Future of comic book publisher uncertain

Virgin Comics is closing the book on its Gotham-based operation. It’s also in the midst of a restructuring that may move its publishing biz to Los Angeles to take advantage of the movie adaptations it’s set up over the years.

Three years after its launch, the publisher has had less success than anticipated selling comicbooks but has racked up a handful of deals with the likes of John Woo, Jenna Jameson, Ed Burns, Jonathan Mostow, Guy Ritchie and Nicolas Cage to develop comicbooks that can be turned into films and TV shows. It also has a deal with comicbook vet Stan Lee to create a new lineup of superheroes.

The company was founded by Virgin Group topper Richard Branson and India-based Gotham Entertainment, run by Deepak Chopra’s son Gotham Chopra.

But the publishing label hasn’t taken off with comicbook readers, mainly because the company focuses much of its efforts on books with stories involving Indian mythology.

Hollywood, though, has grown increasingly interested in Virgin Comics because of its deals with filmmakers and talent.

Although it has several adaptations of its books set up around town as films, none has been produced yet, so its movie efforts have not yet added any coin to the company’s coffers.

The likely move to L.A. will enable the company to develop those projects faster.

“We remain excited about the business and partnerships we have built through Virgin Comics and are working toward a restructuring that properly takes the business forward,” said Virgin Comics CEO Sharad Devarajan.

The status of several projects is in question, including Sci Fi Channel’s joint venture with Virgin. Partnership produced “The Stranded,” a fantasy adventure comicbook series written by popular “X-Men” writer Mike Carey.

Also now in doubt is a videogame version of Virgin’s “Ramayan 3392” in development at Sony Online Entertainment, though the publisher could possibly go ahead with a a Ramayan game based on the Indian myth, rather than the comicbook version created by Deepak Chopra and “Elizabeth” director Shekhar Kapur.

“The decision to scale down the New York operations and concentrate on core activities is due to the current macro-economic downturn and is in no way a reflection on the dedicated and valuable employees we have had the privilege to work with,” Devarajan said.

The shuttering does not affect Chopra’s India-based Gotham Entertainment.

Ben Fritz contributed to this report.

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