The Moviehunter

Pulp Culture
Superheroes
are coming to
the silver screen


March 16, 2000
By Franklin Harris

Give the folks at Marvel Comics one comics-to-film crossover hit, and suddenly the floodgates open.

First came "Blade," which turned the adventures of an obscure, third-string superhero into the perfect Wesley Snipes vehicle and a not-half-bad techno-vampire action flick. Now it seems almost every Marvel superhero is up for the silver-screen treatment.

Of course there is more to it than that. The fact that Marvel is out of bankruptcy and has made a concerted effort to free up the film rights to some of its most marketable properties has helped. At long last, even the lawsuit-burdened Spider-Man film is going forward with director Sam Rami ("The Evil Dead") attached.

But the big news is that the baddest of Marvel's bad boy superheroes, the X-Men, will be arriving in theaters on July 14. The film wrapped shooting last week.

"The X-Men" stars Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Famke Janssen, Anna Paquin, James Marsden, Halle Berry, Ray Park, Hugh Jackman and Rebecca Romijn-Stamos and is directed by "The Usual Suspects' " Bryan Singer, who hopes to bring forth a more "realistic" approach to superheroes.

Already, some die-hard "X-Men" fans have complained that the black leather costumes the X-Men wear in the film are nothing like what they wear in the comics. Still, for the most part, saner voices have prevailed, and most fans are waiting to actually see the movie before deciding whether or not to trash it.

But the X-Men and Spider-Man aren't the only Marvel heroes who will be hitting the big screen in the near future.

Producer Don Murphy's Angry Films production company is working on screen adaptations of "Iron Man" and "Doctor Strange." "Daredevil" is moving forward, and even the long-awaited "Hulk" film shows some signs of life.

Yep. It's a new day for Marvel at the movies, all right. No more quickie, direct-to-video movies for Marvel's heroes. And if that means anything, it means (hopefully) that we will never again see David Hassehoff play Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.

But it's not just Marvel's heroes who are making the leap over tall buildings and to movie and television stardom.

Whereas once only DC Comics, owned by the Time Warner (now AOL Time Warner) media giant, was able to transfer its four-color heroes to TV screens and movie theaters, now even upstarts like Top Cow are players in Hollywood.

Production has started on a pilot TV movie based on Top Cow's flagship comic, "Witchblade." It stars Yancy Butler ("Mann and Machine") as Sara Pezzini, a New York City homicide detective who happens to possess (or is possessed by) the Witchblade, a powerful and mystical weapon that doubles as body armor -- albeit skimpy body armor.

Last week, Columbia Pictures optioned the film rights for another Top Cow comic, "The Darkness," which is about a mob hitman who possesses (or is possessed by) a powerful and mystical weapon that doubles as (non-skimpy) body armor.

Of course, DC Comics' isn't out of the game. Never mind the on-again/off-again talk of new installments in the "Batman" and "Superman" franchises -- most of the ideas bandied about for both have ranged from silly to awful, anyway -- DC has other properties to exploit.

Angry Films is moving forward with a film based on Neil Gaiman's "Death: The High Cost of Living" comics, and Gaiman himself is reportedly writing the script. Plus, Angry Films has a film version of Alan Moore's "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" on the way.

"The League" is published by America's Best Comics, which is an arm of Wildstorm Studios, which was recently purchased by DC. So, it counts as a DC-related movie even though Moore swears he'll never work for DC Comics again.

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