Childhood passion: Arun Prasad Photo: V. Karthikeyan
Arun Prasad, a collector of all things vintage, has collected 10,000 copies of old and rare comic books
Our childhood memories are inextricably linked with comic books. Just a glimpse of a copy of Tinkle, The Phantom Belt, Spiderman or Mahabharata, set the wheels of nostalgia in motion.
It is not often, though, that one comes across the original prints of comic books of yore. Fortunately, due to the efforts of Arun Prasad — a freelance journalist, history buff and an avid reader of comics — comic book aficionados had the rare opportunity of seeing and leafing through Indian and international vintage comics, some of them dating as far back as 1967, at the recently-held Bengaluru Comic-Con Express.
There was nothing flashy about Arun’s Vintage comic books stall, yet it attracted many visitors, adults and children alike for the elegant display of his collection. Viewers, all wide-eyed, thumbed through the comics, wondering at the hand-drawn art.
The range of vintage comics on display would perhaps amaze even those who pride themselves on their knowledge on comic books and make a cursory comic book lover want to delve deeper into the history of comics.
Old and rare
The stall had on view a wide array of old and rare comics: The first appearance of super heroes like Mandrake, Flash, Bahadur, Buz Sawyer, Lt. Drake, Mike Nomad, among others, along with special issues of Robin Hood, Mickey Mouse, Zorro, Tulsidas’s Ramcharita Manas, Bahubali etc.
One of Arun’s fascinating collections is Amar Chitra Katha’s first original edition issues from 1967, including Krishna. Tinkle’s 1980’s number one and two issues, first issues of Adarsh Chitra Katha, Chathurang Katha, Chitra Bharathi,Chiranjiv Chitra Katha, Gaurav Gatha, Dalton Comics, among others.There were comics featuring Amitabh Bachan and Gavaskar as super heroes. And interestingly, India’s first 3D comic published by Star Comics in the 1980’s.
Collecting has been Arun’s passion since childhood, but he lost all the comics he had garnered when he shifted from Kerala to Bangalore. But a gift of an Indrajal comic by a friend, re-kindled his desire to set forth on a determined search for vintage comics. “I started collecting from scratch. I even visited raddiwalas to procure old copies of comic books. I was fortunate to collect all the comics that I had lost. As of now, I have 10,000 comics,” he says triumphantly.
Collecting was the easier part of the journey, far more trying for Arun was sorting, cataloguing, numbering and preserving the comics. Arun used sophisticated and imported preservation tools to keep the comics free of moisture, dust and insects. He has even built an exclusive storage space for the comics. “Being a Phantom fan, I built two to three almirahs and named them Skull Cave, which I will be inaugurating soon.”
History made interesting
Arun’s favourite comic hero is Mayavi and he is a fan of Uncle Pai as he made “history interesting for and accessible to children.” He is not a fan of modern comics for their plot and characters.
“I am disturbed by the choice of anti-heroes over heroes in contemporary comics. Phantom, for example, wasn’t bestowed with superpowers. He was a human being with admirable qualities and so resonated with the reader. There are too many “dark characters” in comics these days.” He also rues the decline of the admirable practice of hand-drawn comics. “Most contemporary comics use computer techniques these days,” he comments.
Arun’s collection expertise is not just restricted to comic books but extends to all things vintage. He has written columns on the heritage of Bangalore and has a keen interest in the history of urbanisation of Indian cities.
He is currently working on a coffee book table on the city. He has collected Vintage Print ads, letters, and maps on Bangalore for the last 18 years.