More than just something comical

Unique Hobbies

More than just something comical

For Arun Prasad, his collection of around 15,000 comics from across the country, is a serious hobby and he is deeply passionate about his favourite pastime. Preserved carefully, Arun’s collection consists of comics which were published as long ago as 1964. On seeing his huge collection, anyone would want to know how he started it. 

“One of my early favourites was Mayavi, which was about a cute, chubby and devilish hero. It was a sought-after comic strip in Kerala and appeared in Balarama, a children’s magazine. I used to read comics like Balamangalam, Poompatta and Bobanum Moliyum,” recalls Arun. “Sadly, I do not have my old collection of those comics with me now. But I hope to get it soon.” Arun’s all-time favourite comic has been the Indrajal Comics. “Perhaps it was Phantom, the superhero without any superpowers, which pulled me to this hobby,” he adds. 

In his vast collection of comics, one would be amazed to see the very first issue of Indrajal Comics; other comics in which characters like Mandrake, Flash, Bahadur, Lt Drake, Mike Nomad, Rip Kirby, Garth, Phill Corrigan, Bruce Lee and Aditya first appeared. He also has some special issues of Robin Hood, Mickey Mouse and Zorro. The highlights of his collection are Amar Chitra Katha’s first original edition issues of ‘European Fairytales’ published in Indian languages (issue number 1 to 10) and the first edition of ‘No 11 Story of Krishna’.

Ask him about the other rare comics in his collection and he points out, “I also have some comics featuring Amitabh Bachchan and Sunil Gavaskar as superheroes. There is also one about the 1983 World Cup that India won.” Other rare issues is his collection are ‘Tinkle Issue (1980) No 1’, India’s first 3D comic published by Star Comics and the rare first issues of Adarsh Chitra Katha, Chathurang Katha, Chitra Bharati, Chiranjiv Chitra Katha etc. Having exhibited these comics, ask Arun if he has got good offers for his collection and he rues, “If I have a double copy of a comic, then I do exchange it for something I don’t have. But I don’t believe in selling them,” says Arun.

Arun has taken his collection to cities like Mumbai and Hyderabad and says that the response he got in these cities was fascinating. “The audience I saw ranged from nine-year-olds to 60-year-olds. Many wanted to know the history of the comics and see, feel and read them.”

Storing these comics and keeping them safe is the most difficult part, he says. “Keeping each comic safe is a big task. Whenever I get an old comic, I take extra care to dust it and remove the dog ears. Then I put an acid-free sheet into the comic which helps retain its condition and keep it away from moisture and browning,” elaborates Arun. He says that then they are carefully put into polypropylene covers and stacked into carton boxes.Why doesn’t he resort to the most common option of saving the books — binding them? He says, “The feel of the comics is lost in this process. It might add to their life span but I like them as they are.” 

This historian doesn’t like today’s comics. “Unlike the comics of today, the olden comics were all hand-drawn. Present-day comics are all dark and graphic in nature. There is also very less white space left on each pages,” he laments. Arun is open to his collection being viewed by serious comic fans and collectors.

“I also lend my extra copies to friends and fellow collectors. I am pretty sure that I won’t receive them back but I do love sharing them nonetheless,” he says. As he wraps up, he says, “My journey with comics is not so comical. As a history buff, I have been collecting and preserving anything of past that comes my way. And the hunt for comics was pretty tough."

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