Once Upon A Time In Indian Comics Industry:

Today when people think about superhero comics, they instantly think about Marvel and DC comics. For the past century these two American comic publishers have established themselves all around the world. However, in the late 80s and early 90s this was not the case. There were Indian comic book publishers who created a whole different types of characters. Those characters became famous pop references for the 90s kids. Many publishers like Diamond comics, Raj comics, Manoj and Tulsi are responsible for creating some iconic Indian superheroes and characters that many millennials grew up reading.

From the 1980s to 1990s the Indian comics industry was at the peak of its success. Anant Pai aka Uncle Pai is a pioneer who is credited to launching of Indian comics industry in 1960s. He started the company ‘Amar Chitra Katha’ which was a very popular and widely read comic book in India. The comics were based on the ancient Hindu mythologies, folk-tales and cultural stories. During the late 1980s and early 1990s the comics were sold in large numbers. Indian publishers like Raj comics and Diamond comics were growing stronger each year. Popular comics sold over 5 lakh copies. During this time some iconic characters were created such as Chacha Chowdhary, Nagraj, Super Commando Dhruv, Tausi, Angara and funny characters like Bankelal and Hawaldaar Bahudur among others. There were even superhero crossovers released that helped create a big hype among the readers.

From Then To Now What has Changed: ( Indian Comics Industry )

Indian Comics Industry Like Raj Comics
Raj comics ( cover photo )

The characters and storyline were exceptionally well written and it captivated readers but unfortunately the comic industry in India spiralled downward. Today the comic industry is facing a sharp decline. The industry that once was successfully selling over 5 lakh copies is now struggling to even sell 50 thousand copies. The main reason for the huge decrease in comics popularity can be the emerging technology. However, if that was it should have affected the western countries too. The kids went from watching one TV channel to playing video games online and somewhere along the way the comics book were forgotten as they too did not adapt timely to the changes. As time passed, the publishers focused more on selling the comics than the quality content of the comics. Therefore, this resulted in stories ending up being more or less similar to each other.

Raj comics, was founded in the year of 1986 by Rajkumar Gupta. Today Raj comics may be a very less known comic publisher in India but back in the 90s it was one of the popular comic book publication. Raj comics created some well-known character as Nagraj, Super Commando Dhruva, Doga, Parmanu, Tiranga, Bankelal, Shakti, Inspector Steel and many others. The company published four types of comics – medieval fantasy, horror, mystery and superhero comics. They mainly focused more on superhero content. India is more globalised than it was before.

May Be The Reason

Indian kids are getting lost in the world of western superheroes. May be because since the late 90s and early 2000s, the comic books from other countries are portraying their comic book characters, in the live action films with unbelievable graphics that can transport the audience to a completely different world. In 2002 -2003 there were talks about releasing a television series on Nagraj but it never happened. In 2009 director Anurag Kashyap was planning to bring Indian superhero Doga to the big screen, but after the failure of Bombay Velvet at the box office the film was never made.

As the technology advanced, Raj comics failed to adapt and change with the time. The comics by the company were published only in Hindi and this did not help in sales. There was not much marketing and advertising done to reach the audience. As the years went on the void between the Raj comics’ superheroes and its readers increased and the quality of the content dropped with it. Many characters were derived from their western counterparts. For example: Inspector Steel is like Robo Cop, Yoddha is like Thor, Bhokal is like Heman, Fighter Toads are like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and there are many others. The difference in the content quality affected the Raj Comics more than anything.

As Marvel and DC gained popularity in India, with superheroes like Batman, Spiderman, Iron-Man etc., they became the ultimate superhero icons for urban India and the desi superheroes faded behind the big-budgeted allure of the superheroes from the west. Today comic publishing companies working hard and trying slowly to revive the indian comics industry.

Also Read: History Of Print Media, Books And Journalism