put up a new post, two minutes in my college lab to leave a comment, eight fruitless minutes at the college lab trying to find the english transcripts of 'dhoom machao dhoom' and thirty seconds on that old lady down the road's antique machine to leave you this comment that actually, says nothing.

Fleiger said...

@Amrita: Next post is already written :( But your tag comes next...

@Princess: Ouch... It does make life bad when you get "disconnected", doesn't it? Hope to get you back online soon :D I am waiting for the detailed comment.

Princess Stefania said...

... and I forgot whatever it was I was planning to say...
Pixie Dust misses you.

Fleiger said...

@Princess: Do remember it quickly.

Thanks for missing me. Now I am back from my "voluntary disconnection". Do check out my other blog for details.

Vijay Agrawal said...


if u want to read more indian comics please visit .