Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Asia in Comic Form


Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal covered Virgin Group’s premiere of a new series of comics centered on South Asian mythology:

A sexy villain swoops out of the night sky, her hands morphing into terrifying swords. She intends to kill a girl named Tara, who is driving home from a nightclub. But suddenly a secret society of caped men whisks Tara away—aboard an elephant.

Soon Tara will learn the startling truth: It’s her destiny to become a Hindu goddess.

It’s a key scene in “Devi,” a new comic book that’s part of an ambitious effort by a unit of Richard Branson’s Virgin Group Ltd. to develop story lines based on Indian religion and mythology. Others take inspiration from the Sanskrit epic poem Ramayana and traditional legends such as one involving snakes that can take on human form.

East Asia has been big in the comic-book world for years, and appears to be reaching a peak; a friend of mine didn’t see daylight for most of 2006, so busy was he helping to translate Japanese manga comics into English 18 hours at a time.

That said, turning South Asian mythology into comics for both Western and Indian audiences is a new phenomenon. But the Virgin brand is a strong one and chief Richard Branson has a knack for attracting talent; one of the titles at Virgin Comics, “The Sadhu,” is already slated for moviedom with Deepak Chopra writing the screenplay and Nicholas Cage playing the title character, a British chap who finds out he was an Indian holy man in a previous life. (Cage now has his opportunity to mangle two accents in a single film.)

Virgin Comics is “aggressively targeting Indian-Americans, by sponsoring Indian-American events and linking up with student clubs at colleges.” Although the comics are being created in Bangalore, will Desis here respond to Branson—who after all is just a particularly hip white guy—appropriating the foundations of subcontinental culture?

Up next for cultural strip-mining: Perhaps Iran, with the release of a movie based on Frank Miller’s 300, which involves 300 Spartans holding off thousands of Persians at Thermopylae.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'd certainly be up for reading some good comic ... er ... graphical novel versions of the Shah Nameh.

But why stop there? We can get Gilgamesh, Enuma Elish, and more. And Disney hasn't yet Trademarked them!

Site Meter