Monday, December 08, 2008

It is no secret that most of the Muthu/Lion issues were originally created in English or from issues translated to English. Steel Claw, Johnny Nero, Modesty, Mandrake are the examples of the first category. Tex Willer, Captain Tiger, Iznogoud are the examples of the later. There is a third category, where the originals are never published in English, but stratightaway moved to Tamil. Reporter Johnny, Bruno Brazil, Chick Bill are the examples of this category.

In many cases, though the originals are non-English, still we have managed to get only the stories that were published in English. Captain Tiger(Blueberry), Mathi Illa Manthiri(Iznogoud), and to a large extent the initial Tex Willer stories were the examples of these. Reason for this could be that, is it is easy to translate from English to Tamil, than taking the French --> English --> Tamil route. Or the editor likes to translate the stories he has read and liked in English language. This is just my analysis, rather guess.

Editor Vijayan has mentioned about the English originals many times in the Hot Line and in Singathin Siruvayadhil. And we had a long discussion about the English originals of Captain Tiger in the now defunct site as well. 

I have started collecting the English originals of Muthu/Lion from 2000 onwards. Almost a decade later, now I have a sizeable English collection (with a sizaeable whole in the bank balance). It started with Australian Frew Comics(for Phantom), followed by Quality Comics(Steel Claw), Fleetway Super Libraries (Steel Claw, Johnny Nero, Lawrence David and Spider), Iznogoud(Mathiilla manthiri), Blueberry(Captain Tiger). I never knew there was a English series of Tex Willer till I came across one book from a second hand shop(the famous Alwar Book Shop) in Mylapore in 2001. It was the first issue of Tex Willer in English pulished in 1970's in UK. Take a look at the cover of this issue.

This book is the part 1 of the story which appeared in one of the Lion issue, titled "Irumbu Kuthirayin Paathayil". Though the book was is very bad condition, it showed me that English version of Tex Willer is indeed available. I wanted to have the original of Thalai Vaangi Kurangu, first Tex Willer issue in Tamil(Lion Issue No 19), if it was published in this series. And my hunt has started. Take a look at the cover of this issue.

Then I came across a site which has listed out all the English issues of Tex Willer. Link below:

Now I know my target number, it is just 14 issues. It sounded quite small, but at that time I never expected that it would take around 7 years to complete this collection.  Ezharai(7 1/2) Naattu Sani?

Though I have managed to get the other English issues regularly from many sources, the English issues of Tex Willer have remained elusive. I used to get about one issue per year. In 5 years I have managed to get 7 issues(1,2,3,4,7,10 & 11). In one of these issues, was the ever popular Dragon Nagaram story(Lion issue 50). But I was always on the look out for the original story of Thalai Vaangi Kurangu. 

I was not even sure whether this was ever published in English in this series. The title of the stories mentioned in the above mentioned site did not help in this matter. In 2005/2006 Singathin Siruvayathil, Vijayan has mentioned (Singathin Siruvayathi part 4, see below) that the originals of some of the Tex Willer stories were from this series, but he has not mentioned clearly as to whether the Thalai Vaangi Kurangu was ever published in this series. And this story has not appeared in any of the issues I have managed to buy so far. So it was always a thrill for me to wait for the Tex Willer issue I buy on the internet(mostly from ebay). First thing I check will be, whether the Thalai Vaangi Kurangu is there or not. Normally in each issue one story will end and another will start. Still no luck with the original of this story. This wait went on and on. 

In 2006 there was an auction in EBay for all the 14 issues. Unfortunately the seller was very specific that he will post it his local addresses(UK) only. I tried to convince him that he will get a better deal, if he agrees for International delivery, but no luck. At that time I was in Singapore. Luckily for me, a friend if mine got posted in UK for a short assignment. I have reluctantly approached him whether I can use his address for payment and delivery. He has agreed. I thought I can get all the issues now. But unfortunately I was outbid at the very last moment. The bidding war took me to 75 pounds, but still couldn't win this lot. So the disappointment continued. 

Then I have moved to middle east, and bought two more issues(8 & 12) in the 1.5 years I was there. Even these issues did not have the Thalai Vaangi Kurangu story. The collected issue numbers at this point of time(2007) was 1,2,3,4,7,8,10,11 & 12. So if the Thalai Vaangi Kurangu was ever published in this series, it has to be either in 5 & 6 or in 13 & 14. Remember a story starts in one issue and ends in the next issue. My frustrations continued.

And last month(Oct 2008) one more auction took place in EBay for all the 14 issues. This time I was determined to get these issues, though I needed only 5 from this lot. Once again a bidding war has ensured that I did not get them cheaply. But I did win the lot. Last week I have received this lot by post. I heaved a big sigh of relief when I have opened the issue number 5.My wait of almost 7 years is now over. The story(Thalai Vaangi Kurangu) has started in this issue and ended in issue no 6. Cover scan of these issues are below.

First page of this story.

I will go through all the 14 issues now and cross check the stories with the Lion issues and post about them soon. This series is as important as the Fleetway Super Library issues. If Fleetway Super Library series is important to know the history of Muthu, then this series is important from Lion's point of view.

Trivia : In every issue, the third page will always have this picture.

The same was used in few issues in Tamil as well.

And interestingly something similar was drawn in color by Prakash Publishers. This picture was taken from their archives. I remember seeing this in one of the Tex Willer issue as back cover, not sure which one though. 

By the way, the only other English Tex Willer was published in 2004. Do you know that we(Tamil readers) are the first to read the story in full. Because the four part original English story(by Joe Kubert) was never completed. It stopped with the publication of first issue in 2004(by Dark Horse publishing). Only after Prakash Publishers released it (Saitha Vettai), it got published in Italian and in English in full. This book can be purchased directly from Joe Kubert(URL given below).

My next write-up will be cross referencing the English Tex Will er issues with Tamil issues.

Whenever the gap is long between my posts, I used to feel very bad for letting down the fellow comic fans. No longer. With the tamil comics blogosphere in full steam ahead, I feel relieved and happy. Viswa, Dr Seven, Rafiq, Ayyampalayam, Kakokaku, Muthalaipattalam, Sharehunter etc are all doing an excellant job. Keep it up guys.
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Happy reading!!!