Thursday, November 19, 2009


To be precise: comic books, as Thompson would have said (that’s Thompson with a P, as in pneumonia). We have always referred to comic books as comics, hence the title.  Not to be confused with those funny men who make people laugh, although in the true sense they are the real comics, but we didn’t know that when we were kids, did we?
I have always enjoyed reading comics. And I guess you do too. Comics are easy to read, funny, easy on the eyes, entertaining and sometimes educating. Which child doesn’t love reading them? I bet most of you would have grown up reading the occasional comic book. Even in this day and age I still read them; they bring out the child in me along with wonderful memories. Before I fell in love with books, I discovered comics and the love story continues unto this day.

My cousins were as mad about comics as I was, and we would spend hours raiding each other’s collections. One cousin in particular had a huge collection and I think his collection was always the worst hit. My mother would tell us about the day when we were very young when he came to our house. It seemed he sat in the sitting room all by himself and would laugh out occasionally. So when my mother went to investigate what was making him laugh so much it turned out he was reading Sudden Muanga. 

Phantom is always the first character that comes to mind when discussing comics. The Ghost Who Walks, The Man Who Cannot Die, living in the skull cave and tirelessly fighting crime and making the word a peaceful place to live in. And that famous opening line “For those who came in late….”  And of course any Phantom fan would be familiar with the old jungle sayings – “Phantom moves faster than lightning” “You never find the Phantom, he finds you.” “Call the Phantom anywhere, and he will hear.” Find more Old Jungle Sayings here. And how can we forget Hero and Devil, his faithful companions, and his two rings, and the Bandar, Old Man Mozz, Rex, Diana, Guran, the deep woods, the skull throne, the list could go on and on.

I looked up Phantom and was amazed to learn that the first Phantom comic strip was published in 1936. Its creator, Lee Falk, also created Mandrake the magician, another favourite.  Mandrake was first published in 1934. We were amazed by the many magic “tricks” performed by Mandrake, although many times it was explained that it was hypnotism. Lothar, his companion, his girlfriend Narda who lived in Xanadu,  his many enemies, most famous of all the group 8, whose leader the mysterious Octon who was never seen and always addressed the members from behind a curtain, or was it through a speaker? I’m not so sure anymore.  One story I can never forget is that of the Invisible Man, who it turned out had worn a special kind of fabric that deflected light or something like that making him invisible. Mandrake sprayed paint on him and he was revealed.

Thanks to Indrajal Comics these wonderful comic books found their ways into our homes and our hearts.  Other comics which I can remember were Flash Gordon and his many adventures in space, his partners Dale and Dr Zarkov, and good old Bahadur - the man with the muscle, Rip Kirby the detective, and Timpa. Do you remember Timpa and his grandfather? Although he never had a comic book dedicated to him, the adventures of Timpa were often seen on the last few pages of the regular comic books.  And then there were Garth and Dara, but I didn’t read them much.

Next stop –Archie. Ah now I can see the smiles on your faces. Who doesn’t read Archie comics? My favourite character is Jughead, followed by Mr. Lodge. Then there were other comics like Katy Keene, Richie Rich, Disney comics, and Famous Five. There was a time when I was mad about MAD, that was the time before the Indian edition came out, and I would buy secondhands.  I bound all my MAD magazines in one fat book, and a nephew borrowed it and that was the last time I ever saw it.  So if you ever come across something like that, with my name written on it, please keep it safe for me.

Do you remember those girls comics? Black and white, always about a young girl, and the name of the comics would always be girls’ names, like Bunty, Mandy etc.  They were also very popular, and you also have the romantic comics of the same type.  Oh and also Blue Jeans, the ones with the photographs in it, somewhat like Photoromance.  Ahh Photoromance, Kiss… I think every girl growing up in the 70s-90s must be aware of them. Before we started reading the M&Bs they were our staple diet, our only source of romantic stories.  A  google search tells me that they were published from Lancio in Rome, Italy from around 1975 to 1991. No wonder all the actors were Italian.

Westerns and Commando.  Small, black and white, but very interesting and very informative.  Cowboys and their lives fascinated us. The Commando books were almost always about World War II, and of course the Germans and the Japanese were always the villains. But those comics taught us a lot about history.  I wish I could read them again. If I’d known they would be so precious and valuable I would have kept them safe and never lent them to anyone. But that’s the thing with comics. They are continuously circulated. We would have a trunk full of comics, but none of them would be ours. And if you go and check out other people’s collection you would probably find the same thing, and many of the times your own comic books.

A couple of weeks ago I bought a few Tintin comic books. Tintin is easily one of my most favourite comic books. There is mystery, adventure, international conspiracies, and Captain Haddock is there for the fun element. And also the Thomson twins.  But my favourite character is not Tintin or the  Captain, it is Jolyon Wagg, the annoyingly cheerful salesman who always turns up at the most unlikely places and could never get a hint.

If Tintin comes, can Asterix be far behind?  The small Gaul hero with his faithful partner Obelix. I love Asterix as much as I love Tintin. The best thing about the Asterix series is the names, my favourite being Unhygienix the fishmonger. Vitalstatistix, Getafix, Cacofonix, Impedimenta, Fulliautomatix, Geriatrix etc – all the names are suited to their occupation and personality.  And the Roman soldiers are extremely funny, one common dialogue among them being “Join the army they said, it’s a man’s life they said” (usually just before or after they are beaten up by the Gauls). Asterix turned 50 recently , on 22 October 2009.  For this occasion Albert Uderzo has created an album of Asterix short stories -  Asterix and Obelix's Birthday - The Golden Book.

Calvin and Hobbes is a recent favourite. The imaginative six year old boy and his stuffed tiger that comes alive only when no one is around.  Do you know that the last Calvin and Hobbes comic book was published in 1996? I’ve tried collecting them but they are too expensive, but I’m still hoping to have all the books in the series.

Oh boy this is turning into one long rambling post. But I’m not yet finished. I mentioned Sudden Muanga earlier, another character that never failed to entertain us. Of course I’m talking about the old Sudden Muanga, when he was still a skinny cowboy without a care in the world, before he turned political and religious and became boring. His horse Daii, his sidekick Hleizuama, his lady love Tumsangi, and his love of Saum.

 I still read comics. The first thing I read in a newspaper is the comics section. I have recently taken up collecting comics again, but this time I will not lend them to anyone, no matter how much they plead or beg or grovel.       


  1. Aha...and my favourite is Phantom followed by Archie and Mandrake. My Uncle use to keep the whole series of Phantom and whenever I visit him he use to give me the cupboard key and I can sit the whole day, though I can't stay still in one place. And due to my inability to stay quiet I almost burned up my Uncle's house using hays kept in the fireplace thinking "Will it work? Let me try." It did work, but my aunty came in time to put off the fire...phew..

  2. Comics (well, 'comic books,' to be precise...!!!)really are easy to get hooked to. "For those who came in late..."- I really like this line. It's so inviting!

    I like how you have finely written and arranged the pics. Wish a picture of dear old Sudden Muanga could find a place here......

  3. Kym - You must have been a very curious child. Does your uncle still have his Phantom collection? Do you think he might let me have a peek?

    Jona - Thank you. I couldn't find a picture of Sudden Muanga, or maybe I wasn't looking hard enough, but I agree it would be nice to have his picture here.

  4. "but this time I will not lend them to anyone"

    i lost my entire collection of sandman and doom patrol because i lent it to people. sob sob.

    what do you think of the new graphic novel thingy?

  5. feddabonn - "A fool is a person who lends his books, but an even greater fool is the person who returns it." But the thing with me is when I read a good book I want others to read it too and lend it to all and sundry, and all I ever got in return is an empty bookshelf.

    Haven't read many graphic novels, I think they are a bit violent and serious. A couple of months ago I bought a Manga Romeo & Juliet, I found it quite interesting. I may possibly get more.

  6. wow!!and again i say WOW!!!!
    "For those who came in late......." only a comic buff would be thrilled by seeing this line
    Ah! the good ol indrajal comics....Yea I wish I had kept them thru the years and multiple shifting of houses (my dad's a policeman)
    Frankly, I'm a little tired of reading Archie now.
    And oh yes I remember Photoromance, every guy in the hostel had a crush on Ombretta (See I even remember the name)
    You forgot to mention the world's most famous comic franchise- The Superheroes of DC and Marvel....Superman, Spiderman, Batman, Capt America....those were every boys prized possesions
    But aaah....comics!!!!

  7. used "most favourite"....can you check that out again?

  8. @aduhi: try 'em out. some are dark, true. there are a few indian ones too - sarnath banerjee and amrutha patil have written some decent stuff.

    @opa: i object to the past tense in "those were every boys prized possessions". they still are! :)

  9. I remember exchanging comics in school, getting caught and whacked yet never learning the lesson. I guess comics were one of the biggest influences our generation had growing up. Its a pity that classics like Tintin and Asterix they're too expensive now.
    Over the years, my collection of comics have slowly disappeared, and I miss them, although I'd like to think that it's making some kid somewhere happy. :)

  10. OP - If you remember Ombretta then surely you must also remember Ornella, Marina Santi etc. But I am a bit surprised because I never knew boys read them too :)
    I purposely didn't include DC and Marvel Comics because I never read them, never liked them, but I must admit I like the movies very much. I used to find them unreal, and girls were never into all that superheroes/ superpowers thing.
    Most favourite - oh yes two superlatives hobnobbing there - thanks for pointing out the mistake, you're my most best reader :P

  11. feddabonn - Thanks for the suggestions, will surely go check them out in my next monthly trip to the bookstore.
    Call it a coincidence, but this morning I read in the papers that two guys from Vizag are creating a graphic novel on Hyderabad. Sounds interesting.

  12. blackestred - "I guess comics were one of the biggest influences our generation had growing up." Rightly said. I don't know if kids today still read anymore.
    And yes,comics are too expensive now, unless you go for secondhands. But this time I'm going to be picky and buy only new ones, so I guess I can forget about other stuff like new clothes for a while.

  13. Aduhi - Sadly my Uncle is no more and after they shift home it was no longer maintained. I wish if I could also get one of those.

  14. I am so sorry to hear that, Kym. You must miss him very much. Have you ever noticed that it is always the good people who die first?

  15. I really have a big ? on that one. The good people either die first or are unfairly treated, and the bad ones the opposite. I do miss my uncle. He got some asthma problem, that was the cause.

    He is also very creative, give him a piece of wood and he will curve it into whatever you wish him to. In those olden days when there was no electricity, to listen to a player he use to pile up long line of batteries inside a bamboo and put the player inside a pot(big one) so that it makes a woofing sound and that's how we listen to songs back then when we all get together for Christmas...lolz

  16. yes!! loved reading Phantom comics...tet laiin ka thiante in pakhat ah hian zan ka riak a.. an ek inah comics hi a lo in stock treuh maia :D was a pleasant surprise.. comics chhiar zoh hma kha e kham ngai lo :D not that those comics too long to read.. and same here me too always go for the comics section in the papers..

    and on Sudden Muanga.. whos the creator? and like you suggested someone should revive the good old Sudden Muanga although i must admit i havent seen much of them..

  17. Kym - Your uncle seemed like quite a genius, it's too sad that he is no more and all you have left is memories.

    Blind Dayze - Comics te chu ek inah stock ngei2 tur alawm, keini pawh kan stock ziah, comics rawn hawh tur te hian ekin hi an en tel ngei ngei zel :)

    Sudden Muanga was created by Laisaizawks (Lalsangzuala I guess) a guy from Manipur. Ask around and see if you can get your hands on any of the early editions, you won't regret it.
    Ka la hriatreng pakhat chu Sudden Muanga kha vairam ah a kal dawn a, bike in, petrol kha a thun a, pawisa a nei si lo khan testing 1 2 3 a ti vel a tlan daih a, a la zai vak vak zui, a hla sak ngei chu Highway Star.. I'm a highway star a tia a chak tawkin a tlanchhia.

  18. So Sudden Muanga seems to be a hit comic around you guys.

  19. Ah you brought back so many memories. I love all the comics you have laid out here. I think I nearly cried when I saw Flash Gordon! There was this other comic too... AXA, a very sexy scanty clad blonde warrior. Those were the comics we used to read before DC, Marvel etc entered the scene. And of course, Commando comics! Another addiction of mine. Great post.

  20. Kym - yeah Sudden Muanga was a very big hit during the growing up years.

    Kima - I googled AXA and I think I might have come across it some where in the obscure past, it looks very familiar. One google search result says - "Female version of Conan that always had trouble keeping her top on." :)

    chawnghilh - The only thing to do, if you feel comical, is to read more comics! Thanks for visiting.

  21. Its recollections like these that make me wanna be a kid again... Brings back memories. Thanks :-)

  22. Tetea - You're right; childhood memories are always the best that we carry around.

  23. Alejendro - yeah I guess everyone likes Archie, it was a part of our childhood.
    Thanks for visiting.

  24. I remember one thing I always did after I read the whole comic, admiring the toys' pic on the back of the cover.... :-D

  25. Billions of bilious blue blistering barnacles! Bashi-bazouk! Land-lubber! :D TinTin is timeless. I'm glad to find that you're a fan too... but then again, virtually every comic-book fan out there loves TinTin... don't they?

  26. Alejendro - Ah yes that was one thing we always did too. How we admired and coveted those toys! We would play a game, like each one would pick five, as if they were really going to be ours.

    Andy - Ten thousand thundering typhoons! Ectoplasms!Iconoclasts! The captain sure had us laughing, didn't he?