Dheeraj Verma is probably the biggest name in comics that you've never heard of. Like a pre-American-movies Jackie Chan, Verma is a superstar in Asia but virtually unheard of in the United States. In this case the star's home country is India, a land where over 1 billion people translates to hundreds of millions of comics-readers -- a higher percentage than in America. Verma is a big deal. But now that he's conquered India, Verma's set his sights on American comics.
William Christiansen was clever enough to get Verma on his Avatar Press titles, starting with "Plague of the Living Dead," "Escape of the Living Dead," and "Nightmare on Elm Street." Many of the individual issues of these titles have been collected and there are some plans for Verma to create more zombie books. While Verma said doing zombie books is fine, he's used to creating superhero comics in India. Verma estimates that he's worked on over 250 comics in his 10+ year career, Verman's own series, about a superhero wolfman, has lasted over 180 issues -- an impressive feat compared to how far series get in America.
While talking about his past in comics, Verma was laid-back and relaxed but when asked about his thoughts on the state of Indian comics, he snapped to attention. "The writing in Indian comic books has become stale," Verma told CBR News, sitting in the Avatar booth at Wizard World Chicago 2007. "Indian comics need new writers, but the industry is resistant to bringing in new people from outside India."
Verma believes introducing American writers to the Indian comics industry would be great, but that it works both ways. "Some Indian artists have gotten work in America but not as much to make a big impact," Verma said. He cited the lush, expressive work that India's artists are known for, but admitted that it might yet be too much for American readers. "I would like to see an exchange of work between the countries," he said, adding that his working in American comics can be seen as an early step in that exchange of art and ideas.
Indeed, Verma is putting his money where his mouth is. To further his ambition of mingling of the comics world to an international level, Verma co-founded Edge Entertainment, a company based in India and committed to producing high quality artwork for comics and children's books, but with the larger goal of, according to the company's website, working towards a vision of forging professional relations among Indian and foreign artists.
Credited with bringing digital coloring to India in the mid-'90s, Verma has no intention of putting his pencil down yet. Right now there's a secret Avatar book in the works, and Verma indicated that he'd like to work on a Batman comic one day.
Wizard World Chicago left the artist a bit overwhelmed. "This is my first comic book convention," Verma said, peeking out at the crowd from behind the Avatar booth. "In India there are book fairs, no conventions."
Dheeraj Verma may be unfamiliar with the conventions now, but it shan't be too long before Western comics readers and conventioneers are familiar with him.
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