‘Time was right to create Indian character in Archie comics’

By Parveen Chopra, IANS

New York : Raj Patel, the Indian-American teenager introduced in recent Archie comics, will be a very active character in the Archie universe and is here to stay.

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“We did a lot of research and back story for Raj. We have only scratched the surface with him,” Rik Offenberger, public relations coordinator of Archie Comic Publications, told IANS.

Raj Patel is the feature character in ‘Tales from Riverdale Digest’ # 21, released a month ago, and he will make cameo appearances in the next three issues. His next feature appearance is in ‘Archie Double Digest’ # 183. In that story Raj, the new resident of Riverdale town — where Archie and the gang live — takes Archie, Jughead, Betty and Veronica on a trip to India to visit his uncle’s video game company.

‘Dilbert’ introduced a super geek and IT alumnus named Asok. So have Archie writers conceived Raj in a positive light. “We wanted a character that reflected his background without looking like a caricature and still fit in seamlessly with the other characters,” Offenberger said.

“We wanted to give Raj an interest that was unique and could be strongly associated with the character. Many of Archie’s friends have a signature interest. Chuck loves art and comics. Jughead loves food. Betty loves Archie! Raj loves film. His main interest is making his own movies and so he’s often going around with a camcorder recording his friends’ crazy antics,” Offenberger elaborated. Raj is also into science fiction and making models.

Raj’s family is also formidable. Father Ravi Patel is an MD doctor. Raj’s mother named Rita is an elegant lady who apparently has the ability to change clothes between panels. Younger sister Tina is an Indian Veronica sharing more than looks with that beauty.

Archie Comics has been making a concerted effort to expand the Archie cast to include more diverse characters. Raj Patel was created by veteran Archie creator Fernando Ruiz who did some research into Indian culture and came up with a personality that was distinct from the other Archie characters and could bring something new to Riverdale.

Archie comics’ large audience in India and among Indians living in America was also a factor in creating Raj. “We get letters and emails from Indian fans daily. We knew the time was right to introduce an Indian character,” Offenberger said.

Archie comics are distributed in India by Variety Book Depot, New Delhi.