"Bhai yeh dekh!" my friend almost screamed.

I scuttered over to him to the back of the shop. The shopkeeper's impatient eyes followed me. His impatience was justified.

We'd been in his store for the past one and a half hours and yet, hadn't purchased anything. Nothing, but scattered comics everywhere bore testimony to our presence there.

There he was, my friend, holding up an omnibus featuring all the superstars from the Raj Comics universe. 

Jaljala (meaning earthquake) the title read.

Source: Raj comics

I checked the price. ₹40 it said. My heart sank. 

The year was 2001 and most Indian comics back then were priced at ₹6, ₹8, ₹10 and ₹15. In the wake of that price range, buying this comic felt akin to buying a white elephant. 

"Bahut bik rahi hai yeh waali! Subah se 10 copies bech chuka hoon iski," the shopkeeper said in an effort to help me make up my mind.

I thought hard. The ₹100 note that my bua ji had given me the day before was begging to be spent. 

However, spending 40% of my net worth at that time on one comic seemed like a luxury way beyond my means.

I opened the comic book. The first page featured the super villain MahaManav fighting with all the superheroes.

I'd made up my mind. In the absence of the internet, searching for a free PDF was just not an option. Buying the hard copy was the only way to enjoy 128 pages of awesomeness.

I stretched out the ₹100 note for the shopkeeper. The shopkeeper, feeling blessed that I'd finally made a purchase, took it earnestly.

"Archies aur Marvel comics ka bhi naya collection aaya hai. Woh dikhaoon?"  he said.

"Nahin," I replied.

"Estrisk?"

"Estrisk?" I asked.

He pulled out a big rectangular comic book. Asterix, it said.

"Nahin chahiye".

I took hold of my prized possession carefully wrapped in a polythene bag and walked towards my cycle with my friend.

"Sun, tu padh lega uske baad mujhe de dena pleeejjj!" my friend said.

"Dekhta hoon," I said with an air. 

Source: Amino

Even within a generation hooked to comic books, there were two types of people. One, who used to read Archie and Asterix.

Source: Comic vine

And others like me who were die-hard fans of desi superheroes like Chacha Chaudhary, Nagraj and Super Commando Dhruv.

Source: hooded

Believe it or not, but one's choice of comics determined their friend circle. For a desi comics aficionado like me, Archie and Asterix readers were equivalent to Poo from Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham... 

Yes, I know it's none of my business to judge anybody's reading choices, but with all due respect, people who said they loved reading Tintin and Archie didn't register as comic-book readers in my head. 

And without any shame let me tell you, that they were also subjected to some severe judgment. 

Source: frendz4m

For I used to wonder why would anybody... actually not why but how could anybody shell out so much money to read a comic book that was based in an entirely different societal setup than ours? 

Agreed, there's always a fascination for cultures different than ours, but I could never fathom why anybody would spend shitloads of money for the sake of some cultural appropriation instead of giving a chance to our desi comics that were both funny and awesome.

Source: Chacha Chaudhary

Just to put things in perspective, an Archie comic used to cost ₹60 back in the day.

On the other hand, a Raj or a Diamond comic used to cost anywhere between ₹8-₹10.

And of course, Asterix and Tintin were the prerogatives of those select few who had wealthy relatives living abroad.

Source: mrgray

I know, I know. 

I know what the age old argument is. 

That none of the Indian comic book characters are original. 

That Nagraj has been lifted from both Spiderman and Superman, Tiranga is India's answer to Captain America and Dhruv is nothing but desi Robin.

Agreed, most of these characters had western influences.

But still, they managed to carve a niche for themselves. Indian comic book creators appropriated all these characters according to Indian sensibilities. Tailored them in accordance with Indian tastes.

And managed to come up with some kickass original characters like Supandi, Bankelal, Doga and Shikari Shambu in the process.

Source: Scribd

Which is why these comics were so relatable. Be it Chacha Chaudhary, Raman or Supandi, they all dealt with issues faced by the aam-aadmi on a daily basis. 

Comics like Bankelal gave us catchphrases and one-liners that we could pass off as our own and become a star amongst our peers.

Source: comicsmylife

And now that I'm all grown up, I do enjoy watching Spider-Man and Batman on the silver screen. 

I love every time Iron Man enters the frame. 

I love every time Deadpool pumps his bullets into someone. 

However, when it comes to comic books, it's my collection of Pinki, Biloo and Doga that I revere. 

For they are the ones that truly understood my psyche as a child. The reason why I befriended Pinki and Biloo was because they were facing the same problems as me at school. I just couldn't associate my school life with that of Archie.

Source: Diamond Comics

I looked up to Doga and Nagraj because they were fighting crimes my society was riddled with. 

Source: freedownloadcomic

All I want now, is to see my beloved superhero characters on the silver screen. Bollywood, are you listening?