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Branson taking a passage to India

Virgin comics goes East

British mogul Richard Branson is getting into the comicbook biz.

Branson and his Virgin Books have teamed with scribe Deepak Chopra, filmmaker Shekhar Kapur and Gotham Entertainment Group to launch Virgin Comics and Virgin Animation.

Virgin Comics will have offices in New York City, while Virgin Animation will be based in Bangalore, India.

Shingles will focus primarily on Asia as an area to inspire and create content and drive revenue, though the operation intends to reach a global audience. In addition to creating and publishing comics, the principals plan to take their properties and characters and parlay them into movies, animation, toys, videogames and consumer products.

The principal architects behind the partnership and the formation of the companies are Gotham Entertainment topper Sharad Devarajan and Chopra’s son Gotham. The pair are spearheading the operations of Virgin Comics and Virgin Animation, with Devarajan serving as CEO and Gotham Chopra as chief creative officer. They have tapped Indian advertising exec Suresh Seetharaman to serve as prexy of Indian operations.

Devarajan and Gotham Chopra told Daily Variety the two companies will spend the next 12-18 months staffing the Indian operation with approximately 150 people, most of them artists.

“For Sharad and I, this has been our dream,” Chopra said. “And when we were going over potential partners for this, Richard was somebody that was at the top of our list, in our fantasy. It’s amazing that we have now all come together.”

“We hope to create content that not only reaches a global audience but also helps start a creative renaissance in India,” said Devarajan, who will continue to operate his Gotham Entertainment — South Asia’s largest comics publisher — as a separate entity.

The first offering from Virgin is scheduled to debut midyear from filmmaker John Woo. The helmer is creating an original comic property under Virgin Comics’ Director’s Cut line, one of three separate lines created for the company. The others are the Indian-infused Shakti line and the Maverick line.

Woo and Gotham Chopra previously teamed on the MGM actioner “Bulletproof Monk,” which Woo directed and Chopra exec produced.

Partnership gives Virgin its first stab at the comics and animation businesses and also gives India a much stronger presence in the comicbook world.

“India is an incredibly vibrant market, which Virgin already, through Virgin Atlantic, has the pleasure of working in,” Branson said in a statement. “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.”

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