Sunday, November 23, 2008

Comic books!

I recently discovered a large stash of Asterix & Obelix comic books in the public library here. And it seems like Raghav and I have lapsed back into the time when we were 10-13 years old and reading these back home!!

Asterix & Obelix is one of my two all-time favorite comic books (the other being Calvin & Hobbes, which I started reading only around when I was ~20). Tintin is a close second.

The setting of the Asterix & Obelix comics is the year 50 BC, in a coastal village flanked by idyllic forests teeming with wild boars, in Armorica, a province of Gaul (a region that is present-day Brittany in France). This little village is the only one that has held out against Julius Caesar and not become part of the Roman empire.

The origin of their power is the magic potion that Druid Getafix brews for them, which makes them temporarily invincible. Asterix and Obelix are the heroes, and they take us on several adventures all over the world, along with little Dogmatix. Here are the protagonists:

Most kids in India love these comics. I also think the Asterix comics served as an art school for me. As a kid, I used to spend hours over weekends drawing the characters from these comics. I still am spellbound at the attention to detail, and the humor in the illustrations by Albert Uderzo. They are genius!

My mother has saved almost all my drawings since when I was about 5 years old. At least, everything that she could get hold of before I tore it up. She had collected them all in a box, and recently made me bring them back with me to the US.

I sorted through them after we stumbled on this stash of comics, and sure enough, I found the ones I'd drawn from Asterix comics, along with others from Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Beetle Bailey, Betty & Veronica, Tintin, etc. etc.

The paper is yellow and brittle, and all kinds of marks have seeped through from the back of the papers - I used to draw on the back of paper my father used to discard from his work. The papers really are this yellow now - it's been about 25 years since I drew them!

But looking at these, I remember vividly how much fun it was to lie sprawled on the floor, and study the lines of the hands and eyes and expressions captured so well by Uderzo, and learn by copying them. Those were good times. :)

Now as we drove over to the public library after finding these books on the catalog online, we could remember exactly how exciting this process of discovering a stash of books used to be when we were young! Nothing has changed, and it's been almost 25 years!

Our bedside table is littered with Asterix comics right now, and we are reading them like our lives depend on it. I don't think it would be this much fun if we just went out and bought all of them. There's something exciting about discovering books unexpectedly. :)

The only way to finish up this post is to do it with a traditional banquet in the Gaulish village. This is how almost all the comics end, under a sky full of stars, when all is well with the world.

So what are your favorite comic book characters from your childhood? Would love to hear about them, so let me know!


pink dogwood said...

I was never much into comic book I thinkg - my mom was really into Phantom so I used to read them as well.Also Archie and I forget the name of some of the local ones.

Thanks for sharing your childhood sketches - they are amazing. I will see if my public library has these :)

meb said...

Fascinating story bindu... I'm not familiar with these comics at all, but then I really wasn't that fond of comics either. My brothers would pore over them from the Sunday paper..spreading them all over the floor, and then never picking them up. While my father always made sure we had food on the table, we didn't have a lot of money to spend elsewhere, so the Sunday paper was it for comics.

Loved your story tho... and love your sketches. How old were you when you did those?

~vagabond~ said...

Wow! You really were/are a good artist. I loved looking at your sketches.

I dont remember ever going through a comic book phase...but I remember stealing the sunday newspaper from my dad just to read the garfield comic strips in them. Those are still my favorites.

"There's something exciting about discovering books unexpectedly" Yes. I agree. I get that feeling every time I go back home, peek into the attic and discover a dusty box containing Nancy Drews or Famous Fives from when I was a kid.

bindu said...

Bhavana - if your library has them, try one and let me know how you like it!

Meb - I had very few comic books too, mainly ones that I got from grown-up cousins or as a present. Most of the ones I read were from the school library, or in exchanges with friends. I must have done those sketches when I was about 13-14.

Vagabond - thanks. Garfield makes a lot more sense to me now, since two cats own us. :)

Anonymous said...

I didn't have comic books either and although I was VERY into books, I never really got into comics. Having said that I had a male cousin, 2 or 3 years older than me who lived on a farm. When we were kids we spent a lot of our holidays at the farm and my cousin had a bed with 2 big massive drawers under it. Well....when he opened those drawers they stacked full of comics, at least a couple of hundred of them. I remember Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck ones mainly. I would read them for hours and hours, completely enthralled because I never really read anything like them!!
Mr de facto Sweetmango has a large collection of X-Men comic books that he has been collecting for years. Which he is now, passing onto our oldest son to start reading, well I had to SUGGEST that it was time to pass them on :)

Blu said...

Wow, you must draw some new pictures soon. What a talent you have. I really enjoyed your write up about the comic characters. When I was little it was Dennis The Menace, Minnie The Minx and Desperate Dan. Later on in my early 20's I was into Snoopy. So glad your Mum kept your pictures. I will let you know if I see any of your cartoon characters here!!!

Sydney said...

Betty and Veronica of the Archie Comic book series were my faves. I of course related to Betty, who was painted as the good girl LOSER, lol.

I also read Richie Rich comics which we would buy at the rest stops when we drove between the town we moved to and the town we moved from (about 4 hours, across three states) along with those big round rainbow colored suckers.

Sydney said...

Oh -- I forgot to add my voice to how great your drawings are!!!!!!

Robyn said...

Great drawings! I used to carve small Asterix and Obelix wall plaques in my teens. My husband loves the books and I bought him another to add to his collection a few weeks ago for his birthday. I often hear him laughing his head off even though he's probably read it many times over the years.

~ ॐ ~ said...

No brainer actually !!!

Chacha Chaudhary
Super Commando Dhruv

(Diamond Comics, Indrajaal Comics, Raj Comics)

And lately CnH

and the drawings are fantastic !!!

bindu said...

Sweetmango - I can understand his reluctance to pass them on to your son! They are so much fun after all!

Blu - I liked Dennis and Snoopy too! I so want to visit Brittany now. And I always try to imagine all this drama in your lovely forest photos.

Sydney - thanks. I could identify with sweet Betty too - now as I look at these old sketches, it seems that I have copied out Betty so many more times than I have Veronica! It's funny.

Robyn - would love to see your Asterix and Obelix wall plaques! Good to see another person who likes them.

Om - thanks. You left out Bahadur and Bela! And there's the Amar Chitra Katha series in a class of it's own.

pRiyA said...

i still love asterix comix too. one never outgrows them. it was so wonderful of your mother to have kept your drawings safe for you.

meb said...

You did these when you were 13 or 14. Amazing talent. My grandson is also a very talented artist who chooses not to pursue it. Drives me crazy. I'm always asking for something from him just to keep him active. Doesn't always work.

Thanks for sharing yours.

Vamsee said...

Those sketches were really really good. I hope you still draw/paint/sketch.
I think I read more western comics as an adult than as a kid! Calvin and Hobbes is my all time favorite followed by Asterix and Obelix. We own entire collections of these books.
As a kid, I must have read every Amar Chitra Katha comic book there ever was.

Shayla said...

This was a great post, Bindu. I liked seeing your yellowed drawings. I still love comics so I'm going to share a current favorite that's blow my mind beautiful: Mouseguard by David Petersen.

Mridula said...

Great post and lovely drawings Bindu, thanks for sharing. Do you still draw?

Mridula said...

I linked you post here-