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Over the next two years, Virgin would develop a thick portfolio of titles. It also sold concepts to be developed as video games, most notably a Sony Ramayana A. At Virgin, a comic image begins as a drawing, generally sketched in either pencil or pen, although some- times generated on computer.
Hand-drawn outlines, once completed, are scanned and colorized digitally.
Depending on the number of panels, coloring a page takes between two and six hours. Once coloration is com- plete, the page is moved upstairs to the text department, where speech bubbles and special effects e. Finally, a draft version is sent to the editorial staff, housed partly in Bangalore and partly at that time in New Jersey. Barton Scott phers, and muralists formerly employed by the film industry.
The latter group had adorned the office stairwell with colorful murals of the major Virgin characters.
Some of the staff had been devotees of comics when young; others had little to no exposure to comics prior to joining Virgin. English and Hindi were both spoken in the office.
After my visit, in August , the company separated from the Virgin Group and reorganized itself as Liquid Comics. The new Liquid Comics relocated its American headquarters from New York to Los Angeles in order to further facilitate links with the film industry. This beloved series has dominated the Indian comics market since , when it was founded by Anant Pai; it now boasts titles, with over 90 million issues sold. ACK issues hover at around thirty-two pages and divide each page into three to six individual panels, most of which juxtapose text and image.
Like those American com- ics, the ACK relies heavily on text to convey narrative, and it compresses action into relatively few frames. For a variety of reasons, including a loyal and vocal readership resistant to change, the visual style of the ACK has remained fairly uniform since the late s McLain , 2—3. When Anant Pai launched the ACK in , he positioned it as an inter- vention into the cultural and class politics of the nascent nation.
Pai wor- ried that middle-class children educated in English-medium schools would learn Western history, mythology, and values rather than being steeped in Indian tradition he consistently mentions a quiz show in which students from an elite Delhi college could name the home of the Greek gods, but not the mother of Ram.
As I conducted significant portions of my research while the company was still Virgin Comics, I will accordingly generally refer to it as Virgin. This apparent equation of Indian national cul- ture with Hinduism would, particularly during the s and s, open the ACK to accusations of ideological complicity with the Hindu Right. The series has been said to eliminate the multiple vari- ants of Hindu myths and to flatten their ethical ambiguities, simplifying their storylines for consumption by children.
The widespread influence of this two-dimensional Hinduism both in India and among the diaspora is thought to have helped consolidate a newly politicized Hindu orthodoxy Rao ; Pritchett ; Hawley ; Narayan ; cf.
Rajagopal As Karline McLain has recently argued, however, the ACK never simply transmitted nationalist ideology to its readership; rather, it served as a site for contestation among editors, authors, artists, and readers McLain , If the ACK plied politicized mythologies fitted to the cultural crises of the postcolonial nation, the comics that followed it in the s and s typically took up more modest themes.
While these series eschewed the mythological and nation- alist themes of the ACK, they continued to target the same English-literate, middle class readership. Companies like Diamond Comics and Raj Comics, both with close site of the role usually allocated to the comic in France, the United States, and elsewhere—that of corrupting the young Wertham ; Lent The Times had made its first foray into publishing comics at the instigation of none other than Anant Pai, who in convinced the paper to print the America series The Phantom.
The success of that series led the Times to sponsor an Indian series in the same mould. As media historian Aruna Rao has demonstrated, this second wave of Indian comics emphasized much smaller stories than had the ACK; while their narratives featured fantastic elements, they left the mythologi- cal genre proper behind.
Virgin, representative of a third wave of Indian comics, returns the medium to the genre that marked its inception. In doing so, it reclaims the mythological not only from the ACK, but, just as importantly, from its politicized deployment in other mass media.
The tremendous suc- cess of the — serial Ramayan, broadcast by the national network Doordarshan, coincided with the political rise of the Hindu Right; this coincidence sparked a great deal of debate about the political impact of mass mediated religious spectacle.
The mythological has an unusual, if not unique, ability to span different media, its effects ricocheting unpredictably through a series of sites of cultural production. Whether through local performance traditions or mass-produced poster art, the mythological continues to structure desire, spark debate, and mediate between contending worlds: tradition and modernity, country and city, the bazaar and the world mar- ket Lutgendorf ; Pinney ; Jain If the company seeks to unmoor the mythological from the Indian nation, it does so with the recent history of the genre in full view.
Moreover, in its turn from the nation toward the global economy, Virgin is not alone. Meanwhile, even the old guard comics companies are taking advantage of international markets, the internet, film, and television, as well as repositioning their products within an Indian comics market that has expanded to include graphic novels Rao , 62; Bajaj ; Banerjee Visually, he suggests, the Indian comic should emulate reigning international standards.
Action sequences are more likely to prolong events in order to generate suspense. Additionally, the flat compositions and bright monochromes of the ACK are gone.
Instead, we find more realistic modeling of figures, extensive use of perspective, heavy shadow, and a darker color palette. For instance, in the opening pages of the first issue of Devi, demon general Iyam meets with Bala, the Dark Lord.
Indian mythology, Kapur assures us, is what will lend India its competitive advantage in the global narrative marketplace. Mazzarella , Everything is fluid, and everything is beautiful. For instance, while their Ramayana A. The nation emerges as that which must be transgressed by the cosmopolitan, but it also serves as the ground on which cosmopolitanism is to be articulated. A core sequence in Devi, the comic described at the beginning of this article, expresses the tension between the global and the national in vis- ual and narrative terms.
In the sequence, the mortal woman Tara Mehta is transformed into the goddess Devi. A priest injects her with soma, the divine elixir, and she enters a mystical coma, wherein a pantheon of gods bestows gifts upon her.
The sequence reworks the episode from the sixth- century Devi-Mahatmya in which the gods combine their several divine fires to form a fierce female warrior, the Devi Goddess Coburn , A multiethnic, multireligious bunch, they tell her that their kind has protected the world throughout history: When the Titans returned, we were there. When the Mother Dragon awoke, emptying the seas, we were there.
When the tentacled ones slith- ered across the ruins of Ilium, we were there. We slew the great were-lion from the Savannah of eternal flame… Devi no.
This chain of demon-slayers yokes together much of the world—Greece, China, East Africa— in a global sisterhood. But no matter where these goddess-women hail from, their animus is decidedly Indian: the Hindu goddess subsumes all global eruptions of the divine feminine into her Sanskritic self.
Next, Tara meets the full pantheon of gods. The densely allusive texture of the comic places it firmly in the stratosphere of glo- bal Anglophone cultures, and it makes its cosmopolitan commitments clear; but the comic also ensures that its global heaven is ruled over by a man with a Sanskritic name Bodha.
India rules supreme in the ethereal, immaterial realm of global exchange, and thus cosmopolitanism never quite escapes the constraints of national identity—indeed the return to national identity is precisely the point Devi no.
If this episode suggests an Indian modernity that can playfully assim- ilate world cultures into its own mythological framework, it also—and quite significantly—declines to mythologize the Indian nation beyond the fold of Hinduism.
There are no Muslims in the pantheon or anywhere in Devi, for that matter nor does this heaven seem open to Christians, Sikhs, Jains, Jews, or Parsis. My point here is not, of course, to denounce the comic, but only to point out that Devi enters into discursive structures that constrain the narrative possibilities open to it and that overdetermine the futures that it can forecast.
Dematerialized comics and the production of mythology In narrating its multinational heaven, the sequence described above not only mythologizes the fraught relation between the national and the glo- bal.
It also implies that the realm of global exchange is an ethereal, imma- terial one. To take her spiritual voyage, Tara must leave her body behind. Plot summary[ edit ] In the third age of mankind, the world, after a nuclear third world war, is divided into two continents, Nark and Aryavarta.
In Aryavarta the last kingdom of humans exists inside a city called Armagarh. The city is ruled by a council, the leader of which is a man by the name of Dashrath. His four sons, Rama, Lakshman, Shatrughan and Bharat are sent by the council to outposts of the kingdom to provide assistance.
Rama and Lakshman go to the docile region of Fort Janasthan while Bharat and Shatrughan are dispatched to war-torn Khundgiri. At Fort Janasthan, Rama and Lakshman are surprised to find a heavy regiment of Asuras attacking the fort. This act angers the council who then plead with the gods that then subsequently punish Rama by banishing him into exile.
Dashrath succumbs to his death while Lakshman finds himself having to deal with assassination attempts from rogue elements within the council that are aiming to cause an insurrection within the kingdom. In order to obtain support, he goes to Khundgiri to try and meet his brothers but on the way, he meets an old seer by the name of Vishwamitra who instead takes him to Rama. The seer, one of an exalted group of seven, convinces Rama after showing him the vision of a devastated future to follow him on a quest to a mythical city called Mithila.
The Asuras, however, had also suffered equal losses and only a handful amongst them had survived. Rama and his fellow travelers then sprint towards Mithila in order to prevent further destruction.
At Mithila, they subdue the last remnants of the dispatched Asura force thus saving the princess of the region, a woman by the name of Seeta who is gifted with magical powers of nature. Vishwamitra states that it is to be Rama's role to act as a protector to this woman, a role that he refuses to take up. They are then attacked by three Asura warriors who are actually three of Ravan's children.
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