ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Publishing Pulp and the Popular

Reading Comics and Genre Fiction in India

Indian Genre Fiction: Pasts and Future Histories edited by Bodhisattva Chattopadhyay, Aakriti Mandhwani, Anwesha Maity, New York and Oxon: Routledge, 2019;
pp xii + 211, 

Adventure Comics and Youth Culture in India by Raminder Kaur and Saif Eqbal, New York and Oxon: Routledge, 2019; pp xiv + 225, `995.


Mainstream urban access to comics, popular fiction, and pulp fiction in India for a generation lay in a handful of publishers. Diamond Comics offered Pran Kumar Sharma’s Chacha Chaudhary and Sabu, with a smattering of side characters like Mahabali Shaka and Fauladi Singh, mixed with dated Western characters licensed from foreign publishers like Phantom, Mandrake, Tarzan, and Flash Gordon. Phantom also appeared in Indrajal Comics (Bennet, Coleman & Co) offering which included India’s first action hero, Aabid Surti’s Bahadur. Amar Chitra Katha (AKC) showcased nation­alism, revived mythology, and told moral tales from folklore through graphic art. AKC’s first publication was an issue on Krishna, followed by its series on the leaders of the Indian freedom struggle, and spread out to characters and stories from Jataka tales, Panchatantra, and Hitopadesha. Raj Comics presented Hindi comics, ranging from fantasy to science fiction, and often Indianised imitations of Western heroes (Kumar 2019).

Beyond comics, genre fiction and young adult fiction were found in periodicals like Chandamama, Kalki Group’s Gokulam, AKC’s Tinkle, and its competitor Champak. These periodicals offered regular comics as well as text stories with illustrations—the contents ranged from oddball characters to morality stories, varied in genre from science fiction and mythology to campy humour, and included educational material from science breakthroughs and history. A notably different and more mature periodical was India Today Group’s Target magazine aimed at young adults; its content was politically and culturally aware and critical as personified in the anthropomorphic character of the donkey Gardhab Das. There are multiple reasons for the mainstream appeal and memory of these magazines. They were backed by substantial publishers, had a large subscription base, and, more importantly, were published in multiple languages, namely Hindi, English, Bengali, Malayalam, Tamil, and Kannada. Some of these have survived into the digital age; AKC offers both digital access as well as well-designed and curated printed sets of mythology, history, and folklore, while others like Indrajal shut shop as early as 1990.

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Updated On : 4th Apr, 2022
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