Sharad Devarajan graduated from Columbia Business School in 2004 and is now CEO & Co-Founder of Liquid Comics. As of last fall, he has added the title of Adjunct Associate Professor to his already impressive resume. The Media Management Association (MMA) took time to speak with Sharad about his teaching experience and about Liquid Comics.
This past fall semester, you introduced a new course, Media Marketing and Entrepreneurship. Can you tell us your motivations behind starting the course?
There is an old saying that “the best way to learn something is to teach it.” When teaching, you are forced to try and crystallize and communicate your ideas on a given subject – reexamining your own perspectives in a whole new way. Having worked in media as entrepreneur all my life, I jumped at the opportunity Columbia gave me to create a course that would help students understand the unique challenges entrepreneurs face in this industry. While the class is only six weeks, we try to pack in a number of the major aspects of media from film, television, publishing and gaming. I also believe one of the best ways for students to learn is through practitioners, so every week we had a different media leader come in and share their story and challenges. In listening to those speakers, I have also gained tremendous insights that have helped me reshape my business, so the class has been as valuable for me as much as for the students.
With the spring semester off, you have more time to dedicate to your company, Liquid Comics. Can you tell us about some of the projects you are working on?
The visual medium of graphic novels allows us immense creativity in laying the foundation of the characters and world – like making a movie with an unlimited budget. Many of our comics are now in development as film and television projects including the Warner Bros. film adaptation of Gamekeeper with director Guy Ritchie; Virulents with director John Moore; Ramayan with Mandalay Pictures; Voodoo Child with Reliance and Nicolas Cage; The Leaves with Summit Entertainment; Beyond being developed as a film with author Deepak Chopra; and The Stranded, in development for television, with the Syfy Channel.
Just last year, you struck a deal with FremantleMedia Enterprises (FME), giving them first-look rights to your content. Can you tell us more about your relationships with FME?
We have a great partnership with FremantleMedia Enterprises, and the team there has been doing some amazing work in transforming the television landscape. Together, we have a couple of television shows we are now developing, and I am hopeful we will get them to the next stage soon. Overall, the mission at Liquid Comics is to create compelling stories and properties in graphic novel formats that can live far beyond the printed page into a variety of media platforms. Most people don't realize how many comic books have been turned into films far beyond the traditional “capes and tights” superhero genre – films like Road to Perdition, History of Violence, Constantine, Wanted, V for Vendetta and 30 Days of Night were all conceived of initially in graphic novels.
I see that the website has new works on which you collaborated with big names, such as John Woo, Guy Ritchie and Nicholas Cage. How did those partnerships come about? What is their role in the collaboration?
One of the core missions of the company is to give creators a platform to share their stories with the world and to participate in the creation of new “mythologies” – stories that transcend race, religion, culture and borders and speak to the world in a primal way. The recent successes of Avatar, Harry Potter and Twilight are proof that there is still plenty of room to create new modern myths.
Over the years we were fortunate to expand our original mission to also work with creative talent from around the world - from filmmakers, to writers, to musicians including Deepak Chopra, Shekhar Kapur, John Woo, Guy Ritchie, Ed Burns, Dave Stewart, Nicolas Cage, Sachin Tendulkar, John Mostow, Duran Duran and more, to craft original stories and character properties initially in the form of graphic novels, and then subsequently develop them into films, television, animation and gaming. Storytellers see the medium as a great playground to develop ideas without the constraints and long timeframes that may come with their other activities.
Liquid Comics, formerly known as Virgin Comics LLC, is an entertainment company focused on creating original stories and modern myths for worldwide audiences. The company was founded by entrepreneurs, Gotham Chopra, Sharad Devarajan and Suresh Seetharaman and uses the medium of graphic novel publishing to develop properties for theatrical live-action films, animation and video games.