Gotham ComicsAlready thoroughly impressed by the fact that I had been able to pick up the Chobits Volume 1 DVD from Pick ‘n Pay of all places, I was needless to say even further impressed when walking through the aisle dealing with their paper products, I spotted a few familiar faces peeking out at me from the dark recesses of one of the lower shelves.

Peering downwards, my eager hands fumbled along the shelf and triumphantly returned clutching a tightly bound, plastic wrapped quintet of little books, with the front and back cover revealing that this package contains none other than comic books, perhaps one of my most beloved treasures of them all.

However, what was intriguing me most about this package was the fact that while the JLA and Incredible Hulk covers looked pretty normal to me, the dimensions of the package were all wrong. It was smaller than a usual comic book, by at least a couple of centimetres and that was exactly when my mind pointed its finger at what was wrong with this picture: below the instantly recognisable DC and Marvel Comics logos was another, unfamiliar face – that of a loud speech bubble proudly proclaiming “Gotham Comics”.

Unable to quell my growing curiosity, I laid down my R30 on the counter and took the pack of five home with me, where I eagerly started my investigation. First off, at least my eyes weren’t lying to me. The books are indeed smaller than their standard counterparts, with these measuring 14x21cm compared to the normal 17x26cm that I’m so accustomed to.

While the covers are printed on fairly good, shiny paper stock, the interiors are made of considerably lesser quality paper and it is interesting to note that this has a fair bit of an impact on the computer colour separations which are now a trademark of modern day comics.

Also, the advert count is unusually high, though if you flip through any other American comic for that matter, do yourself a favour and count the adverts. You’ll notice a disturbing trend that it has almost become so bad that you sit with a two pages of story followed by one page of advert! At least these Gotham Comics seem more intent on marketing the rest of their unusually vast catalogue, though it is a little strange to see adverts for both Marvel and DC Comics titles appearing side by side.

A quick check on the Internet and it turns out that Gotham Comics is an American-based company with strong footholds in India which started up in 1997 and has since become South Asia’s largest comic book publisher. With access to essentially the full range of both Marvel and DC Comics character and comic properties, as well as publishing relationships with Dark Horse, MAD Magazine and even Warner Bros. Worldwide Publishing, Gotham Comics purports to have access to well over 700 monthly comic titles, including the big hitters like Superman, Batman, Spider-man, The Hulk, X-Men, Tarzan, Scooby-Doo, The PowerPuff Girls, The Flintstones and Wonder Woman.

Their releases are available in a number of languages, including English, Hindi, Assamese, Bengali, Tamil and Malayalam. (Thankfully the set I got hold of was in English then!)

So ignoring the different size format and paper quality issue, the only real problem I have with their ‘reprints’ is their annoying habit to stick Gotham Comics’ CEO and President, Sharad Devarajan and Chief Operation Officer, Suresh Seetharaman’s names on each and every comic’s title page, as if they actually had something to do with the creation of the actual material being published. A minor annoyance admittedly, but an annoyance nevertheless.

Still, I can’t help but lament at how bloody cool this is. I’m jealous of India now. This is exactly what South Africa needs – a localised publisher which can bring us the titles that we all want to see for a far more affordable price than what is currently being asked. We’ve had two companies try and do this in the past, Battleaxe Press and another whose name escapes me now (they handled all the Marvel licences), but those two blithering idiots squandered their opportunity and only managed to last for 10 or so issues. To this day no one knows the exact reason why they caved. Some say finances, some say legal issues and some say to early market saturation.

Or it could just have something to do with all those subscription fees that they took with them when they dissolved.

Bastards, you guys owe me money!

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