Indrajal Comics were published by The Times of India Press, owned by The Times Group, in Bombay, India, from March 1964 thru till April 1990. Indrajal Comics went on to become a popular comic book series in India due to is quality of publication and the spread of comic book characters featured. A total of 803 comic books released.
The Times Group commenced on the 4th of November, 1838 with it’s first newspaper, ‘Bombay Times and Journal of Commerce’, later becoming the popular ‘The Times of India’ (the largest circulation of any English-language newspaper in the world, with 2.8 million copies).
The media giant changed ownership several times in it’s long history, currently operating under the name of ‘Bennett, Coleman and Company Limited’, with the majority owner being the Sahu Jain family, headquartered in Mumbai, India.
Today, The Times Group continues to grow stronger, not only publishing several newspapers (such as The Times of India, The Economic Times, Mumbai Mirror, etc.), but also operating television channels, service providing websites (including recruitment and real estate) and radio stations.
The Times Group first introduced Indrajal Comics to it’s readers via a variety of advertisements in it’s other publications, including magazines and newspapers. In February 1964, a month prior to edition number 1 being released, the below advertisements were published.
Starting with the adventures of the Phantom for its first 32 issues, Indrajal Comics also began featuring a mix of comic book characters owned by King Features Syndicate, including Mandrake the Magician, Flash Gordon, Kerry Drake, Buz Sawyer, Rip Kirby, Mike Nomad, Garth, Phil Corrigan and more. With 803 editions published in full color, the comic books generally contain 27 pages measuring 17cm x 23.5cm.
The Phantom makes an appearance in 414 editions, with a variety of languages published including Hindi, Bengali, Kannada, and Marathi. The front and back cover of edition number 1 can be seen below.
In this first edition, a letter from the editor at Indrajal Comics is published on the inside back cover, introducing the comic book series to it’s readers and promising to produce the best comic books it possibly can.
Most of the comic strip stories published were newspaper comic strips from the USA, which were collectively published as individual stories with given titles. Indrajal Comics also published local comic strip characters, including ‘Bahadur’ and ‘Dara’. Bahadur, meaning ‘the brave man’, was created by Abid Surti, and Jagjit Uppal took over later. Govind Brahmania drew the artwork for Bahadur, including the covers. Govind Brahmania also occasionally drew covers for the Phantom, Mandrake the Magician and other foreign featured characters, which resemble his drawing style seen in Bahadur.
The Phantom and Mandrake the Magician by Lee Falk were the most published titles, along with Bahadur, a purely Indian comic book hero. The Phantom was so popular that some stories were republished over the years under different titles. Some Mandrake the Magician strips were republished with different titles too.
Indrajal Comics heavily published Phantom comic strip stories illustrated by Sy Barry, with stories prior to this era rarely published, possibly due to the simplistic style seen in Ray Moore and Wilson McCoy stories.
Apart from King Features Syndicated newspaper strips, some Phantom titles from the US Charlton Comics series were also published.
Foreign comics published in Indrajal Comics, including the Phantom and Mandrake the Magician, were considerably edited from their originally published strips, very much catering for the local Indian market. An example is the fictional country of Bangalla in the Phantom storyline, changed to Dangalla, and any reference to Bengali which referenced Bangalla changing to Denkali. This was believed to be done to avoid confusion between the fictional Bangalla and Bengal in the Indian subcontinent.
Below we see featured the first 20 comic covers released in the series.
Comic Cover Style
Indrajal Comics covers essentially had three styles.
The first with a small logo at the top left, featuring a child with a magic lamp, which was later replaced with just a magic lamp logo, with full-page cover art.
The second was a thick horizontal section with a portrait of the Phantom, in a colored circle at the top-left, and the title Indrajal Comics beside it.
The third and the last cover design had a larger horizontal section, with Indrajal and a small portrait of the Phantoms, with COMICS written in large letters.
The earliest of the covers were drawn and painted by different artists. Later on too, they were drawn by artists like Shehab. Later on, cover art also included original artwork from the strip itself, apart from the ones drawn by artists.
The Indrajal Comics covers typically depicted intriguing scenes from the main title story within. Artists like Shehab and Shekhar drew covers for foreign features like the Phantom, Mandrake, Flash Gordon, and others. The scenes which went on the covers were typically chosen to be intriguing so that they evoked interest and curiosity in the readers. May it be a scene in which the hero of the story in peril, or some action scene, or some other scene of significance, Indrajal Comics covers were very vibrant and original.
In a variety of Indrajal Comics editions, 2 page sized posters were included in the center-fold of the comic, designed to be removed from the comic and displayed. An example can be seen below found in edition number 173.