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Bangla Comics: our legacy

By Jamil of Jamil's Comics

Unmad and Tokai – are the two Comics Icons that come to my mind when I think of Comics in Bangla. Yes, as child I was blessed with all the Indian Bangla comics coming to Dhaka; but somehow there was something dearer about those two. Created in the latter part of the 1970s, both have had incredible cultural influence on us. I was also an infant when those were created but I am happy to say I witnessed their good times first hand. Tokai would appear on the weekly Bichitra. It was about a poor street child telling us about his life and philosophy. It was very touching. It made me glad that I was not living like him, and made me want to help him. Unmad was created perhaps in the light of the Comic Magazine 'Mad'. This magazine had a lot of young creators working for it, who churned out fun stories issue after issue. It would ridicule the social double standards, tv shows and give us comic relief. The standard of Mad in its early days was very high.

During the 80s there was huge influx of Indian Bangla Comics – mainly Indrajal Comics (which reprinted classic Comics like Phantom, Mandrake, Flash Gordon and others in Bangla). We also had a small-size magazine called Tinkle which among other presented very nicely drawn nature and science comics. The 80s was a good time for Bangla Comics. We had comics available in most book shops and in news stands. It is sad that most of those book shops are now closed. The few that are open mostly do not cater to our wants.

The last couple of decades have been bad for Bangla Comics. Mr. Rafiqun Nabi is not doing work for mass print media, and Unmad has lost some of its gloss. Unmad in particular has become a victim of perhaps pressure from reader base to keep prices low. And by keeping prices low, it probably cannot sustain quality prints to impress many readers. Whatever the reasons, the fact is Bangla comics have lost its influence from the good old days.

The news is not all bad however. There is an attempt to revive Bangla Comics. Dhaka Comics has launched four Comics titles created and printed in Bangladesh, specifically for the Boi Mela. These comics are about high adventure, fantasy, teenage stories and horror. They are printed in four color, high quality paper. I am personally quite excited that this is happening. One thing to remember is, contrary to popular belief printing cost and distribution cost for items such as books is very high in Bangladesh. DC or Marvel print is such manner that their world class printing can be done for a fraction of the costs a small print run book incurs. The price tag of these comics is 80 taka and 120 taka. I am going to try out all of them. I hope you will too. These are mainly available at the Boi Mela, and at the website www.rokomari.com right now. These will be carried by Jamil's Comics (shop 39, UAE Market, Banani) from next week. You can check out their website www.dhakacomics.com for further news. A project like this deserves our support. We can always hope that through efforts like these and many more to come, Bangla Comics will again see its happy days.


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