Last week the NYTimes Business section went into details about self help guru Deepak Chopra’s effort to bring western style comic books to India.
The newly formed Gotham Studios Asia is a joint venture between the media company Intent, run by Mr. Chopra with Shekhar Kapur, the director of movies like “Bandit Queen” and “Elizabeth,” and Gotham Entertainment Group, South Asia’s biggest licensee for international comic magazines such as Marvel Enterprises, the publisher of “Spider-Man” and “X-Men” as well as DC Comics and Warner Brothers Worldwide Publishing.
Gotham Studios will offer an adaptation of “Spider-Man” [see previous SM post here] in which the hero is a young Indian named Pavitr Prabhakar, who is shown bouncing off rickshaws in a dhoti, a loose Indian garment. There will also be a comic-book version of “Ramayana,” an Indian tale about faith, loyalty and war, to be retold in a sweeping style reminiscent of the “Lord of the Rings.” The titles are to be released in the middle of next year.
Gotham Studios is one of many companies trying to take advantage of an expected boom in the sale of books and music in India, fueled by rising literacy rates and buying power and changing spending habits. India’s population of more than one billion is the youngest in the world. Projections are that, by 2015, India will have 550 million people under the age of 20.
Imagine edgy western style comic book art used to re-tell the Indian classics. Comic books don’t just have to be marketed to kids and teens either, but can be used as a way to reach a larger Indian population with social messages (such as the way Art Spiegalmen did with Maus). Whatever you think of Chopra’s self-help philosophies, this seems like a very profitable venture. I hope there is not to much cross-over with his other books and he can keep his characters from being too preachy.
Mr. Chopra will infuse spirituality and mysticism into the characters. For instance, in the Indian version, Spider-Man gains his powers from a mysterious yogi, not from a radioactive spider. Spider-Man’s enemy, the Green Goblin, is the reincarnation of an ancient Indian demon called a rakshasa. “The superheroes of tomorrow will be cross-cultural and will transcend nationalistic boundaries,” said Mr. Chopra, the chairman of the new company. His son, Gotham Chopra, who is the story editor of the comic book “Bulletproof Monk” and was executive producer of the movie version, will write many of the comics for Gotham Studios.