Introducing : Doga!
Indian comic books have had a rich pantheon of heroes: from the time when Indrajal comic’s presented the homegrown ‘Bahadur’, to the late 80’s and mid 90’s roster of Diamond Comics, Manoj Comics, Tulsi Comics and Raj Comics superheroes, and all the way up to the current addition by Indie comic book makers like Vimanika and Holy Cow.
And it is this superhero-group that we would like to introduce to you one at a time, starting with a personal favourite – Doga!
Conceptualised in the early 90s by Sanjay Gupta (a.k.a the Godfather of Indian Comics) Doga was created to break the clutter of heroes who had either magical powers, scientific suits or were plain detectives. Doga was a fist to the face of Crime – a violent, mega-watt fist. At a time when most heroes had a no killing rule, Doga tore through the pages on the screen as an anti-hero. Reason – in his first comic he straight up murders the villain.
But I am getting ahead of myself. Let’s start with the delightful 70s Bollywood-ish origin story. Doga is the alter ego of Suraj, who is an abandoned child literally thrown in a garbage dump. He is rescued from there by a dacoit named Halkan singh who uses the child as protection against a police force which had him cornered. However being with a dacoit exposed a young Suraj to brutality from a young age, de-sensitizing him from killing and murders.
Like all Bollywood-saga-kids, Suraj escaped the clutches of the Daku and comes to Bombay in search of a better life. Here he meets a kind-hearted gym owner called Adrakh Chacha. This turned fortuitous for Suraj, as from the harsh environment of a Dacoit’s hideout he finds a family along with Adrakh Chacha and his brothers Haldi, Dhania and Kali Mirch. They effectively (and unknowingly) train him to be a Super hero, since each of the brothers specializes in Body Building, Martial Arts, Boxing and Shooting respectively. So when one of Adrakh Chacha’s rivals (aptly named Killota) attacks his gym and leaves many dead (since Gym rivalries in early 90’s Bombay could be quite hardcore) Suraj fashions a costume for himself out of cloth from a Sofa after a Dog’s face – Dogs inspiring both loyalty towards their friends and cruelty towards enemies, and goes on a killing spree.
This happened in a series of three introduction comics – Curfew, Ye Hai Doga and Main Hoon Doga, with Curfew being about Doga exacting revenge from Daku Halkan Singh, and Ye Hai Doga and Main Hoon Doga chronicling his journey to Bombay, his training and the subsequent attack by and on Killota. For a young kid reading comics whose favorite video game was (and is) Contra, having a hero who blew the villains into chunks using machine guns was awesome.
And therein lies part of Doga’s appeal. Doga doesn’t give a fuck. If you are a petty thief you might get away with a broken leg or hand, but if you are a smuggler, a murderer, a drug peddler or a molester then Doga has a bullet (actually many) in his veritable arsenal which he will use to spill your brains on the pavement. He doesn’t believe in finding a solution to the problem, he believes in taking the problem and removing it from its roots. When he speaks to villains he does not throw a challenge, he lays down a threat in his menacing voice and follows it up with delivering on his promise. Here’s how he deals with a stubborn Doctor who is not willing to help victims of an attack on a widow-home.
Doga is a non conventional Super Hero who did not depend on magic, mutated powers or gadgets. His powers are his body-builder strength, melee combat skills and an expertise in weapons. He can also communicate with Dogs (to simplify it in comics this communication is shown as a conversation, but more or less he has a base connect with Dogs which helps him communicate). Stray Dogs in the city help him hide his costume and his weapons and more than once have helped him in tracking down criminals.
This sets Doga apart in a significant way from other heroes by his appearance. Doga is indeed an ugly hero. Even though his alter-ego Suraj is an ordinary looking guy. But Doga is just plain-ass Ugly. His mask inspires dread and revulsion, and his ugliness (along with the dull colour of his costume) are also a testament to his ugly methods.
Another thing that differentiated Doga from other heroes was the fact that his story was set in an actual city (while other heroes depended on the malleable map of fictional metropolises) and Doga battled with the problems that have plagued his adapted town (then Bombay and now Mumbai) and in a way is shaped by the hardships of a life in Bombay. His action mirrors the pitiless way life can turn for you here. And because of his lack of compassion for villains he becomes the Butcher of Bombay (one of his best comics is called ‘Kaun Bada Jallad’ / Who’s The Bigger Butcher)
He also deals with the problems the city of Bombay faces, the plight of slum dwellers, evil and corrupt construction moghuls, the underworld and communal riots. And since he is a murderer in the eyes of the law he is a wanted criminal, thus he has to save his city while being constantly on the run (and being careful to not kill any Policmen while doing it). The earlier incarnation of Doga was more blood thirsty and would not shy away from killing someone in collateral damage for the greater good, but his friendship with Inspector Cheeta (the only Policeman who came close to capturing him and who found out who Doga was beneath the mask) has over the years changed his outlook. He still remains a butcher who does not shy away from stuffing the hide of a criminal who attempted to kidnap him and leaving him on a meat-hook to be found by the local police, but his bullets do not stray.
Doga’s relationship with Bombay (and vice versa) made him culturally significant enough for writer Gyan Prakash to include an entire chapter on him in his fantastic book Mumbai Fables.
The 90s were a golden age in Indian comics, and if reading this makes you want to read more of Doga, then you can go to the website of Raj Comics, they have a good back-catalogue of all of their old issues. Start with Curfew. I guarantee you would not be able to stop until you complete all the back-issues.
So stay tuned coming up next is Super Commando Dhruv!
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