These Reimagined Indian Cartoon Characters Could Be India’s Justice League
This reimagined Indian comic series sees mash-ups of beloved characters from the 1990s Indian comics landscape with popular Western comic icons. 
Comics!

These Reimagined Indian Cartoon Characters Could Be India’s Justice League

This one’s for you, ’90s kids.

Cartoons we grow up watching often end up shaping our worldview. For 29-year-old illustrator and musician Aaron Pinto, this connection with cartoons goes way beyond nostalgia and takes on the form of a graphic series that resurrects his favourite Indian cartoon characters, while mashing them up with present-day Western pop culture icons.

Chrang is Pinto's crossover creation for Chacha Chaudhary and Sabu with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle's super villain Krang and his mastermind bot. To Pinto, both represent the idea of mind over muscle or machine.

“While I grew up geeking out over Western comic books, video games and pop culture that saw characters like He-Man and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, I also loved to read Indian comics like Tinkle and watched cartoons on Doordarshan. So, I wanted to redefine these Indian gems through a cool cartoon crossover,” says the self-taught artist. “It’s a nostalgic concept that emotionally connects with people my age, while serving as a history lesson for the newer generation.” This reimagining pulls together characters from across oceans and time periods who carry similar characteristics—so there’s India’s most loved ad icon, the Amul girl, as a seductive Betty Boop; silly Suppandi as Deadpool; and Rick and Morty as… wait for it… Vikram & Betaal.

Advertisement

Bloop: Pinto's project began with a mash-up of the iconic Amul girl with his childhood crush Betty Boop. Using influences from alternative modelling agency Suicide Girls, this is his take on the modern Indian girl and her fight against being asked to cover up.

Shambu Jones: Growing up on the popular Tinkle comics, Pinto fuses the cowardly yet lucky Shikari Shambu with Indiana Jones.

“I wanted to feature characters like Birbal as well but couldn’t find a suitable Western character to represent him,” explains Pinto, “I didn’t want to just feature my favourites; but also bind them together with a common narrative.”

Mortam and Ricktal: Pinto flips his favourite show's title characters, Rick and Morty, to represent Vikram and Betaal.

Pinto is a man of many talents. While he moonlights as an illustrator whose work often takes on a distinctively macabre, otherworldly sensibility, he continues to regard music as his first love—the two mediums often informing each other. He plays the drums for metal bands Gutslit and Providence, his album art making him a mainstay in conversations surrounding the visual vocabulary of music coming out of India.

Mowgan: Inspired by Mowgli's raised-by-wolves concept, The Jungle Book character is reimagined as Logan/Wolverine from the X-Men comics, as a comment on someone who retains their individuality even in a wolf pack.

Having spent his childhood shuttling between India and Doha, Pinto cites the distinctions in the cartoons and their quality in both the cities as what shaped the series. “Usually my work is dark and gory, and includes morbid elements like tentacles, hyper-colouring and attention to detail in a subliminally layered structure,” he says. “But here I kept things minimal as an homage to my childhood favourites.” As someone who considers new-age characters to be “corporate bullshit”, the series is Pinto’s attempt to hold on to simpler times.

DeadSpool: Tying the silliness of the much-loved simpleton Suppandi to the nonsensical yet hilarious disposition of Deadpool, DeadSpool is out to save society from its own foolishness.

Having successfully snagged a spot at the Design X Design 20 under 35 Exhibition, where he displayed this six-work series for the first time earlier this year, Pinto is now working on its sequel. We’re told it reimagines Shaktimaan as a character in the Stan Lee universe. We’re sold.

Follow Shamani Joshi on Twitter.