India needs a super hero,” says comics collector Arun Prasad (39), who has a collection of over 15,000 vintage comics that he showcased at the Hyderabad Comic Con in September this year. Prasad routinely puts his collection on display at various shows to share it with other enthusiasts.
A fan of vintage comic characters and a freelance writer, Prasad says Indians today are disillusioned with the characters being introduced by foreign studios. “We need a superhero that people in India can identify with. At present, the interest in comics seems to be diminishing, a local superhero would rekindle it,” he points out. Prasad, who has made Bangalore his home, was born in a small village called Ervenkara in the Alleppey district of Kerala.
For the past few years, Comic-Con—an annual event for comic book fans—has been his platform to display his amazing array of vintage comic books. “The recent Comic-con in Hyderabad was an amazing experience. Around 1 lakh people came to the venue and I had an opportunity to meet many new collectors and publishers,” he says.
His spectacular collection includes rare original editions of Amar Chitra Katha which were printed in 1967 including Krishna. He also has comics which have Amitabh Bachchan and Sunil Gavaskar as super heroes.
“I was visited by the editorial team of Amar Chitra Katha as they had never seen the first 10 issues of the book which had moral tales,” he says. Apart from comic books, his collection also includes bus tickets from more than five states, post cards, lithographs and letters. A history buff with a master’s degree in journalism, Prasad has also saved up pamphlets of Kushti matches held in Bangalore over the years.
While comic book collectors in western countries are usually stereotyped, Prasad says most of his fellow collectors in India come from varied professional backgrounds. However, India still lacks a common platform for such collectors.
Prasad’s life-long fascination with comics started with Mayavi, which he says was the most sought after comic strip in Kerala in the late 80s. “Among all the comics, Indrajal was my all-time favourite. Perhaps it was Phantom, the super hero without any super powers who pulled me to comic collection,” he said.
But it hasn’t been a smooth ride from the word go. Prasad too had his share of setbacks as a collector. In class X, he lost his entire collection of around 500 comics. Over the years, he has managed to collect close to 15,000 Indian comics and 5,000 western ones. “All my comics are vintage and printed before 1990,” he said.
At present Prasad is writing a book on Bangalore. “I’m interested in the evolution of Bangalore and other cities. I have been collecting rare books, maps, pictures and old litho prints on Bangalore for the past 18 years,” he says, adding, “I am also in the process of signing a contract with the Indian Foundation of Art (IAF). We are planning to make a timeline of all the Indian comic books for which my collection would be the base. ”
Due to his unique hobby, Prasad says he has always been the target of much ribbing from friends and family. As he was friends with most scrap dealers in the city, his friends use to make fun of him. He says his family still thinks that he is wasting time collecting junk.
“I never tell people about my hobby, unless I know they are interested in comics. People think I’m crazy because I speak to a lot of scrap dealers. My wife understood my fascination only after attending the Comic Con,” he says. “It feels good to see that many youngsters today are interested in collecting comics. I hope my collection would rekindle interest in people to go back to their childhood and revisit the bygone days. I think everyone should cultivate the habit of preserving the treasures of childhood,” he beams.
To learn the techniques of collecting and preserving comics, contact Arun Prasad at: firstname.lastname@example.org
A peak into prasad’s treasure trove
Visitors at the Comic Con in Hyderabad saw the very first issue of Indrajal Comics, The Phantom’s Belt which was published in 1964; the initial comics which featured superheroes like Mandrake, Flash, Bahadur, Buz Sawyer and others; and other issues like Tinkle Issue No 1, Space Age comics featuring Inspector Vikram and Inspector Azad, Dalton Comics, Spiderman, Diamond Phantom, etc.