Comics in changing India

Cris writes in Deccan Chronicle from Kochi:

There was a time when a nine-year-old’s day would start with Mandrake The Magician or Phantom, his friend.

Days when comics were everywhere — in magazines, on the last pages of newspapers and in the two-page supplements.

Growing up in those glorious 90’s and landing himself into a career in comics in later years, Anil Janardhanan watched with silent grief his superheroes fade into the pages of children’s magazines.

Today, running Vega Features in Kottayam — that distributes comic strips to publications — Anil misses the days when Kottayam even had a ‘Paingili Theruvu’, which thrived not only on the weeklies that carried romantic tales, but also because of the comics that sold alongside.

He is unable to pinpoint one reason for its steady decline, but reckons the low income the comic workers received for their hard work, as one of the reasons.

The same reason may have driven Venu Variath to the Middle East, where he now manages two publications of The Media Group.

“I used to work with the Poombaatta, Amarchitrakatha and Balabhoomi. First, there were mostly the translations of English comics.

With the likes of Poombatta, original characters and comics in Malayalam came into being. But eventually the sale of comics began to take a hit — plunging from lakhs to thousands.”

N.M. Mohan, who brought Poombatta to Kerala, however feels that there has not been a big change in the comics scenario.

“When other people would look at the front view mirror to drive forward, comic creators watched the rare view mirror — to learn from the past.

The animated series of various comic characters we have now is an extension of comics. Mayavi’s VCD, which came out last year, sold nearly two lakh copies.”

Sharing his belief is Kishore Mohan, who quit his regular job to come full time into the process of what calls ‘story telling’.

Kishore’s passion was kindled in those childhood days when his grandmother sat with him and narrated folk and fairy tales — Indian, Russian, Irish and Grimm’s.

The leprechaun’s treasure buried at the end of the rainbow and Baba Yaga’s giant flying mortar created images in his young mind which he recreated on paper.

“Thus I started drawing stories a long time before I started writing them. The love for words came much later; and with that, I found that ‘comics’ was the only medium where pictures and words could co-exist peacefully and symbiotically.”

And, successfully so. Kishore’s belief that if you are good at what you do and enjoy it thoroughly, passion will take you the rest of the way, proved true.

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