I remember the 90’s when I used to hide comics between the textbooks and read them. There was an unsaid competition among the friends of who has the most number of collections of comics.
Those were the days when the Indian Comics industry was at its peak, roaring higher than ever. The sales were soaring higher than ever. We waited for every Friday as on that day new comics were made available in the magazine stores.
But slowly, the popularity of the Indian comic started declining exponentially and soon, in a decade or two, the sales dipped to a remarkable low. The current situation is that rarely any new comics are published once in a while.
The process was all very steady, and many factors were contributing to the decline. So, in this article, let’s analyse some of the reasons why Indian Comics industry is dying and what can be done to revive it !!
Table of Contents
Factors to Why Indian comics industry is dying
1.) No competition among the publishing houses
In the ’70s and 80′, there were a whole lot of comics publishers in India-
- Diamond Comics
- Radha Comics
- Tulsi Comics
- King Comics
- Raj Comics
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Amar Chitra Katha and Chandamama are excluded from the list as they were mainly children’s magazines focusing more on mythology and tales.
But in the early ’90s, Raj comics emerged as the biggest of them all. Soon other publishers were either acquired or closed completely ( leaving one or two exceptions ). This left Raj comics with no competition. Raj comics became the sole synonym for the Indian comics industry.
So, it became unidirectional and didn’t understand the public demand. They published what they thought was good content instead of reading the public sentiments and demand, which certainly was not good for the business.
2.) Growth of Cable TV
Back in those days, there was only Doordarshan, and cable TV was limited to only metropolitan cities, that too in fewer houses. A cable connection was linked as bad for studies of children, so Indian parents somewhat distanced from it.
Children had very few options for entertainment in Television. Due to this reason, children were more inclined towards playing and reading comics for recreational activities.
But in the later decade, Cable TV grew exponentially, and so did the number of channels. Now the children even have an option of channels dedicated for them, like several Cartoon channels.
It is a proven fact that video entertainment is always preferred over reading. Thus, children too preferred consuming them, and reading comics declined year by year.
3.) Popularising of Games / Mobiles
Children in the past decade started getting access to smartphones loaded with games having high-end graphics. Nowadays, even a 10 years old boy holds an android mobile with a playstore having 1000’s of gaming options.
Back in the 90’s there used to be only Nintendo games, that too limited to significantly fewer houses. Children went to their friend’s place to play them and even shared gaming cassettes with 3 or 4 games.
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4.) Unnecessary enhancements in the art/ grap
Well, the soul of any comic is its drawing, art and graphics. In the name of enhancements in the art, Raj comics forced the automated graphics lacking the soul of art.
The toonish nature and minute expressions slowly started missing. Earlier, the sketches held great detailings and boosted the connection with the reader, thanks to the legendary duo Anupam Sinha and Manoj Gupta.
Although in later stages, when they decided to digitise the editions, the pages came full of unwanted colours and lacked detailing and facial expressions.
5.) Increase in the Price
Well, this is one of the prime reasons why Indian Comics industry is dying. Back in those days, an edition cost around Rs. 8. Later on, it saw an increase in a gradual form i.e. ₹ 10 to ₹ 15, 16, 25.
There is a stage where the purchasing power of a reader ( that too mostly children ) ends. And these days, the exact edition is republished with a price tag of ₹ 50 min, and for multistarrer, it costs around ₹ 100 minimum.
I do accept that with time and inflation, the cost of publishing the comics too increased. Although this argument is strong enough, one must understand that children in a country like India have minimal spending capability.
There must have been an alternate way to bridge the gap between production cost and profits. If more work would have been done on merchandising, selling action figures, toys, printed t-shirts etc., this could have been possible.
If the Facebook pages like RVCJ or YouTubers like BB ki Vines can sell their merchandise, then already established and popular Raj Comics could have generated an enormous fund.
6.) The decline in content quality and plots
Raj comics had a wide variety of Superhero catering to every child’s likes and dislikes, examples being the Nagraj, Super Commando Dhruv, Shakti, Parmanu, Bankelal, Doga etc.
And not just heroes, but they also had an army of antiheroes battling them toe to toe like Nagpasha, Grand Master Robo, Kaal Pahelia, Bauna Waaman etc.
I remember we used to even debate on who’s the best and strongest villain of them all ( you know the childhood innocence…..silly us ).
But with years passing, the plots started feeling monotonous. The same villains were repeating again and again without much of a scope for the development of characters.
Instead of introducing more equipped and combating characters, Raj Comics shifted to mythology and then to time travel. Every other comic had some association with time travelling, multiverse etc.
Readers started missing the originality in the villains, storylines and henceforth the heroes.
7.) Too many sub-editions and parallel characters
Raj comics again made mistakes in bringing the same characters with a different set of storylines simultaneously. Confused!!
All the readers were too.
Atankharta / Narak Nashak Nagraj was one example where the reader totally flips and gets confused between the characters. The same character has different looks, method of tackling the issues than the original comicsverse. It’s too hard for the reader to digest such infusion and 360-degree turn of a character in the same timeline.
Also, they published several sub editions ( parts ) of the storyline. One to two is acceptable, but 5 – 6 comics lined up for the same storyline were blunders.
First of all, the actual consumers of the comics are children who cannot afford to buy every costly comic. Secondly, they cannot be kept glued for months onto the same villain/storyline ( which in reality was not good at all ).
If the reader misses one part in that “n” number of editions, he misses the storyline.
I always thought – Why Raj Comics Why ??
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8.) Exposure of Indian readers to Western Superheroes
With the expansion of the global market, western publishers realised the huge market opportunity in India and started to publish the comics directly in India.
In the 80’s and ’90s, Indian children had very little access to western superheroes comics. Although superheroes like superman, spiderman and batman were still popular, their comics were published in significantly fewer numbers and that too by the Indian publishers only through some partnership.
But suddenly, children got a huge and completely different fascinating superhero universe in Marvel and DC comics. They also started to realise the association of these superheroes and their powers with the desi superheroes.
Parmanu was now seen as a ripped version of captain ATOM. Inspector steel was a first-hand copy of Robocop. Nagraj was associated with Spiderman, Dhruv with daylight Batman and Doga with the Punisher.
Even the multistarrer comics unification was relatable to the Avengers.
Well, I am not claiming that, in reality, they are copied, but the association and similarity are felt at every core.
Thus, the readers now got the chance to know a whole lot of new characters with diverse plot and superb graphics/artwork. Thus, slowly they started to shift from “Desi to Videsi Superheros”.
9.) Not a single movie/cartoon/tv series production
If we leave the “infamous” Nagraj Tv series and the decade long discussion on movies on Doga, there has been no advancement in the field of producing a movie or a TV series. Indian viewers have not even an option to watch these desi superhero characters in cartoon form.
On the other hand, one can find hundreds and thousands of content online of DC and Marvel in the form of movies, TV series, cartoon series and now even on the OTT/ Webseries.
The same old excuse given is the lack of funds and no medium to showcase the complete abilities of superheroes and their powers in the video format.
I accept the fact that movie making needs a budget. But if a new Bollywood superhero movie could be made in 100 to 300 Crores, why can’t an already established desi superhero story be turned into a film.
Yes, the expectations would be high to deliver, but so would the footfall of viewers. If western directors can do it, we too can and if not, then hire them itself.
Also, if not a movie, a cartoon/ animated series could have been made enticing the new generation’s interest in the desi superheroes.
10.) Significantly less publication of new editions and marketing
The mistake which Raj Comics repeats till now is the less publication of new editions. New comics editions are published rarely, and Raj Comics thrives mostly on publishing the already published editions.
This is the reason why the already established fanbase has nothing new to consume and wait for. They already have read those editions.
Yes, this is an excellent move to cater to the new readers but annoys built fanbase readers. As I discussed previously, Raj Comics lacked marketing, which hurt them the most in raising the profit through publicity, selling more comics editions and merch, etc.
The Biggest Reason why Indian Comics industry is dying
Piracy of the comics in digital form
With the advancement in technology, everyone these days has access to mobile, computers and the internet.
Some bloggers, websites started misusing this tech by uploading the comics editions free of cost in JPEG, PDF and CBR formats online.
This hurt the Indian comics industry, especially Raj comics, the most. Initially, Raj Comics didn’t give much importance to selling their comics in the digital form. But when they realised it was too late.
Almost all the comics were already available to the reader free of cost online due to piracy. The number of readers was already decreasing. And those who were left ( which were primarily children ) opted to download those free pirated digital copies, and Raj Comics was left with no earnings and royalty.
This brought Raj comics to a dead end. And without income, no publishing house could even think to operate. Leave the profits, the torchbearer of the Indian comics industry-Raj Comics is struggling to survive.
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In the 90’s, comics were a huge form of entertainment for Indian kids. Indian comics industry thrived in those decades and saw immense popularity. It was the peak of their success.
As a fan, it is tough to digest the fact that the Indian comics industry is on the verge of ending.
Although there are several reasons why Indian Comics industry is dying, the hardest hit is piracy.
I urge our readers to please support the Indian Comics industry by not downloading the pirated digital copies of comics and reporting the piracy. Also, help the publishers by purchasing from them directly.
Indian comics Industry, too, has very great potential. We have experienced it before, and I believe that they have a lot to deliver if we support them. Also, I hope that if things get better for them, the hard copies’ prices will drop, boosting more and more purchases.
After all, the experience of reading the hard copy of a comic is far superior to reading a digital edition, isn’t it !!
Why did Indian comic industry fail ?
Indian comics industry failed due to several reasons like – Growth of Cable TV, exposure to western comics industry i.e. DC / Marvel, Hike in comics price etc. Read this full article for in-depth analysis.
Are Comics still sold in India ?
Yes, there are several publications still selling the comics in India like Raj comics, Amar Chitra Katha etc. But they are facing a huge financial crisis and must be aided by purchasing from them officially.
Why are comics not popular in India ?
In ’80s and ’90s Indian comics industry was at it’s peak. But slowly they lost the market due to exposure to western superheroes, Cable TV , piracy and increase in price. Read this full article for complete analysis why comics are no more popular in India.
Does Raj comics still exist ?
Yes, Raj comics is probably the only comics publisher still popular and active in India. Although they too are facing a huge financial crisis due to loss in readership and piracy. In this article, an in-depth analysis has been carried out on current situation of comics industry in India.
How can I buy Raj comics ?
One can buy Raj Comics from their official website. Alternatively you can check the links in this article to directly buy the Raj comics editions. This way you could help the publishers – both Raj Comics and this website. Stop piracy, save Indian comics Industry !!