XANADU – the magic of Mandrake
The Sisters and the English subject teachers in the convent school I studied in were adamant that we, the students, should not read comic books. They were of the opinion that doing so would ‘spoil our English.’
And like good girls, we devoured the comic books in large quantities and with loads of guilt. We read them hidden inside the note books. We read them with our heads on the desk pretending to have a headache but reading the comic book hidden on the shelf under the table.
We read Amar Chitra Katha, Archie and the gang, Tin-tin, Commando war comics, Phantom and last but not the least, which was also my favourite, Mandrake the Magician.
As the name hints, it was all about magic performed by Mandrake. The gelled-haired, pencil-thin moustached caped magic maestro was the proud possessor not just of magic tricks but also a home named Xanadu.
To a nine-year-old mind, it was fascinating to read about gates to the house that opened only when the cars honked out a secret code. Voices without bodies gave instructions to friends on how to navigate the deceptive path. And it was not just about following instructions. A friend visiting for the first time was required to take a leap of faith, literally, to continue driving towards a deep chasm which closed at the very last moment. The final obstacle was a wall of stone that lifted just as one reached it to reveal the smiling host, Mandrake. This then was the majesty of Xanadu, Mandrake’s home, which was considered to be a safe haven for Mandrake who was the target for many powerful evil-doers. Hojo, a superlative martial arts expert, was Mandrake’s chef and lived in Xanadu. But when it is revealed that Hojo is actually the Head of the international crime-fighting organization, Inter-intel, then the mystique of Xanadu shoots up many notches higher for the fan of Mandrake comics.
Did these comic books have an adverse effect on our language? Can’t say for sure, but they were providers of quick shots of magic is not what anyone can dispute.
Did you have a favourite comic book character, too?