Word Count: 1297 | Estimated time to read entry: 12 min
A few days ago, I was on my regular visit to one of my favorite book shops in town. As I was going around, I stumbled upon the comic books section and I noticed many of the familiar books and characters that were a delight during childhood, a welcome relief from textbooks and a source of constant amusement. I thumbed through some of them and the richly illustrated pages cast the same spell on me as they did during childhood.
Below is a list of some of my favorite fictional characters. I first decided to do a top-10 entry on this but then stopped short owing to a declaration in one of my own previous entries 😉 And again, I met these characters during different phases of my life, each having a distinct charm and appeal. Hence I thought it would be inappropriate to rank them; so I decided to just list them in no particular order.
The Famous Five: Some of my most pleasant hours in fictiondom have been spent reading the Adventures of Julian, Dick, Anne, George and Timothy. With a mad scientist for a father/uncle, a great cook for a mother/aunt and a private island for a holiday destination, The Famous Five have solved innumerable criminal cases that have eternally eluded the police. Their secret lied in an uncanny ability to discover secret tunnels and passages that would take them all over the island and place them back in their own attic or sometimes in the scientist’s lab. For strength they would gulp down copious amounts of pickled onions, ham sandwiches, orangeade, ginger beer and a few other mouth watering delicacies. Once begun, their feast would last for at least 4 pages and recur every 50 pages. 😀 The crime wasn’t gory and solving of the mystery didn’t involve extreme logic, thereby appealing to young readers. Enid Blyton’s ‘The Famous Five’ was an interesting mix of adventure and fun.
Tintin: My most favorite comic book character and one of the finest series I have read ever. A reporter by profession, Tintin always stumbled into most of the crimes that he would successfully solve in the following 60 odd pages characterized by fantastic illustrations and amazing sequences. Once on a trail, ransacked apartments, speeding taxis, meteorites, gun shots, derailed trains and even poison darts from tribal villains wouldn’t deter him. And in his pursuit, he has visited the moon, Arabia, South American forests, Red Sea, Peru and many other interesting locations. He would have been highly unsuccessful in his stints had it not been for the invaluable assistance of a dog that loves to rummage trash bins, a former Captain of a ship who is short tempered and alcoholic, a pair of ingenious detective twins from the police department…from Scotland Yard, to be precise 😀 and how can I not include, an almost deaf scientist who can predict everything by the swing of his pendulum! Herge’s Tintin is a hero I can’t forget and nor can the world, as he is the only fictional character to appear on several countries’ postal stamps and currency coins, till date!
Suppandi: Yes, the eternal moron from Tinkle did have me in splits and my admiration for him rose to such a great extent that I still respect most morons around me! 😛 His stupidity knew no end and he has disgraced unlimited masters who were generous enough to hire him. He had a different master in every series thereby proving that he did get fired but hired again as well. Even in these days of recession when the best of minds are trying hard for a job, Suppandi is getting hired across sectors – hotels, laundries, movie theaters, you name it! I won’t be surprised if he sits besides me in my office next 😀 Perhaps stupidity is recession proof 😛 Therefore, Uncle Pai’s Suppandi is certainly our hero and inspiration during such tough times.
Jughead Jones: The best chum of the eternal flirt, Archie, Jughead had a love for different kind of junk unlike Archie 😛 😛 😛 – junk food! At a time when Pizza was not available in India, I would salivate just by looking at all the goodies Jughead would be gulping down. His mere presence would get Archie out of many difficulties with a blonde babe or a rich babe and often times both. Bob Montana’s Jughead is perhaps the only character that makes food look far more appealing than bikini-clad girls on the same page! 😛
Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys: Well, I am talking of both in the same breath as one of my good friends pointed out that the creator/s of both was in fact the Stratemeyer Syndicate. Frank and Joe Hardy were the typical American teens professing a love of convertibles, basketball and of course, girls. On the other hand, Nancy Drew was a beauty with brains assisted in her investigations by two not-so-brilliant chums. Of the two series, I liked Nancy Drew better – it had lesser violence and bloodshed. Carolyn Keene/Franklin W Dixon’s characters did compel me to spend hours on end on some of the best suspense sequences I have read during childhood.
Hercule Poirot: Eh bien! Words fail me in my attempt to describe the finest character in literary detective fiction ever created, in my opinion. With an egg-shaped head under a hat, standing a little over five feet, Poirot had a love for truth, polished moustache, neatness in attire, French utterances, ‘order and method’, well-rounded women and food! His emphasis on the psychology of the crime over mere physical clues would enable him to think through the case in really clever ways. And for this very reason, I rate him far higher than the more famous Sherlock Holmes who stresses on fingerprints and cigarette ash. Poirot’s cases were simple yet gripping, his personality was intellectual yet flamboyant and the style of narration was fluid yet dramatic. Agatha Christie’s Poirot has had the biggest influence on my thinking among all fictional characters. And to the reader who adores Poirot, it should come as no surprise that he is the only fictional character ever to receive a front page ‘Obituary’ on NY Times after Agatha Christie announced his last case and his imminent death in the same. And it certainly is well deserved, n’est ce pas? 😉
Asterix and Obelix: This comic duo have together given sleepless nights to the almighty Julius Caesar and the not-so-almighty wild boars in their vicinity 😀 Asterix is the man with the cunning and Obelix is the one with superhuman strength owing to a ‘tragedy’ in his childhood. Their life is simple and restricted to their village which is also home for an out-of-tune singer, a fishmonger with more stale fish than fresh, a blacksmith who can temper iron with mere hands, an old druid with a few interesting recipes up his sleeve and the village chief who commands the entire village minus his own wife 😀 Most of the stories start with a problem that would then necessitate thumping a few thousand armed-yet-defenseless Roman legionaries in the pretext of guarding the village, a journey or two and eventually a triumphant return to the village in time for a great starlit banquet. The illustrations are lovely but even more appealing are the apt names of the many small characters, the amazing puns and the wonderfully contextual usage of Latin, if you care to know what it means. It is perhaps the only comic where footnotes are meant to be funny and not just explanatory. And for this, one can never outgrow Goscinny and Uderzo’s Asterix and Obelix.
Reading these characters is the fondest recollection of my childhood. And it is perhaps the only childhood trait I don’t want to “grow-up” from. 🙂
#UPDATE: Take the trivia quiz to test your knowledge on the fictional characters mentioned above. Click here. 🙂