Old Indian Comics from the 1970s

These old Indian comics were one of the three pillars of my childhood reading, the other two being Tintin and Asterix & Obelix. We lived in the Fiji Islands, which had a large Indian population. I’d buy these from the corner Chinese grocery store, about a quarter-mile from the beach. At least, that’s my recollection. It’s also possible we bought some of them in India. Most are based on famous historical figures or on Hindu or Buddhist religious stories. Some of the interior art is not of as high quality, but the covers are great. I’m turning 40 next week and have been indulging myself by going through some childhood favorites.

Here are some more images and details of interiors.

The Ranjit Singh comic pictured here I remember as being particularly exciting.

Elephanta, pictured below, refers to a cave system–I think it’s off of Mombai, if memory serves. We were lucky enough to visit there when I was a kid.

A couple of cover close-ups:

Two examples of the interiors:

A few back cover advertisements:

Inside back covers:

85 comments on “Old Indian Comics from the 1970s

  1. ted mahsun says:

    I have some of those issues as well! My parents used to buy them for me when we were living in the UK in the 80s. My favourite when I was little was Jataka Tales. I didn’t really like the other more epic ones but I have a feeling I might have a different take now that I’m an adult.

    Ooh! I also thought the covers were kind of creepy btw.

  2. Cheryl says:

    All this education and you still don’t understand cricket?

  3. Cheryl: Ha! You know what–here’s my promise to you. After I finish the novel, I will do a week’s worth of posts on cricket. Before the end of the year. I will make an honest effort to understand it.

    jeff

  4. Cheryl says:

    Thank you! If you have any questions, just let me know. You might want to start with my post on cricket for baseball fans.

  5. sajith says:

    Jeff Jeff Jeff! They’re still in print here!

  6. Oh cool! Thanks, Sajith!
    Jeff

  7. I love the Nutramul ad. Next time someone asks you where you get your ideas from you can say ‘1970’s Indian comics’, or maybe Nutramul.

  8. gui says:

    i spent tons of time reading those when i was a kid . i defenitively get a kick out of the commercials on the back every time i look at one

    kool stuff there jeff

  9. James says:

    These are great, but what about the ghost who walks, man who cannot die, the Phantom?

  10. Elizabeth says:

    You have all of our old comics!! I wondered where they were and was hoping they hadn’t been discarded. Fond memories of reading them! I remember you reading them before bedtime–curled up on the couch in your cute little Spiderman underoos with Indian comic book in hand!

  11. Hey, sis. Thanks for giving my readers such a disturbing mental image. :)

  12. Inne ten Have says:

    Wow! These were my favorite comics when I lived in Hyderabad, India (1969 – 1973). I may still have them somewhere in a box at my parents house. Together with Donald Duck (once a year a huge box with 52) my dutch education was complete ;-)
    Thanks for the nice memories!

  13. Really? That’s cool. I remember one about Ganesh, too, but I don’t think I have that one any more.

    JV

  14. Joe says:

    No, please, Jeff, ignore Cheryl’s siren song and avoid that awful ritual the English call cricket!!! Love the Indian comics though

  15. Hey, Joe. No, no–I’ve shirked my duties for too long. I…must…watch…cricket…

    JV

  16. Joe says:

    I refer you to the warnings on the subject of cricket that the great Douglas Adams passed on to us. If white robots descend on your yard, don’t say you weren’t warned :-)

  17. Jeff:

    I grew up on Amar Chitra Katha comics (in both English and Hindi) and they are still popular back home. Thanks for the excellent photos! They brought back memories! I really must ask the family to send me some.

    Vandana

  18. Alex Carnegie says:

    I recognise the Garuda illustration from Thackery T. Lambshead’s!

    It was all Beano, Dandy, Asterix & Obelix when I was a kid… at least til my age hit double figures and I discovered my friend’s collection of 2000AD and Alien VS Predator stuff….

  19. Sunil Khanna says:

    I have a whole stack of ACK comics from my last trip to India (which unfortunately was in 1979/80)!!! I pull them out every now and then and go through them…

  20. Vandana: That’s wonderful! Sunil–I’m just kinda thrilled to see how many people have read these.
    Jeff

  21. That is a very cool collection. I am thinking about tracking some of these down. Anyone see/read any of the Indian titles that Virgin comics has published? Very different and enjoyable, but I was recently told that they do not treat their Indian writers well.

    I absolutely love the mythology of India. In fact, I think it is sad that the vast mythologies of India or even the Middle-East are not woven into fantasy more often. I enjoy the familiar, and often cliché western mythologies used in fantasy (Celtic overuse anyone?), but so many fascinating, rich, and untapped cultural/mythological elements–from these overlooked parts of the world–are demanding to be infused into popular fiction. Genre writers need to find their muse in more exotic, and distant locations.

  22. Deepak says:

    My parents taught me all about our ancient India through Amar Chitra Katha….your post brings me all the fond memories, now I need to find If my parents have still got them stashed some where. Thanks for the wonderful post !!

  23. RSD–hey–yeah, I totally agree. I’ve written a few stories using Indian tropes. And I actually had a story in an Indian magazine called 2001 several years back. I think it is definitely untapped. Although Ashok Banker has been doing some interesting work using the Ramayana.

    Deepak–thanks for that. I’m just so happy that this post is of interest to people. I have such amazing memories myself of these comics, of course. Mine are somewhat worn now and I’m afraid of reading them too much because they might fall apart!

    Jeff

  24. B says:

    OMG!! the nostalgia! This was the source of my indian mythology education. Loved Tinkles too. Thanks for bringing this up.. might go back and look at my neglected and dusty ACKs on the bookshelf.
    Yours seem to be in amazing condition too, can’t say the same about mine sadly.

  25. B: Most are in good condition. Some of the back covers on a few are ripped or partially missing. Otherwise, they’re not doing badly considering they were schlepped through six months of world travel when I was nine or ten, and then from Ithaca to Gainesville to Tallahassee over the next thirty years!

    Jeff

  26. Ashok says:

    Almost everyone I know has read ACK growing up. I was no exception. They’re still very much available though and even have a website where they ship their comics worldwide. Everything’s exactly the same, except they do’t run ads anymore and print on better paper, even have hardcover editions. They claim to have sold over one million copies which I believe.

    Actually, Indian myths and elements are everywhere in western fantasy fiction, I can’t open an American fantasy novel these days without seeing overt influences (the WoT, itself a Hindu concept) or subtle ones (a character named Arjun, city named Hastinapura, etc). What isn’t visible is India-based mythology stories that really explore the culture and people. But then, I’m told that wouldn’t sell in the US and UK markets, not to genre readers at least.

    BTW, my Ramayana series is a retelling using tropes that actually predate modern western fantasy. A kind of attempt to go back to the original well, so to speak. And yes, I am doing a graphic novel retelling of the Ramayana as well as an original comic series for Vertigo. A long way from ACK, but ACK still rocks big-time.

    Thanks for the nostalgia!

  27. Ashok: Thanks for dropping by. I appreciate it–and the comment. I thought I saw an Indian-style comic in the comic store the other day. So those are out already?

    Jeff

  28. Ashok says:

    Jeff: Not sure which ones you saw. Mine are a long way from publication yet, probably 2009 sometime. You might have seen the Virgin one, which tanked pretty dismally. Unfortunate, because they proved that India-oriented comics don’t sell in the US. I write for Indian readers, I’m not published outside India, by choice. Really no market in the west for unapologetic India-based “genre” fiction, comics or otherwise.

  29. Quote: “…What isn’t visible is India-based mythology stories that really explore the culture and people.” Exactly what I was attempting to express; there are only hints and hues of it in western literature.

    Ashok, nice mention of Arjun; Felix’s ‘Thunderer’ is one of my favorite reads of 2008 (so far).

    There are a few of us, that are into India-oriented comics. I have bought everything Virgin has done to this point (Ramayana, Sadhu, Devi, and the India Authentic series), but yes, we are unfortunately a small-market.

  30. Ashok: Well, I’ll try to pick up the Vertigo one when it’s out. I think I did see the Virgin one.

    RSD: Is the Virgin stuff good?

    Jeff

  31. Yaj says:

    I had every single one of those that you highlighted. I miss those books. Just the other day I was wondering if I’d ever find them again. Jataka tales were definitely the best ones!

  32. Brendan says:

    The Jataka Tales actually come from a very old Buddhist source, written in the Pali language. Of the original tales, I think there are around 500.

  33. Prayag says:

    Just read your entry on BOING BOING. Me and my brother and sis used to have almost all of them. Plus another series called “Indrajal Comics” which featured Phantom, Mandrake, Bhahadur, Flash Gordon and others. We used to absolutely loved them. When we returned from school in afternoon we would rush and pick one each and have our lunch while reading it. Not a goof manner one might say. But it worked for us and our mom. She could slip in all sorts of veggie and other healthy(yuck!) stuff in our lunch. We were so engrossed while reading those comics that we would eat all of it !!
    Thanks for reminding me of those lovely days.

  34. Akash says:

    Hey there!!

    We still have these comics in our bookstores in Mauritius…! Anyone interested?

    Great childhood memories came back when I saw that nice subject!!

    Keep up the great work!

  35. John Platt says:

    I want these!!!

  36. Alex Carnegie says:

    RSD & Jeff – actually, it’s interesting you should say that: with the novel I’m researching and planning right now, I intend to adapt some elements of Burmese folklore/myth and supernatural belief into a western Steampunk/New-Weird setting. My paternal grandmother is Burmese, and I am very conscious of the fact that I am in some way trying to reconnect and learn about a distant part of my roots, but it is also a goldmine of material for fiction. Given the cultural and religious overlap with India, I’m also discovering things like the Jakata tales and taking more of an interest in Asian mythologies as a whole. I think it’s a very exciting direction for genre fiction to take.

  37. Jeff VanderMeer says:

    Yaj and Prayag–thanks for that.

    This is probably a first, too, in terms of having a reader from Mauritius on this blog and a trackback in what I’m assuming (correct me if I’m wrong) sanskrit!

    JV

  38. eswami says:

    Hello Jeff,
    The trackback is in Hindi. The script is called ‘Dev-Naagari’ :)

  39. Arggh! I knew I was completely and utterly wrong. Early morning fuzziness. Thanks. Hindi. Duh. LOL! My apologies.
    Jeff

  40. Ashok says:

    Hindi it is, it’s a trackback, or a ping, not sure what you call it. Sanskrit is also written in Devnagari script, but unlike Hindi it was \\vertical slashes\\ before and after each line of verse. That’s a sure way to tell the difference between HIndi and Sanskrit without actually knowing each language.

    Also: Just so everyone knows. Every single ACK comic is still in print and available in any bookstore in India, as well as online. In fact, the current editions are better than the old ones, much better printing, paper, and no ads.

    You could even call the post ‘Old Indian Comics from the 21st Century’. Then again, most of the stories have been around a couple thousand years at least…

  41. Yeah, true, Ashok. I’m also now thinking about getting the whole set in the current editions.

    Thanks re sanskrit/Hindi. My mom got her degree in Indian folk art and I think I said sanskrit because I heard her say the word so much. Oddly, I got so much Southeast Asian history and art from my mom through osmosis as a kid that I kind of OD’d on it and am only now coming back to it.

    Jeff

  42. Ashok says:

    Well, in a very real sense, it’s all Sanskrit in the end–or in the beginning–isn’t it? Mother of all languages.

    Popped back to add that while the old Indrajal Comics aren’t around anymore, more’s the pity, the entire Phantom series has been reissued in hardcover and softcover here in India and is also well worth collecting. Now if only someone would collect all those back-of-the-book Mandrake stories too.

    And if you want to see them online, take a look here and here for some painstakingly and lovingly done scans and uploads.

  43. Vinayak says:

    Hi Jeff,
    I read Amar Chitra Katha in the early 90s and now I can say that even then it retained its 70s look and feel.

    That Rallifan Ad is definitely 70s! Check this out

  44. Jeff,

    I enjoy the comics Virgin has put out, but you have to consider that these are my first and only exposure to Indian myth in comic book form. I have never read classic Indian comics as are presented here.

    Perhaps, I am easily pleased? ;-)

  45. Jeff,

    I have read a lot of ACK as a kid.That was the early eighties.
    Now I wonder how the same Rama or Ashoka was available in the 70s and the 80s.

    Poppins,Nutramul are some of my favorite ads from old ACKs.

    I feel it is because of the lack of something like ACK that the West came up with fictional cartoon characters for children there.

    Thanks for such a wonderful post.

  46. Diddi says:

    Wow, this is really great… i love this and thanks for bringing back my sweet childhood memories..

  47. Rohit Jain says:

    Lovely!
    Childhood was entirely ab8 comics & ACK was read with delight. Hail Anant Pai.
    I hear that ACK is getting a makeover

  48. Jeff at his best as ususal.

  49. prats says:

    Wow!!! Its nice to know there is another who has saved his childhood treasures….We have a collection too at home…all bound and safe…though the pages are yellowed but smell of love and real readings

  50. Thanks again for all of the great comments. All of this talk has reawakened my interest in Indian literature, too. Looks like I’ll be going on a book-buying jag again soon. Cheers, Jeff

  51. Wow, this brings back a flood of memories. We had a huge collection of comics: ACK, Indrajaal (Mandrake, Phantom, Bahadur) and Flash Gordon, Batman, Tarzan et al. We even had many of them in ‘bound volumes’ that were zealously guarded :)

    It was fun and definitely a great introduction to Indian history and mythology to us in the ’70s and ’80s, which were then followed by Tintin, Asterix and others as we grew older. Thanks Jeff.

  52. Ashok says:

    Oh, and by the way, there’s no Indian city named ‘Mombai’ as mentioned in your post. In the time period you mention, and by the geographical reference (Elephanta Island), I assume you mean Bombay, now called Mumbai. Though I can see how ‘Mom’ and ‘Mum’ may seem like the same thing to an American!

  53. Mithila says:

    I’m going to India to visit relatives and I’m really looking forward to finding antique stuff ;)

  54. Thanks for correcting the typo, Ashok.

    Jeff

  55. Apana says:

    Here is a link to the online store.

    http://www.ack-media.com/

    Apana

  56. dear jeff, how comics have you in your collection ? have you shown your collection, when and where ?
    waiting for your reply,
    herve perdriolle

  57. Richa says:

    Checkout http://www.amarchitrakatha.com you can view comics online…this is their official website

  58. Vikas Gupta says:

    Hi all,
    I’d love to have all old indian comics…like, madhu muskan, lotpot, Motu patlu, etc….I got all asterix & tintins + other new indian comics if you want. Mail me at [email protected] or [email protected]….dono per hi mail ker dena yar…else 9999976536

  59. Eunice says:

    I would kill to get my hands on this comics books again. I would read one over and over again. I want to introduce my gals to this comics. We enjoyed Tin TIn, Dandy, Beano etc….so sorry those brands died down they had great messages.

  60. apoorva says:

    hello jeff, i regularly contribute to an amar chitra katha blog called ack-india.blogspot.com you too can viit the site and if you are interested , you can contribute some comics by scanning them…

  61. OHH; ITS A NOSTALAGIC FEELING TO SEE THE COVERS OF THESE COMICS ON NET; I STILL HAVE COLLECTIONS OF LOT OF THEM ; MAY BE NOT IN GOOD CONDITION AS THESE WERE KEPT IN ATTICS IN SUMMER OF 1985 BY MOTHER TO FORCE ME TO STUDY FOR EXAMS INSTEAD OF COMICS. JUST NOW ON NET I SAW AND HAVE A FEELING TO SEARCH THEM AGAIN AFTER 24 YEARS; JUST LIKE A BOLLYWOOD MOVIE WHERE HERO SEARCH FOR HIS CHILDHOOD MARKS IN OLD AREA; I AM RARING TO GO MY NATIVE PLACE RAE BAREILLY AND OPEN THE ATTICS LOCKED SINCE MANY YEARS AND HAND OVER MY COMICS TO MY KIDS

  62. RODO says:

    hOW CAN I OBTAIN, IN COLOMBIA OR SOUTH AMERICA ONE OF THEM?
    rODO.

  63. Sam says:

    Hi everyone,
    It’s probably a high price I’m looking for , but ,it’s a big world.
    Got
    – an almost complete individually bound complete collection pf Indian Readers Digests (missing from 1954-1964)
    – indrajals from no. 300 complete , below that got about 160.
    – tinkles form 1 – 555 (below 100 got 90)after that approx.80% (all above 100 are bound – 20+ binders)
    – DC , marvel (mainly not bound)
    – ACK ‘s 8 binders
    – Chandamama’s (15 binders)
    – junior (1949)by times of india – 2 binders
    -tintin , leonardo ,warrior binders.
    I probably am looking for someone who’s
    got the money, bcoz as I said earlier , the no. I’m looking for is very high.
    I never had an intention of selling , ever , but now, I will if the price is right.
    If this doesn’t work I’ll do e-bay and Christie’s.
    They are mainly bound ,except for below 300 indrajals, marvels, DC’s and tinkles below 100.
    If anyone is serious AND doesnt want to haggle, put a blog here or get back to me at [email protected].
    God bless you all.
    Thank you.

  64. Chat says:

    very beautiful haha

  65. ali says:

    selam naber

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  67. toplu email says:

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  68. Afrodizyak says:

    I may still have them somewhere in a box at my parents house. Together with Donald Duck (once a year a huge box with 52) my dutch education was complete ;-)
    Thanks for the nice memories!

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  72. Manu says:

    Hi friends ! I’ve got 400 Amar Chitra Katha & equal no. of Indrajal comics, Tinkle, Chandamam & all other rare Indian comics which I intend to sale/exchange…interested people may contact at [email protected]

  73. jarlos says:

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  74. Ajay says:

    Your blog made me nostalgic.i was a great lover of madhu muskan indrajaal comic raj comic chanda mama bal hans nandan champak chacha choudhary and many more in my childhood days.

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