Indian comics came in existence in early 1960s. The Times of India group, Bennett Coleman & Co. launched Indrajal Comics in 1964. Till this time Indrajal only published foreign characters and lacked original characters of its own. Indrajal published its first 32 issues on The Phantom. It is created by Lee Falk, an American writer. In the West, it was already in circulation since 1936. When The Phantom was first published in India, it became a very popular series since its contextual settings were similar to India. With Indrajal gaining popularity, other foreign characters like Mandrake the Magician, Flash Gordon, Garth etc started to get published through Indrajal (figure 4). Therefore, it would not be logical to claim that these were actually Indian comics. These were Western comics that were translated in Indian languages. However Indrajal soon came up with an original Indian comic character known as Bahadur and started its series. The stories of Bahadur were in truest sense Indian. The contextual settings and the characters personality conveyed a sense of Indianess in the stories. It’s only with the launch of ‘Bahadur’ in 1976, that Indrajal comics created an original Indian hero. The first regional language version was published in Bengali in January 1966. English was the initial language in which these comics were published however for the obvious reason of expanding its readership, Indrajal translated these titles in regional languages.
Fig 4. The Phantom, Mandrake and Flash Gordon published by Indrajal comics.
Since Indrajal’s inception, ‘The Phantom’
was the major character that became hugely popular. However, when Indrajal’s last issue was published in 1990, the rights to ‘The Phantom’ were taken by Diamond Comics
. Eventhough Diamond Comics started publishing The Phantom, Mandrake and some other foreign characters, however at this point of time, it also started publishing some of the popular characters like Chacha Chowdhary, Pinki, Billoo
etc that gradually contributed in the formation of league of authentic Indian characters.
Fig 5. Indrajal Comics, Amar Chitra Katha, Diamond Comics and Raj Comics.
Few years later, in 1967, Amar Chitra Katha
, started its journey. Its main focus and source of inspiration lied in mythology and history. ACK were the only comic books that were considered as educational material and were welcomed in schools. It is due to the fact that ACK was launched solely to promote Indian mythology and history to children. However, initially ACK was published in Kannada
language. Later on, to invite wide readership, it started to publish in Hindi and other regional languages. Its popularity was such that even national leaders endorsed its releases from time to time. In September 2006 it was found that ACK accounts for almost 30% of the rupees 30 crore indigenous comics market in India. Today ACK still remains one of the pioneers in comics publishing with more than 400 titles and a large readership.
While ACK was primarily concerned with spreading education through its comic books, in 1986, Raj Comics
launched its range of superheroes modeled on Western comics. The superhero genre was still not popular in Indian comic books scenario thus, Raj comics filled this gap and became a hugely popular publisher (figure 5). It created a line of Superheroes with Indian origins and their adventures mostly took place in different parts of India. This helped in connecting the reader with the comics and experiencing the adventures in Indian context. Since its inception, Raj comics is publishing in Hindi language as it was initially targeted towards the Northern part of India. But, over the years it has spread its readership to almost all parts of India. The majority of Raj comics is still publishing in Hindi language. However very limited digital editions are available in Bhojpuri, Nepali, Bengali