Looking East: Tinkle’s Depiction of its New Superhero from the Northeast has a Long Way to Go

31 January 2016
Tinkle's new superhero Mapui Kawlim, aka Wingstar, is a 13-year-old girl from Mizoram. Her depiction, however, does not yet contain any recognisable traces of her ethnicity.
COURTESY TINKLE
Tinkle's new superhero Mapui Kawlim, aka Wingstar, is a 13-year-old girl from Mizoram. Her depiction, however, does not yet contain any recognisable traces of her ethnicity.
COURTESY TINKLE

The opening panel of the comic magazine Tinkle’s newest comic series, ‘Wingstar,’ is a television screen. The scene: a media van is parked in the background, next to which are three silhouettes pointing their cameras and microphones towards the sky. Two police officers shuffle hurriedly out of a building. A moustachioed man in a pale-yellow sweater vest stands in the foreground, holding a microphone as he says, “In other news, Wingstar, the city’s youngest vigilante, just brought down a corrupt minister and his henchmen. The identity of this vigilante is still unknown…” The minister and the henchmen are dejectedly hanging mid-air in the firm grasp of a figure in white—presumably Wingstar. The vigilante is dressed in a white and green suit, a flaming jetpack on her back. The next panel cuts to the inside of a home. Tashi Kawlim—a slightly balding, bespectacled man—is comfortably plumped on a pink couch with a remote in hand and the news running on a television. “Good evening, Wingstar,” he says to his daughter as she enters, “Long day on the job?”

That is how readers meet Mapui Kawlim or Wingstar, a 13-year-old superhero, who spends her after-school time fighting crime, albeit with some reluctance. Mapui’s day doesn’t end with her escapades as a superhero. In the first chapter, titled ‘Even Superheroes Have Homework,’ she is shown struggling to finish her maths homework so that she can go for a sleepover with her friends, even as her new wristwatch that serves as a police scanner buzzes with notifications of a bank robbery happening in the city. This wristwatch is one of the many gadgets Mapui’s father has made. She tests these before they hit the market, and they give Mapui her powers. The gadgets include a robotic arm that can lift up to 1000 kilograms, and “iron fists” that can break anything with a punch.

Mapui’s “powers” are a function of these devices. While she wallows in the luxury of being able to carry out mundane tasks more efficiently, she is also forced to choose between spending time with her friends and battling the latest danger to the city. ‘Wingstar’ is set in the fictional town of Aizwa in Mizoram, based on the Northeastern state’s capital city, Aizawl. It “could be Mumbai, Delhi or any place for that matter,” said Sean D’mello, the comic’s creator, who developed its story and script. “It’s just a city.”

Tinkle, which was first published in 1980, is a popular monthly magazine targeted primarily at school-going children. The magazine was created by Anant Pai, a pioneer in Indian comics, known to his young readers as Uncle Pai. Since its launch 35 years ago, Tinkle has been translated into several Indian languages and boasts of a readership of over 3 lakh. It has produced some of the most widely recognised comic characters across India. Many of these, such as the beloved simpleton Suppandi, the cowardly and lazy hunter Shikari Shambu and the scheming Tantri the Mantri continue to be produced in newer issues today.

Mapui’s character was launched in Tinkle’s thirty-fifth anniversary edition in November 2015.

Sukruti Anah Staneley is an assistant photo editor at The Caravan. 

Keywords: Mizoram diversity Tinkle Northeast comics Mapui Kawlim Marvel
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