Cartoons! Religion! Again! Oh and scientology.


by Rohin
21st March, 2006 at 7:31 pm    

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.

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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.

Check it out.

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!

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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.

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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.

Links to check out for more pics and info:
Virgin Comics
Gotham Comics
Interview with Gotham Chopra
Amar Chitra Katha
Indian Superheroes
Diamond Comics
Raj Comics

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 — and he’s cashed plenty of checks — 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.”

Watch the contra-banned episode!


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Filed in: Culture,Humour,Media,Religion,South Asia






26 Comments below   |  

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  1. Jay Singh — on 21st March, 2006 at 7:43 pm  

    Cool post Rohin.

  2. Jay Singh — on 21st March, 2006 at 7:54 pm  

    I think that someone should make Ramayana and other mythologicals into movies – they will make Lord of the Rings look like amateur video kids play. Especially with the special effects capability, imagine the battle scenes, with the various Gods fighting and massive armies and the philosophy and spirituality and legend and colour – it would be awesome.

  3. Jay Singh — on 21st March, 2006 at 7:54 pm  

    Look at the size of Hanuman in the picture above – he is BAD!!!

  4. raz — on 21st March, 2006 at 8:10 pm  

    “I think that someone should make Ramayana and other mythologicals into movies – they will make Lord of the Rings look like amateur video kids play. Especially with the special effects capability, imagine the battle scenes, with the various Gods fighting and massive armies and the philosophy and spirituality and legend and colour – it would be awesome”

    Yeah that’s an awesome idea. Actually, one of the old Ray Harryhausen Sinbad movies featured the Hindu Goddess Kali dancing and then fighting:

    http://theseventhvoyage.com/kali.htm

    Anyway, how long before we see the first South Asian hentai Rohin? :)

  5. Jay Singh — on 21st March, 2006 at 8:12 pm  

    They should remake all the old Ray Harryhausen movies too with CGI – Jason and the Argonuats all that stuff

  6. raz — on 21st March, 2006 at 8:16 pm  

    No way, Stop Motion kills CGI any day of the week. Yeah it looks jerky, but Harryhausen’s beasts just seem to have so much character and life – you could really tell he put his heart and soul into creating and animating them. I still watch all those old films with joy today, whereas with these new CGI monsters it’s seen it once and then forget about it.

  7. Rohin — on 21st March, 2006 at 8:53 pm  

    Cool link to the Seventh Voyage raz.

    Stop Motion is having a dramatic resurgence. I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned on here (but I have on another site) that my filmmaking career started with stop motion – my first short was entitled The Adventures of Fatso and Buddha, used plasticine models I made and I must’ve been about 12.

    Tim Burton was initially going to use CGI for the Corpse Bride, but went with stop motion. Obviously Nick Park just won (another!) Oscar for the Curse of the Were Rabbit.

    Here’s a good resource for newbies: http://www.stopmotionanimation.com/dc/dcboard.php?az=show_topics&forum=38

  8. xyz — on 21st March, 2006 at 8:53 pm  

    “However, whilst software engineers abound aplenty, finding experienced animators in India will pose a problem. ”

    I remember reading some years ago about a start-up animation company in Bangalore that used traditional temple sculptors, village artists and the like during their off season or when they were out of work. Apparently they picked up the computer skills very quickly and just transferred their prodigious talents to the screen.

    It was a double benefit. The company benefited and the sculptors and village artists benefited by being able to earn extra income and still being able to retain their traditional livelihoods, thus helping to preseve age-old Indian artistic traditions.

  9. Jai — on 21st March, 2006 at 9:04 pm  

    Those pictures above look amazing — I’ve never seen Hindu religious figures depicted like that. Exciting stuff.

    =>”I think that someone should make Ramayana and other mythologicals into movies – they will make Lord of the Rings look like amateur video kids play.”

    They could do the same for the Mahabharata too.

    Jay Singh — it’s been suggested on other desi forums that animated versions of historical stories involving the Sikh Gurus could also be a possible way forward, as it wouldn’t involve them being portrayed by human actors (apart from the voices, of course). I think this could be pretty exciting too, especially if it showed the life-story of Guru Gobind Singh (and even more so if the animation was along the lines of the pictures above). Imagine the drama, the idealism, the heroics, the music.

  10. Rohin — on 21st March, 2006 at 9:13 pm  

    Jai, is it frowned upon for the gurus to be played by humans? And what would people make then of the voices being human, as you mention?

  11. Jay Singh — on 21st March, 2006 at 9:13 pm  

    Jai

    There are some cartoons about the shaidzadas that have been produced recently. I don’t know if the depiction of the Gurus themselves would get much support – the usual controversies would muddy the waters of that I think. Although I don’t see why, as there is no injunction on the depiction of the Gurus in art.

  12. Jay Singh — on 21st March, 2006 at 9:14 pm  

    Rohin

    Yeah – you are right. It would be frowned upon for the Gurus to be played by actors and the voices would also then be a problem too. But there is no taboo on painting and drawing the Gurus in art.

  13. Jay Singh — on 21st March, 2006 at 9:20 pm  

    Here is a link to an article about an animated film made for children about Sahibzadey, that is, Guru Gobind Singh’s two sons.

    http://www.indiantelevision.com/anex/y2k5/headlines/anex294.htm

  14. Jai — on 21st March, 2006 at 9:27 pm  

    Rohin,

    Yes, actors are not supposed to portray the Sikh Gurus (it’s why, as far as I know, there have never been any Indian films or TV programmes dramatising the Gurus). It’s mainly because they would not be able to do justice to what the Gurus were really like (ie. someone without the same level of spiritual awareness would not be able to accurately portray how the Gurus would have behaved). Plus, as you probably know, there is a major emphasis in Sikhism on ‘Truth’, and of course any dramatic representation wouldn’t be able to give a 100% accurate portrayal of what historically happened and how the Gurus literally spoke & behaved (it would only be an approximation), so I guess there are some concerns there too.

    To my understanding there is also an element of “humility” involved, ie. an ‘ordinary’ person would not be able to do justice to the greatness of the Gurus and, ideally, should not even attempt to do so. Also, to some extent there is an issue about falling into the trap of ‘idol worship’ for the same reason as the similar prohibition in Islam regarding Mohammad; however, paintings are allowed as we all know. (Although the latter is still abused, as mentioned in my comments on SM regarding Indian serials).

    However, I read on the Sikhnet discussion forum last year that the Sikh religious authorities have given permission for (at this point, hypothetical) dramatic depictions of the Gurus, but it would have to be cleared by them first.

    Regarding the “voice” issue, yes there are some mixed feelings about that — some people are okay with it (personally I think someone like Kabir Bedi could do a fine job), whereas for others it’s still a complete no-no. Many people have grave objections to the Gurus being ‘reduced’ to ‘cartoons’.

    I think an animated version would be a great idea. as long as it was handled properly and professionally.

    (PS I’ve answered your question in the other thread, by the way).

  15. Jai — on 21st March, 2006 at 9:30 pm  

    Apologies, my PS to Rohin was regarding his previous question about SM.

  16. Rohin — on 21st March, 2006 at 9:34 pm  

    I agree – personally I think TV series like the Ramayana/Mahabharata/Jesus of Nazareth etc go a long way in educating children and adults alike. At the end of the day, most people don’t read that much but they like to watch films and TV. So I think it can only help. And from an entertainment point of view, religion represents a wealth of ripping yarns!

  17. Jai — on 21st March, 2006 at 9:35 pm  

    Jay Singh — Yes I know about the Sahibzadey film although I haven’t seen it myself; however, as far as I know the Gurus aren’t shown in it.

    (Wasn’t there a live-action film a few years ago on the same subject, called “Sarbans Dani Guru Gobind Singh” — which depicted the events of the time, but the Guru was not shown in the film at all ?)

  18. Jay Singh — on 21st March, 2006 at 9:36 pm  

    I can’t stop looking at that badass picture of Hanuman with Lord Ram and his brother.

    Awesome.

  19. Jay Singh — on 21st March, 2006 at 9:44 pm  

    Actually I wonder how the South Park people will kill off Chef.

  20. Jai — on 21st March, 2006 at 9:56 pm  

    Maybe he draws a Danish cartoon and is killed by one of the Superbestfriends.

    You can imagine the South Park crew actually pulling that kind of stunt…..

  21. Sid D H Arthur — on 21st March, 2006 at 10:45 pm  

    Enjoyed this article!

    I liked the Hadji Singh (Sikh) character on the Johnny Qwest TV series.

    My other childhood fave is Chacha Choudhury (Hindu).

    Luke Cage Powerman (marvel) has got to be one of the few Muslims.

    Then there was Lobo the Wolfman (Sioux ) also on marvel.

  22. Jay Singh — on 21st March, 2006 at 10:50 pm  

    Maybe he draws a Danish cartoon and is killed by one of the Superbestfriends

    LoL that would be hilarious

  23. Sunny — on 22nd March, 2006 at 2:45 am  

    Great article!

    But there is no taboo on painting and drawing the Gurus in art.

    Theologically, it should be the other way round. Depicting them in art is a form of idol worship, as people have a habit of bowing down to painting or art that features pictures of the Gurus.

    On the other hand, I don’t see any issue with portraying them in films. If I’m not mistaken, there used to be songs or little theatre productions around punjab where people used the portrayal of the gurus to spread the word of what they did. Films are an extension of that, and films have already been made on the Gurus. There was a recent one based on the life of Guru Gobind Singh ji wasn’t there?

    So my point would be – make films, cartoons whatever to spread the word. The gurus themselves were not god, it is their wisdom that matters. Any hesitancy on portraying them, in my opinion, is idol worship.

  24. Jai — on 22nd March, 2006 at 11:42 am  

    Sunny,

    =>”Theologically, it should be the other way round. Depicting them in art is a form of idol worship, as people have a habit of bowing down to painting or art that features pictures of the Gurus.”

    I agree about the dangers involved, as I mentioned in one of my earlier posts. However, some of the Gurus sat to have their portraits painted, although I believe these paintings have now been lost.

    =>”There was a recent one based on the life of Guru Gobind Singh ji wasn’t there?”

    Unless you’re referring to another film, I think you’re talking about “Sarbans Dani Guru Gobind Singh.” The Guru himself was alluded to but was not directly depicted in the film.

    Your other arguments are sound, although there are both pros and cons to the idea (see my post #14). However, as mentioned before, personally I think it would be a good idea to have films with actors portraying the Gurus, as long as the whole thing was handled properly and responsibly. You certainly don’t want to leave these matters in the hands of someone like Raj Babbar, considering the mess he made of the film “Shaheed Udham Singh”.

    In any case, an animated version would be one good way forward as a viable alternative — if it was something along the lines of the pictures above, I think it would be pretty amazing.

  25. Sanjeev — on 22nd March, 2006 at 2:10 pm  

    Excellent…I used to have Amar Chitra Katha comics as a kind, but these new developments are brilliant.

    Ive been doing stuff too…artist runs in the veins :)

  26. Rohin — on 22nd March, 2006 at 2:20 pm  

    Well keep us posted if you make a comic Sanjeev and why not show us some of your work? Captive audience here!

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