Suresh Seetharaman is the co-founder and president of the recently formed Virgin Comics LLC, which has created and owns comic book brands such as Devi, Snake Woman, The Sadhu, Ramayan 3392 AD and 7 Brothers. The self-proclaimed 15-year-old (the average mental age in his office is eight years and 15 years on some days, he says!) is currently enjoying the creative freedom and “fun factor” his job as president of Virgin Comics brings. His previous experience includes senior positions at agencies such as Clarion McCann; J Walter Thompson India; and Advertising Associates, a Singapore-based company. He is also the founder of Creative Works (P) Ltd. Excerpts from an interview with Gouri Shah.
The first comic you owned?
The first one I got my hands on was a MAD magazine, and though I was probably too young to be going through it—in those days little kids did not read MAD—the medium really excited me.
Moving from advertising to comics, how has the journey been?
Being in advertising has taught me how to connect. It grooms you to understanding the chords that connect people. As much as advertising was exciting, it was becoming more and more business-centric rather than creative. Part of what is so interesting about comics is that you can publish every genre of story—fantasy, horror or mystery, and that freedom in a comic book is what you don’t get in a print campaign or a 30-second television commercial or even half-hour shows on television. Your (comic) character can travel in space and time and that lends itself to marvelous storytelling just by turning the page. In fact, you can create an entire universe in one page and destroy it and work on it again. Try doing that in real time, real film and real animation, those guys (stakeholders) will kill you!
How much do you usually invest in new projects?
As a company, we do not have a quick-fix formula for anything. If this product as an idea germinates and we feel that it requires a certain amount of finance, then we make sure it happens. There are no real numbers, each of our projects have different numbers. Some start off as films, some as animation. We strongly believe that in the architecture of entertainment, comics are the foundation. Comics are the original storyboard. The best selling movies in America for the last four weeks in a row have been based on comic books. It is truly how good your idea is. And if an idea translates into a comic then we make that into animation, gaming, merchandising and motion pictures. There is a whole gamut of communication that is to be explored. It is not just because there is an opportunity but because the idea is great.
Who is your target audience?
We are looking at targeting the youth. We are looking at teens and young adults. In the US, the 17-29 age group is a sweet spot for us, and which for comic book readers is amazingly young! Superman readers are on an average 35-38 years old, because over half of them are is in their 40s and 50s and refuse to stop. Ours is a more open-minded, young, exploring audience, which is all across the country.
Which markets are you focusing on?
It is a global market. The stories come out first in the US and Canada and in the UK. It’s the format of the book which determines how soon they roll out. France is an enormous market for comic books but they are used to full-edition hard cover books. In the US you can release a comic book one month at a time, like acts in a play.
In France, however, you need to tell the story all at once, so you wait till all five or six stories are ready and then you publish it in hard cover. For us the main markets are the US, Canada, UK. Europe will follow this summer as will Latin America, and we will also focus on Asia and India.