Launched in March 1964 by Times of India Publication, owned by The Times Group, Indrajal Comics went on to become a popular comic book series in India until April 1990.
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.
Starting with the adventures of the Phantom for its first 32 issues, the comics also began featuring other King Features characters like Mandrake, Flash Gordon, Kerry Drake, Buz Sawyer, Rip Kirby, Mike Nomad, Garth, Phil Corrigan, etc. with 803 issues published in full color, generally running for 27 pages, with the Phantom appearing in 414 issues. Indrajal Comics were also published in several Indian languages such as Hindi, Bengali, Kannada, and Marathi.
Most of these comics were essentially newspaper comic strips from the USA, which were collectively published as individual stories with given titles. However, it also featured the adventures of Bahadur, and later on, Dara, both “made in India” heroes. 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 Phantom, Mandrake and other foreign features, which resemble his drawing style seen in Bahadur.
The Phantom and Mandrake 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 with different given titles. Some Mandrake strips were republished with different titles too. Indrajal Comics also featured about four issues of Bruce Lee comics, which were probably originally Bruce Lee comic strips.
However, Indrajal Comics never featured all the comic strip stories from the US comic strips. The Phantom predominantly featured most of the comics drawn by Sy Barry, and the older ones drawn by Wilson McCoy or Ray Moore weren’t featured as much, probably as they were not as popular because they were more simplistic artwork compared to Sy Barry’s. In case of Mandrake, those drawn by Fred Fredericks, and in case of Flash Gordon, those drawn by Dan Barry, were predominantly featured on Indrajal Comics.
Apart from King Features Syndicated comic strips, some Phantom titles from Charlton Comics were also published.
The foreign comics on Indrajal, such as Phantom, Mandrake, etc., were considerably edited from their originally published strips, for example, the fictional country of Bangalla in the Phantom was changed to Dangalla, and any reference to Bengali which referenced Bangalla was changed to Denkali. This was believed to be done to avoid confusion between the fictional Bangalla and the Bengal in the Indian subcontinent.
Comic Cover Style
Indrajal comic 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, in black or white, 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 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 covers were very vibrant and original.