Sunday, November 06, 2005

What do we have for this week? Its all about the Muthu/Lion's English editions!!!

Prakash Publishers(or should I say Muthu Comics' publishers) made another attempt to get established in the Indian English comics market in the 90s(First issue was released in Aug 92). They have tried their hand briefly with English comics in India in 70s with the publication of Steel Claw(Maayavi). However apart from the Tamil market they were not able to penetrate the other Indian language markets.I do not have the Steel Claw published in 70s with me, but the proof that there was indeed an English edition, is available in the back pages of the Muthu comics released in late 70s, which shows that the English edition is for sale at Rs 1.50. Take a look at one such ad, which appeared in issue number 94, dated 15 May 1979.

I believe this story is same as the Fleetway Super Library issue number : 1 (original Fleetway cover is shown below, story is titled "The Raiders of the FEAR"):

When I have met Mr Vijayan in Dec'04, he mentioned that, they have tried out in other South Indian languages as well. However due to distribution problems, they couldn't continue. I do not have any further info about this language editions, except this reference in wikipedia, which mentions that it was published in Malayalam by Regal Comics. If you have any more info about the Indian English editions and other language editions please let me know. Lets now get back to the original discussion!!!

In late 90s Prakash Publishers came out with the English edition of the Lion Comics, featuring the characters appeared in the Tamil edition of Lion Comics. It was started as a single story issue, following the popular Fleetway Super Library format of 132 pages. First issue featured Spider, under the title "Child's Play" in Aug'92.

This one was originally published in Fleetway Super Library issue number 26, in Jan 1968.

The same cover was used when it got published in Tamil under the title "Sirupillai Vilayattu", issue number 54.

However a different cover, similar to the cover of Fleetway Super Library number 2 was used for this Indian edition. Fleetway Super Library cover number 2 is shown below:

This issue has an ad for the forthcoming Steel Claw issue. Look at the similarities of this ad and the ad in the back cover of Fletway Super Library issue number 2.

This Steel Claw story never got published, however Steel Claw made a brief appearence in issue no:4.

Second issue featured Robot Archie, released in Sep'92, titled "Robot Archie inthe Island of Death".

Robot Archie was not published by Fleetway in the Super Library format, but there are some references about Robot Archie published in Lion Picture Library as a single story. Follow this LINK, if you want to know more about Lion Picture Library. The cover design used was same as the Lion Annual cover of 74. Take a look at the cover.

The story featured in this issue was already published in Tamil edition under the title "Marma Theevu"(Lion issue number : 13).Back cover of the Tamil edition is below:

This story was originally published in Lion Annual 73 in United Kingdom. Cover of the Lion Annual 73 and the first page of the story are below:

Third issue featured a Spider story, titled "The Chessman". This was originally published as Fleetway Super Library number 10 in May 1967 in UK. Take a look at the cover of the Indian edition and the Fleetway cover.

This story appeared in Lion under the title "Sathuranga Veriyan", issue number 12.

From issue number 4, publishers have moved to multiple(small) stories. And in my opinion this made the English edition stories less interesting, though many of these pages were in full color. Number of pages is also reduced. Fourth issue featured about 10 stories, including one Steel Claw story, which featured as "Vibathil Sikkiya Vimanam" in Muthu(issue number 117). This story also featured in the CC edition number 17. Cover scan of the issue 4 is below.

First page of the steel claw story from this issue is below:

If you want to have the complete story(in English) drop me a mail and I'll let you know, how to get the scan of the complete story.

Fifth and final issue featured about 10 stories. Many of the characters appeared in issue 4 and 5, also featured in the Mini Lion & Junior Lion published by Prakash Publishers. Some of them are, Billy Bunter(Gundan Billy in Tamil), Sporty(Vichu Kichu in Tamil), Zip Nolan(Nolanodu Thuppariyungal), Phil the Fluter(Kuzhaludhum Kannan), Tatty Mane(Parattai Thalai Raja). And it even had a story of Johnny - Thupparium Computer(originally known as Number 13 Marvel Street).

Sadly it ended with issue number 5 and with that, the hope of seeing Maayavi in single Indian English edition also died. With this short run, it will remain as a small chapter in the history of Muthu Comics.

Size of these issues were similar to the current size of Muthu/Lion.

You would have notied, that, I use lot of scans. I do this deliberately, because visuals have got a better way to convey a message strongly, than words and also it has the power to bring the nostaltic memories. And in any case, looking at the scans is better than what I blabber about them. Right?

Post your comments or send mail about this article.


Saturday, October 29, 2005


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!!!

Stay tuned!!!


Saturday, October 22, 2005

Thanks for visiting my blog and a big thanks for those who posted their comments and mails!!! Your feedback is very much appreciated!!!

In this issue we will be dealing with some TRIVIA about CC!!!

I have noticed some interesting things about the CC covers. Look at the cover of Nadunisi Kalvan and Kollaikara Maayavi. I think the same sketch of the hand was used in both the covers. And Maayavi in the cover of Kollaikara Maayavi look like actor Abbas, than the face we are used to!!!

Covers of Paathala Nagaram and Paambu Theevu has got some similarities!!!

Not many differences between the covers of Flight 731 and The Destroyers(Panikkadalil Bayangara Erimal in Muthu) of Fleetway!!!

Very identical covers used for Johnny In London and The Shadows of the Samurai(Johnny in Japan in Muthu) of Fleetway!!!

Except for minot change in Spider's expression, cover of Sirupillai Vilayattu and Spider(Saithan Vinjani in Lion) of Fleetway are same!!!

Covers of Marma Theevil Maayavi and Treason by Request(Kollaikaara Maayavi in Muthu) of Fleetway has lot of similarities!!!

And finally the covers of Thikilootum Nimidangal and Phantom Captain(Kollaikaara Pisasu in Muthu) of Fleetway!!!

I think there are many instances where the cover used for one story is also used for another story during the reprint run of Muthu in 80s. Do you know any cover which was used partially or wholly??? Please let me know.

Next to come is a big write-up about Muthu Comics Vaaramalar(MCV)!!!

Post your comments or just drop me a mail.


Sunday, October 16, 2005


Thanks for pointing out my lapses about Editor's hotline!!!

I have checked all the issues once again and found that I have infact missed out Editor's hotline from 5 issues!!! They are reproduced below for your information!!!!

1. Hotline from Issue 2.

2. Hotline from Issue 5.

3. Hotline from Issue 6.

4 Hotline from Issue 7.

5. Hotline from Issue 9.

Also included is the subscription information for CC below(as of Oct 2005)!!!

Oh!!!Just one more thing!!! The cover!!! A thick cover, in the lines of present Muthu and Lion was used for issue 15. But not followed afterwards. This card board type cover will definitely help to preserve the comics for longer duration. Why not use the same type for the furture issues????

Post your comments or just drop me a mail.


Saturday, October 15, 2005

Thanks for the encouraging messages for my first post!!!

Let's get started!!!!

We will talk about Comics Classics(CC in short) in this posting!!!

If you have read and enjoyed Muthu comics in your schools days, then Comics Classics should make you to relive those wonderful days, again!!!. Take a look at the message from the editor about this new member to the Muthu family.

Comics Classics was started in late 90s to rekindle Muthu comics Nostalgia for the old timers. It sure does!!! As of Oct 2005, 19 issues have been released. Each issue of CC has two stories, exceptions are issue 9(only one story), 10(three stories) and 18(three stroies). The combination of stories for early issues are the same combination used in the Fleetway Super Library series of 1967/68(which is the original series in United Kingdom, in which the original stories appeared). The combination is Steel Claw(Maayavi) and Spider in the Stupendous Series and Barracuda & Frollo(Lawrence & David in Muthu) and Johnny Nero in the Secret Agent series for the Fleetway. The same combination was used in 12 issues of CC as well. For more about the Fleetway Muthu link visit here.

Though the editor has announced that there will be four issues per year, I guess it was never fulfilled. Particlarly it has become very sporadic in the years 2001/2002. Issue number 10 was released in Dec 2001 and issue number 19 was released in Sep 2005, which means only 9 issues in four years, and it also means 2/3 issues per year. Atleast 2005 has seen three issues(17,18 and 19) so far(as of Oct 2005). Hopefully the fourth CC for the year 2005 is released before Dec 2005 making it an ideal year for CC. Recent announcement about taking subscription for CC should appeal to those who hate to visit the shops frequently.

Quality and the size of the books merits a deeper discussion!!!!.

Though the print quality is not quite the same as the original first print of 70's, they are passable. Of course in some issues the lettering is so bad, you have to use a magnifier to read it. And smudging is also another issue with the pictures. Thalai Ketta Thanga Pudhayal is an example for this. Take a look at a page form this book below.

I guess the reason for the bad quality print is that the original blocks can no longer be used as they are too soiled and the actual books from Muthu were used for printing the CC. So we have to be satisfied with "Something is better than nothing!!!". The best in the series for print quality is Micro Alai Varisai 848. I guess the whole artwork was redone for this issue. Take a look at a page from this gem. How nice it would be, if all the CC issues are produced with this quality!!!.

However the pocket size decision is a welcome one, as it is easy to handle and definitely value for money. 244+ pages for ten rupees is a bargain. Pocket size(the success formula of Lion) was used for the all the issues, except 9!!! The format for 9 was the result of the many overseas(old) readers asking the editor to print it in the original size. However I guess this did not work out very well, as the size was reverted to pocket size from 10 onwards, and it stays that way.

Characters appeared so far in the CC are:
1. Maayavi(11 stories)
2. Spider(8 stories)
3. Johnny Nero(8 stories)
4. Lawrence & David(8 stories)
5. Tex Willer (One story)
6. Irubukkai Norman (One story)
7. Robot Archie (Two story)

I think it would be a good idea to include the Corrigan, Rip Kirby, Cisco Kid, Johnny Hazard and Buz Sawyer issues in the CC. And why not Phantom and Mandrake as well???? On second thoughts, may be Phantom is not a good choice, as many stories were already published in Rani comics. Editor has thought of including the Reporter Johhny story in the second issue. However for some reasons he has dropped the idea. Talking about the forthcoming issues announcement, I have noticed that many times, the announced story was changed at the last minute(whatever it means!!!). Most of the times this is the norm, rather than exception. Anyway I do not have any complaints about the substituted story, it is also equally good :-). By the way, issue number 19 does not have any announcement for the next issue. However I guess CC project would not be shelved any time soon.

As pointed out by BN in the Lion Comics discussion forum, many of the golden oldies are not yet printed. Titles mentioned by him are:
1. Katril Karaintha Kappalgal
2. Panikkadalil Bayangara Erimalai
3. Vaanveli Kollaiyar
4. CID Lawrence(not so good anyway)
5. Moolai Thirudargal
6. Beirutil Johnny
7. Thanga Viral Marmam(one of my favorite)
8. Nayagaravil Mayavi(another favorite of mine)
9. Naasa Alaigal
10. Iyanthirathalai Manithargal(One of Editor's top 10)
11. Johnny in Paris(Is it really a classic)
12. Uraipani Marmam
13. Malaikottai Marmam

What is missing in CC is the hotline!!! As the editor is giving his input in the other two regulars(Muthu and Lion), he should also give some background info about the CC as well. He has done this on only two issues of CC(Hotline from issue 1 was shown above & hotline from 3 is shown below).

Since he is writing something about the history of Lion Comics in each issue, he should use CC to give the historic info about the issues. Atleast why he has selected the story, how was the response when it was first released, etc etc. And what about Vasakar feedback section????

What can make CC more interesting? Or is it OK to maintain as it is? Post your comments!!!

Dr Sathish from Kovai, has helped me with the cover scans of the first issue and as well as the inside scans of Editor's hotline section in the same issue. He has sent me many more scans as well, which I'll be using in the furture posts. A big thanks Dr Sathish!!!

And finally here is the list and the cover scans!!!!

1. Paathala Nagaram(Maayavi) Doctor Takkar(Spider)

2. Sathikarar Sangam(Johnny Nero) Sirai Paravaigal(Lawrence David)

3. Paambu Theevu(Maayavi) Kadaththal Kumizhigal(Spider)

4. Pazhi Vangum Paavai(Tex) Kolai Karam(Johnny Nero)

5. Kal Nenjan(Spider) Irumbukkai Maayavi

6. Flight 731(Lawrence David) Johnny IN London

7. Imayathil Maayavi Sirupillai Vilayattu(Spider)

8. Manjal Poo Marmam(Lawrence David) Thurukkiyil Johnny Nero

9. Kollaikara Pisasu(Maayavi)

10.Kadathal Mudhalaigal(Johnny Nero) Thavalai Ethiri(Spider)

11.Formula X-13(Lawrence David) Thisai Maariya Kappalgal(Lawrence David)

12.Newyorkil Maayavi Marma Theevu(Archie)

13.Kolai Padai(Spider) Nadunisi Kalvan(Maayavi)

14.Johnny IN Japan Thalai Ketta Thanga Pudhayal(Lawrence David)

15.Kolaikara Kalainjan(Johnny Nero) Vinnil Maraintha Vimanagal(Lawrence David)

16.Pazhi Vangum Bommai(Spider) Kollaikaara Maayavi

17.Microalaivarisai 848(Johnny Nero) Thanga Vettai(Archie)

18.Paathala Porattam(Spider) Parakkum Pisasu(Maayavi)

19.Marma Theevil Maayavi Thikilootum Nimidangal(Lawrence David)

If you have read up to this point, it means you are interested in the Tamil comics and my posting is somewhat interesting to read. Why don't you spend couple of minutes more to post your comments!!! That will help me to fine tune this blog!!!Thanks in advance.