India is a country well known for cultural exports like curry, Bollywood, and its deeply rooted religion of Hinduism. However, for more than a few decades the sub-continent has built its own history in comic books. The most famous comics in the industry come from Amar Chitra Katha (a Hindu graphic novel series), Raj Comics’ thirty-year history of superheroes, and even the lovable old man Chacha Chaudhary. But age is a fickle thing for modern readers, and just about no one wants to take chances with outdated materials, publishers included. Don’t count Indian Comics out yet though, some publishers are spreading their content outward. But before we talk about India’s comic future, let’s discuss its past.
Again, Hinduism is deeply rooted in Indian society and culture. Compared to the West and Far East, this gives country’s comics a unique perspective. Amar Chitra Katha for example portrays not only the Hindu gods and their influence but also history and regional stories. Meaning, rather than display great and awesome power, this shows how even divine entities are down-to-earth people. Regional comics also help in displaying the life and times of the people living there. For heroes including Raj Comics’ Super Commando Dhruva and Nagraj, they themselves are gods not for their power but for their acts of heroism similar to the deities. Hinduism’s influence spreads far and wide in the countries top comics.
Indian Comics in the West
It’s can be a tough proposition for folks outside of India to find the right starting place with the country’s graphic novels. There’s a very slim chance that the majority of the West will notice any of long-running Indian Comics from Diamond or Raj Comics’ price, jumping point trouble, or similarities between established characters (e.g. Dhruva having more than a little in common with Dick Grayson). Those older franchises we mentioned are the only comics in India. There are other publishers that people can pay attention to with quality stories and art. Graphic India, for example, is the first thing in mind for Indian Comics in the West. Work from big names like Stan Lee and Grant Morrison certainly helped spread its name internationally.
Stan Lee’s Chakra the Invincible is Stan Lee’s own concept of an Indian superhero. It’s about a boy who gains a power suit that imbues him with the seven mystical chakras found in Hindu meditation. The initial story is a rather generic scenario of using newfound powers for good; good for kids but hard for already established superhero fans. An animated movie was revealed along with a Bollywood movie in the works. Not to mention Toons TV has an animated series based on the comics.
18 Days is Grant Morrison’s take on the Indian epic the Mahabharata. It’s a generational story about superhumans who need to win at all costs, meaning hard drama at every turn. Outside of the books, there’s an animated series on YouTube.
Those are fine books y folks more known to Western readers, but there’s much more to read. A few other series include Devi by Shekhar Kapur, a warrior in the eternal light versus dark battle who even paired up with Witchblade’s Sara Pezzini in a crossover. There are also Mistry P.I. with occult detectives, Bollywood thief Sholay, and Ramayan 3392 another take on an epic.
When traditional publishers fail, web-based comics are the next best thing to create stories. India is no different; today’s social media and social awareness help spread word and notoriety. The most notable of which is the Beast Legion, an award-winning web manga inspired by barbarian shows.
Comic conventions are easily the places for comics to flourish, no matter where they take place on Earth. Comic Con India is definitely the place to be for creators and fans. With locations in Mumbai, Delhi, and Pune; fans and communities come from all over to celebrate comic books together. Independent publishers like Yali Dream Creations present stories that the big names tend to avoid. Yali’s most notable series is The Caravan, a group of vampires undercover as a circus. Other publishers that came into sight include Holy Cow Entertainment with Ravanayaan and several more.
Now that a few publishers opened their doors, people are making sure their content is for all to see. Graphic India’s stuff is found wherever comic books are sold, especially 18 Days and Chakra. Apps like Comixology are of help, as well as Raconteur that features Vimanika Comics and Campfire Graphic Novels, and HuHuba which has a roster dedicated to comics in English and Hindi. India has embraced comics as an art form, so get ready for these spicy stories.