Homegrown Heroes

I remember encountering Raj Comics when I was in class IV. With Hindi as a new elective and no particular interest in learning the language, comics were the best things my mother could offer me out of sheer desperation. Indeed, it was easier dealing with a girl who read comics than a girl who was a disgrace in examinations. And when Manish Gupta, CEO, Raj Comics, told me that fans from Bangladesh and Nepal got acquainted with Hindi through these very comics, I wasn’t surprised.

From 1986, Raj Comics has been that one name in India that has remained synonymous with superheroes. While Bengali comics had introduced super-abilities back in the 60s, Raj Comics made sure that Indian superheroes stood the test of time. With the years, characters have matured, storylines have evolved and there is also some extremely good art lurking the world of Raj Comics.

Thanks to the superhero-movie trend that Hollywood has been minting money from, not too many people, comic enthusiasts or not, have to be introduced to names from the world of Marvel and DC. In fact, even superheroes who had been unpopular in the past, like Thor have come into the limelight and won hearts. And it is tragic to realize that readers choose to ignore people and stories that have been a part of the Indian comic industry for almost three decades now.

Considered  to be India’s first superhero, Nagraj, inspired by Spider Man, is the king of snakes. Hailing from the fictional city of Mahanagar, Nagraj is the one name terrorists of this realm are terrified of. With a quirky hairdo and a snake-skin covered body, this superhero is the manager of a security agency: Snake Eyes!

And while Batman is the Dark Knight of Gotham, Doga is “Mumbai Ka Baap” for fans! A believer of justice, Doga prefers to eliminate problems completely

Though the world of superheroes is largely dominated by men, Super Woman Shakti deserves mention. A victim of abuse in her marriage, she was blessed with powers by goddess Kali so that she could protect other women in distress. “We feel that we have not done perfect justice to her,” Gupta admits. “With commercial aspects to consider, we could not achieve her full potential.” But thankfully there have been talks to reboot her in a new, regular series in the future., giving it no room to crop up again. And it is Doga that is all set to be adapted on screen rather soon. With Anurag Kashyap directing the movie, the cast has been decided, but it is not time for spoilers yet!

With some great characters, storylines and even the inclusion of current affairs in the plots, it is heart-breaking to realise that the popularity of Raj comics is restricted to largely a Hindi-reading audience. “While we do have translations, most of our releases are in Hindi. And sadly, most of the urban comic readers, especially from the metros tend to stay away simply because a vernacular language is not cool enough,” concludes Gupta. But with Raj Comics all set to make a Bollywood appearance, there is no reason to believe that the popularity of these heroes will ebb away anytime soon. After all, I am not the only one who plans to catch the very first show of Doga once it is released.