India will have a new comic hero. A character based on Tendulkar is set to hit bookstores - games and merchandise to follow.
Imagine Sachin Tendulkar as the saviour of the world -- fighting the baddies and averting catastrophes! Virgin Comics' new superhero character Master Blaster will have Sachin Tendulkar donning superhero garb and will hit the bookstores by September.
Master Blaster will also find its way to video and mobile games, besides the usual apparel and product merchandise, by the end of this year.
Sharad Devarajan, CEO, Virgin Comics, hopes that the Sachin effect will translate into a dramatic upswing in the sales of the comic books, when they hit the stores later this year.
"In a $40 billion character entertainment industry, Asian content is fast claiming its share, with Pokemon itself raking in close to $30 million last year," he says.
Master Blaster, a character that was conceptualised and developed in India, will soon join Virgin Comics' line up of Indian characters like Devi, Sadhu, Ramayana and Snakewoman.
"We are in the process of finalising the storyboards for Master Blaster, which will be followed by discussions to sell gaming rights and merchandising deals," adds Suresh Seetharaman, president, Virgin Comics.
Unwilling to reveal more about the storyline of Master Blaster, Devarajan adds, "It's not your typical man versus science story. The character has a mythical background but is very contemporary in outlook."
Both Seetharaman and Devarajan believe that exporting Indian characters will be a "profitable venture". Virgin Comics is planning to complete 2007 with a minimum of 10-12 Indian characters.
Says Devarajan, "By the end of this year, we expect to have 25 characters with Virgin Comics internationally, of which at least 10 will be Indian characters, developed out of India."
Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Comics is not your regular comic book factory. "What Virgin has in mind is a whole new take on Hollywood and Bollywood's time-tested relationship with the character entertainment business," points out Devarajan.
Until now, successful comic-to-film franchises, like Spiderman or Harry Potter began with characters, plots conceived by comic book artists whose stories were later acquired by studios and picked up by well-known directors.
Virgin is developing films with filmmakers, actors and musicians like John Woo, Guy Ritchie, Terry Gilliam, Dave Stewart and Duran Duran. Feature films based on Virgin Comics' characters are also in the works, including an animated feature, The Secrets of the Seven Sounds and The Sadhu starring Nicolas Cage.
Internationally, a comic title that sells 1 lakh copies a month is deemed a blockbuster while in India if even 5,000 copies move out in a month, it would be a good bargain for the comic book."We will make money," is all that Seetharaman can hope for right now. If superheroes like Master Blaster, fail to sell their copies then be prepared to see them on television and movies.