Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Strip search

Now that comics are called graphic novels, grown-ups can openly go to the better bookshops and buy them

My childhood had little room for comic books, and my weak grasp of Phantom and Tarzan has been exposed more than once. But a new series of comic books emerged in the 1970s, respectable enough for the most strait-laced households. They were the Amar Chitra Kathas, stories from Indian history and mythology. We first saw them when they were sold to raise funds for the Hindu Temple of North America in New York. The price was $10, steep, but in an unquestionably good cause.

Our first one was Savitri. The cover showed the beauteous Savitri seated under a tree with Satyavan's head in her lap, watching Yama approach. We read that book over and over, and if I saw it today I would read it again. We bought only a dozen titles, but through diligent borrowing we read well over 100. Living as we did so far from our grandmother, without the Amar Chitra Kathas, we simply would not have inherited the stories that were due to us.

I still find comics irresistible. Every morning I check what Beetle Bailey is doing before I read the headlines, for laughs and also for a four-panel window into life. When I want to know what's really going on in the United States, Gary Trudeau's Doonesbury gives me the big picture more reliably than any editorial. When I want to understand children, Calvin and Hobbes enlightens me. Everything I need to know about business is in Dilbert.

Full report here Hindu

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