Typical Thursday morning at work, when my boss marches out of his office, magazine in hand. The magazine is a popular Indian monthly that publishes business news peppered with feature articles about sundry things. He brandishes it at us, pointing almost triumphantly at the cover.
The cover is mostly white space, stamped with three words in a bold, emphatic red font: WAR OR TRADE
A sly smile plays across the boss’s face. “I think they came up with the cover story a little too late to actually design a cover,” he says. We chuckle. It’s a weak attempt at making a statement, of course, given that the whole idea of a magazine cover is to draw the eye and get the potential buyer/reader intrigued enough to pick it up.
But this reminds me suddenly and inexplicably of a beloved children’s magazine that totally nailed it when it came to covers.
It was called 'Shuktara', in fact, it is still published under the same name, although its covers have witnessed a sea change. It hailed from the land of little magazines, and was a favourite among Bengali kids long before the likes of 'Anandamela' (another popular Bengali children’s magazine, first published in 1975) came into being.
Shuktara has been around since my mom was a kid, maybe ever longer than that, I’m a bit sketchy on the details. What I do want to draw your attention to is the fact that Shuktara had a kickass cover idea from the start. Put a comic on the cover!
Kids lapped it up. Why wouldn’t they? It gave them a little peek at what the rest of the magazine had in store. Often this was riveting stories about brave adventurers in khaki shorts who undertook all sorts of perilous journeys and encountered dinosaurs and such. Kids love that stuff.
Photo: The Comic Book in India Project
Lurid and irresistible. The title of the comic is 'Dragon-er thhaba' or 'Dragon's Paw' Although that is a T-Rex, as far as i can tell). Aren’t you just dying to know what becomes of adventurer and dinosaur? I sure am.
Anyway, as I said before, the covers have since undergone a major design change, in what is probably an attempt to bring the magazine ‘up to date’. Here’s one of the more recent ‘Sharodiya’ or festive edition’ covers:
In my opinion, the new covers suck. They’re generic and pretty badly illustrated. Considering that Anandamela has been doing similar covers for years, and vastly better illustrated ones, at that, these are as weak as ‘WAR OR TRADE’.