Myth comics

Anand Rao writes:

There is no escaping it. Religion has always been the zeitgeist in India and despite the strife it causes, it is beloved to the Indian psyche. India’s unique proposition is as the home of spirituality, the place to go to get a soul. Caricature aside, religion and mythology are also a popular business proposition in India – and in a good way. Companies use religion to appeal to consumers and this is not considered a negative thing in India.

Two epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharataboth are collections of stories about life and death, about morality and ethics, governance and corruption, about love and warfare, and much more – have always been the mainstay of Indian mythology. Stories from these epics have been produced in every medium of communication throughout the ages in India, including the comics industry. While the Indian comic book giant Amar Chitra Katha (ACK) has illustrated stories from these epics for Indian audiences for years, it has now attracted interest outside of India, with a £4 million investment from the London-based private equity firm Elephant Capital.

New entrants to the Indian comic book industry have been creating content based on new interpretations of these epic stories. These include Ramayan 3392AD, a fantasy interpretation set in the future, and DevaShard, a comic based on stories from the Mahabharata.

I caught up with Vijayendra Mohanty on Twitter, a popular blogger and writer, who recently started writing for Level10 Comics, a new comic book venture in India. Mr. Mohanty, ‘Vimoh’ in the Indian blogosphere, is also writing a graphic novel called Ravanayan – a fresh take on the pivotal characters from the epic Ramayan. He told me:

“Ideas from Indian mythology are deeply ingrained in all of our daily lives. Comics are a pop medium. They tell stories, just like Bollywood does. But comics in India are not as pervasive as movies are. So comics as a medium can ride on the reach of mythology as a language that every Indian understands.

“On the other hand, stories and ideas from Indian mythology haven’t really had the ‘pop’ treatment until recently. Comics dealing with mythology, both as retellings and as reinventions, can expose people to a whole new way of looking at our thousand year old stories.”

While comics and graphic novels are still mostly an indulgence in India for urban, metro consumers, they are growing in popularity. Because of the inherent appeal of mythology and religion in India, it won’t be long before smart marketers figure out how to use the mythology comic medium to reach out to their audiences, and across the rapidly growing mobile platform.

The image at the top of the post is from the videogame Ramayan 3392 A.D., based on the comic, and is used with thanks.

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