"With great success, comes endless knockoffs" (with apologies to Stan Lee) In 2004 Marvel expanded its localized franchise of its corporate icon (Spider- Man) and created an Indian version of Peter Parker's alter ego. Making the jump with our favorite wall crawler are all of the major characters, including: Peter Parker as Pavitr Prabhakar; Mary Jane as Meera Jain; Uncle Ben as Uncle Bhim; Aunt May as Aunt Maya; Norman Osborn as Nalin Oberoi; and Flash Thompson as Britisher, Flash Thompson.
In the first three issues we've witnessed the re-emergence of the Spider-Man legend, Indian style, as Pavitr Prabhakar learns the twin-edged curse/blessing of the "with great power..." mantra. Meanwhile, local businessman Nalin Oberoi (Norman Osborn to us Westerners) has acquired a mysterious talisman and morphed into a Green Goblin-like creature. Pavitr's Uncle Bhim is killed rescuing a woman from street thugs and Pavitr meets up with and defeats a demonic minion of the Goblin: Oberoi (Dr. Octopus). As can be expected, Oberoi isn't pleased, and kidnaps Aunt Maya from her home, enticing Pavitr to "come and get him" if he dares.
As issue four opens up, Spider-Man is a man possessed, pummeling his way through Oberoi's employees as he hunts up his beloved aunt. He is eventually directed to Oberoi's refinery plant, where he spies the demon standing high atop a tower dangling both Aunt Maya and Meera Jain, taunting Pavitr with the fact that he will have to choose between saving one or the other. Evoking imagery from both the film as well as (for those of us that are older) Amazing Spider-Man #121 (wherein the original Green Goblin tossed the golden- tressed Gwendolyn Stacy to her death), he releases both women to certain death in the raging fires below. Here is where Pavitr proves his mettle, as he first swings to rescue his aunt and then fires off a web line to snag Meera. This is the Spidey that we have come to know and love, even if his name and costume have been altered. Only, he misses!
Again, us senior-Spideyphiles flash back to Gwen's neck snapping as Spidey's line snares her, we feel, "Oh no! Meera is a dead woman. Only, this isn't our Spidey-verse and these aren't his villains, and this isn't simply his life re- told through a new filter, this is an entirely new tale. Just as we think all is lost for Meera, she is rescued, but from an entirely unexpected individual. Doc Ock, who in our Western view is a scheming megalomaniac here, is a meek errand boy who was pressed into the service of evil by a harsh master. Yes, Meera is rescued by Doc Ock, who is blown into oblivion for his noble efforts by the Goblin.
Now it is time for the boy to become a man, as the pure-hearted Spider takes on the malevolent Goblin. In a spectacularly illustrated clash, these perennially opposing forces come together in a visually stunning display, with Spider-Man walking away the victor as he calls upon his eternal mantra "With great power..." In the end, Flash becomes Spider-Man's biggest fan, Pavitr reveals to Meera his big secret, and Aunt Maya recovers nicely from her ordeal, while still missing her lost love. As for my hope of a sequel, all one need do is check out the epilogue on the last page...need I say Venom as demonspawn?
I thoroughly enjoyed this series; I especially liked the topical references to Indian culture (some of the issues offered a glossary of terms on a text page at the close of the story, while others expounded on the nature of heroes in general and the Spidey mythos in particular, from an Eastern viewpoint).
Overall, I give this incarnation of Spidey high marks, and I honestly hope that the experiment worked out well for not only Spidey and Marvel, but for the fans (of both cultures) as well. Changes to Spider-Man's legend reflect a unique respect for both the source material as well as both cultures (near as I can tell), while allowing for updates and alterations based on the change in both time and locale. I really hope that this version is granted a sequel (both in India and here in the U.S). Plus, I'd be remiss if I missed the opportunity to point out that the release of Spider-Man India (both here and abroad) could be nicely leveraged into promoting awareness of the recent disaster there. I can only wonder (and hope) Marvel will pledge some of the revenues of this series (or the next, hint, hint) to aid in disaster relief. Personally I plan on writing to the powers that be over at Marvel and suggesting not only that, but that they seriously consider a sequel to this most- excellent series, and I suggest that others do so as well (strength in numbers, and all that).
Still, having said all of the preceding, I certainly hope that Marvel doesn't take the success (or my glowing praise) to determine to launch "regional" Spider-Men in every country around the world (there already exists a Japanese Spider-Man (Spider-Man Manga), as well as an authorized one-shot Dutch Spider- Man. I'm not sure that the world (or I, for that matter) would be quite ready for a world of Brazilian, Israeli, Russian, etc. ad nauseam Spider-Men. Especially considering that the Marvelverse is already crowded with six distinct U.S.- based versions (Classic Spider-Man, Ultimate Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2099, M2 Universe Spider-Man (Spider-Girl's dad), and "Adventure" Spider-Man (based on animated adventures), Marvel Age Spider-Man (featuring "retro" non-continuity retellings of classic Spidey stories); and this doesn't even take into consideration the three or four animated and live-action TV, movie, and stage Spideys, but that is the subject of another article.