How Good Old Tinkle Comics Is Smashing Stereotypes With Bold New Characters

Posted on June 22, 2016 in Culture-Vulture

By Suhasini Patni:

Who doesn’t remember flipping through the glossy pages of a cartoon filled comics book? Can anyone possibly forget the beautifully illustrated coloured panels that introduced us to characters who taught us how to laugh? The whole nation since the past two decades has been thriving on the brilliance of Anant Pai, or as he is known to his readers, Uncle Pai. The creator of the popular Tinkle Digest and Amar Chitra Katha, and the lovable man who answered all the letters addressed to him, created a huge comic culture in India engaging a large segment of the audience. Open Magazine reports that Manas Mohan, the CEO and publishing director of Amar Chitra Katha Pvt. Ltd., which owns Tinkle, claims it sells almost 3,00,000 copies a month, making it the highest selling English comic in India.

While a small percentage of the urban population recalls reading DC, Marvel, Archies or Calvin and Hobbes as children, the larger part of the population rests its childhood on the hilarious antics of Suppandi or the retelling of great Indian tales in Amar Chitra Katha. Uncle Pai worked hard to make his comics accessible to all, not only regarding characters, who all come from different backgrounds but also in terms of language. While Tinkle is available in three languages other than English, Amar Chitra Katha is available in 20 regional languages across the nation. Tinkle is all about inclusiveness.

The philosophy that Tinkle rests on is teaching something to kids in a fun way so that they have some wholesome messages to take home. While the philosophy has remained the same, even with the death of Uncle Pai, Tinkle is keeping with the times and introducing more characters to relate to a larger audience base. In ‘Super Weirdo’, the super-heroine Aisha has the power to sense other Super-Weirdos around her and breaks into a jiggle every time she finds someone like that around her. The idea behind this cartoon from the editor’s point of view is that “it’s okay to be weird or an oddball, that’s who you are. Everyone has a role to play in the world despite however weird you are.”

Tinkle also has a new comic called ‘WingStar’ which brings the idea of a female superhero into the mainstream and also centralises Mizoram for upcoming generations (the state from which the character originates) – a part of the country that remains largely ignored. In an interview with Catch News, Tinkle Comics editor, Rajani Thindiath said, “We need more iconic female heroes to join the plethora of enduring male comic characters in the country – Suppandi, Shikari Shambu and Tantri the Mantri. Over half of the children in our country are female after all.” She also added that she does not see the new comic as particularly revolutionary. “In Tinkle, we have always had characters who hail from different parts of the country. Mapui, aka WingStar, may belong to the Northeast but she’s also a regular teenage girl,” she said.

While Tinkle fights stereotypes and produces great comics, it will always remain a part of my childhood. It was the comic everyone would fight over in the library in school and the place where most people learnt their first jokes from and discussed at length.