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Comic Capers

In the last three decades Chacha Chaudhary has attained immortality. His antics have become part of folklore and his fans trade tales of his astuteness...

Written by Vandana Kalra |
May 4, 2009 12:10:42 am

Comics get a digital makeover on the mobile phone

In the last three decades Chacha Chaudhary has attained immortality. His antics have become part of folklore and his fans trade tales of his astuteness,while looking forward to the monthly issue of their favourite comic . However,the wait for Chacha Chaudhary will soon be cut short to 24 hours. The comic will be available on mobile phones to people who subscribe and be delivered to their inbox every morning. “It is important to keep up with technological advancement. Having comics on their phone will enable people to read them even when they are on the move,” says Gulshan Rai,managing director of Diamond Comics,as he finalises details of the tie-up with Vodafone and Spice,the two service providers with whom he hopes to introduce Diamond Comics on mobile phones within a fortnight.

For the company established in the 1970s,foray into mobile comic or the momic industry is a means to take its publications to an audience that might be bored by leafing through pages,but happily indulges in scrolling down a mobile screen. In the digital age,Rai insists,it is essential to tap different,newer mediums. The belief is shared by several other publishers who are digitising comic strips to convert them into a format that can be viewed on mobile phones. “There are over 350 million mobile phone users in India. The aim is to reach out to them,” says Samir Patil,CEO of ACK Media. In February he introduced characters from his comics on the mobile phone. Vodafone customers can dial 567607 and browse through Amar Chitra Katha comics on their phone for a monthly fee of Rs 30. The same charge is applicable to download each comic. Games based on characters like Arjuna and Bheema can be downloaded for Rs 50 and wallpapers of Supandi and Shikari Shambu cost Rs 10. “The response has been terrific. We will add fresh content regularly. The medium offers a lot of unexplored potential,” says Patil.

Jasjit Puri,managing director of ROK comics,India,agrees. The UK-based firm that offers mobile comics in China,Singapore,Latin America and Pakistan opened office in India earlier this year. In another week it will allow Airtel users to download 20 international comic titles including Popeye,Wizard of Id,The Norm and Hagar the Horrible. “We will keep introducing comics from our library that has over 100 international titles. Indian comics will also be added to the list and we will offer comics in Hindi and vernacular languages,including Tamil and Malayalam,” shares Puri. He has acquired the rights to provide few titles from the Raj Comics bouquet,including Nagraj,Sati and Neelkanth Shiv — through ROK.

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There is hope that mobile comics will also give a boost to the popularity of comic books. “Those unfamiliar with these legendary characters will get an introduction and they eventually might convert to reading comic books,” says Sanjay Gupta,studio head of Raj Comics. Like most other publishers,his core target audience is teenagers. “Youngsters like to use such applications. The only requisite is a GPRS handset,” adds Puri. He even provides an option to customise comics. “A blank panel will be provided. The user can choose the characters,colour them on the screen and type in the text in the bubble. The price will be Rs 5,which is also the cost of downloading other comics offered by ROK,” notes Puri.

Publishers insist that venturing into mobile comics is not an initiative aimed at profit making. “The cost has been kept minimal,” says Rai. While in print the 64-page monthly Diamond Comic,comprising on an average 16 features costs Rs 20,on the mobile he will provide one feature each day for a monthly subscription of Rs 25. “We just wish to explore another popular medium,” smiles Rai.

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