Kridana launched its new line of toys based on Indian mythology at the New York Comic Con, with figures of the hero Rama and the monkey god Hanuman. Each figure is packaged with a comic chronicling an episode from the character's life, and the first run features exclusive covers by Aspen's Michael Turner. CBR met with Kridana co-founder Mahender Nathan for background on the characters and the toymaker's ambitions.
Nathan, who created Kridana with Elizabeth Haynes, said that he wanted to pass the stories of Indian legend down to kids “who don't have, say, my grandmother, to tell them the stories,” and to present them in a way that will be interesting to modern audiences. “It's all about taking these thousand-year old fantastic myths, legends, epics, bringing them up to date today, with toys that are done by the best artists around and comics that are done by the best artists around.”
From Nathan's descriptions of the heroes, it is easy to see why the epics lend themselves well to the types of stories kids like to act out with their toys. “Rama and Hanuman are two of the most important deities in the Indian pantheon,” Nathan explained. “Rama is the perfect man, that's sort of what his idea is. His story is a fantastic story all about discovering his divinity. The other aspect of it is that it's a really interesting tale where he grows up as a prince within a kingdom, there's treachery that happens and he leaves the kingdom and accepts his exile to the forest, really for the honor of his father and a sense of duty.
“The rest of the story is all about his quest, over a long period of time. He ends up getting married to Sita, who is a princess. She gets kidnapped by the evil demon king Ravana, and what ends up happening is that Hanuman, who is an extraordinarily powerful monkey king -- a monkey god, he has the ability to fly, to change shape, he can become as large as he wants to or as small as a grain of rice, and also has the ability to pick up a mountain, which he does at one point -- so the two of them are fighting Ravana, rescuing Rama's wife Sita, and returning Rama to the throne.”
The Rama and Hanuman toys debuted at the con, and a prototype version of Ravana was on view. “We're working on him, he's not quite done yet,” Nathan said. “We're looking to release him early next year.”
With the artistic history of the Hindu tradition, it could have been intimidating establishing a definitive source. According to Nathan, though, the designs for the Kridana figures are not based on any one interpretation. “There is such a rich array of artwork, but the thing is that so much of the art and sculpture is many centuries old,” he said. “So we took classical representations, and while those were beautiful in their own way, they're not really the type of work that's common in modern art today. So we took those classical representations, looked at maybe a few hundred of them, we actually went to museums that specialize in Indian artwork to look at the art as well -- we took all of that together and updated it for today, in a modern action sort of a sense.”
The comics included with each figure will be written and illustrated by animator Michael Breton, with Michael Turner providing covers for a limited printing of 12,000. “Michael Turner and his team were fantastic to work with,” Nathan said. “They were so excited about the project that they just sort of hooked us up.” For now, the comics publishing aspect of Kridana is limited to those issues included with the toys, but Nathan said they are exploring the possibility of publishing a graphic novel.
The comics, though focused on one character, interconnect as the heroes' stories feed into one another. “The [Ramayana] epic is thousands of pages long, so we're taking small vignettes of each of the stories and weaving them together.”
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