|Lion Muthu Comics has been bringing international comics in Tamil for nearly 50 years|
Lion Muthu Comics has been bringing international comics in Tamil for nearly 50 years
Lion Muthu Comics, started in 1972 as Muthu Comics by M Soundrapandian, has been translating and publishing comics from around the world into Tamil.
In the south Tamil Nadu town of Sivakasi, with its sun-baked soil and matchbox factories, the town that is the heart of fire-cracker industries, a quiet printing press brings to life the adventures of a British undercover agent with a unique ability, and an Italian cowboy with a sharp sense of justice.
Lion-Muthu Comics, started in 1972 as Muthu Comics by M Soundrapandian, has been translating and publishing comics from around the world into Tamil, for a small but close-knit reader network. When Soundrapandian, who comes from a family of printers, started Muthu Comics, he did so by introducing the most successful series in the UK at that time called The Steel Claw. In Tamil, the character was called 'Irumbukkai Mayavi' who would go on to become a big hit with their readers.
S Vijayan, Soundrapandian’s son who currently runs the comic book house, says, “45 years later, even today, we have readers fondly remembering the character. He was a secret agent who lost his right hand and quite recently we republished the books."
The Steel Claw, created by Tom Tully and Jesús Blasco, was England’s most popular comic series from the 1960s and '70s. An undercover agent who loses his right hand in a laboratory mishap, Steel Claw gets his name, quite literally, from his prosthetic steel hand. Later, in another lab accident, he gains the ability to become invisible, with the exception of his steel claw, for a short period of time if high voltage electricity passes through his body. Equipped with inbuilt weapons in his prosthetic hand, Steel Claw aka Irumbukkai Mayavi, becomes an invincible secret agent.
From Vijayan's table which has an assortment of comic books, we pick up Mayatheevil Maayavi (Adventures of Steel Claw on a Magical Island) in its shiny reprinted cover to devour later.
Vijayan, who still has his enthusiasm and craze for comics intact, started his own line of publishing called Lion Comics in 1984. “I would go to my father’s office every evening when I was 12 or 13 years old to observe. I was barely a 17-year-old teenager fresh off school when I started on my own. I only trusted my own instincts as a reader to experiment. I basically did what I thought would click from a reader’s point of view,” he shares, remembering his early days.
Three years later, after graduating with a B Com in 1987, Vijayan began taking care of his father’s Muthu Comics as well. In the late '70s, Muthu Comics ventured into American titles, and when Vijayan began Lion Comics, around 1985 they started looking at other European works.
“We brought in some more European titles, Italian and French. We found that there was an ocean of comics in the French and Italian languages. Among the Franco-Belgian collection, the famous ones that people know are Tintin and Asterix but we ventured beyond mainstream comics. It gave us a huge range to pick from,” says Vijayan.
The cowboy character named Tex Willer, created by Gian Luigi Bonelli and Aurelio Galleppini and first published in 1948, is immensely popular in the country even today. Tex, says Vijayan, is one of his most favourite comic book characters. Tex was introduced in Tamil by Lion Comics around 1985. “He is still one of our flagship characters. He’s a lot like our Rajinikanth character and there’s no age restriction to get to it,” he adds with evident affection.
Lion-Muthu Comics maintains a very close bonding with its readers with Vijayan stating that they’re one big family. “Every Sunday, there’s a blog that I write on and there’s so much of activity with more than 100 readers logging in for a live chat. The kind of conversations we have are very exciting. I get an idea about my audience. There are plenty of talented writes, those from movies field, media field, literary field… half of Sunday is for interacting and a lot of friendships are made,” he smiles.
Vijayan personal favourite remains to be Lucky Luke, a popular cartoon character from France, created over 70 years ago, still going strong, selling over 300 million copies in its International versions.