Now now, don’t worry – nothing more about those cartoons. I’m sure some of you have realised I’m a bit of a cartoon and comic fan. I have been planning on a light-hearted post about the religious affiliations of superheroes for a while, so imagine my surprise when Isaac Hayes quit South Park a few days ago and today TIME ran a story about comics in Asia. Excellent.
Therefore, instead of a succinct and pithy post about superheroes and supervillains, I present to you a rambling and tenuously-linked confusion of a post. Yes that’s right, I’m back.
So what religion is Superman? I bet you didn’t know Wolverine became Buddhist after being an atheist or that Doctor Doom has Rajasthani roots. And how many Hindu heroes can you name? This is a list of comic book characters created earlier this year, grouped according to religion. As you can see it’s rather thorough in the religions addressed, if not in listing all characters in each group.
TIME’s article concerns the boom in Indian comics and Asian animation, led by pioneers such as Richard Branson with his Virgin Comics. Is there nothing that man hasn’t got a finger in? He’s ahead of the game as usual as I, and many others without his budget, have been saying India represents a huge potential comicbook market. Why? Cos nerds read comics!
Branson says that he wants to reverse the trend of Asian-themed or influenced comics and animations being turned out with a Western ‘feel’. This is because much of the creative process remains in America, but the post-toiling is outsourced to Asia. He says:
“We will be tapping into the great mythic storytelling in India to create a whole new library in character entertainment.”
This is music to my ears, as someone who owns manga versions of the Ramayana and Krishna, Buddha and Hanuman’s lives. So much of Indian history, folklore, religion and mythology is perfect for animation. Branson has teamed up with Shekhar Kapur and Deepak Chopra’s sprog, Gotham Chopra (the daft spelling of ‘Gautam’ doesn’t look so silly when you own a comicbook company called Gotham Comics!) A KPMG India analyst pointed out that when Star and Disney changed their programming from dubbed Western cartoons to homegrown series, their popularity rose exponentially. However, whilst software engineers abound aplenty, finding experienced animators in India will pose a problem. The Indian National Association of Software and Service Companies predict 30,000 animators will be needed by 2009.
But Branson, Chopra and Kapur have loftier ambitions than just the Indian market. With this in mind, Kapur launches Snake Woman this July, which is set in Manhattan’s Alphabet City. In a plug for two friends, it’s not just the big boys who are getting in on the Indian-influenced animation. Londoners Cabein and Yam Boy have teamed up to produce a forthcoming graphic novel, I’ve Forgotten My Mantra. Cabein (Kunal Anand), part of Shiva Soundsystem, has done his bit to popularise the Indian Spiderman, now about 2 years old. Launched by Chopra and Marvel, the alter ego of
Peter Parker Pavitr Prabhakar has proved a success.
And on to the promised scientology. Isaac Hayes, gravel-voiced star of South Park, singer and scientologist quit last week in response to an episode that mocked his religion. He claimed the show’s parody of faith was indicative of what he saw as a “growing insensitivity toward personal spiritual beliefs” in the media, including the recent controversy over cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammad.
“There is a place in this world for satire, but there is a time when satire ends and intolerance and bigotry toward religious beliefs … begins,” stated Hayes.
Matt Stone, South Park co-creator released a public statement:
“This has nothing to do with intolerance and bigotry and everything to do with the fact that Isaac Hayes is a Scientologist and that we recently featured Scientology in an episode of ‘South Park.’ In ten years and over 150 episodes of ‘South Park,’ Isaac never had a problem with the show making fun of Christians, Muslims, Mormons and Jews. He got a sudden case of religious sensitivity when it was his religion featured on the show. To bring the civil rights struggle into this is just a non-sequiter. Of course we will release Isaac from his contract and we wish him well.
“This is 100 percent having to do with his faith of Scientology…He has no problem â€” and heâ€™s cashed plenty of checks â€” with our show making fun of Christians.”
Apparently celebrity couch-jumper Tom Cruise has been accused of putting pressure on Comedy Central not to show the offending episode by threatening not to promote Mission Impossible 3 (Viacom is the parent company of Comedy Central and Paramount).
Matt Stone and Trey Parker released a further public statement:
“So, Scientology, you may have won THIS battle, but the million-year war for earth has just begun! Temporarily anozinizing our episode will NOT stop us from keeping Thetans forever trapped in your pitiful man-bodies. Curses and drat! You have obstructed us for now, but your feeble bid to save humanity will fail! Hail Xenu!!!
– Trey Parker and Matt Stone, servants of the dark lord Xenu.”
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Filed in: Culture,Humour,Media,Religion,South Asia