India, a diverse country with excellent storytelling through different mediums like cinema, music, and literature, downplays when it comes to comics. Indian comics revolve around mythology and folk tales. Diamond comics, tinkle, Raj comics, and Amar Chitra Katha have been famous distribution networks over the last six decades.
The times of India launched Indrajal Comics in the mid-1960s starting the comic industry in India. In the late 1960s, Amar Chitra Katha was established. Western superhero comics were already existing in India. To rival the superhero of the west comics, several indigenous comics were launched in the 1970s. In the 80s, India launched its superhero comics. But when in the 90s, cable television and the internet launched, comics declined very sharply. Only a few publishers were able to survive the stride. New comic companies were established, and webcomics became popular in the early 2000s. In 2011 first comic convention was held in India.
The Evolution Of Comics In India
In 1926, Comic magazines for children in Hindi and Urdu began to be published. In 1947, the children’s monthly magazine Chandamama started with tales of mythological and magical themes. International comics like The Phantom, Flash Gordon, Rip Kirby, and Mandrake took over the Indian markets.
Indrajal Comics by TOI launched. Anant Pai, the creator of Amar Chitra Katha and Tinkle, edited then. These comics featured indigenous Indian stories and are one of the first to be illustrated by Indian artists.
Deewana magazine, a revolutionary comic, discusses severe issues and has social satire through comic books. Mahatma Gandhi’s life was published in a comic book by the government of India.
Amar Chitra Katha, launched in 1967, was one of the most extensive selling comic book series. The series had approx 400 comics in 20 languages and is said to have sold 100million copies to date. It’s said to be a cultural phenomenon. The themes revolved around literature, folk tales, mythology, and history.
In 1969, Chacha Chaudhary was created by Pran Kumar Sharma. It was one of the most popular comics, with 10 million sales.
Indigenous tales were released in competition with Western superhero comics. ALA Commando series, Mahabharata, and Ramcharitmanas are one of the popular ones to emerge. Fauladi Singh by diamond comics, Lambu Motu, Lot Pot, Madhu Muskan, and Rajan Iqbal were one of the successful ones. Chacha Chaudhary was ranked no one by the Indian kids.
The 1980s and early 1990s are said to be the Golden Era for Indian comics, with the industry at its peak and selling more than 500,000 copies for several weeks.
Tinkle, one of the classic unforgettable magazines, was founded in 1981. First published in English, the comics were translated into several Indian languages like Malayalam and Assamese. Ramu & Shamu, Suppandi, Kaalia, Pyarelal, and Shikari Shambu are its famous characters.
Raj Comics was one of the longest-lasting Indian publishing houses for comics adventure in 1986. Raj comics, unlike indigenous tales, launched Indian superhero characters like Commando Dhruv, Nagraj Paramanu, Doga, and Bheriya. Every superhero had unique character arcs and exciting storylines. These comics changed the scenarios of Indian superheroes and are classics.
Detective Moochwala and pooch, created by Ajit Nina, are cult classics. Garth Das, created by Neelabh and Jayanto Banerjee, is another cult classic of the Golden Era.
Broad genres from superheroes, horror, mythological, legends, and thrillers became popular in the golden Era with 20 publishing houses. Competition became heavy, and in 1991, Indrajal Comics closed down.
India’s first graphic novel, River of Stories by Orijit Sen, was created in 1994. By 1997, international comics began finding their way into the Indian market. Gotham Comics established itself in the Indian market.
Internet and cable television gained Popularity; entertainment mediums changed for children and adults, and comic sales saw a significant decline. Raj Comics and Diamond Comics were among the few publishing houses to have survived.
In 2004, Marvel launched Spider-man: India Project and found Indian artists in the mainstream media. In 2006, Virgin comics and Gotham Comics created some popular titles like Devi, Snake Woman, Ramayana 3392 AD, and Sadhu. Few other comic book publishers tried to launch their own but couldn’t bear the competition.
Campfire graphic novels launched in 2008. It became a hub for independent visual artists. It found hits like The Hound of the Baskervilles, Tom Sawyer, and the Wright Brothers. By the 2010s, the comic sales in India revived. An Itch You can’t scratch, a graphic novel by Sumit Kumar, became a fan favorite. Webcomics also became famous in India. Krishna – A Journey Within was published in 2014 and soon became a refreshing success.
Many Indian artists broke into the international market and can make income only through comics. During the pandemic, artists’ sales and commercial success were hit badly. Many publishing houses, including diamond comics, stopped distribution, and artists suffered.
Many publishing houses, even independent ones, even though they aren’t distributing or selling currently, are working on new comic book stories with the hope of quick revival. Many launched their comics in several phases through the digital medium. Few publishers like Appupen are collaborating with others and sharing resources. Online publishing platforms and independent artists publishing on Instagram became more. There’s hope for comic revival.
In recent times, e-books and comic strips have become popular. There is a low circulation of comic books in India. Still, there is hope for revival as many people depend on online platforms to read comics.
Advertisers use comic books or strips to promote their brands. Films, government, political parties, and automobile industries have had their fair share of using comics to promote themselves. Social media comic content became hugely popular as they are short, fun, and easy to communicate with the audience.
The marketing strategy of selling comic books is slowly shifting in India. Many publishing houses don’t invest much money into marketing these days and instead use social media as an easy way to promote them. Indian market nowhere comes close to the international market of comic sales today. American comics are famous as they keep evolving with present-day storylines and refreshing messages. In contrast, Indian houses still depend on century-old storylines, which the youth of today cannot relate to.
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