For it is as Dirk Vandereseree and Sebastain

For a long time, comics like
most other genres of popular culture was seen as an “ambivalent
product”. However, that’s not the case now. Today, for a variety of
reasons when its circulation and consumption have spilled across national
borders, it is as Dirk Vandereseree and Sebastain Donner call it an ‘artistic and
intellectual success story’ where ‘we have a vast number of serious,
interesting, innovative and experimental or simply entertaining publications
that use a range of styles and address all possible figures’.

 

In the context of India the
question of Indian superheroes is a vexed one. While the debate on Indian
superheroes has been raging for long with some arguing that Nagraj marked the first India superhero,
others contend that the Indian culture has its own variants of superhero
tracing its lineage to mythical and cultural history of India that
Amar Chitra Katha mined for in search of Indian superhero icons. However, caught
as they are between claims to originality, translations and transcreation is a
fecundity of imagination that is rendered visible in the varied attempts to
create the Indian superhero.

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As
a medium of storytelling and artistic and political expression, it has only
grown by leaps and bounds in the era of globalization when cultural goods,
here, cultural icons traverse different zones. Placing the American superhero
in India could be read in terms of the global narrative of India as an emerging
superpower whose presence cannot be ignored. With global market setting up
shops in India, what is being imported is also the American cultural iconography
which acquires new meanings in the act of transference. It is in  this context, of what is also understood as
‘glocalization’ that Peter Jackson in his paper on ‘Local Consumption Cultures
in a Globalizing World’ argues that ‘while ‘globalization’
has been a dominant feature of our collective geographical
imaginations in recent years… local geography still matters, particularly when
mapping the contours of specific consumption cultures’.

 

Taking cue from the above, in this paper I intend to
explore this relationship between superheroes and the power of iconography in the context of globalization, and  how they serve us in daily life. Underling this is my
belief in the expressive potential of visual cultures that manifests itself in
the ordinariness of everyday life. Therefore, in reading Rajkamal Aich, a
New Delhi based artist and graphic designer’s Superheroes
in India series as objects that capture within its aesthetic framework the
contemporary cultural narratives, I attempt to unpack  the humor and 
the subversive potential of comic art.

 

Aich’s Superheroes in India series is ‘a
passion project’ wherein he recreates indigenous versions of American
Superheroes have enthralled the audience worldwide. The series is a sequence of
artwork modeled  on superheroes (and
a few other famous, fictional characters) that includes the likes
of Batman, Superman, Wolverine, Spider-Man and the Hulk.
The re-imagined visual text is informed by the exciting possibility of what
would happen ‘if these western superheroes came to India?’  Aich
believed that that those people who are seeing India for the first time with
all the diverse cultures and traditions of the country, sometimes get a
culture shock. Before the Superheroes series, he was working on
a self-initiated photography project called Batman
in India where he photographed a
Batman figurine across various locations he travelled to dramatizing situations
that were innately Indian.