Cosmic Super-gods and Bollywood: Vimanarama

Vimanarama 01 (of 03)-002 “I just liked the idea of taking all the pomp and high holiness of one of the world’s great religions…and turning it into a Jack Kirby comic.” – Grant Morrison on Vimanarama

There are very few people alive today who can lay claim to the vacant throne of Jack ‘King’ Kirby, the late, legendary creator of half the Marvel Universe and significant portions of the DC Universe. Fortunately, Grant Morrison is one of those few. The amazingly talented Scottish writer is a self-confessed fan of Kirby’s Silver Age shenanigans. He brings those same bombastic sensibilities to Vimanarama, filtered through a quirky, Bollywood-tinged lense.

Vimanarama is a 3-issue miniseries published by DC’s Vertigo imprint. It’s the story of Ali, a hapless, lovable second-generation Pakistani immigrant in the UK. It is also the story of Sofia, Ali’s pretty, spunky soon-to-be fiancée through arranged marriage. And it is the story of how these two accidentally get caught in a war between two groups of ancient godlike beings.

Morrison wholeheartedly embraces every cliché that Bollywood and the Silver Age of comic books have to offer. But the combination of these two seldom-seen-together elements results in some very unique scenes. There’s a typical Bollywood-style non-sequitur dance number at the very beginning of issue one. A group of girls dance around in the rain wearing short skirts, bouncing footballs around. Ali solemnly bikes through them, muttering: ‘Ali to the rescue.’ Now, replace ‘Ali’ with ‘Superman’ in that line and it wouldn’t seem even a bit out of place in a Silver Age comic book. At the heart of the story is another staple of Bollywood movies: a love triangle. But in a Silver Age twist, the hero’s rival in love is a super-powerful cosmic being.

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The two protagonists are quite well-rounded and likeable. Ali starts out as this nervous, unsure young man who learns to be brave in the face of immense odds for his lady love. Sofia is an intelligent, caring girl who gets swept up in the moment, but makes the right decision when the time comes. The supporting cast is pretty great too, with Ali’s hard-nosed dad providing the comic relief.

Artist Philip Bond is the perfect choice for the type of story Morrison is telling. His pencils strike the perfect balance between a simplified, cartoony style and more detailed line work. His character designs are simply amazing. His Ultra-hadeen, the ancient cosmic good guys, look like something that Kirby himself would design if he were told to revamp the Hindu pantheon. His characters are also very expressive and fluid. Bond’s ‘special effects’ (Like explosions and energy blasts) are beautifully complemented by Brian Millar’s rich, vibrant colors.

There has never been a comic book quite like Vimanarama. It’s a refreshingly original piece of pop culture in an entertaining package. Go ahead and give it a read, you’ll find yourself having a delightful time.