Previewing "Spider-Man: India," Editor Barber Talks Reaction

Mon, September 27th, 2004 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Jonah Weiland, Executive Producer/Publisher

Thanks to the "Spider-Man" movies, fans world wide know the origin of Peter Parker, the phrase "with great power comes great responsibility" and the thrill of watching Spider-Man swing on a web through Manhattan. But what if there was an entirely different origin to Spider-Man, one not located in the United States and set in a country of over 1 billion people?

Back in June, CBR News told you about an entirely different take on the Spider-Man with "Spider-Man: India," a new four-issue series coming from Gotham Entertainment to the Indian subcontinent. The comic will also be published by Marvel in America, coming this November.

"It is one thing to translate existing US comics, but this project is truly what we call a 'transcreation,' where we actually reinvent the origin of a property like Spider-Man so that he is an Indian boy growing up in Mumbai and dealing with local problems and challenges," Gotham Entertainment President & CEO Sharad Devarajan told CBR News in June. "I have always believed that the superhero relates to a 'universal psyche' already firmly established in India through centuries of mythological stories depicting gods and heroes with supernatural abilities. This project is the true culmination of such a synthesis allowing us to interweave the ethnic & mythological themes of India into Spider-Man's very origins and powers." Click here to read more of our interview with Devarajan.

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Last week, CBR News caught up with "Spider-Man: India" editor John Barber who shared with us a few more details on the project. While you might expect the comic to be written in one of India's many native languages, Barber tells CBR News that the comic is written and will be published initially in English, both in India and the United States. According to Barber, India has more than 150 million English-speaking citizens, making it the second-largest English-speaking country behind the United States. Barber also contends that while "Spider-Man: India" was written with an Indian audience in mind, the story is universal enough to be enjoyed by anyone.

"A huge part of the fun with this project is that there's a kind of dual enjoyment, depending on your background," Barber told CBR News. "If you live in India, you get the thrill of seeing Spider-Man reinterpreted in your own culture and in a local setting. Those of us who don't live in India get the excitement of seeing both a brand-new take on Spider-Man and we get to see a setting we're probably not that familiar with.

"It works really well either way. I mean, it's not a sociology term paper or anything--this is real slam-bang super hero action--but (to me, anyway) it's fascinating to see Spider-Man representing (to some degree) the idea of a society based in ancient traditions coming to grips with the 21st century. This is certainly an idea with special relevance to India, but it's a totally accessible concept for an American audience.

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"As a non-Indian reader, I think you'll find the references to contemporary Indian culture to be a huge part of the charm of the series. Doc Ock breaks up a cricket game in issue two! That's awesome! It's nice because it's completely authentic. This isn't a bunch of Indian clichés written down by some guy that saw a Bollywood movie--this is done by guys who are very much a part of Indian culture!"

Barber noted that absolutely none of the comics content differs between the American and Indian editions, outside of advertisements. The American edition will include a glossary page, which defines certain Indian idioms used by Pavitr Prabhakar and Meera Jain. In India, there are plans to publish the book in Hindi and other languages.

"Spider-Man: India" is plotted by Jeevan Kang, Suresh Seetharaman and Sharad Devarajan from Gotham Entertainment, who translate and publish Marvel Comics in India. In fact, Kang's doing more than just plotting as he's also writing the dialog, penciling, inking and coloring the book. On the editing side, Barber and Gotham's Devarajan handle those chores, sending notes back and forth between each other and Kang, just like any other comic they might edit.

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"I'm told this was big news in India -- front page of newspaper material," Barber said of the reaction to the book in India. "People are really excited. We've had a lot of mainstream press in America, so I can only imagine what it's like in India. The interest level is really high. Spider-Man is already very popular in India, and I think people there are going to get a real kick out of seeing a different, home-grown version of the character." In fact, CBR News' Arune Singh by the BBC/Public Radio International series "The World" back in June about the book. Click on "Geo Answer Interview" to listen.

"Spider-Man: India" hits Indian newspaper stands in October, a few weeks before the U.S. publication hits stands. CBR News imagines that shortly after the book arrives in India, over-priced copies of the Indian version will land on eBay to satiate completists out there.

"Right now we're doing four issues, here and in India," continued Barber. "It's a self-contained series, but one that could very well act as a springboard for future stories. We'll have to see how reaction to the book is--in India and the U.S.--before we plan any further.

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"But I'm confident that fans in America--and India, of course--will really dig this series. The comic's great--once you pick it up, Jeevan's art will grab you, and the story will draw you right in to the whole series."

As for the possibility of seeing Indian versions of other Marvel Characters. Barber would only say, "You never know what the future will hold…"

CBR News

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