Article / 30 March 2021

Comics Culture Profile: Comics in Indian Culture

By Rohit C. 

Indian culture:

India is the world’s largest democracy; Indian culture is a blend of traditions and the modern world. The diversity in India can be gauged from the fact that it is home to 447 living languages. People dress up differently and eat food that is unique to their regions or customs. Despite such a scale of diversity, there is a sense of unity in society. People from all walks of life celebrate their festivals together and come together in each others’ moments of grief. Life in India is disorganized, but there is harmony prevailing in the society. Generally, society is traditional with freedom for people to choose what they like. With a billion-plus people living together as a nation following diverse cultures, languages, and traditions, India is indeed a miracle on Earth.

Role of comics:

Storytelling comes naturally to Indians. For many generations, the people of India have been recreating tales from the ancient past in different forms and ways. Even the modern-day historical legends have their journeys told in the form of stories that relate and inspire many Indians. Indian comics saw their most successful phase when Amar Chitra Katha, with its beautifully illustrated comic series from Hindu literature and Indian history, became a household name.

Comics are a favorite medium of entertainment. They are easily available at most bookstalls and at railway stations throughout India, as people love to read them while traveling. In recent years, comic books have undergone a massive change with the arrival of digital technology and social media. The young creators are leading a new creative revolution in comic storytelling by using enhanced visual effects and interactive elements that work well with a digital medium.

Leading the way is Vimanika Comics; their stories revolve around Indian mythology, with eye catching artwork and visual effects. An impressive story line in tune with today’s time has brought them instant success. Their popular works are: I am Kalki, Dashavatar-Incarnations of Vishnu.

Graphic India states, on its website, “In the same way that America created superheroes and Japan created anime, Graphic is tapping into the creativity of India to launch a new wave of enduring characters and mythic heroes to captivate the imaginations of youths in India and around the world.” The company says that it is using digital comics and animation to develop new stories targeting the 550 million Indian youth under the age of 25 and the 900-million-person mobile market as they take their stories directly to smartphones. Some of their popular works are: Chakra the Invincible, Devi, Sadhu.

The new generation comic book players are fast and smart and looking at new creative ways to compete in an increasingly competitive space; the best is perhaps yet to come. We are seeing a lot of variety in the genres and formats of Indian comics. While the storytelling is getting more attractive and the formats more diverse, historical Indian themes form the bulk of the comics read.

Comics in my life:

I have been reading comics since my childhood. They are, and remain, my favorite medium of entertainment. Comics had a great influence on my childhood; they inspired us to fight evil in any form. Phantom was my favorite one, as the first superhero who wore a costume with a mask. He was immortal, the Ghost who walks. The stories told were so real to us; we believed in Phantom’s power to fight crime. He was not like other superheroes who had some external power but relied on his wit and fists. As if to bring Phantom alive, we would recreate his character, acting out his dialog. It was a fun time always. It was celebration time to hear about Phantom’s new comic and we would jump with joy upon seeing the new title. Reading comics, again and again, etched Phantom into our memories forever.