• Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Raj Comics, became the home for a whole new world of desi superheroes in the 80s and 90s


on Aug 08, 2022
Raj Comics

DC Superheroes may have taken over the world, but for those who grew up in India in the 80's and 90's, it was also the beginning of the "RC Universe". 

From 'Nagraj' the king of snakes, to the anti-hero 'Doga', 'Dhruva' the super commando, to Parmanu, a hybrid of Ant-Man and Atom, a home of Indian superheroes had been created by a minor but well-known publisher called Raj Comics (RC). 

The imaginative world of these vibrant and skin-tight spandex-clad superheroes, violent vigilantes, and gripping stories often found their way into classrooms, where children read them in secret.

Raj Comics was founded in 1986 by Raj Gupta and his sons Manoj, Manish and Sanjay. The motive was to create a world of original Indian superheroes, something that had never been done before. Sanjay Gupta explained how they also created characters like Super Commando Dhruva, a superhero who was "not the typical brawny guy, but brainy." 

Although the company also did medieval fantasy, horror and mystery books, it was superhero comics that made Raj Comics popular. 


Relatable Characters 
The superheroes in the RC world have unfathomable abilities and deep backstories. Most of the superhero clashes in DC and Marvel comics take place in the skyscrapers of New York or London, but with RC, Indian kids have their own friendly neighborhood heroes. 

Pranav Shashank, producer at Kuku FM, an audio content platform, praises RC for his success. "I've been in this field for three years and have worked on dozens of incredible novels. Some have been selected to be made into web series. If Raj Comics' creativity hadn't rubbed off on me, I wouldn't have been able to do this," he told 


One of the most popular characters was Nagraj, the first superhero introduced by RC. Initially unleashed by an evil scientist as a "weapon" to spread terror, Nagraj becomes a force against terrorism. He is the king of snakes and can destroy or heal people with his touch. The most powerful superhero in the RC universe, Nagraj uses his snakes for everything and often turns into a serpent himself. 

Atush Rohan, Director, CRM and a power platform at Mercurius Information Technology, said he began reading the "Nagraj Comics" in 1994 and identified with the character. "He was just a kid trying to protect children and drinking milk," Rohan told 

The simple style of storytelling coupled with the vivid illustrations caught the attention of children across India, especially from the Hindi belt. Another fan favorite was Doga. The red-eyed Mumbai-based vigilante takes the law into his own hands to bring justice to the shadows. 

Shashank's favorite character was Doga: “I was really into WWE as a kid, and movies back then glorified toxic masculinity and Doga was a perfect fit. He was someone who would fight corruption and terrorists, evils in the real world. Even when he was fighting aliens, he was still human." Doga's vulnerability also garnered him fans of all ages. 

 Super Commando Dhruva was popular with slightly older kids. He stood out from the other superheroes because he didn't had powers. He had nothing but the will to do good for his people, intellect, and a few acronagrajbatik. The only thing he had in common with his superhero friends was that he wore a bright yellow and blue jumpsuit. 

 These superhero characters helped increase RC's popularity by running ads featuring Sonu Sood and nearly 3.5 lakh copies of Nagraj at the same time. 

 

RC competes with TV 

 Unfortunately, RC's popularity also came at a time when Indians had access to cable television. They also failed to increase their readership as the comics were published exclusively in Hindi. While they were well established in India's Hindi belt, there weren't many readers beyond that. His foray into regional languages ​​did not go well. 

 In 1998, sales began to decline, and in 2010 sales were 10 percent of what they were before, bringing them to the brink of closure. Shashank believes an unwillingness to adapt to changing times became RC's undoing. “Most of the publications were out of print. Raj Comics was the only one and the content also started to falter, both in terms of art and story. We used to go out and rent DVDs to watch at home and often wondered when they would make TV shows or movies for Nagraj and Doga. It was difficult for them to adapt," he explained. 

 

 Rohan said, "The new characters they released were not handled well by their internal team. The content and art deteriorated, as did their sales." 

 Pranay Khadatkar, who runs HighBP TV on YouTube, a channel dedicated to comics, told, "Even today, they produce the same thing they did in the '90s. It is great for people who read for nostalgia, but it's not a great way to attract new readers. Text bubbles on one page don't work, especially when the new generation can get bored in a 15-second video. The content is outdated.” 

 Where are they now? 

 In more than 30 years, Raj Comics has published more than 3,500 titles spread across different characters. They're a cult classic, and readers buy these comics out of nostalgia or because they've read them long enough to care. 

 The original RC was eventually split into three parts between the bothers Manoj, Manish and Sanjay respectively. 

 Sanjay said the split had more to do with creativity and market expansion. “We can explore more stories and new characters. We haven't made too many comics in the last 10 or 11 years, but in the last two years we've released 50 new comics and 50 new titles."

Khadatkar also spoke about the fact that the three brothers have different abilities. “Sanjay is the creative, Manoj is great at business and marketing and Manish is a great communicator. Together they could have built an unstoppable empire." 

The brothers use the same logo from the RC books but have separate storylines. The price of comics is also different. "Manish reprints the old Raj comics at an affordable price, while the other two brothers come out with new stories at a much higher price," Shashank said.

 However, fans of were disappointed with the split, as many struggled to keep up with all three comic and story sets."When we found out about this, we knew right away there was no way we were getting a movie right now," Shashank added. 

Former fans of Raj Comics now have online communities to revisit their favorite superheroes and their stories. These communities keep the conversation about Raj Comics alive through fan fiction, fan art, and discussions on how to keep the "RC" legacy alive.

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