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Timeless comics

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TREND Suppandi, Asterix, Calvin, Hobbes, and Archie are as well loved as Maus, Blue Pills and Halahala

Telling a storyThrough visuals
Telling a storyThrough visuals

We ask people which comics they still read, and it throws up famous names — some Indian and others Western.

Among the Indian ones is Tinkle , with Suppandi being one of the “all-time favourites” (though names such as Chacha Chaudhari and Super Commando Dhruv too appear). Next up is the Marvel-DC legacy with its superhero comics. And then of course, there are titles that come up on almost everyone’s list — Tintin , Asterix And Obelix and Calvin And Hobbes . .

Easy to understand

So what makes a comic series timeless? “It is the visual format. It is understood by everyone regardless of language, and even those who cannot read. The words we use in a comic book are minimum and in many cases not even required. Having said that, I would add that it is not comics or books that are timeless but the art of storytelling. A good book is as timeless as any piece of art,” says Reena Puri, editor, Amar Chitra Katha. “Comics have the capacity to break down difficult ideas and philosophies into simple stories.”

Amar Chitra Katha, is an integral part of every Indian child’s diet. “In most Western countries too, Greek or Nordic mythology finds its way into comics. America doesn’t have mythology, so it created the superheroes. Each country uses its reserves of heroes who will stand as role models,” adds Reena.

Some favourites

Jatin Varma, founder of Comic Con, lists Superman:Red Son and the Tinkle digest as some of his favourites. He says, “Most Indian comics are mythological or historical. And comics such as Archies , Tintin and Asterix… are classics because their creators are great artists and writers, and for me, comics are all about beautiful art, stories and characters.”

Superman:Red Son , (where Superman lands in Ukraine and turns communist) and V For Vendetta (where a masked revolutionary works to bring down the establishment), are not necessarily light comics. Though initially, comics were light and humorous, towards the turn of the century they went for darker plots and serious storylines.

Neil Gaiman’s Sandman , Art Spiegelman’s Maus and Blue Pills by Frederik Peeters, which talk about serious and existential issues such as the human condition, the holocaust and AIDS, find themselves in the list of some of the world’s most popularly read comics.

“These are life-changing stories that don’t exist in a time frame,” says Pratheek of Manta Ray Comics.

Flights of fantasy

Says Appupen, creator of Moonward and its sequel Legends Of Halahala , “I admire the work of artists such as Lyndward whose woodcut print comics date back to the early 1900s. With superhero comics, you can tell the date from the quality of the print.”

Appupen believes that India has a long way to go. “No Indian comic really stands out. But, Indian comics have been doing well in the last five years,” he says.

It is also only in the last few years that India gained its first Comic Con, the third edition of which is all set to take place this weekend.

Harshini Vakkalanka

  • Comics are all about the art of storytelling

  • Mythology is an integral part of comics around the world; superheroes are an extension of mythology

  • Though initially comics were light, it has evolved and become dark

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