Dog Day Afternoons

14 May

Taking a break from the usual humdrum of Deciphering DC & ushering in a “through rose tinted glasses” look at the heydays of Indian Comics in the nineties, which were incidentally also my school days. Ah those days where friendship meant everything, and everything gets set by the final bell….and then the true days begin….

I did my schooling in a quiet suburb of Mumbai called Mulund. As a toddler, I was an inquisitive chap, but never an eager reader, until my parents got me a few comic books. I was too young to read words though understood letters nicely. A few of these comics were my initiation to proper reading. I started reading comics all on my own when I reached the tender age of 6 years. Till then my parents used to read them out to me.

Once I started reading voraciously, weekend visits to the raddiwallah used to yield maybe 4-5 books per week. Growing older, the number of books was restricted solely by my pocket money. The staples were TINKLE, AMAR CHITRA KATHA, DIAMOND COMICS & INDRAJAL COMICS. On a lucky day, I might have found copies of CLASSICS ILLUSTRATED, DC COMICS, MARVEL COMICS or their indian counterparts published by Chandamama as DOLTON COMICS & IBH as STAR COMICS.

Back then, finding comics was a lot more easier than today, and a lot more difficult. Here I contradict myself but not so much. Today there are people willing to pay thousands of rupees each for these “collectible” comics, same which were available for maybe one rupee per then….but similarly restricted were the allowances. But someday, if you had a few rupees more, you could buy some more books. Nowadays, if you have some ten thousand rupees more, you can do so too.

Today is the day of the trade paperback. You really want something, look it up on the net, order it on a discount on the seeming exchange rate…voila! You get a spankin’ new copy in a fortnight or at the maximum, a month. Back then, single issues were hardly available, and I was introduced to this beast called a trade paperback maybe in 2002 or so. I remember back when Superman “died” in 1993, or there was a “new” Batman in 1994, we used to hear it from the newspapers, which were pretty dedicated in their coverage even then. The single issues were nowhere to be found…..easily. We used to think we were very very lucky when we found a single issue of DC or Marvel Comics. Never did we think about whether the story ends or is continued into some other issue that we may never lay our hands on….ever. You saw something, you had to take it, and pay the shopkeeper the princely sum (I kid you not) of one rupee without asking the price. I remember buying a few issues of REIGN OF THE SUPERMAN & KNIGHTFALL, being bowled over by them & thinking that I would never get to read them in their entireity, forget ever possessing them! Today I own all paperbacks; kept safely in my cupboard. The thrill of the hunt back then was another thing entirely. Another thing missing in today’s comics were the letter pages, which seem to be making a comeback today.

The pictures featured herein are of the first set of comics I ever bought, which must be around 1991-1992 sorts.
Next week we return to Deciphering DC, after which I emphasize on the comic book industry in India in the days long gone; in the following weeks. This series will not be so much as a review of the books from the old days, but more of an attempt to see what drove the comic market those days and what made it tick.

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