American President Barack Obama will have to wait his turn. Currently, Mumbai is playing host to mutant superheroes Magneto and Rogue of the X-Men franchise who are saving the city from an electrical storm caused by Children of the Vault in a four-part comic book series. The plot also brings into focus an Indian character in the X-Men, named Indra (Paras Gavascar), who is Jain, had believed in absolute non-violence and makes for quite a bad fit in the series.
Mike Carey, writer of X-Men and Ultimate Fantastic Four comics, says, “It was my pitch. We’d never learned anything about Indra’s background beyond the fact that he was Indian, so I started to fill in some of the details. Then I decided I’d like to take him home and show his family and write a story where Paras is dealing with a domestic crisis (his parents want him to marry a woman he’s never met) and a group of super-villains at the same time.” Carey then pitched a story where a small group of X-Men – mostly the young and inexperienced ones, but with Rogue and Magneto there to shepherd them – go to Mumbai to meet Paras’s family and be guests at his wedding.
Carey wanted a very big, vibrant, populous Indian city, and thought Mumbai was a less obvious choice than Delhi. He says, “I’d already done an X-Men arc set in Kolkata a few years back, and there were good reasons for not making this the same place, so I decided on Mumbai.”
However, Carey couldn’t manage to come to Mumbai and conduct a reconnaissance. So how did he manage to incorporate the city and its landmarks such as Chowpatty Beach into the storyline? He looked at online images and tourist sites, sent the artist some photo references for specific scenes, and “bluffed a great many things”. “I wanted the city to look authentic, but I knew fully well that creating authentic voices and cultural references was something that simply can’t be done without going to a place and living there and getting the feel of it. The most I could hope for was that I wouldn’t show or say anything that was flatout wrong or openly offensive,” he says.
In the book, there’s a mention of Chowpatty Beach, and a scene where the X-Men are exploring in the city centre, but mostly the settings are in the Gavascar home outside the city (modeled on a Mughal palace) and a parallel dimension! “Now that we’ve established Mumbai as a setting in X-Men continuity, it’s that much more likely that we’ll come back. Unless we did such a terrible job this time around that everyone hates us,” informs Carey, whose upcoming projects include writing a movie, an X-Men console game and a thriller novel. “Like most writers, when the work is there I take on as much as I possibly can.”
What’s the plot?
It all comes down to this. Rogue. Magneto. Indra. Anole. Loa. Five mutants stand between Mumbai and its utter destruction at the hands of the Children of the Vault.
Why an Indian character?
The X-Men have always been an international team: the only requirement for membership is that you should be a mutant, and mutants are born all over the world. Colossus is Russian, Psylocke is British, Nightcrawler is German, Wolverine is Canadian, Gentle is African, and so on. Carey says, “An Indian mutant fits right in.”
Indra spin-off soon?
Cary says, “No. With the exception of Wolverine, solo books about X-Men don’t seem to thrive. Even long-established characters like Rogue and Gambit have struggled to find an audience in their own books.”