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She's 13, female, Mizo - and Tinkle Comics' newest superhero

Lamat R Hasan | Updated on: 4 November 2015, 1:16 IST

Tinkle Comics has a new superhero. She's a girl. And she's from the Northeast.

That's a spectacular leap, with many in 'mainstream' India still lost in the belief that the Northeast is more China than India.

Mapui Kawlim is a laidback 13-year-old from a middle-class household of Aizawl who would rather play cricket with friends than be a wonder kid. Or Wingstar, as she's called in the comic.

Tinkle is breaking a lot of ground with this series, some of it subtly.

Mapui is a reluctant superhero with gadgets for 'super flight' and "super strength" provided by her father Tashi Kawlim who is - hold your breath - an inventor working for the Space Development Arm of the government.

Despite her reluctance, though, Mapui clearly has a generous dose of her father's genes and learns to use Rocket Thrusters, Iron Fists and Reinforced Robotic Arms.

She also becomes her neighbourhood's unofficial saviour in between attending school, dreading math homework and keeping up with sleepover commitments.

To up her energy levels and to give her a semblance of a normal life, her father decides to give her a super-secret superhero boost.

Overnight, Mapui becomes WingStar

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Photo: Tinkle Comics

The new superhero may help dispel stereotypes associated with the people of the eight Northeastern states who have been victims of so many racial attacks in cities such as New Delhi and Bengaluru that authorities had to step in to ban the use of pejoratives such as 'chinky'.

Tinkle Comics' editor Rajani Thindiath doesn't see the new comic, which will be unveilved in November, as particularly pathbreaking. "In Tinkle, we have always had characters who hail from different parts of the country. Mapui aka WingStar may belong to the Northeast but she's also a regular teenage girl."

What she does see as pathbreaking in Mapui is perhaps the "first reluctant superhero".

Tinkle has had two female superheroes previously -SuperWeirdos with Aisha in the lead and Maya headlining the futuristic PsyMage series, set in an era when magic is power.

"We need more iconic female heroes to join the plethora of enduring male comic characters in the country - Suppandi, Shikari Shambu and Tantri the Mantri. Over half of the children in our country are female after all."

Tinkle was launched 35 years ago and despite losing some ground in recent years, still has a dedicated following. In middle class households in satellite India, grandparents reading out comics to their grandchildren or siblings fighting over who reads the comics first is not rare.

This is the segment that Tinkle Comics is trying to target.

Says Nitya Subramanian, Tinkle Brand Manager, "The comic is cherished in the southern and eastern markets. The anchors being Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore, Trivandrum and Kolkata."

The fact that Tinkle is published in English helps, as middle class India aspires to see its children speak the language fluently. For the rest, it is translated into Hindi, Tamil and Bengali, aimed at readers between the ages of 8 and 14.

There's also the Tinkle ezine, for whose who'd rather read online.

But while the medium has always been trendy - comics are seeing a huge revival, thanks in part to events like Comic Con, and to the rise of graphic novels - what's most welcome is that the messgae is now equally on-point.

Can't wait to meet you, Mapui.

First published: 4 November 2015, 1:16 IST
 
Lamat R Hasan @LamatAyub

Bats for the four-legged, can't stand most on two. Forced to venture into the world of homo sapiens to manage uninterrupted companionship of 16 cats, 2 dogs and counting... Can read books and paint pots and pay bills by being journalist.

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