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Are you a fan of Tinkle, Amar Chitra Katha? This 43-year-old archives the journey of Indian comics

The comic books are saved in polypropylene covers & custom-designed cartons.

, ET Bureau|
Updated: May 28, 2018, 10.40 AM IST
Are you a fan of Tinkle, Amar Chitra Katha? This 43-year-old archives the journey of Indian comics
Arun Prasad, the collector, wants to understand the evolution of Indian comics.
BENGALURU: Arun Prasad was a familiar face at the Sunday markets organised in Majestic in the late 1990s. He would rummage through the largely second-hand collection of books spread across stalls on footpaths and verandahs and purchase comics priced anywhere between Rs 2 and Rs 50. His travels thereafter would include comic book purchases in street markets and bookstores across Indian cities. He would also network among fellow comic enthusiasts. Soon, his collection grew to 17,000 titles, which include some of the rarest comics published in India.

Prasad, however, calls himself an archivist rather than a collector. He is now meticulously categorising his assemblage according to date, publication and artist name. He wants to understand the evolution of Indian comics, which he believes, started along with (if not before) the West.

“We think that comics are relatively new to India compared to the West,” says the independent filmmaker and history buff. “However, if you define comics as a sequential illustrated art form, it can even include the ancient relief sculpture and mural sequences in India, the Patachitra of West Bengal or Kavad of Rajasthan, all of which narrate stories through illustrations.”

The 43-year-old’s print comics collection includes the earliest 10 editions of Amar Chitra Katha (ACK) which were translations of European fairy tales, all issues of Indrajal comics (including the first 1964 edition of The Phantom Belt), a rare comic series on Indian folk tales published by the Tirupati Temple Trust, comics created by late filmmaker Satyajit Ray, 10 editions of Supremo Comics (featuring Amitabh Bachchan as a superhero), the shortlived series Sunny the Supersleuth (modelled after cricketer Sunil Gavaskar), the entire collection of Tinkle and first appearance issues of superheroes like Mandrake, Flash, Buz Sawyer, Rip Kirby, Bruce Lee, Mike Nomad and Lt Drake. He preserves these titles in polypropylene covers and places them on custom-designed acid-free cartons that block dust and moisture.

“Indigenous, independent vernacular comics are more powerful than their Western superhero counterparts. They reach the local community, understand the pulse of the masses and the social fabric in a way that English comics do not,” says Prasad, who believes that India’s comics industry is undergoing a resurgence after a brief lull due to television and increased internet access.

Much before he became a serious comic collector, his childhood in Kerala was shaped by comics like Mayavi (published in the Malayalam children’s magazine Balarama) and Bobanum Moliyum (created by the late VT Thomas, popular as Toms). “They reflected sociopolitical scenarios and culture in Kerala. So whatever I learnt about the world, growing up, was through comics. Even today, whatever I see around me, is through the prism of comics.”

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