Virgin Comics, the high-profile 2006 international joint venture between Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group and the India-based comics publisher Gotham Entertainment, has been shut down. The company’s New York office and publishing unit has been closed and the eight people that staff it have been laid off.

Sources confirm that the venture has been closed. However, in a statement released by Virgin Comics CEO Sharad Devarajan (who is also president of Gotham Entertainment), he also confirmed that the company has closed the New York City office. Devarajan said that the company is “restructuring” and will relocate to new and as yet unspecified offices in Los Angeles.

In the statement Devarajan said that the company would release more information “in the next few weeks” and said, “the decision to scale down the New York operations and concentrate on core activities is due to the current macro-economic downturn.” The closing appears to effect only Virgin Comics’ U.S. publishing operations in New York City and does not effect the operations of Gotham Entertainment, the Bangalore, India-based partner in the venture that produces comics targeted at the South Asian consumer market.

The company produced about 17 different comics series in addition to publishing about 18 trade paperback collections and 3 hardcover titles. It is unclear what will happen to the rights to these properties.

Virgin Comics was launched in early 2006 with an ambitious program to create a list of high profile superhero and adventure print comics inspired by Indian/Hindu mythology that could also be licensed as potential film and merchandise properties to a global audience of pop culture consumers. The high profile venture not only included financing by Branson but also included bestselling author Deepak Chopra, who is chairman of Virgin Comics and wrote a comics biography of Buddha for the house. In addition, his son, Gotham Chopra, is chief creative officer and editor-in-chief of Virgin Comics/Virgin Animation.

The company produced a series of periodical comics based on Gotham Entertainment’s Shakti line of comics. The venture also included the Director’s Cut line, featuring comics series created by such Hollywood figures as Ed Burns (Dock Walloper), Guy Ritchie (Gamekeeper) and John Woo (Seven Brothers), which the company expected to morph into blockbuster films. The company’s Voices line of comics emphasized projects created by actors and musicians including Nicholas Cage (Voodoo Child); porn star Jenna Jamison (Shadow Hunter) and British musician Dave Stewart (Zombie Broadway).