Branson Forms Virgin Comics & Animation with Chopra

Fri, January 6th, 2006 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Jonah Weiland, Executive Producer/Publisher

Richard Branson is something of an everyman when it comes to business. He's done the publishing thing. Taken the music world by storm. He's tackled retail sales and air travel. He's had a short-lived television show and is even set to conquer outer space! Now, the entrepreneur with something of a golden touch is turning his attention back to earth with comics and animation.

In a sign that comics are now not only coveted by Hollywood and the publishing industry, Variety reports that Richard Branson will bring his Virgin brand to comics and animation in two newly formed companies called Virgin Comics and Virgin Animation. The company has been formed with partners which include self-help guru Deepak Chopra, fimmaker Shekhar Kapur and the Gotham Entertainment Group. Virgin Comics LLC will be headquartered in New York City, while Virgin Animation Private Limited will be headed in Bangalore, India. According to a press release sent out this afternoon, both companies will be "focused on creating original comic books and character properties for a global audience."

The men behind the formation of the companies are Gotham's Sharad Devarajan, who'll serve as CEO of the company, and Chopra's son Gotham, who'll server as Chief Creative Office. Indian advertising exec Suresh Seetharaman will run the Indian operations.

The first offering from Virgin Comics will come sometime midyear from Director John Who, who's creating an original comic property under the Virgin Comics' Director's Cut line, one of three separate lines the company will run. The other lines are the Indian Shakti line and the Maverick line.

Devarajan will continue to operate Gotham Entertainment as a separate entity. Gotham Entertainment is South Asia's largest comics publisher and best known in the United States as the company behind Marvel's "Spider-Man: India" comic. CBR News spoke with Devarajan, and both Deepak and Gotham Chopra last year when Gotham Entertainment was announced.

With India's massive population and growing economic strength, the country has become a focus of business from around the world. Virgin Comics and Animation are poised to tap into the large, emerging youth culture in India and surrounding countries clamoring for original pop culture work.

Virgin Founder, Sir Richard Branson, commented on the new partnership in a press release saying, "India is an incredibly vibrant market which Virgin already, through Virgin Atlantic, has the pleasure of working in. Virgin Comics embodies all that Virgin stands for - innovation and launching, developing and opening up markets, for the benefit of the consumer - both at home and abroad. Virgin always strives to work with the best of the best and with Chopra and Kapur we are certainly doing that! I am delighted that Virgin Comics, will not only help to launch the Indian comic market and spin it into the west, but will develop new and exciting talent - giving a whole generation of young, creative thinkers a voice."

Deepak Chopra also commented on the venture in a press release, "I am thrilled and excited to be working with Richard Branson and Virgin. I consider Richard a true visionary and believe together, through Virgin Comics and Virgin Animation, we will forge new mythologies bringing together east and west. At the forefront of this movement will be new minds, new voices, and new talents that will re-invent the stories that unite us, and that we live by."

"Similar to the phenomenon we have seen with Japanese Anime and Manga, which has influenced every aspect of popular media today, our mission is to spark a creative renaissance in India, reinventing Indian character entertainment and permeating this new style and vision throughout the globe" said CEO Sharad Devarajan in the release. "Beyond India, we will create a haven for the world's most innovative creators, launching a new wave of characters that simultaneously appeal to audiences from Boston to Beijing to Bangalore."

Gotham Chopra added, "We are a generation whose identities are cut and pasted from cultural elements of east and west. Virgin Comics and Virgin Animation is our home where we get a chance to tell the new planetary stories that define us. We intend to work with the world's greatest storytellers, both famous and first-timers. Our Maverick and Director's Cut lines are specifically intended to attract innovative thinkers and artists to comics and provide them a platform to create their stories in a medium akin to a movie with an unlimited budget."

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