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Comics Drawing on Indian Mythology Are a Hit in US

  • Shilpi Jha

Millions of comic books are sold in the United States each year. Some are bought by children, but many are sought by young adults who grew up reading about their favorite super heroes and villains. Now, a new company is trying to get into the business with stories based on legends and myths from India.

Comic books are not just for kids anymore. Young adults buy thousands of comics and related products. And tens-of-thousands of fans gather each year for comic conventions to celebrate heroes like Spiderman, Wonder Woman and Supergirl.

Now, British-based company Virgin wants to introduce comic readers to Snake Woman, the heroine of one of its new comic books, inspired by Indian mythology. The books went on sale a few weeks ago in the United States, and have made a big impression already.

Reader Geremy Hartwik says the comics combine good writing and fresh ideas. "I can see the Indian elements especially in the character names and everything,” he says. “But I didn't think they seemed only accessible, if you know anything about Indian culture. I think they seemed very accessible because the story is very well written."

Virgin is producing the new comics in Bangalore, India, where it has a facility with 50 artists and writers. The firm says it wants to mine the rich history and mythology of India and other parts of Asia to produce new stories that appeal to American comic book fans.

One of Virgin's first comic book hits, Snake Woman, is about a quiet young woman working as a waitress in Los Angeles, California, who suddenly discovers predatory instincts that seem to possess her. It is based on an ancient legend, in which the spirit of a serpent is born into a young woman.

Other new titles include Devi and Sadhu, which include stories of Indian mystics and female super heroes. Aspects of the books should be familiar to all comic fans. They include plenty of action, adventure and stories about people struggling to do the right thing and help others.

Andrea Henessey says she is a fan of the Indian-inspired stories. "I've been interested in Indian culture for as long as I can remember, I just think they're beautiful people. So, when I read Devi, I could see some of it in there. And the art is fantastic, too."

Many other American comic book fans agree. Virgin has sold 20,000 copies of its new comics in the first edition alone.

Comic book storeowner Jim Bernekon says sales of the Virgin comics have been strong. "We sold out. We and other retailers across the country had trouble getting more copies from the distributor."

Virgin has launched another new series called Ramayan Reborn, written by filmmaker Shekhar Kapoor and lifestyle guru Deepak Chopra.

Virgin Comics CEO Sharad Devrajan says the story is based on an ancient Hindu text. "Our interpretation of the Ramayan is to take that mythology and use it as a springboard to tell a great new story that's not exactly true to the original mythology, but something we feel is a futuristic, science-fiction epic."

Many American comic book super heroes have taken life in feature films. And Virgin Comics hopes to do the same.

The firm says American actor Nicholas Cage and Chinese director John Woo have already agreed to projects. And the marketing doesn't stop there. The company plans to launch video games and other products featuring its original characters.

Some footage courtesy Columbia Pictures

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