For a lot of us in India at one time Comic = Amar Chitra Katha.
My nieces are Australian so their book cupboard is wash with princess stories, fairy stories, Peppa Pig, Horrid Henry and the like. The Indian comics they are gifted tend to be mythological and they haven’t quite taken to them. Given their princess obsession I decided to take a few comics on princesses but it went down like a lead balloon.
Two of the comics were Vasavadatta and Manonmani. We had a bit of a discussion on their costumes but they didn’t find it very interesting (they are 7 and 4), here the two heroines wear a knotted breast band known as the kancuka or kurpasaka.
Suddenly they have turned avid readers and the turning point was to The Magic Grove. I guess a girl with a magic garden that follows her around and does her bidding was irresistible. The red and gold costume of Aramashobha dislodged their love of the blue and white of Frozen and Cinderella for a few days.
The artists behind Amar Chitra Katha are little known but the artwork can be quite distinctive even as the costuming basics remain the same. This set is from a bound series on ancient classics and the artists for each comic are listed below. Interestingly the covers are by different artists.
Pic 1: Malati and Madhava. Illustrator: Pratap Mullick.
Pic 2: Malavika. Illustrator: PB Kavadi
pic 3: Kadambari. Illustrator: MR Fernandes
Pic 4: Nagananda. Illustrator: MN Nangare.
See also X.
Similarly the faces are strong and distinctive. And captivating. Seen above, pic 1 & 2- Parvati, Pic 3-Dharini from Malavika and 4. Sati.
The regional details are often captured in the comics. Like North & South. The Instant Wedding, Ancient Indian Style. As illustrated by Amar Chitra Katha!
The comics: Shakuntala and Manonmani. The latter is a historical verse novel written in 1892 by P. Sundaram Pillai and set in the time of the Pandyas. I am impressed that they did this title given that I have barely been able to locate an English translation for the book.
There are also a lot of subtle details once you start looking at the drawings closely, like you would think Marimekko prints were around in Sita’s time. More likely the comic dates from the 1970s when large flower print saris were around:)
India’s Immortal Comic Books: Gods, Kings and Other heroes by Karline McLain is a pretty interesting book and goes into some detail on the costuming choices for the Amar Chitra Katha comics. Which are based on historical costumes but also simplify it and have a unifying aesthetic given the comic book genre.