India's Immortal Comic Books
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India's Immortal Comic Books : Gods, Kings, and Other Heroes

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Combining entertainment and education, India's most beloved comic book series, Amar Chitra Katha, or "Immortal Picture Stories," is also an important cultural institution that has helped define, for several generations of readers, what it means to be Hindu and Indian. Karline McLain worked in the ACK production offices and had many conversations with Anant Pai, founder and publisher, and with artists, writers, and readers about why the comics are so popular and what messages they convey. In this intriguing study, she explores the making of the comic books and the kinds of editorial and ideological choices that go into their production.show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 256 pages
  • 177.8 x 254 x 17.78mm | 476.27g
  • Indiana University Press
  • Bloomington, IN, United States
  • English
  • 38 b&w photos, 10 color photos
  • 0253220521
  • 9780253220523
  • 1,650,601

Review quote

"... Almost every reader of Amar Chitra Katha interviewed here has spoken of the spiritual force the comics radiate-this, Karline McLane notes, is unique in the history of comic books. Which is one, among many reasons, why these comics will always be beloved not just to Indians but be special to comic book lovers everywhere." -Businessworld "It is clear that by following along with the comic book series, one can easily learn about many aspects of Indian culture and history, in a more fun and visual way, than a regular textbook. And this is the ultimate goal of the book - to show how much can be learned from comics, if the reader actually takes the time and digs a little deeper once in a while. It is fascinating how much tangible information is included in these graphic stories. ... This book provides great insight into Indian culture." -Andrey Bilko, Rebecca's Reads "McLain shines a light on Anant Pai and his staff at ACK to really examine the motivations behind creating the comics. Was it just about educating children or were there other motivations?... [L]ike the famed author of A People's History of the United States (1980), she does aim to create a public awareness of how history is told, albeit in India." -Shyam K. Sriram, PopMatters "... ACK (Amar Chitra Katha) is excellent for its popular format (comics), its enduring history and appeal-and its accessibility." -Not Just Books blog "In this intriguing study, [the author] explores the making of comic books and the kinds of editorial and ideological choices that go into their production." -Indologica "... fun to read and a rewarding work of scholarship on the origins, history and influence of Amar Chitra Katha." -The Sampradaya Sun "The book's clear prose will appeal to those teaching popular visual culture at the undergraduate level, as well as fans of ACK in India and around the world, many of whom participated in McLain's study... The book shines at moments when McLain relies on and shows her scholarly apparatus while maintaining an eye on her broader audience: her discussion of the machinations related to artist, popular religion, and text in the production of the Tales of Durga; or her clear narration of complex caste disputes over the representation of Shivaji starting in the nineteenth century (121-31).India's Immortal Comic Books is a welcome addition to the growing interdisciplinary analyses of India's popular culture." -caa.reviews "What McLain repeatedly heard from ACK [Amar Chitra Katha] readers is that the comic books seemed to almost radiate a spiritual force. In many households, other comics were seen as a waste of time and discarded, but ACK was preserved carefully. Grandmothers covered them with those brown wrappers used to cover school textbooks to keep them clean. Nieces and nephews inherited bound volumes from uncles and aunts..." -The Hindu "The careful and extensive research, insightful analysis, and the very lucid, accessible, and engaging style of writing, all go toward making this a very enjoyable read.... It is an excellent resource for scholars exploring popular forms of contemporary Hindusim, and the role of modern mass media in both capturing, and shaping, Hindu sensibilities in a modern transnational context." -Journal of Religion and Popular Culture "McLain's two greatest contributions may be her discussion of religious iconography and the meaning of secularism in India." -Uppinder Mehan, American Book Review "[T]his beautifully produced volume will not disappoint. Indiana University Press has supported McLain in publishing a book that is a visual delight, sporting an attractive layout and plentiful reproductions, in both color and black and white, of the comics. In today's era of digital publishing, this is a pleasure that is not to be taken for granted." -Journal of the American Academy of Religion "I've never taught an introductory Hinduism class without finding that for many Hindu students, Amar Chitra Katha had taught the course long before me. It's a formidable canon, and like every 'Bible' it's not just inspirational but, on reflection, controversial. In this absorbing study, Karline McLain takes the comics seriously, showing us the faces behind the pages and tracing the global impact of this culturally crucial medium and text." -John Stratton Hawley, Barnard College, Columbia University "In India's Immortal Comic Books... Karline McLain argues that the Amar Chitra Katha (ACK) comic book series represents a form of public culture through which creators and readers participate in national and religious discourse.... This analysis of India's first major comics publisher invigorates folklore and comic art by illustrating their essential role in creating and revising national and religious identity." -Jeremy Stoll, Journal of Folklore Research "[O]riginal both in content and in the kinds of sources that are brought to bear on the subject... Students of popular culture, contemporary religion, and anthropology will all learn a great deal from McLain's study." -Lisa Trivedi, Hamilton College "McLain (religion, Bucknell Univ.) did exhaustive research on this topic, and here she captures the essence of India's most popular comic book series, 'Amar Chitra Katha,' known for its entertaining and educational renditions of Indian history, religion, and mythology.... This study is welcome both for the author's care with her subject and for its affirmation that the comics can be an important medium-in this case, one that helped define Hinduism and Indianness to younger generations of Indians.... Recommended." -Choice, January 2010 "The Rama comic book features a muscular, bare-chested, blue-tinged hero on its cover, posed with bow and arrow drawn. A beautiful, fair-skinned woman with long dark tresses watches with wonder as Rama, the hero, takes aim.... [Although] in many ways akin to American comic book superheroes such as Superman and Captain America, Rama is not your average fictitious superhero. He is a god in human form, and the Rama comic book is a Hindu devotional story told through the comic book medium." -from the Introduction McLain (religion, Bucknell Univ.) did exhaustive research on this topic, and here she captures the essence of India's most popular comic book series, 'Amar Chitra Katha,' known for its entertaining and educational renditions of Indian history, religion, and mythology. Besides interviewing ACK founder and publisher Anant Pai and ACK staff, the author visited Indian grocery stores, temples, and community centers in India, England, and the US to talk with the comics' many fans. She even worked in ACK offices in order to become more informed. She discusses ACK plots and how they were fashioned; their adherence to or deviation from the original stories; the historical and religious contexts in which they were retold; and the reactions of parents, educators, and fans. McLain discusses some controversies concerning ACK, such as its portrayals of women and Muslims, but she seems to pull back from delving fully into the negative appraisals of the comic books. This study is welcome both for the author's care with her subject and for its affirmation that the comics can be an important medium--in this case, one that helped define Hinduism and Indianness to younger generations of Indians. Summing Up: Recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty. -- ChoiceJ. A. Lent, Temple University, January 2010show more

About Karline McLain

Karline McLain is Assistant Professor of Religion at Bucknell University.show more

Table of contents

AcknowledgmentsNotes on StyleIntroduction: Comic Books that Radiate a Spiritual Force1. The Father of Indian Comic Books2. Long-Suffering Wives and Self-Sacrificing Queens3. Accurately Sequencing Goddess Durga's Mythology4. The Warrior-King Shivaji in History and Mythology5. Muslims as Secular Heroes and Zealous Villains6. Mahatma Gandhi as a Comic Book HeroConclusion. The Global Legacy of Amar Chitra KathaNotesBibliographyIndexshow more

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