Remember Indrajal Comics, Amar Chitra katha, Chandamama, Chacha Chaudary, and Tinkle? Their characters Phantom, Mandrake, Flash Gordon, Bahadur, Shikari Shambu, Suppandi and many others used to rule the roost in the Kids entertainment section before the advent of Cable TV in the 1990s. Now there are a dime a dozen cartoon channels running 24/7 to keep the kids occupied. but back then these were the ones alongwith Superman, Batman, Disney(Donald duck and his nephews, Mickey mouse, goofy, pluto…), and some others. I used to have a big store of them but then over time they were all either given away, lost or tattered beyond recognition.Wish i had held onto them because today these have supposedly become collector’s items. and atleast some of them like ACK and Tinkle seem to be getting a modern makeover for a return.
What I—and hundreds of others like me—are in search of is a brand that was once a household name in comics. Indrajal. Aka the adventures of Mandrake the Magician, Phantom—the Ghost Who Walks, sci-fi hero Flash Gordon and homegrown citizen cop Bahadur. Characters that held kids in thrall for decades.
The kids—generations of them—have now grown up, and the comics have long gone out of print. But the magic that Phantom and Co exercised on their adolescent imaginations continues. Today, an assortment of adults—most veering dangerously towards middle and old age—continue to seek out Indrajal comics from raddi shops in every city. “The craze for Indrajals is keener among the older bunch,” says Deepak, a bookseller at Matunga, adding smugly that the comics always sell “at a premium”. And evidently there’s no dearth of takers; “Whenever someone sells a bunch, it gets picked up in a day or two.”
Among the Indrajal lovers—a motley bunch of executives, housewives, scientists, journalists, civil servants and the like, who are part of offline and online comic-book communities—is 45-year-old Delhi-based Vineeth Abraham, a section officer with the Indian government. Abraham, who collects other comics as well (he has about 6,000), has almost all the 800-odd issues of Indrajal and some 600 Phantom comics published by Frew (Australia). Dr P C Sarkar, another fan with a background that screams gravitas—he’s a scientist with the central government—also hunts down comics religiously. Says he in his blog: “When the publishing houses stopped these publications, readers became collectors, and suddenly the value of these discarded comics shot up. Now E-Bay India is full of these comics, selling at atrocious prices. Some smart chaps have also scanned the comics and sell them in CDs. From a buyer’s market, it has become a seller’s market.”[link]