'Now, Archie comics in Hindi, Malayalam' reads the headline of a story in today's Economic Times, Mumbai. The story goes on to say that 'The American teenager has become a local cultural icon, influencing film-makers like Karan Johar in films like Kuch Kuch Hota Hai.' The correspondent filing the story is obviously a young man and probably has never heard of the interview where Raj Kapoor claimed that the inspiration for his cult teenage romance 'Bobby' came from Archie comics. Or specifically, from seeing teenage girls dressed in skimpy bikinis.
According to the article, 'Archie's Indian popularity influenced the company to launch an Indian character, Raj, in the series'. A small, 'Huh?!' moment that. Was it Archie's Indian popularity or was it the increasing Indian population in the USA?
The Economist, which interviewed Fernando Ruiz, the creator of Raj Patel, has a different story to tell: 'Together with an increased focus on the African-American Chuck Clayton character and Veronica’s friend Ginger Lopez, it seems that Archie Comics is making a concerted effort to make their books more diverse'.
Obviously the correspondent is out of his depth more than once.
Later in the story, he gives some insightful figures about the sales of Archie Comics: According to the Indian distributor, Mr. Arora, '“We normally import 10,000 copies of each digest, which sells over two years". In the USA, each edition does about 2,500 copies!
To me, it seems a misguided effort to tap India's vast potential as the 'new' and 'emerging' market to rescue what is clearly a hero who has outlived his popularity...
But what really worries me is this: The all-American (ethnic minorities included) context is going to be so alien to the small towner the comics plan to target. Especially with their strategy of: "We‘ll just be translating the text in the speech bubbles," as Mr Arora admits.
Reminds me of the poor guy in the late seventies in charge of translating Popeye for a Hindi newspaper. The sub-editor was intrigued on reading, "रफू को भेज दो!" being said by Popeye. He asked for the original and found this: "Darn it!"
I wonder what they will translate Weatherbee's "Egad!" as...