Guy Ritchie signs up for new Virgin venture

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The Independent Online

The film director Guy Ritchie is joining forces with Sir Richard Branson to create a comic book with a view to turning it into a feature film.

Virgin Comics is Sir Richard's newest business venture and will launch its first title, Devi, in Britain and the US on Wednesday. The unnamed Ritchie project, for which the Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels director will write the story, is due to be published in the autumn.

The central character in Devi is based on the Hindu goddess of that name. The comic has been inspired by film director Shekhar Kapur, who made Bandit Queen and Elizabeth. Fellow director John Woo, of Mission Impossible 2, is expected to contribute to future titles.

The creative force behind Virgin Comics is Gotham Chopra, a collaborator with Michael Jackson on the lyrics of "Dangerous" and "History", who worked with Woo adapting the cult comic Bulletproof Monk for the screen.

"The intention of Virgin Comics is to build character brands, then make short-form animations for mobile phones and the internet, and then games and online games," said Mr Chopra. "Eventually we may make feature-length filmed animations."

Virgin Comics is launching a new comic each week this month to be sold in newsagents and Virgin Megastores. Eight further titles are expected before the end of the year, and 16 in 2007. As with Devi, Virgin Comics is hoping to harness the creative talents of its 75 artists in Bangalore.

"Because of what has been going on in India in the past 10 to 15 years, our artists have been deluged with satellite TV, Western videos and music, all of which has been set on top of their ancient Indian cultural heritage and Bollywood," said Mr Chopra.

"We started out in India, backed by my father [the New Age guru], Deepak Chopra, and Shekhar Kapur, which was like having two Steven Spielbergs. Things moved so fast; we knew we needed to raise money and find a partner. [Sir] Richard immediately saw the potential of the business."

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