In an effort that reimagines Indian mythology and promotes the country’s creative industries while serving both Eastern and Western audiences, YouTube and the transnational media company Graphic India are launching celebrated comics writer Grant Morrison’s motion comic, 18 Days, a science fiction and fantasy treatment based on the epic Eastern myth Mahabharata, a tale of a war between gods. It’s the first series to launch on Graphic India’s YouTube channel.
Written by Morrison with art by Jeevan J. Kang, 18 Days is a motion comic, a hybrid comics/animated work that includes voice actors that bring the script to life and a vivid soundtrack. The original series launched last week and has more than 50,000 views, appearing in English, Tamil and Hindi languages. Graphic India’s partnership with YouTube will continue with more original programming in the coming weeks, with digital graphic novels and print releases to follow.
Graphic India bills itself as a startup company with 20 in-house staff and offices in India, Singapore, New York and Los Angeles, plus a pool of freelancers. It’s owned by the comics company Liquid Comics and CA Media, the Asian investment arm of The Chernin Group. Pixo Entertainment, based in Michigan and New York, is handling the animation behind 18 Days.
In a panel at Comic-Con International, Morrison and Graphic India’s executive producers Sharad Devarajan and Gotham Chopra explained that 18 Days is an adaptation of an Eastern myth 10 times longer than Homer’s The Iliad and The Odyssey combined. The three spoke at length about the adaptation and its “truism.” Morrison noted that he wanted to focus on the 18 days of battling described in the Mahabharata and make it contemporary. “It’s a great anti-war story as well as the greatest war story,” he said, also noting the ancient story’s references to super-weapons and flying machines. Much of Morrison’s thinking behind 18 Days is chronicled in the same titled book that Dynamite Entertainment and Liquid Comics released in 2010 to preview the new series.
Devarajan later checked in with PW, noting today’s adaptations of ancient mythology: “The Clash of the Titans isn’t exactly true to the Perseus myth, but [the studio] managed to find the truism that speaks to audiences. And I think Grant said it best at Comic-Con that a lot of these epic stories aren’t really owned by any one culture – they’re owned by the world. There are inherent truths in these stories that have been the reason why they have survived for thousands of years, why they have inspired thousands of writers, poets, sculptors and painters....”
Like many high-profile channels on YouTube, Graphic India's channel will be monetized. When asked about that, Devarajan offered, "There are a lot of businesses that have been successful in building original content around YouTube. There are a couple of different ways you can do that. One with sponsors; one is with advertising. We're working close with YouTube to figure out the monetization strategy."
Speaking of demographics, Devarajan added that Graphic India is targeting audiences ages 14 to 25. One major focal point is youth India. “When we look at the future of India, we see the 850 million mobile phones in the market today,” he said, “and the 550 million people under age of 25 that will be here in the next few years. So you have this half a billion youth market that is going to be driving dynamic change in how they engage content.”
But Devarajan was quick to note that the company is also focused on developing series and characters that connect the Eastern and Western hemispheres. It’s one reason Graphic India commissioned veteran comics creator and Marvel legend Stan Lee to invent an Indian superhero, now known as Chakra The Invincible.
“Great stories find a way, if they are executed well, to transcend race, religion and culture,” Devarajan said. “When we look at all the amazing content that seems to do well in the world today - whether it is Man of Steel, Harry Potter, or Transformers – these things do well because they take people into a place of wonder – and it doesn’t really matter where you are.”