If you go to the Virgin Comics website, you will see that the new name is already up and running. This is the news that Virgin editor-in-chief Gotham Chopra was hinting at when I spoke to him a few weeks ago.
Virgin arrived on the scene in 2006 and stirred things up with some big ideas (looking to Asia and India specifically for concepts and audience and also tapping Hollywood talent to create comics that could be used as instant templates for film projects) and big names (Sir Richard Branson and Deepak Chopra on the corporate masthead, and Guy Ritchie, John Woo, Ed Burns and Nicolas Cage among its film-world creators, along with comics-industry notables such as Garth Ennis, Alex Ross and Mike Carey).
The venture was met with considerable interest and some cynicism (Alan Moore, for instance, took a thinly disguised swipe at Virgin here not long ago and essentially called it everything that was wrong with a Hollywood-obsessed comics industry). The formula certainly grabbed the attention of some Hollywood folks, who had watched the Dark Horse success story and believed that a small but nimble comic-book company could not only be a dynamic Hollywood player, it could in essence publish movie storyboards.
I talked to filmmaker Ritchie about this a year ago and he was intensely interested in the notion of writing a story, realizing it visually on a comic book page and then using that as project pitch and visual guide to a movie. The "Snatch" director told me that "Gamekeeper," his series for Virgin, became a hot commodity before it was even printed. "The irony," he said, "is there has been more interest in this from movie studios than anything I ever did before." But, in the end, it was money matters in the greater Virgin empire that forced the closure of the comic-book company’s New York offices early this month.
I exchanged e-mails this morning with Gotham Chopra (who is the son of author Deepak) and he told me about some other things coming up that I will be able to share with you soon. Essentially, though, my sense is that he, publisher Sharad Devarajan and their team have lost the corporate backing of Branson’s sprawling Virgin empire (which is grappling with the grim financial realities of the day) but that they were in comic-book business before they had Branson as a partner and they will solider now without the British conglomerate.
The question now is how all this will directly or indirectly affect a number of projects underway (such as the "Ramayan 3392" video game with Sony, the partnership with the Sci Fi Channel and "Virulents," the movie property that director John Moore wants to make as his follow-up to "Max Payne").
Stay tuned …
– Geoff Boucher