Boingboing.net posted that Marvel comics is coming out with a South Asia version of Spiderman. Peter Parker is Pavitra Prabhakar (Pure Light/Luminosity) a Mumbai boy who fights crime while dodging rikshaws and swinging from the Taj Mahal. What is more, Spidey, I mean Pavitra wears a combination of his signature read and blue tights with a dhoti! It not clear from Gotham’s website if the comics will be multi-lingual or only in English.

This is very exciting news for somebody who loved the Spiderman TV show (yes, they broadcast it in India when I was growing up), and loved Amar Chitra Katha Comics with their stories from Indian mythology and history. However, I wonder if the fusion will work for India. For one thing, Marvel comic/Gotham might be assuming that Indians, like the US audience is uncomfortable with something that is too “foreign,” so stories and characters need to made palatable for the Indian market, just like zari trimmings and bindis are added to fashions in the West, you know, to add a little bit of spice but not too much. But the Indian audience has been used to unadulterated Western fare for a while (lets say about 200 years).

Second, from what I remember of my school days, folks liked Western things because they were DIFFERENT, in fact the exclusively English speaking “hep” folks would not dream of indulging in such Indian fare as Amar Chitra Katha too openly, or read the very popular Hindi comic Chacha Choudhary. In fact a lot of these people did not even speak an Indian language very well, so if these folks have re-produced themselves, I wonder if a dhoti-clad Spiderman will go down very well with them.

Of course, I may be completely wrong. With the resurgence of the RSS and the notion of Hindu pride, and given the fact that a lot of the support for right-wing ideologies is centered around an urban, and middle/upper-middle class population, Pavitra Peter might be just the thing. And the erstwhile “hepsters” might be quite comfortable with this new avatar. Or it might be seen as an appropriation, causing the Shiv Shena to organize riots.

In any case, here is a nice little piece about comics in India by Manan Kumar, a journalist in Delhi, who also happens to be from my home town, Dehra Dun.