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We all love comics. Don't we?

TerritorialMale • • • Wednesday, April 05, 2006

There were times when comics provided us with hours of entertainment and escape from stress. We had a group in school and another in college solely for the purpose of swapping comics. It was a simple set-up whose ideals were something like this: I have an interesting comic book you haven't read. You have one I haven't read. Let's swap.

That phase is gone for good but I still cannot resist the temptation of reading them whenever I see one. If ever. Good comics were expensive commodities mind you, and still are. Most of them were imported stuff and purchasing every new issue was out of the question. So the next best option was our rudimentary but effective networking strategy. That way, we shared a mutually satisfying give and take relationship and also ensured a steady supply of reading material. The network spanned our own buddies to even teachers. Archies comics, Asterix and Obelix, Tintin, all the super-heroes series, etc were in high demand. Particularly, the Asterix series and the Tintin series because of their low circulation and also due to everyone’s urge to hang on to them just a little bit longer. Archies comics were a little freely available but still a much sought after product. When the imported stuff was in low supply, we always had the homespun Tinkle comics and the Amar Chitra Katha editions to fall back on. Yes, they were just as entertaining. What set the Indian comics apart from their extravagant foreign peers was their simplicity. Also, most of them were a collection of folk tales and ideas sent in by the readers themselves. They however were frowned upon by the esteemed members of the academia, mainly because of their uncountable typos and below par English. Smuggling them into school was risky business. They were promptly confiscated whenever a copy was spotted doing the rounds. We never had the gumption or the grounds to protest this parochialism. It was ironical that I did likewise to my students during my short stint as a primary school teacher. Come to think of it, our tutors were absolutely correct. There, I said it!

Our tryst with comics didn’t stop there though. The more we delved into the make-believe world of caricatures, the more territories we discovered. There were the War classics, the Westerns and I even discovered a British strip called Beano in a used book stall one day. A rare treat - atleast in this part of this world. Then we chanced upon a whole new domain of Photo Comics. Here we saw the painstakingly drawn cartoons being replaced by more modern photos. These had the makings of a typical Mills & Boon romance and so were very popular among the girls. I cannot recall the exact nomenclature of these books. They were called Photo-something or Picture-something. Anyway, the likes of these gave us a chance to see the dramatis personae in full colour. Oftentimes, devoid of clothing. These were banned in school. Possession of one could bring you untold misfortunes - mainly to a certain part of your anatomy.

Nonetheless, my favourite comics strips have always been Asterix & Obelix and Tintin. Asterix comics incidentally are not very popular in the States, so I heard. Why so? Probably because USA had a thriving comic industry. Or probably because they were French. Possibly! The allergies a Frenchman can give an American are no secret. Very similar too, the state of affairs between the Gauls and the Romans. Interestingly, Hergẻ’s daring reporter Tintin has been quite controversial in the States. It still remains as popular as ever.

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