Everybody loves a laugh

THEY MAKE one's mornings bearable, apart from the coffee that is. You drag yourself out of bed and think of your over-crowded to do list, of the water that has not come, of the power that threatens to fail, of the autos that threaten to strike and you feel gloomy . And then you grin as you read about a lasagne loving orange cat, a six-year-old and his stuffed tiger or about the happenings at Riverdale High.

They are the funnies, the comic strips guaranteed to make the most mealy-mouthed curmudgeon smile. Like every other element of pop culture, the funnies too make telling comments on society, which is why the new Marvel comics super heroes post 9/11 are fire fighters.

Each comic strip has its own particular band of followers. There are those who prefer the biting sarcasm of Garfield, others who enjoy the eternal triangle in Archie comics, the bizarre in Calvin and Hobbes and the adventure lovers have a wide range to choose from starting with the superheroes of the DC and Marvel stable to Modesty Blaise and Tarzan. And of course the gap-toothed kid and the usual band of idiots with their hilarious take on everything from politics to films in the MAD magazines.

Asterix tops the popularity charts. . Other sell outs include MAD magazine, Calvin and Hobbes, Garfield Pokemon and Superman comic books. A hot seller in the Amar Chitra Katha series now is Bhagat Singh."Asterix comics are absolutely brilliant for the translation," says Priya, a linguistics scholar. "Humour is one of the most difficult things to translate and the comics have lost nothing in their translation from French. The names for instance - I mean who can forget Nervus Illness, the psychiatrist, Dubbelosix the secret agent, Cacofonix the bard and Unhygenix the fishmonger? And the linguistic and historical puns are something else."

The other European import, Tin Tin has his stack of fans as well. "Tin Tin is great fun for the adventure, the different countries he visits and for Capt Haddock. I love his `billions and bilious of blue blistering barnacles," says Sunita.

Bill Waterson's Calvin and Hobbes series is favoured for its dark, weird humour. "Calvin and Hobbes is my favourite," says Kopal a designer, "because they are simple and profound." Ravi Shanker echoes that when he says, "It is amazing how Waterson has created a dual perspective-- one is Calvin's view populated Spaceman Spiff where Hobbes is this suave intelligent tiger and the other is the grown up view where Calvin is a six-year-old and Hobbes is just a stuffed toy. " Garfield is one cat that Sanjana, working in corporate communications, likes. "I am not a cat person but I like Garfield for his sarcasm".

Super heroes are super favourites whether they have come from far away Krypton or bitten by radioactive spiders in Queens, NY. Phantom and Mandrake are old familiar friends, thanks to Indrajal. So if Anand prefers Phantom for "its air of mystery and the fact that he always wins," Arvind, an ad executive, roots for Mandrake as "he is full of magic and I like that whole concept of Xanadu and Hojo, the chef who is also the chief of Intel-Intel".

MAD magazines enthusiasts are thrilled with the publication of MAD in India as Seby, a software professional says, "An Indian publication, means that MAD is that much more accessible. It could do with some local content though.

And then there are advertisements too. I do not have any grouse against that but you are never sure whether the ad is for real or it is one of those take offs!"

Comics do make the sunshine brighter. However, if you are still feeling low after your daily dose of the funnies and you have exhausted all your sick leaves, you could, like Calvin, "call in dead."

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