Goodbye, Grandpa of Bengali comics!
The Free Press Journal - Mumbai|January 23, 2022
At a time when the “onslaught”of Tom and Jerry, MickeyMouse, Lee Falk’s Phantom and Flash Gordon comic strips was heavily felt and was an integral part of newspapers, especially in the ’60s, Narayan Debnath, who passed away earlier this week at the ripe age of 97, was a rare combo of longevity and genius.
ROBIN ROY

He not only managed to capture the attention of Bengalis with his desi version of heroes, but also stood tall in the world of comics with Handa Bhoda, which appeared for straight 55 years from 1962. Bantul (or Batul ) the Great, which made its first appearance in 1965, went on to entertain generations for 52 years. Nonte Phonte, another popular comic by Debnath which came out in 1969 is still relevant in the era of internet.

Folklore has it that Bantul was inspired by Debnath’s friend and noted bodybuilder and the second Indian to win a Mr Universe title, Manohar Aich. Also, many feel that Bantul had a resemblance to Desperate Dan, a popular British comic series called The Dandy.

Nationalism and Debnath

Initially, when Bantul emerged, he was devoid of superpowers, which later became a hallmark of his character. But soon he became our desi ‘Hercules’ with his trademark pink vest and black shorts. Debnath was also capable of infusing innocence into his superhero Bantul who struck the right chord with his ageing relatives and neighbours in distress and appeared to be the guy next door, someone you could depend on.

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