Ask children who grew up reading Hindi comic books in the ’90s and chances are, their eyes will light up as they rhapsodise about their favourite characters — Angara, Jambu and Tausi.
All three were part of Tulsi Comics, an offshoot of Hindi publisher Tulsi Pocket Books. A contemporary of leading publications like Manoj, Diamond and Raj Comics, Tulsi created its own niche from the early ’90s up until 2004, when declining sales forced it to shut shop in 2004.
Hindi novelist and Tulsi Comics founder Ved Prakash Sharma was the brains behind the creation of Jambu, a super-genius robot, while Angara, a superhero who derived his powers from animal body parts, was the handiwork of Parshuram Sharma, a comic book writer. Tausi, a shape- shifting snake was created by Rituraj Jain, who was a co-partner of the firm Tulsi Pocket Books. Even though there were other popular characters, it was this trio that really made Tulsi a household name.
Cable TV killed the comic book star
“It all started in 1991, with Angara, Jambu and Tausi. It was our golden year. Comics of these three characters were big hits, the others didn’t get as much love. We used to publish 10-15 comic books in each set, of which three regulars were on these superheroes,” says Sharma’s son Shagun, in conversation with ThePrint.
“Tulsi Comics had a long run of 13 years. But after the advent of cable TV, the sales started declining around 1997-98, and eventually, we had to close our publications in 2004 after suffering massive losses,” he rues.
Asha Gosain, a school teacher in Meerut, has fond memories of the comic. “It’s been ages since I have seen new Hindi comic books. So, whenever I get time, I turn to my old collection of Tulsi comics. I first read them in my nani’s house — a cousin had got around six of them. I finished all in one day. Angara and Jambu are still my favorite superheroes. I want my children to read all of these books, so I make sure they are properly kept,” she tells ThePrint.
Comic books are no child’s play
Fans of the comic genre still agree that one of the best characters in terms of story as well as creation is Angara. The superhero was like a mutant, who derived his powers from the different animal body parts that he possessed — bulletproof skin from a rhino, the sharp brain of a fox, the eyes of an eagle that missed nothing, the heart of a lion, the power of an elephant and the human-like element of a gorilla. His back story is that he was created in a laboratory by a doctor to save animals, and that becomes Angara’s main goal. The artwork for the character was done by Pradeep Sathe.
“I used to read a lot of books on animals to understand how they function, and study their expressions. It was mandatory for writers like us to know more about animals than humans in this case. Angara had to be a man who has evolved from the rest of the world. He was a mutant, who derived his powers from animals. To create Angara, we needed a surgeon — Dr Kunal, who would bring Angara to life in a laboratory.” Parshuram Sharma recalls.
Angara had his own private island, Angara Dweep, which was controlled by the United States Army at one time. The presence of the army was proving fatal for the flora and fauna of the island, which is why Dr Kunal created Angara.
“If Angara comics ever get translated, I can assure you, children will be more thrilled reading it than Jungle Book,” Sharma enthuses.
A new avatar for Angara and co.
Sharma might not be too far off the mark. Comics have started to gain cult value, and Tulsi knew that the time was right. More than two decades after these comics stopped being published, they have again seen the light of the day, with Comics India acquiring the publishing rights. Two of the first Angara comic books — Angara and Angara ki Jung — and the first Jambu comic — Jambu — were published this January.
“These years have been like the dark age for comic books with people getting more engaged on electronic media and then on phones. People didn’t want to buy our comics, but now things have changed. We have given Comics India the rights after studying the market. Now, children are back to reading comic books, so it was high time we gave someone our publishing rights so that the books are back in the market,” Shagun Sharma explains. He adds that there are high chances that these comics will be converted into animated movies in 2021.
The news couldn’t be more welcome for the comic series’ legions of fans. Vinod Jain, a Delhi-based banker, is excited as he tells ThePrint, “The greatest news I have got in a long time is that Tulsi comic books are coming back to the market. Otherwise, I would keep track of fan pages on Facebook, to borrow Angara, Tausi and Jambu comics from others.” The camaraderie of the fan pages aside, he, like many others, is thrilled to have a piece of his childhood back.