"Comic books incubate ideas for other revenue streams"

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SummaryThis is perhaps the first ace up the sleeve of Liquid Comics, formerly Virgin Comics and Virgin Animation, since Virgin Group pulled out of the deal in September, last year, reportedly due to liquidity issues.

This is perhaps the first ace up the sleeve of Liquid Comics, formerly Virgin Comics and Virgin Animation, since Virgin Group pulled out of the deal in September, last year, reportedly due to liquidity (no pun intended) issues. As part of the change in strategy, Liquid Comics, founded by entrepreneurs, Gotham Chopra, Sharad Devarajan and Suresh Seetharaman is now focused on digital versions of its comic book characters that borrow heavily from Indian art and mythology. In a coincidence, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), too, has taken note of the characters developed in the Liquid Comics studios.

For the first time, LACMA is showcasing several of them in its exhibition Heroes and Villains: The Battle for Good in India’s Comics. The exhibition will remain on view through February 7, 2010 (Selections can be viewed online at http://collectionsonline.lacma.org/ mwebcgi/mweb.exe?request=epage;id=502130; type=803) and features Liquid’s Devi and Ramayan 3392 A.D. series, besides other works by Liquid artists such as Jeevan J. Kang, Mukesh Singh and Saumin Patel.

In an email interview with FE’s Radhika Sachdev, Suresh Seetharaman, president, Liquid Comics, says that his company aims to use the medium of graphic novels to create digital properties based on Indian mythology for live action films, television, animation and games meant for a global audience. Liquid has to its credit works of a few well-known, international filmmakers such as John Woo, Shekhar Kapur, Deepak Chopra, Guy Ritchie, Dave Stewart, Jonathan Mostow, Edward Burns, Nicolas Cage among others. Edited excerpts:

Why did Virgin pull out of the deal?

It wasn’t a pull-out, it was a management buyout, as a result of which Virgin Comics and Virgin Animation is now Liquid Comics and Liquid Studios.

Who are the artists participating in LACMA show?

All artists are from India. There is Jeevan Kang, Mukesh Singh, Saumin Patel and Abhishek Singh. They have all worked with us in the past but it’s not a question of who is participating in this show. LACMA chose work based on their exhibit theme of Heroes and Villains. They wanted to showcase Indian comic book content in context to the South Asian development perspective.

When you say the popularity of Indian comic book characters has grown over the years, how do you gauge this popularity in terms of sales and revenue?

That’s a difficult guess to make as comic book sales are not the only revenue earner. The content of these books is a great source material for movies, gaming, animation and merchandising. Comic books incubate ideas that create opportunities for other revenue streams in the entertainment industry, which is what we are focused on at this moment. Variety magazine had once quoted that movies based on comic book characters have generated revenue upward of US$215 million.

Any figures pertaining to comic book sales in India?

Most of Liquid’s comic books are sold internationally. Very few have been released in the Indian market. The sales abroad have been successful and many of our titles have been converted to movies, animation and games, already.

How are these characters consumed in the end?

Our content is created for all formats.

The consumption is mostly based on the format. Print is less. Digital is more. Movies and games and also consumed on a mass scale.

You have a lot of film and TV projects under your belt.

Yes. Our library of IP (intellectual property) is constantly expanding. We have realized that syndication is the way to go. We have a strategic tie-up with NBC-Universal. We are developing content for a sci-fi channel for them. Meanwhile, we are working with UTV and Studio 18 to create “genre” films, similar to the Japanese, Korean and Chinese films like The Ring, Grudge, Hero, Ong Bak. These are going to be vastly different from the staple Bollywood fare, and we would be targeting the teen market through these films. Lastly, we are developing our comic series, The Sadhu, as a full-length feature film with Warner Bros., besides a live action adaptation of Gamekeeper with Guy Ritchie as the director and Joel Silver, as the producer. Ramayan 3392 A.D. is also being developed as an online, multiplayer game with Sony Online Entertainment, while our graphic novels, Virulents, is being readied for a live action film with John Moore, and The Leaves with Summit Entertainment.

How did LACMA hit upon this idea of exhibiting your work?

They learnt about it through the US media and Hollywood circles, approached us, to which we happily conceded.

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