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Exploring The Comic Verse

Exploring The Comic Verse

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Join us as we delve into the nostalgic world of comics and the captivating realm of comic book creators. Embark on a journey through the renowned Comic Con Festival of 2022. Discover the fascinating tales behind iconic characters, legendary creators, and the indelible impact of comics on our lives.

Let me take you back in time to a remarkable event that took place in the fading days of the past. It was the renowned Comic Con Festival of 2022, held in the city of Delhi. This festival, which had become a beloved tradition since its inception in 2011, had humble origins within the premises of Dilli Haat. It was during that time that I, too, ventured into the place, where I met numerous iconic figures from the comic world.    

From its initial days in the stalls of Dilli Haat, the festival gradually gathered momentum and shifted its base to Talkotra Stadium for one year. Then it finally shifted to NSIC Ground Okhla, where it is being held now. Witnessing its evolution with each passing year has been delightful indeed, as it transcends the boundaries of mere comics and ventures into the realm of merchandise and augmented reality.

However, during my most recent visit, I found the festival has transformed. The subject of comics has diminished and the festival exhibits more augmented reality stalls. But despite this technologically-infused era, the keepers of ink and imagination remain standing. Esteemed creators such as Saumin Suresh Patel, Md Faisal (Garbage Bin), Abhijit Kini, Dilip Chaubey, Prasad Bhat (Graphicurry), Karan Vir (Vimanika Comics), Sanjay Gupta, Anupam Sinha stalwarts of the comic fraternity, graced the event with their presence. They catered to the needs of comic book enthusiasts, sharing tales and peddling their cherished works of graphic wonder.

Indian Comic Stalwarts
Top L-R : Saimin Suresh Patel, Md Faisal, Abhijeet Kini, Dilip Chaubey
Bottom L-R : Prasad Bhat, Karan Vir Arora, Sanjay Gupta and Anupam Sinha

Talking about comic books, let me tell you about my irrevocable love for them. My childhood memories take me back to a time when I was a little boy. I used to flip through the pages cherishing the drawings in Amar Chitra Katha comics, Bantul The Great, or Hada Bhoda while Baba used to read out the stories to me. I was not interested in the stories, my eyes used to drool over the illustrations, for me, it was a different world… a magical world and this magical feeling still prevails in my heart even now.

I also developed a habit of drawing the characters from the comic books, especially the superhero characters namely Superman, Batman, Spiderman or the Phantom fascinated me a lot. There was something in them, the superpowers, the crime-fighting attitudes, their costumes, their names, in fact, everything about them.

Every month I wanted at least one comic book. This was my only demand and Baba never used to disappoint me on this. Indrajal comics were my favourite until I was introduced to DC and Marvel comics. I remember I bought my first pocket book size Spiderman comics after the show ‘Spiderman’ was aired on television. I lost that book but I still have my first ‘Superman’ comic book with me. In fact that book is still placed gracefully in my collection even today. I remember I bought it from Shillong when I was visiting my cousin’s wedding.

I was introduced to the mischievous world of Nonte Fonte during my first visit to Calcutta in 1981 where I purchased a few comics of the duo. I still have a few with me from that collection and often read them to my son Agastya.

But with time my fascination diverted from comic books to the comic book makers. I was deeply inspired by the comic book artists and their power of imagination which went behind creating these characters and narrating their stories.

I learned that the same Stan Lee who created my favourite Spiderman was also the creator of The Fantastic Four, The Hulk, Thor, Iron Man, and The X-Men. I was under the impression that Lee was the writer as well as the one drawing the characters. Later I learned that Lee was collaborating with Jack Kirby on the drawing of the characters. Kirby and Lee helped each other to bring these characters to life in the comic books.

Stan Lee and Jack Kirby
Stan Lee and Jack Kirby

Similarly, in 1932, Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster came together to create Superman. So did artist Bob Kane and writer Bill Finger who created The Batman in 1939. But this was not the only side of the story. Not all comic characters were created by a team of an artist and a writer.

Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel with their Superman
Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel with their Superman

A Belgian cartoonist Georges Remi pen named Hergé introduced us to the world-famous character Tintin in the year 1929. To make each comic, Herge had to do extensive research on the people and the country where he sent Tintin to and this he considered as his responsibility towards his readers. Such was his dedication.

Herge
Hergé, the creator of Tintin

I started reading more and more about the other comic book creators like René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo who created Asterix in 1959, Lee Falk the creator of The Phantom and Mandrake the Magician, the famous Walt Disney, who started as a cartoonist before Mickey Mouse happened.

Coming back to Tintin, as he was a globe trotter his popularity increased around the world, including India and especially in Kolkata. Such was his immense fame that Bengalis started naming their children after him. Tintin even started speaking Bengali in 1975 when it first appeared in the children’s magazine “Anandamela”.

A scene from the comic Panna Kothay - the bengali version of "The Castafiore's Emerald"
A scene from the comic Panna Kothay – the bengali version of “The Castafiore’s Emerald”

Talking about Anandamela, there was Shuktara and Kishore Bharati and a few more Bengali magazines that used to run comics during those time. My interest in these magazines was restricted only to the comics part. The characters ‘Bantul The Great’, ‘Hada Bodha’, ‘Detective Kaushik’ and ‘Bahadur Beral’ made their appearance in the Bengali Magazine Shuktara. These characters were created by our very own comic creator Narayan Debnath. Debnath joined a major publishing house Dev Sahitya Kutir in 1950 and till 1961 he illustrated several children’s books and novels which were published there. His journey in comics started in 1962 with ‘Handa-Bhonda’ in Shuktara one of Dev Sahitya Kutir’s most popular magazines.

Narayan Debnath with his creations - Bantul The great and Hada Bhoda
Narayan Debnath with his creations – Bantul The great and Hada Bhoda

Debnath created  ‘Bantul The Great’ inspired by the comic character Desperate Dan and influenced by his friend and Bodybuilder Manohar Aich, the Mr. Universe 1952.

Out of all the comics by Narayan Debnath, ‘Nonte Fonte’ is my all-time favourite. Debnath created Nonte Fonte in 1969 which originally was serialized for the children’s monthly magazine Kishore Bharati and later turned into proper comic books.

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Nonte-Fonte Comics
Nonte-Fonte Comics

The creations of Narayan Debnath ignited my curiosity to understand the world of Indian comic book creators, specifically those from Bengal. In my younger days, I was acquainted with the works of Mayukh Choudhury, but it was just a year ago that my brother-in-law, Deep, a fervent admirer of Choudhury, reignited my fascination with Choudhury’s imaginative masterpieces. Choudhury, a remarkable wordsmith, and illustrator, skillfully wrote enthralling tales of action, adventure, and science fiction. His intricate and visionary artistic style firmly established him as one of the greatest yet often underappreciated creators on a global scale.

The Art of Mayukh Choudhury
The Art of Mayukh Choudhury

 

Aguntuk by Mayukh Choudhury
Aguntuk by Mayukh Choudhury

Satyajit Ray always appreciated Choudhury’s works and published his work for the first time in “Sandesh” in the year 1962. Mayukh Choudhury’s extensive repertoire comprised a multitude of graphic novels, each showcasing mesmerizingly intricate and thought-provoking artwork. His command over line work enabled him to capture minute details with the masterful economy of strokes. Choudhury’s literary ventures predominantly delved into themes that now stand as remarkably contemporary, encompassing science fiction, detective tales, journals, reinterpretations of Indian assassins, and captivating expeditions into the realm of classical crypts. His distinctive approach to visual representation can be aptly described as a fusion of the evocative aesthetics found in National Geographic and the wondrous landscapes of Middle Earth. Among his creations, “Agantuk” (Stranger) stands as a widely acclaimed pinnacle of Choudhury’s artistic prowess.

Speaking of Satyajit Ray, we are all aware of his illustrations and typography styles which are visible in all his movies. He started illustrating at a very early age and created more than 1500 illustrations in his lifetime. Ray started his career as a junior visual artist in an ad agency where he was asked to illustrate commercial products that gained him well-deserved fame. When he was making his first film Pather Pachali, he didn’t have a script rather he created a storyboard in a comic book style in a scrapbook. When the film was made, the scenes looked exactly the same as his drawings. I loved his illustrations of Felu Da and Prof Shonku. In recent times the stories of these two characters have been made into a comic form. Artist Tapas Guha along with writer Subhadra Sengupta has created a few stories of Felu Da which are being published by Puffin Books, which is a part of Penguin Books. And another artist Abhijit Chatterjee has been creating Feluda and Prof Shonku comics for a long time. These comics were earlier published in Sharodiya issues of Anandamela and later converted into individual comics by Ananda Publishers. Both Guha and Chatterjee’s comics feature modern-day Feluda and Professor Shonku, who use modern amenities.

Felu Da and Professor Shonku - Original work of Ray
Felu Da and Professor Shonku – Original work of Ray
The New Felu da by Tapas Guha and Professor Shonku by Abhijit Chatterjee
The New Felu da by Tapas Guha and Professor Shonku by Abhijit Chatterjee

I remember, in the 1980s, Anandamela, briefly changed its format to a smaller, digest-sized publication. The new outfit also flaunted a brilliant homemade original series “Sadashib”, illustrated by artist Bimal Das from a novel by Saradindu Bandyopadhyay. Das painstakingly drew and colored each frame, averaging eight frames per issue.

The adventures of Sadashib by Bimal Das
Bimal Das’s excellent artwork on his “Sadashib” series

I loved Anandamela over Suktara for the works of the brilliant illustrators they have, including Bimal Das, Samir Sarkar, Subrato Choudhury, Debasish Deb, Krishnendu Chaki, Subrato Gangopadhyay, Anup Roy, and Prabir Sen. Let that be a story for some other day. Only time will disclose the purpose for this article. Get ready to unleash your inner hero and explore the magic of graphic wonders!

 

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