Welcome Back to TCU. Another Week gone by and Tour also gone by. When this happened, the laptop has also gone for a tour and it is yet to come back to normalcy. While getting back to the Old desk top that Yours truly once had sometime in the 18th century, there were many posts which were ready to be posted in that system since time immemorial. TCU thought that if they are not posted now, they may never see the day light.
During the inception of TCU, there were couple of series on a particular comics. Series like IceBerg Comics, Secret Agent James Bond Comics etc. During those times, Our dearest Muthu Fan has also posted a nice & thought provoking post on Muthu Comics – Mekala Comics. It was based on the request made by Saleem about the Golden oldie “Pani Theevin Devadhaigal” and since that story has appeared in Mekala Comics under the title “Maaya Vimanam”, Muthu Fan discussed about Mekala Comics in THAT post. During that time, TCU was on a running hot with almost alternative-day posts and at that time only these were planned and made ready. However, due to various reasons, these posts never saw daylight. Muthu Fan has also wrote on the same post that “very soon” you can expect a post from Yours truly. Well, that “very soon” has arrived, at last. Now, Enough of the nostalgia and move into the book review part.
Filmalaya Group: During the early part of the 90’s, there were many publications which were doing good business with a collection of varied magazines from the same publishing house. Most of them were trying out the Kumudham / Rani formula by which they have a Monthly Novel (a la Rani Muthu), a magazine in A-4 size catering for the masses (a la Rani), Another magazine for health related issues / Family reading (a la Kathir) etc. One such publishing house which was doing extremely good at that time was Filmalaya publications which had M.G.Vallaban at the helm for their Cinema magazine (Filmalaya) and were also giving a good competition to Rani Muthu through their monthly Novel (Mekala) and also had a fantastic Health Magazine titled as Health itself. Somewhere in 1995, they thought of entering into Comics business. The reason for this launch were varied and many. The distribution strength and the core value gained through the primary readers of Filmalaya & Mekala, The successful launch of PCK 3 summers ago-thereby proving that there is still a market for comics in Tamil, the (sort of) re-launch of Rani Comics with 3 Rs package, The successful come back of Lion Comics and Muthu Comics in a grand way etc. With a consideration on all these and many more, they decided to launch a brand new comics of their own.
Mekala Comics – What is it?: Once they have decided to get into comics, they have done their homework and approached the syndicates. As shown in old Tamil films during the 80’s that whenever a new comer with dreams to enter in Kollywood, the director invariably show him approaching AVM Studios. Likewise, Mekala people have also approached KFS (King Features Syndicate, for those who came in late). They have tried out many characters and their search zeroed on Phil Corrigan. Considering the fact that a comics being started on the strength of a single character had met with not much of success (Secret Agent James Bond Comics), the move from the publishers was a brave one. Of course, they were considering other characters as well. Once the storylines were finalised, The remaining was packaging. At that time (in fact, exactly on the same day) Rani Comics revised their price by 0.50 Rs (INR 2.50 to a new rate of INR 3.00) and with that they tried to bring on many new characters and also played their cards close to their chest by publishing Rip Kirby story (only the 2nd ever-in a bid to thwart others), bringing back Flash Gordon, bringing on Thorgal, and instead of publishing Phantom on alternative titles, they published him continuously to make sure that they gain the upper hand in the market as Phantom was a hot cake in those days.
Now, let us not get into Rani Comics story as this post is not about them. The packaging of Mekala Comics was one of the very best in the annals of Tamil Comics history. They had a very nice size (akin to Mekala Monthly novel), wonderful laminated cover with artwork from the uber talented Artist Shyaam, clean and clear printing in quality paper and to top it all, a strong distribution network which was no way inferior to that of the Rani group. The pricing was the only factor which was on the other side of the spectrum. Even Lion/Muthu comics were not pricing like Mekala did in those days. However, quality comes at a cost and the die hard comirades wouldn’t mind another additional rupee getting into this book. Once all these were decided, the logo was also designed with Lord Vinayaga symbolising victory in the logo itself. Old timers may recollect the fact that the other children’s magazine that had Lord Vinayaga was a tremendous hit and sill going strong (Gokulam). Once everything was decided, they have advertised this in their home magazines and the response from the distribution network was encouraging, to say the least.
1st Issue: The very first issue of Mekala comics was anticipated with much eagerness. What will be the design? how will the cover look like? will they go for the tried and tested method of re-drawing the story panels or design their own cover art? will there be fillers like the Lion comics or just the title story alone, like the rani comics? What will be the price (the price of the book was not mentioned in the advertisement) of the book? There were so many questions and the 1st issue was a let down in terms of expectation. However, it was better than the Rani comics and the people who care about the goodwill of the Comics felt that here is somebody to give a tough fight to Lion / Muthu comics.
Cover Art: The plan to make a new cover design is, in fact, a novel idea. However, where they could have done much better was the re-creation of the Hero. The guy on the cover never looked like Phil Corrigan. He was somebody in the story and even the other characters were also not identified with the cover art. The success of a comics book (mostly) depends on the cover. Here the artwork was impressive. Still something was lagging. may be the artist should have been instructed to make the character-like art instead of the work he has done. Still, much better than Mali’s work in Rani comics. However, the Rani Comics covers will linger in memory much longer than this cover for the simple reason that they were part of the storyline and hence much easier to recognise.
Those who have read above mentioned Muthu Fan’s post, would have known about the editing policy of the Mekala comics. In a bid to cater both the children’s category and the teen-age category, they have designed a editorial philosophy whereby they will make it easier by editing certain non-important panels and make it short and simple for the readers. Let us be very clear on one point-This kind of editorial policy was never a winner and history joined hands with the statistic and made sure that Mekala’s editorial policy didn't’ last long. Kindly do a small comparison of where the Indrajal comics starts and where our Mekala comics story starts and you will know what we are talking about.
Mekala Comics – Tamil Monthly Comics - Issue No 01 – Dated May 1995 - Agent X9 Phil Corrigan Adventure - Black mail – Art Work by George Evans - Story 1st Page
Story Line: This is one story which Connects Agent X-9 (Phil Corrigan) with his father, who also happens to be a Top detective in his day for the FBI. In this story Phil completes what happens to be the only case which was not solved by his father. It is a case of politics, threatening, Black mail, one up-man ship and everything that you can relate even in today’s politics. A Senator comes to FBI for protection from a blackmailer and Phil is given charge for this case which takes him to the 2nd world war files and the truth is startling, to say the least. The story is available in Indrajal comics in English and can be downloaded HERE.
The styling by which each and every important character was introduced in the 1stpage reminded of the good, old Rani comics days when they did a similar introduction scheme to make sure that the readers didn’t surprised by the sudden entries of the regular characters.
Though Indrajal Comics introduced Phil with much fanfare, They have published a majority of George Evans stories only. Had they gone with the Archie Goodwin-Al Williamson combo stories, they would have met with more appreciation and success than what they got. Even Lion Comics (when they brought back Phil Corrigan) started with the George Evans stories only. Later on when they reverted to AG-AW combo. Later on, TCU will do a comprehensive post on Corrigan in Tamil comics with the index and cover gallery and at that time we shall discuss the importance of AG-AW pair to the revival of Agent X-9 series. Here are the covers of the same story which appeared in Lion comics and Indrajal comics.
The answer for the question on package was answered emphatically with the stories such as Mr Tommy and Mottaiyan. Those who have read the Dina Mani Kathir in the late 70’s and early 80’s, would have surely remembered the fantastic one page comic series “Bhairavan” by the Great Bujjai. TCU has complete collection of the Bhairavan series and later on when we do Artists indexing, we shall cover it there. Now, that series in Dina Mani Kathir was in multi colour and this one was in Black & white. Still, it was nice to see a good old story line being revived.
There were 2 next issue advertisements in this issue. The reason for that was the advent of summer special in the same month with the serial number for that magazine also being No.1, just like this being the 1st book in the Mekala comics. Much on that later on in the next post. Apart from the next issue ad, they also had an advertisement for the readers review section of the most important Panel in the story. This review section was also very much similar to that of the Rani comics and Secret Agent James Bond comics.
Response for the 1st issue: The response from the readers was tremendous with most of the books being sold out within the 1st week itself. That was the encouragement that the publishers wanted and they were very much happy. One could sense that the regular readers of the Mekala / Filmalaya were the major readers of the new comics and the letters to the editor page had no names to remember amongst the comics fraternity, except our own S.S.Karthick.
Well, that's all for the time being & TCU will be back with the next issue of this series in the next post-which happens to be one of the very few Special issues in Tamil comics history where Editor S.Vijayan was not involved. There are couple of Comic cuts also waiting in the wings.
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Thanks & Regards,