This is the first of a two-part series exploring the Indian comic book industry. Look for the second part of the series - about the dilemma of being a geek in India - on Tuesday.
By Umika Pidaparthy, Special to CNN
If Batman and Superman ever packed their bags and moved to India, they would find that they have a bit of competition.
The superhero turf already belongs to figures such as Super Kudi and Pavitr Prabhakar.
They're the Indian equivalents of American mainstays Supergirl and Spider-Man’s Peter Parker, but they're just a small part of the growing Indian comic book industry.
That industry is more than mere translations of American comics. It’s a multilingual fantasyland, with themes ranging from mythology to humor to horror. In fact, Indian comic artists and graphic novelists say that there is hardly any room for Western superheroes today. This is clear to anyone who took in the comic offerings at February’s Comic Con India in New Delhi.
[Editor's note: Several of you inquired about the language of these comics in the comments. These comics are published mostly in English, while some are in Hindi and other local languages.]
Superheroes can be a dark and brooding lot, even when they’re in cartoon form. That may be one reason that DC Nation’s fanciful, animated shorts grabbed so much attention when they started airing in March on Cartoon Network. (Both DC and Cartoon Network are owned by Time Warner, which owns CNN.)
Interspersed with the full-length “Young Justice” and “Green Lantern” cartoons, the shorts bring an off-kilter charm to DC Nation’s Saturday programming block: Baby Superman crawling faster than a locomotive, Chibi-style Teen Titans, a Claymation Joker (created by Aardman Animations of “Wallace & Gromit” fame) and a particularly zany Plastic Man.
“The DC library is so vast and cool that we always want to introduce people to new characters or maybe characters they wanted to see animated,” said Peter Girardi, senior vice president of series and alternative animation at Warner Bros., who likens the shorts to a mini film festival. “We reached out to tons of studios and creators. We said, ‘Hey, rather than us tell you some characters to use, why don’t you just tell us the characters you always wanted to play around with?’ The tougher part is they have a minute and 15 seconds.”
LeVar Burton is anything but ashamed to admit it.
“I fly my geek flag proudly. Absolutely," he told CNN Geek Out. "I’ve always been interested in gadgets and technology and I’ve always been a reader. Back in my day, if you were really into calculus and wore a pocket protector, that was the image. I never had a pocket protector, but some of my best friends did!"
The actor, 55, is best known for "Star Trek: The Next Generation" (along with "Roots" and "Reading Rainbow") and will join the cast of the Calgary Expo this weekend to celebrate its 25th anniversary. But since then, he's continued to pop into the geek canon in animation, prime-time comedies and film - most recently, voicing the role of Doc Greene on the Hasbro Studios Saturday morning series, "Transformers Rescue Bots," on the Hub.
"I was aware of ['Transformers' following] but I was not a 'Transformers' aficionado," he confessed. "I knew it had a large fan base. My son is in his early 30s. When I told him I was doing a 'Transformers' spinoff, he was over the moon, because that was his thing. That was one of his favorite cartoons. It's cool to become part of another strong franchise. I love it."
Burton is getting back into voiceover work with "Transformers" and the recent animated film "Superman/Batman: Public Enemies," after doing more than 100 episodes of "Captain Planet and the Planeteers" in the 1990s.
Grindhouse films have been a constant throughout director Robert Rodriguez's career. "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For" was announced last week, and the prequel will bring back much of the original cast of 2005's "Sin City." Rodriguez fans are still waiting for a sequel to the 2007 film "Grindhouse."
But what is it about grindhouse features that has fascinated Rodriguez and frequent collaborator Quentin Tarantino? What do fans around the world love about the debauched, low-budget flicks churned out at sleazy theaters and burlesque houses, which can easily be seen as disposable and, quite literally, trashy?
"You had to work within a system," Rodriguez told CNN Geek Out. "A filmmaker might have had a story they really wanted to tell, but they are working for a company that says, 'You just gotta put a**es in seats. You gotta have sex; you gotta have violence, nudity. If you want to, tell your bleeding heart story within that, but the movie's gotta attract an audience.' I liked that split that goes on. I liked putting it in this crazy, raunchy fun setting and see if you can really tell the story."
Podcasts have become the ancient Alexandrian library for geeks.
Much like in the time of the Egyptian library, you can learn that a new thing exists - game, book, whatever - and find a podcast about it. In just a short time, you can become an expert on that subject, without all those pesky scrolls or weighty books to carry around.
"The Tome Show," is the kind of podcast that plunges fans of Dungeons and Dragons - the grandfather of tabletop role playing games, currently produced by Wizards of the Coast(WotC) - straight into a master-level dissertation. Topics of conversation include news and reviews of the latest D&D products as well as interviews with people from the role-playing game industry and gamers. Advice to players and Dungeon Masters is a signature part of "The Tome Show."
The hosts call it “a podcast by D&D fans, for D&D fans,” and it's one of the longest-running Dungeons & Dragons podcasts out there.
Jeff Greiner was the lone host of the show when it launched in October 2006. Sometimes-guest Tracy Hurley, a regular on D&D-related podcast, "4geeks4e" and the "DM Round Table", became a full time co-host in January, 2011. Rumor has it Greiner is paying her in Skittles.
Greiner picked up podcasting as a teacher in Omaha, Nebraska. The school where he worked had a strong working relationship with Apple and he was encouraged to learn and play with the company's podcasting technology.
After months of looking for an online D&D show, his fruitless search led him to start his own. "The Tome Show" was born. FULL POST