Comic relief: Recharge by Rachel Lopez
Demons, daayins, Asterix and Amitabh Bachchan — a free archive of vintage Indian comics is a great escape.Updated: Aug 03, 2019, 17:42 IST
Left to my own devices, and assured of victuals, internet, and comfort, I’d never leave the house. This is a lie. I’d probably be bored within the month. But before that, I’d revel in self-imposed solitude. Anyone who has a pile of unread books, unwatched shows, unscrolled-through articles and unplayed music, dreams of someday having the time to tackle it all. We’re the kind of people who hear of people being placed under house arrest and feel only envy.
Comic books, thankfully, don’t take long to finish. And plenty of collectors over the years have generously scanned and shared their hoard to build free archives online. You’ve probably heard of ComicBookPlus.com, which since 2006 has managed legally upload more than 35,000 vintage American and British comics — and has a growing non-Western section.
This is where I discovered Gooliver – Bono Ke Desh Mein, a 37-page retelling of Gulliver’s Travels, brought out by the small Delhi publisher Manoj Chitra Katha in the 1970s. Ten other MCK titles had also been uploaded, with fiery titles like Yamraj Ki Haar, Maut Ki Ghati, and Neki Ka Farishta. I wondered if Indian fans had attempted creating a similar online resource.
They had! Indian comic-book history has far more to it than the Tinkle, Indrajaal and Diamond Comics we read in the cities. And SJComics.com is the motherlode, with 40-odd titles that it lets you read for free. There are Hindi issues of Chandamama dating back to 1956 - the August cover seems like a Ravi Varma spoof, and the contents have more short stories than comic panels. The lone upload from the Goversons comics house is Asterix aur Roman Guspaithiya, a frame-by-frame Hindi translation of Asterix and the Roman Agent, which cost Rs 6 when it was published in the 1980s. Crookbond, a Manoj Comics hero, has intergalactic adventures in Fatmaara Ka Ototi (don’t ask, just read).
The best find? Kissey Amitabh Bachchan Ke, a series published by Star Comics in the 1970s, featuring the actor as a superhero in eye-mask and red suit. Sample the titles: Dasyu Rani Ka Atmasamarpan, HIjack, Vilupt Nagri, Bachchon Ka Vyaapar.
SJ’s collection is large but by no means exhaustive. Gowarsons also published a Hindi Star Trek, complete with Kirk and Spock; one issue was titled Bhayanak Hatyara. Radha Comics has published Shakti Putra Aur Hitler Ka Bhoot. And other covers on fan sites are so outrageous, the intern Shweta Kushe thought I was reading out Bhojpuri film names.
If you have an afternoon of house arrest, escape into a vintage Hindi comic. It’s easier than clearing your unread, unplayed pile.
(Over the moon about something that’s still under the radar? Tell me at email@example.com)