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In March 1964, the publisher of The Times of India, Bennet, Coleman & Co., launched a new series called Indrajal Comics. The first 32 issues contained The Phantom stories, but thereafter, the title alternated between various King Features characters, including Mandrake, Flash Gordon, Rip kirby, Bahadur and Buz Sawyer.
Indrajal Comics commenced with a monthly schedule. The first 10 issues devoted 16 pages to The Phantom, so many of the stories were edited to fit this format. Twelve pages were devoted to general knowledge (Gold Key style) and other stuff. The next 19 issues were 20-24 pages. Beginning with issue #29, Indrajal standardised on the conventional 32 page format. The series switched to fortnightly publication from #35 on 1 Jan 1967 (released on the 1st and 15th of each month). Mandrake made his first of many appearances in #46 (15 Jul 1967). The cover artwork for the first 50 or so issues of Indrajal Comics was done by B.Govind, with the back cover featuring a pin-up poster.
Indrajal Comics changed to a weekly schedule from #385 (1 Nov 1981) that lasted until 1989. Each issue was individually numbered until 2 Jan 1983 when the editors decided to use a volume and number typical of periodical publications. Hence, #444 was identified as Vol.20 No.1 (see cover above). The front cover design was also changed, with the introduction of the distinctive Indrajal Comics banner.
Starting with #789 on 20 Aug 1989 (Vol 26 No 33), the series briefly returned to a fortnightly schedule with 36 pages each, before the publishers decided to cancel the series in their 27th year of production. The last issue was #805 on 16 Apr 1990 (Vol 27 No 8). A total of 803 Indrajal Comics were published, excluding #123 and #124 which were not printed due to industrial strike action. More than half of these issues contained Phantom stories.
Indrajal Comics provides thrilling adventure through stories every week. Breath-taking, spine-chilling suspense unfolds itself as you turn over the pages of each issue of Indrajal Comics featuring one or the other of your popular heroes. Phantom, the upholder of peace in the deep woods along with Hero the horse and Devil the wolfe, Mandrake the Magician, accompanied by Narda and Lothar, who hypnotises his opponents into surrender, and Flash Gordon who zooms in space to ensure peace in the galaxy. Bahadur - the brave and Bela, Buz Sawyer, the Chief of Trouble Shooters Inc., who fights for the monarch and the meek alike, Mike Nomad who travels far and wide to get justice for the oppressed, Garth who does the impossible in fighting for the right, Kerry Drake the policeman who offers a helping hand to the needy, and Rip Kirby, the ace detective, who solves the most complicated mysteries with relative ease... crime busters all...fill the pages of Indrajal Comics week after week to provide enjoyable reading to the whole family.
In the late 80s, two Indian characters were introduced. Dara, the prince of the spies and Aditya, the man from nowhere.
Indrajal comics were among the most awaited events on a weekly basis along with other popular comics like Chandamama, Tinkle and Champak. The 24-30 page Indrajal comics could be picked up from newsstands or when the paperboy/man delivered a new issue every week. Some got their hands onto these from circulating libraries which were common in all towns and cities, big or small, while many hunted around "raddi" (old paper) stores for them. In some cases, it has passed hands from one generation to the other, with entire families still hooked onto it and yes, fathers who read them to their little kids. It was among the books in the brown canvas bag that we took to school, and also hidden inside geography books so that parents didn't catch us reading it on the sly.
The readership of the comic is limited to those who grew up in the 80s and sadly, the comic was lost to many who grew up in the 90s and the 21st century. Many forgot about their precious Indrajal comics as they grew up, but a big smile never fails to light up their face whenever reminded about it. There are those who still have the comics stored away somewhere in the attic while for some, it is nothing but a distant memory. A memory...that deserves to be revived!
The Raddi shop Edit
How it found its way to the raddi shop is not a big mystery considering that these comics were either "deserted" by their readers when they grew up, or sold off by some elder person in the house who thought that the books were not worth their storage space anymore. What they didn't know is how much it must have hurt the original owner of these comics and when they saw the pain, it was usually dismissed as a childhood thing which will go away over time.
Indrajal on the Internet Edit
In the last few years, the Internet has helped the spread of many ideas - popular and unpopular. The digital age that has spread like wildfire in many parts of the world has helped restore many memories that would otherwise have been completely lost. The publishing of Indrajal comics stopped much before the advent of the Internet and hence it does not have any sites dedicated to it. There are however some websites that cater to this. These are not official websites but sites started by some comic lovers. Most of the sites are dedicated to The Phantom Phantom - The Ghost who walks although some have Bahadur and Mandrake up as well.
The introduction has been copied from Bryan Shedden's Deepwoods Indrajal Comics Site
- The Comic Project - "The objective of this project is not to pirate or steal. I grew up on these comics: Phantom, Mandrake, Bahadur: and reading them was so much fun. Yes!! Indrajal Comics!!! Although you will see a few non-indrajal titles, this blog is committed to bring you original Indrajal scans. DEDICATED TO A generation of children growing up on Harry Potter, Cartoon Network and television in general AND Lee Falk"
- The Deep Woods - fan site with very complete reference section; also the closest thing to an official Frew site
- A Phantom FAQ - includes list and short bios of the 24 known Phantoms
- The 21st Phantom's Deep Woods - fan site about the Phantom, with an Indian perspective, featuring information about the Phantom, Indian comics, Indian links, etc. It also has a popular Daily Comic Strip section where you can view the Phantom daily and Sunday newspaper strips as well as Mandrake strips online.
- The IPComics Forum - A forum dedicated to Phantom and also includes many of the characters related to Indrajaal, Egmont and other comics. Must visit for Phantom Fans. Continuous discussions going on.