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Episode Studies by Clayton Barr

Indiana Jones: The City of Lightning Indiana Jones
The City of Lightning
Graphic Novel
Written and drawn by C. Moliterni and G. Alessandrini

Indy and his journalist friend Marya Smirnova face a Kali cult of Thuggees in India.


Read an English translation of the graphic novel at Robert Konrad's site


Notes from the Indiana Jones chronology


This graphic novel takes place in 1933. According to the Indiana Jones Wiki, the Canadian edition of the graphic novel changed the year of the story to 1930 (possibly the editors of the Canadian edition were confused by Gandhi's talk of a salt march here, which historically took place in 1930; but there is evidence in the dialog here that this is a new (fictitious) salt march a few years after that). PopApostle is sticking with the date given in the original French edition for this study.


Didja Know?


Indiana Jones and the City of Lightning (Indiana Jones et la Cité de la Foudre) is a French graphic novel first published in France in 1994 and reprinted in Canada for French-speaking Canadians that same year. This study is derived from the French printing.


The book's authors, credited as C. Moliterni and G. Alessandrini, are Claude Moliterni (1932-2009, a prolific French writer) and Giancarlo Alessandrini (an Italian comic book artist).


Notes from The Lost Journal of Indiana Jones


The Lost Journal of Indiana Jones is a 2008 publication that purports to be Indy's journal as seen throughout The Young Indiana Chronicles TV series and the big screen Indiana Jones movies. The publication is also annotated with notes from a functionary of the Federal Security Service (FSB) of the Russian Federation, the successor agency of the Soviet Union's KGB security agency. The KGB relieved Indy of his journal in 1957 during the events of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. The notations imply the journal was released to other governments by the FSB in the early 21st Century. However, some bookend segments of The Young Indiana Chronicles depict Old Indy still in possession of the journal in 1992. The discrepancy has never been resolved. 


The journal as published skips over this adventure, going from the events of The Philosopher's Stone in March-May 1933 to the 1935 events of The Temple of Doom. There are approximately four pages missing from the journal in between Indy's writings on The Philosopher's Stone and The Temple of Doom. 


Characters appearing or mentioned in this story


Indiana Jones

Kamala Seshan

masked attackers

Captain Blake

hotel clerk

Marya Smirnova



Marya's editor (mentioned only)

Maharajah Narasimba Wodiyar (aka Sardar)

Maharajah Wodiyar's driver

Mahatma Gandhi

Gandhi followers

snake charmer

hunting party

Great Khan (tiger, dies in this story)

musicians at celebration



Didja Notice?


The black-and-white sketch of Indy on page 3 is a swipe of a promotional still for Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. This is the same as page 3 in the earlier graphic novel, Indiana Jones and the Secret of the Pyramid.


The photo accompanying the text piece on page 4 is from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. On the opposing page is another promotional still for Temple of Doom. The text piece itself is merely a brief background on the earlier inspirations for the character of Indiana Jones, such as comic strip character Jungle Jim, pulp characters the Shadow and Nick Carter, etc. (This is the same text piece that appeared on page 4 and photo on page 5 that appeared in the earlier graphic novel, Indiana Jones and the Secret of the Pyramid.)


The story opens with Indy on the Bombay-Calcutta train.


After Indy rescues her from masked attackers on the train, Kamala tells him she is a Bharata-Natyam dancer on her way to Calcutta to perform a show. Bharata-Natyam is a form of classical Indian dance expressing religious and spiritual themes derived from Hinduism.


The portrait hanging behind Captain Blake's desk in panel 2 of page 6 is likely meant to be the British Queen Victoria, though she died in 1901. India was a part of the British Empire at the time of this story (1933).


Indy's friend, Marya Smirnova, is a journalist for the New York Globe newspaper. This was a real world New York City newspaper from 1904 to 1923. Apparently in the Indiana Jones universe, the paper survived to at least 1936 (where Marya is again depicted working for it in The Cursed Grimoire). Marya previously appeared in Secret of the Pyramid.


Meeting Marya at the hotel, Indy tells her he just arrived from New York (more than five stopovers) and then the Bombay-Calcutta train.


Marya tells Indy that she has discovered the exact site of the City of Lightning, which Indy remarks was a Buddhist monastery of the Red Hats sect on Observatory Hill in the Darjeeling valley. The City of Lightning appears to be fictitious. Buddhism is a nontheistic religion centered in Asia. In Buddhist tradition, Red Hats are three distinct sects of Buddhism: Sakya, Kagyu, and the oldest Buddhist sect, Nyingma. Observatory Hill is a hill near Chowrasta square (The Mall) in Darjeeling. The monastery called Mahakal exists on top of the hill, not the so-called "City of Lightning" ("Bijalee ka Shahar").


Marya tells Indy she has found a brahman who has some information to share. A brahman is a priest of the Vedic religion of ancient Hinduism.


The Lepcha Indy mentions on page 6 are some of the indigenous peoples of Nepal and of the Indian state of Sikkim.


On page 6, Indy also mentions the Himalayas. This refers to the Himalayan Mountain Range in Asia which hosts the world's highest peaks.


Marya tells Indy the brahman they are to meet is always hanging around Chaurastha near the temple dedicated to Vishnu. Chaurastha is a public square in Darjeeling. Vishnu is one of the major gods of Hinduism.


    The brahman tells Indy and Marya that the City of Lightning has been rebuilt in the jungles of Orissa, near Bhubaneshwar. Orissa (now Odisha) is one of the states of India, while Bhubaneshwar is its capital city.

    The brahman goes on to say that the worshippers of the temple assassinate in the name of the goddess Kali. Kali is the Hindu goddess of empowerment, but popular western fiction has tended to portray her as an evil goddess of destruction.


The brahman refers to Indy as sahib. Sahib is an Arabic word, essentially meaning "friend" in modern parlance, which has passed into numerous other languages. 


Indy refers to the followers of Kali as the Thugs. This is short for "Thuggee", followers of Kali who were professional robbers and killers. The word "thug" has become enshrined in many other languages around the world as a description of a person who is violent and lawless.


On page 8, a sign on a street-front business reads "MAHRAJA-LA". I've not been able to directly translate this, but it probably stems from the Sanskrit title of Maharaja, meaning "great ruler".


On page 9, Indy tells Marya that Bharata-Natyam dance is the most famous artistic form of Tamil Nadu and that the dancers used to be called devadasi or "servants of god." Tamil Nadu is a state in southern India. A devadasi was a female artist dedicated to a god or temple for the rest of her life; once holding a high rank in Indian society, the practice was banned under British rule in 1934, the British considering them akin to prostitutes.


Indy reveals he adores Bharata-Natyam dance.


On page 12, Captain Blake remarks that its been a century since the Thuggees were destroyed or imprisoned in Jubbulpore. This is likely a reference to the Thuggee and Dacoity Suppression Acts of 1836–48 in India under British rule.


I have not been able to confirm the mythology of the Thuggee cult as described by Indy on page 13 regarding the battle between Kali and a demon on Earth who was devouring the humans created by the gods.


The ruhmal, the fabric band that Thugs used to strangle victims, is based on the Hindi word for "handkerchief".


The term jemadar for the leader of the Thugs is a word usually used in Indian military orders.


On page 14, Indy explains to Marya that the Thugs were wiped off the map by Colonel William Sleeman. Sleeman (1788-1856) was a British military officer known for suppressing the Thug gangs in the 1830s, largely in the aforementioned Jubbulpore District.


Marya is provided a limousine by Maharajah Narasimba Wodiyar of Bhawaniptna. Both the maharajah and Bhawaniptna appear to be fictitious, though "Bhawaniptna" may be a misspelling of Bhawanipatna, a city in Odisha.


Sardar tells Marya he followed her reports on Gandhi in the Times of India. Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948) was an Indian activist who led a passive resistance movement in India against the British overlords of the country during the first half of the 20th century. Gandhi appears briefly in this story on page 17.


On page 17, Gandhi, in his speech to some of his followers, remarks that since January 26, 1930, this day has been celebrated as a day of independence from British rule. This date is a mock independence day, as Britain continued to rule India until 1947, but there were mostly peaceful demonstrations by Indian natives on that day.


Gandhi goes on to tell of having made his own salt on the east coast of Gujarat without paying tax. From 1882-1947, the British Empire established a monopoly for itself on salt in India, prohibiting the independent manufacture of salt in India and charging a tax on all sales of salt in the country. Here, Gandhi is speaking of his making of salt (through sea water evaporation), during the length of his Salt March from his ashram in Sabermati to the town of Dandi on the west coast of the Indian state of Gujarat with a total of about 50,000 people over the course, from March 12 to April 5, 1930. He now seems to be embarking on a new salt march on the east, here in 1933. Gandhi's dialog evidences this is a new march a few years later when he speaks of the January 1930 demonstrations that have been celebrated in the years since. Also, he is speaking in Bhawaniptna now, over a thousand kilometers away from the historical Salt March, and on the east coast.


Also on page 17, Indy relates his own interest in Gandhi, having followed his fight for liberty in the news. His statements about Gandhi's past here are accurate.


On page 19, Indy talks to a snake charmer on the street and, for some reason, Indy exhibits no fear of the cobra in front of him at all! In fact, he even talks to the snake, asking if may get some information from its master for some rupees!


The giant statue in the Temple of Kali Indy finds is of Kali herself.


The name of "Great Khan" for the tiger the Maharajah's party hunts was likely inspired by the tiger character of Shere Khan in Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book stories. "Shere Khan" is Persian for "Tiger King".


In a subchamber of the temple, Indy and Marya encounter a throng of lepers locked inside. "Leper" is a term used for a person who has the disease leprosy, which causes damage to nerves, skin, respiratory tract, and eyes. It is not explained here why the lepers were in the temple; perhaps they were somehow kidnapped from a leper colony, which were fairly prevalent in India at the time, with India accounting for more than half of the cases in the world. The lepers found by Indy and Marya rush towards them, possibly simply to escape through the open door, but Marya shrieks, "Lepers! What a horror!" and the pair flee the throng and lock the door shut again behind them! Nice couple. (Though they do free the lepers later, if only to serve as a diversion against the Thuggees who chase them through the temple.)


On page 29, Marya tells Sardar that her plans for the day are to finish her reporting on the region so her readers can make plans to visit the palace of One Thousand and One Nights. She is referring to the Arabic story collection One Thousand and One Nights (also known as Arabian Nights in the Western world), believed to have originated around the 8th Century AD.


When Sardar invites Indy to play in a polo match the next day, Indy responds, "Why not? I am very British, actually..." Though the sport of polo was invented in Iran, the British are credited with spreading it around the world in the late 1800s and early 1900s at the height of the worldwide British Empire.


On page 33, Indy and Marya talk to a man in the palace who plays a stringed instrument with keys along its long neck. The instrument is a sitar, which originated in India. The man is also glimpsed in the background of page 25, panel 4 and he shows up later inside the Temple of Kali during the sacrifice ritual!


On page 34, the high priest of Kali addresses the Kali statue in his prayer as "black mother". This is another term by which she is referred (Kali Mata).


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