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Virgin Forms Virgin Comics & Virgin Animation

Sir Richard Branson and Virgin Books Ltd. announced a new entertainment partnership with world-renowned author Deepak Chopra, acclaimed filmmaker Shekhar Kapur and South Asia's leading publisher of comic magazines, Gotham Ent. Group Llc. The partnership will launch two new Virgin branded companies, Virgin Comics Llc., based in New York City and Virgin Animation Private Ltd., based in Bangalore, India, focused on creating original comic books and character properties for a global audience.

Virgin Comics intends to look to Asia, and India in particular, as both a growing market for consumers of entertainment products and also a source for unique, innovative content to be brought to the world in comics and licensing into movies, animation, toys, videogames and consumer products. In addition to the Indian-infused, Shakti line through the Virgin Comics Maverick and Director's Cut imprints the company will tap into innovative creators in comics, film and entertainment from around the world.

Virgin founder, Sir Richard Branson commented on the new partnership by saying, "India is an incredibly vibrant market which Virgin already, through Virgin Atlantic, has the pleasure of working in. Virgin Comics embodies all that Virgin stands for innovation and launching, developing and opening up markets, for the benefit of the consumer both at home and abroad. Virgin always strives to work with the best of the best and with Chopra and Kapur we are certainly doing that! I am delighted that Virgin Comics, will not only help to launch the Indian comic market and spin it into the west, but will develop new and exciting talent - giving a whole generation of young, creative thinkers a voice."

Adrian Sington, exec chairman of Virgin Books Ltd., who added, "On the back of global movie and licensing deals, the market for comics and graphic novels worldwide is exploding. In the U.S. sales of graphic novels have grown by 44.7% in the year to date. In the U.K. the market has doubled since 2003. Much of the growth in both territories has come from the emergence of comics out of Asia. Not surprisingly therefore I am delighted to be Gotham Ent.'s new strategic partner in Virgin Comics, a venture that sizzles with creativity and energy."

Chopra commented, "I am thrilled and excited to be working with Richard Branson and Virgin. I consider Richard a true visionary and believe together, through Virgin Comics and Virgin Animation, we will forge new mythologies bringing together east and west. At the forefront of this movement will be new minds, new voices, and new talents that will re-invent the stories that unite us, and that we live by."

Kapur added, "I see the future. It is the brave new world of entertainment. The art of the two-hour captive, non-interactive product called the movie is history. Comicbook characters traditional and digital are the new cult, the new religion. India's 600 million teenagers are now at the forefront of the creation of these new gods. For these new Indian comic gods are derived directly from the vast ocean of mythology."

Sharad Devarajan and Gotham Chopra, the principal architects behind the new partnership, are spearheading the new Virgin Comics and Virgin Animation, with Mr. Devarajan as ceo and Mr. Chopra as cco. Veteran Indian advertising executive, Suresh Seetharaman, a partner in the venture, will run the Indian based, Virgin Animation.

"Similar to the phenomenon we have seen with Japanese anime and manga, which has influenced every aspect of popular media today, our mission is to spark a creative renaissance in India, reinventing Indian character entertainment and permeating this new style and vision throughout the globe" said Devarajan, "Beyond India, we will create a haven for the world's most innovative creators, launching a new wave of characters that simultaneously appeal to audiences from Boston to Beijing to Bangalore."

Gotham Chopra added, "We are a generation whose identities are cut and pasted from cultural elements of east and west. Virgin Comics and Virgin Animation is our home where we get a chance to tell the new planetary stories that define us. We intend to work with the world's greatest storytellers, both famous and first-timers. Our Maverick and Director's Cut lines are specifically intended to attract innovative thinkers and artists to comics and provide them a platform to create their stories in a medium akin to a movie with an unlimited budget."

As part of the launch of the Director's Cut line, Virgin Comics will collaborate with globally acclaimed filmmaker, John Woo, to create an original comicbook property. Virgin Comics intends to launch its first original comic book titles in mid-2006 and will simultaneously be exploring partnerships for animation development.

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