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India-inspired comics take on western superheroes
Jacinta D'Souza in Bangalore | June 03, 2007 17:31 IST
The 30-part series, being published by Virgin Comics (the new entertainment arm of British industrialist Sir Richard Branson [Images]) is receiving a "very favourable response", says Samarjit Chaudhary, Vice President Marketing of Gotham Comics, which has tied up with the former to publish its titles.
The US readership numbers indicate Indian-inspired content was picking up, be it Ramayana or titles 'Devi,' 'Sadhu,' 'Snake Woman' churned out by celebrities like famous director Shekhar Kapoor and spiritual guru Deepak Chopra. 'Devi' sales crossed the 3 lakh mark while the 'Sadhu' and 'Snake Woman' titles have crossed the 2 lakh mark in just four months, he said. "Indian-inspired content has begun appealing to kids globally. Indians, I think are one of the best storytellers in the world.
We know some of the best stories and we know how to tell them well," he added. Repackaging of old tales and telling them in a "global language" using a visual format was what turned the dice in the favour of India, said Samarjit.
It is the "freshness" in the Indian tales that were appealing to the Western readers, who hitherto had been brought up on a staple diet of space heroes flying over the city, unleashing sticky webs, careening walls, shooting down targets and vanishing into the darkenss of the night.
However, Virgin comics new titles like the 'Sadhu' takes off in a different world, which are several light years away from the Supermans and Spidermans of the world.
Set in the background of the British Raj in India, the protagonist, James arrives from the Western continent to India to be part of the Queen's army that has been entrusted the task of crushing a recent mutiny.
However, the tranquility of the Indian seas, the long shadows thrown by the its thick forest, the enigma of its culture, endears him to India and he unconsciously finds himself in a mission that he was destined to lead. The Indian concepts of 'karma' 'destiny' and 'time' are the new hinges on which these new stories move around. Indian concepts like destiny being the controller versus the Western notion that man creates his own destiny, appears to have got these readers, who were looking for deeper meanings in life, hooked on the Indian comic masala.
"In the entertainment industry, it is novelty or freshness that drives the market, including comics," he said.
The popular Indian concept of nagin makes an appearance as the 'Snakewoman' stalking the streets of Los Angeles, to seek revenge.
The images of the 'nagin' unleashing her venom with a 'hissing cry' may all be popular in India, but in the West, it has a new appeal.
On the other hand the title 'Devi' has all the trappings of Goddess Durga or a woman incarnate with supernatural powers, out to avenge injustice. Dressed in modern apparel, she wreaks revenge in a contemporary set up.
"We find that characters like 'Sahdu', 'Devi', 'Snakewoman', all have the potential to grow into comic icons, down the line, if nurtured properly," said Samarjit.
Right now India is witnessing a revival of home-grown talent as several Indian creative minds have been roped in to work on comic strips targetted at global readers.
"Writers, artists, visualisers with Indian background are being roped in to co-produce these comic strips along with international teams," he said.
The comics loaded with Indian philosophy are being lapped up both in India and abroad.
"Today's kids are more mature and looking for meaning and answers early in life," he added. "Today's consumers of comics are extremely young, mainly in the below 17 group. Hence, we need to talk in their language, their idiom, their contemporary issue. Why have images of bullock cart when we speak of satellites," he said.
Working on this cue, the Ramayana series has characters carrying energy-based weapons as opposed to bows and arrows. Virgin is also coming up with a series on master blaster Sachin Tendulkar [Images], he said.