This day will be remembered not only as Deepavali day, but also for the launch of a new comics based weekly magazine in Tamil. Muthu Comics Vaaramalar(MCV)!!! Publishing Editor of this magazine was Mr Mullai Thangarasan!!!
MCV was different in many ways. It had everything that a kid can ask for in a children's magazine. It had both the comics section & text stories section. In comics also there were varieties. Science thriller in the form of Maayavi story, fun in the form Athi Methai Appu & Kapish, Action stories in the form of Vanaraja and Inspector Garuda. And half page fun like Ramu & Somu as well. In the text section also there is no dearth for variety. There was a mayajaala thodar kathai, and lot of one page/half page and two page neethi kathaigal. Even a half page puzzles section was there. It is like eating full virudhu, starting from Appetizer and ending with Ice Cream. Even question and answer section was later included. And the best part was, 8 pages were in colour and the size is A4. All this for just 60 paise and 16 pages per issue. See the hotline from the editor in the first issue.
All the text stories were locally created. And most of the comic stories were also locally created. Notable exception was Maayavi story, which was created overseas. Later, another overseas creation, Bruce Lee also joined the party. Inspector Garuda, Kapish, Ramu & Somu were popular creations from North India(from Tinkle magazine). And Athi Methai Appu was locally created in Tamil Nadu, with fantastic art work from Mr Chellam. I'm not sure who wrote the stories??? See the first ever Athi Methai Appu story from the first issue of MCV.
Tail piece, Chellam was the artist for the much popular Jam, Jim & Jack story in Ratnabala as well, after Mr Vivek moved out of this project.
MCV remained as my favorite publication from the Muthu group(atleast till the launch of Lion Comics). It had just everything. You name it, we have it sort of magazine. And to top it all, it was a weekly, so you don't have to wait too long to get the next issue. The only complaint I had about MCV was the use of Color and B&W for the Maayavi story. In every issue, one page of the story was is color and the next page was in B&W. See the Maayavi story from the first issue below.
I still vividly remember the days when I used to visit the book shop(Elango Book Stall in Square Market, Mettur Dam), almost every day to look for the ever elusive new issue. To get the 21 issues from the stands, I would have visited the book shop atleast for 300 times. Part of childhood fun!!! Issue number 2 was not at all available for a very long time as there was a competition based on this issue. In fact I have read the issue number 2, almost after the publication was stopped in 1984. That was much after the release of issue 22. The competition was to find the three mistakes made in issue 2. Prize amount was Rs 100.
As you can guess, there was a huse response for this competition. 175 readers have given the correct answer, more than what the publishers expected. Instead of balloting, prize amount was increased to Rs 350 and Rs 2 was given to each one!!! A big amount in those days!!!
I have managed to collect all the 22 issues by the end of 1984. Some time in 1985, I have given all the books, in exchange for issue number 94(Kaanaamal Pona Vaarisugal featuring Rip Kirby) from Muthu. I was cursing myself for a long time, for doing this kind of stupid exchange as I have realised that it was very difficult to get the MCV issues due to its odd size. When I have got all the 22 issues in my hand few weeks back, which was bought through a friend of mine, I was on top of the world. The condition was also immaculate. It is very difficult to see the issues in this quality now-a-days.
MCV was banking on the popularity of Maayavi for its success. Maayavi story was more than what Tex Willer is for lion and what Captain Tiger is for Muthu, atleast for the first few issues, till it got stabilised.
Bruce Lee story started appearing from issue 10, after much fanfare. See the Ad for this story in the page 16, of issues 8 and 9, which, till then was reserved for the second hero of MCV, Athi Methai Appu. Shifting him to the inner pages was like changing the Metti Oli timing from prime time to some obscure time like 3 PM. After these two issues, Appu was moved back to the prime page 16. My friends circle felt very angry about shifting Appu to the inner pages.
Not sure what was the response for Bruce Lee story, personally I did not like it much. See the scan of the first page from the Bruce Lee story.
Anyway, as with other publications from Muthu group, this one also got into the "Always Late" mode. There was a huge gap between issue 19 and 20. Issue 19 was published on 22.05.1983 and 20 was published on 29.01.1984, a gap of more than seven months. They have barely managed to complete the Maayavi story in issue number 21 dated 05.02.1984. Ultimately this magazine was stopped with issue number 22, dated 19.02.1984. Had it been published weekly, it would have been 67 issues, from 14.11.1982 to 19.02.1984. When it was closed, many stories were left unfinished. Maayavikkor Maayavi was later published in Muthu(issue 152). Scans of both, from issue 22 and Muthu 152 (cover & first page) are below:
Other stories left hanging were, Vana Raja, Bruce Lee and Inspector Garuda. I'm not sure whether these stories were later completed in some other publication??? One text thodar Thanga Mayil Dhevathai was completed in issue 22.
I really do not know why it was stopped. Was it because they couldn't cope up with the weekly schedule(in that case, they should have converted this to a fortnightly or monthly!!!) or lack of response from readers(I doubt it!!!) or is it something else. I'm not sure whether this stoppage has got anything to do with the departure of Mr Mullai Thangarasan. The last issue was dated 19.02.1984 and Mr Mullai Thangarasan started the short lived Mehta comics in May 1984 as a direct competition for Muthu comics. That means, he should have started working on Mehta comics from early 84, immediately after leaving Muthu. Just a coincidence or something to do with Vaaramalar's closure??? Just my speculation!!! See below, what Mr Vijayan has to say about the difficulty he has faced with the publication of the first issue of Lion Comics in 1984, because of Mr Mullai Thangarasan. Not very charitable!!!!
When I have realised that MCV was stopped once for all, I felt very sad. It was like losing your long time friend. However Lion comics compensated for the loss of MCV soon!!! More about Lion Comics later!!!
Thanks for the comments about my previous posting. If you want anything, please drop a mail or post your comments!!!
Saleem: I do have atleast the cover scans of the issues you have mentioned. Don't worry, they will all get featured in this blog, sometime soon. My next posting will cover your question about English edition of Maayavi.
Rafiq: Please let me know, how I can help you to get going with your web site.
BN: Yes, "The Phantom Captain" is "Thisai Mariya Kappalgal". "Kollaikkara Pisasu" Was "The phantom Pirate". Sorry for the goof-up!!!
Next posting will feature about the English language publications from the Muthu Group. If you want to see any other topic, please let me know!!!