Comics2Film: Issue #97

Wed, December 8th, 1999 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Rob Worley, Columnist

Greetings readers. This week we talk to Greg Rucka for an in-depth

look at the Whiteout movie deal. We also check in on the production

of the Red Rocket 7 movie. The Tick heads back to TV, this time as a

live-action show! Will we or won't we see the X-Men trailer? Our

sources say "yes!" Get a look at what the New Gods animated feature

might have looked like. As always we have much, much more so, read

on.

WHITEOUT

Columbia Pictures has purchased the feature film option on Whiteout,

the highly-acclaimed, three time Eisner-nominated graphic novel,

written by Greg Rucka and illustrated by Steve Lieber. Wolfgang

Petersen (Air Force One, Bicentennial Man) is set to produce movie

with his Radiant Productions partner Gail Katz. The comic tells the

story of Carrie Stetko, a US Marshal stationed in Antarctica. Carrie

is the only law enforcement on the continent, and when a corpse is

found with its face obliterated, she has to figure out who he is, who

killed him, and why. Her only help is Lily Sharpe, a British secret

service agent pursuing her own agenda. Comics 2 Film spoke with

Rucka about the development.

"I am fortunate to have a very talented and aggressive Hollywood agent."
  - Greg Rucka
Whiteout

Rucka described for us how the deal evolved. "I am fortunate to have

a very talented and aggressive Hollywood agent," he said, referring

to Angela Cheng at Writers and Artists. "My literary agent, a guy

named David Smith had shown it to her and she got very excited and

felt that it was a film just waiting to be made!"

From there, Cheng handed the project off to two of her other clients,

screenwriting brothers Jon and Erich Hoeber, the writer/producers of

1998's Montana starring Kyra Sedgwick. "These are the guys that

actually went out there and made the pitches and beat on the doors.

They pitched Whiteout at a variety of places and got nibbles here and

there."

The brothers eventually pitched the concept to Sam Dickerman, VP at

Radiant. Rucka told C2F that Dickerman "really, really liked it and

'got it' more than that. A lot of people had been receiving the

pitch and were saying things like, 'Well you know it'd be great, it

needs a male lead, if you rewrite it to a lead guy then it could be a

movie' and so on. Dickerman understood that one of the thematic

things that was going on in the comic is that is was a woman!" Rucka

intones dramatically, "Alone! Amongst 3000 guys! He and I actually

met a couple months ago and it was a very, very good meeting and I

guess he left that and decided, 'Yes! We Want it!' and that is how

[the deal] came to pass."

However, the movie deal only marks the earliest stages of the

development effort, as Rucka seems well aware. "What they've done is

taken an option. That option may turn into a full purchase and

they'd make the movie, but the way the deals are structured is that

there's so many steps along the way, I'm just taking it as it comes.

Again, I'm just sort of shocked that we even got here." He added,

"I'm flattered that I've written anything and worked with Steve on

something that could be made into a movie."

Likewise, the writer seemed to have an easy-going attitude about how

the material may be altered during the translation to the big screen.

"As a novelist I've heard just about every horror story possible of

selling material for film and then watching it get, one way or

another, massacred. I have to be brutally honest, one of the things

that [Radiant is] buying is the right to do the story however they

like. If that means means that Carrie Stetko becomes the first St.

Bernard in Antarctica, they've bought the rights to do that. And

they've pretty much bought my complicity in that. So, regardless of

what happens, I'm not going to complain, I'm hope for the best. and

I do trust that they're going to try to make the best movie they can."

"As a novelist I've heard just about every horror story possible of

selling material for film and then watching it get, one way or

another, massacred."
  - Greg Rucka

He later added, "Right now they have my trust and my blessing."

It is uncertain whether or not Petersen will direct the movie, or

simply serve as a producer. Either way, Rucka seemed pleased to have

the project at his production company. "I think Das Boot is a hell

of a good flick. I'm a fan of In The Line of Fire for a variety of

reasons one of them being its a bodyguard movie and my novels are

about personal protection. It's one of the best protection movies

ever done. Also, some of the things that I've heard about Petersen

lead me to belive he's a really good match for this material. He's

shooting A Perfect Storm right now at Warner Bros. and clearly

Radiant is aware of environment as character."

Rucka will have some involvement in the production effort, "I have

been told that I will be a consultant, certainly in the development

if not during the actually filming. But I'm not sure how much I

could actually offer to the filming. You know, 'Oh! Looks cool! Good

job', what am I going to say?"

The movie is far from the casting stages, although we did ask Rucka

who he had on his wish list. For Marshall Stetko Rucka told C2F, "I

envisioned Janeane Garofalo (Mystery Men) when I was writing it. I

sort of saw her as Carrie. And I think that would just be

wonderful." And for the British Secret Service agent Lilly Sharpe?

"I'm a big Jill Hennessy (Law & Order) fan, if she can do the English

accent I'd love to see her do Lilly. My expectation is that Lilly

may not make it to the screen in the incarnation that she is in the

comic."

Rucka and Lieber's sequel comic series, Whiteout: Melt is currently

in comic book stores, with the fourth issue set to go on sale in

January. As with the previous series, this one is published by Oni

Press.

Rucka also wrote major portions of this year's hit No Man's Land

storyline in the Batman comics and continues into 2000 as the regular

writer on Detective Comics. He's also at work on a Grendel Prime

novel which will be illustrated by Matt Wagner. Outside of his comic

work, Rucka is also an accomplished novelist. He is currently

shopping his Atticus Kodiak, the aforementioned bodyguard concept,

around Hollywood.

RED ROCKET 7

Kevin Kelly of the Manifest Film Company recently updated Comics 2

Film on the development of Mike Allred's Red Rocket 7. Manifest had

been shopping the property around with using the graphic novel as a

pitch tool. Unfortunately, this method has yielded few results.

Kelly and company are now going to plan B. "We've decided to shop it

with a completed draft of the script. The pitch process before has

been coming in, having sent the graphic novel ahead of time, going in

with the writer and pitching, basically, the writer's take on the

project," Kelly told us.

For the new strategy, Kelly said, "We have a couple writers were

excited about. They have a good take on it. They're going to write a

script on spec." When the script is completed Manifest will, "bring

them into the pitch meeting and we'll be able to leave [the

interested party] with a completed script. Hopefully that'll work a

little better."

The producers also toyed with attaching a big name to make the

package. "We approached Kevin Smith [Dogma] about being a producer

on Red Rocket 7. Unfortunately he was unable to come on board as

executive producer." Recent reports indicated that Lauryn Hill is a

potential for the lead female role. However, in a previous interview

Kelly told us that they had gone to Hill, but the singer/actress'

people "totally didn't get it," and consequently she is not involved.

"We approached Kevin Smith [Dogma] about being a producer

on Red Rocket 7."
  - Kevin Kelly, Manifest Film Company

While RR7 chugs along, Allred's G-Men From Hell progresses through

filming. "Mike is really excited about his G-Men from Hell project.

We've talked several times on the phone about it."

Kelly also gave us a report of other projects he is involved with.

His boss, Lisa Henson (daughter of Jim Henson) has a position at

Henson Pictures where Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere is in the works.

"Neverwhere continues to go along, We'll hopefully be shooting that

next year."

Kelly also confirmed that Rob (Scud) Schrab's Giant Robot movie is at

Henson Pictures. The working title for this movie is actually The

Untitled Giant Robot Project. "As we call it that more we kind of

like the name Giant Robot. We had to watch carefully when Iron Giant

came out we didn't want it to conflict."

THE TICK

The Tick

According to reports in both The Hollywood Reporter and Daily

Variety, Ben Edlund's big, blue, arachnid hero, The Tick is headed

back to the small screen. This time The Tick will be the subject of

a half-hour, prime-time, live-action series, instead of an animated

show. Fox TV has given a pilot commitment for the show.

Barry Sonnenfeld and Barry Josephson are set to produce with Columbia

TriStar TV. Sonnenfeld-Josephson previously created ABC's short-

lived Fantasy Island revamp which starred Malcolm McDowell as a dark

Mr. Roarke.

Edlund's humorous take on superheroes first appeared as a black and

white comic published by New England Comics. It later became a hit

animated series for Fox Kids and an animated feature has long been

rumored to be in the works.

Sources at Sonnenfeld/Josephson have told Comics 2 Film that,

appropriately enough, Ben Edlund will be the writer developing the

live-action TV show based on his comic book, The Tick. We were also

curious as to how the producers planned on depicting the larger-than-life hero in the show. Although its too early to talk about such

details our source could only assure us that the show is to be live-action.

X-MEN

A report in today's Jam! Showbiz section of the Toronto Sun indicates

that Fox is considering pulling the previously rumored X-Men teaser

trailer from holiday consideration. The report alleges that Fox is

concerned they do not have the "proper visuals" for a compelling

trailer.

However, a source on the production of the movie told Comics 2 Film

that, as far as he knows, the trailer will be shown this month. He

couldn't confirm a date or movie the trailer would run with, but he

did say that the latest word from Fox is that the trailer is still

happening. Furthermore the studio also plans to unveil the first

teaser poster for the film (the criss-crossed claws poster that's

been on the internet for months is apparently not an actual teaser

poster, but just publicity artwork generated by Marvel).

Our source did admit that the trailer and poster are totally in the

domain of the studio, not the production team. He said that the Sun

report may well be correct and it wouldn't be the first time the

production team heard something on the internet first.

In a related story, Collectible Concepts Group, Inc. announced today

that it has signed a license agreement with Marvel Enterprises, Inc.,

to create a variety of merchandise and establish a Collector's Club

to sell their products for the up-coming Twentieth Century Fox motion

picture, X-Men.

The licensed articles will range from novelty items such as X-Men

Graduation Rings; Dog Tags; Pins and Belt Buckles, to collectibles

such as Resin replicas of the featured motorcycle; Blackbird Jet;

Cyclops' Visor; Magneto's Helmet; Professor X's Mutant Locator

(Cerebro) and Wolverine's Adamantium Claws and Skeleton. The

Collector's Club is a marketing continuity program offered to

consumers via an Internet website and through direct mail, and will

offer Collectible Concepts' X-MEN products to its members. The

Collector's Club is slated to go on-line early next year.

Collectible Concepts Group has already launched a similar program or

merchandising for Austin Powers and also has the Official Terminator

Collector's Club in the works for this year.

NEW GODS/SUPERMAN REBORN

Orion

Although these projects may be dead in the water, fans now have an

opportunity to look at concept artwork for the New Gods animated

feature and the Superman live-action movie. Concept art for both

projects, and many others, can be seen on artist Sylvain Despretz's

web page on the Starwatcher site.

Three images from Despretz's work on the animated New Gods feature

for Warner Bros. Feature Animation are available. One features an

updated take on Jack Kirby's Big Barda, while two others depict

Kirby's Orion.

Also found on the site are four new images from the stalled Superman

Reborn production. Previously the page included two renderings of

Brainiac's skull-shaped spaceship and one scene of Superman saving

Lois. The latest additions to Despretz's page include an image of

Superman, presumably rejuvenating after his death, a new look at

Brainiac's ship and two images of some strange looking Kryptonians.

Despretz has provided concept art and story boards for many motion

pictures. The page contains numerous samples of his work, including

designs for such movies as Ridley Scott's Gladiator and I Am Legend

and Walter Hill's Supernova to name but a few.

CASPER

The Harvey Entertainment Company today announced an agreement with

Canada's Mainframe Entertainment, Inc. to produce the first all-

computer generated imagery (CGI) direct-to-video film based on

Harvey's Casper, the Friendly Ghost franchise. Production, which has

already commenced, will be funded by Harvey Entertainment, with

release to the home video market scheduled for Christmas 2000. A

previous live-action/CGI Casper direct-to-video feature, Casper, A

Spirited Beginning, sold over 3 million units worldwide. Alisha

Serold, Executive Director of Production and Acquisitions at Harvey

Entertainment will oversee production. Distribution rights are

currently under discussion with a major studio.

Rick Mischel, President of Harvey Entertainment, said, "Our priority

is to reinvigorate our traditional base of operations by developing

entertainment projects that leverage our impressive, proven character

portfolio. This production, which will be the first-ever, all-

computer animated Casper, is being produced by Mainframe

Entertainment, one of the most exceptional and commercially

successful CGI companies in the business. Mainframe's expertise will

bring a fresh and exciting new look to the Casper franchise to appeal

to today's kids." Included in the production will be all new original

songs as well as a new version of the classic Casper, the Friendly

Ghost theme.

"We're very pleased to be working with the new team at Harvey

Entertainment on the Casper project," said Ian Pearson, CEO and

President of Mainframe. "The Casper property has such longevity, and

there are so many stories yet to be told. We believe CGI is a perfect

medium for Casper and look forward to the opportunity to blow

everyone away with an amazing new look and feel for Casper in the new

millennium." Pearson continued, "Mainframe has been planning to move

into the direct-to-video market for some time, and we're delighted

that our debut will be with Casper, a franchise that has proven

itself to be an evergreen property."

Previous reports indicated that the movie would be called Casper's A

Merry Scary Christmas.

DAREDEVIL

Our pals over at Cinescape discovered that Sony/Columbia has

purchased the following domain name: http://www.daredevilthefilm.com.

This comes just weeks after it was announced that Sony is pursuing

the property with an eye towards fast-tracking the movie. The domain

does not appear to be active yet, but presumably will be as the movie

progresses.

BRUCE WAYNE TV SHOW

Over at Ain't it Cool News, El Cosmico has shed much light on the

previously rumored Bruce Wayne live-action TV show. El Cosmico

currently presides over AICN's TV section. According to his sources

the Bruce Wayne show is written by Tim McCanlies (Iron Giant, Dancer,

Texas Pop. 81). Cosmico claims that McCanlies is a big Frank Miller

fan and the story for the show backtracks from Year One.

Tollin-Robbins is the production company on the effort. Their

credits include Arli$$ for HBO and Keenan and Kel for Nickelodeon, as

well as the theatrical hit Varsity Blues.

Supposedly Warner Bros. is said to be "thrilled" with the pilot

script.

DARK MINDS

The Hollywood Reporter reports that Chris Lee Productions has entered

into a cooperative agreement with Pat and Roger Lee's Dreamwave

Productions. Dreamwave created this year's hit comic, the manga-

styled Dark Minds, as well as Warlands and Neon Cyber. As we told

you last month, CLP is set to produce a feature film version of Dark

Minds. However, the agreement not only give a first look deal to

produce films from Dreamwave concepts, it also lets Dreamwave mine

CLP concepts for potential comic properties.

CLP is also the production company on Top Cow's The Darkness.

NATHAN NEVER

Bonelli import Nathan Never is the latest comic property to get

scooped up by Hollywood, according to Michael Fleming of Daily

Variety. The comic, originally published by Bonelli Editore in Italy,

then imported by Platinum Studios and published by Dark Horse in the

US, has been purchased for a mid-six figure sum by DreamWorks.

The comic was created by Michele Medda, Antonio Serra and Bepi Vigna

in 1991. The title character is described as "a 21st Century Dirty

Harry who, in the wake of a vicious crime, is charged to protect the

lone witness."

Walter Parkes and Glenn Williamson of DreamWorks purchased the

concept. Walt Becker, who makes his directorial debut on Buying the

Cow, will pen a screenplay. Platinum chairman Scott Mitchell

Rosenberg will produce. Platinum pres Ervin Rustemagic and senior VP

Gregory Noveck will co-produce.

SHEENA, QUEEN OF THE JUNGLE

Producer Paul Aratow has filed a lawsuit against Sony Pictures over

the production of the planned syndicated Sheena, Queen of the Jungle

TV show. According to a recent article in The Hollywood Reporter,

Aratow is asserting that the studio deprived him of his "first right

of negotiation" when it assigned the TV project to producer Douglas

Schwartz (Baywatch) without giving Aratow a crack at it.

Aratow acquired the rights to the character over 20 years ago. His

Rinzler-Aratow Productions assigned the film and TV rights to

Columbia in 1980. Aratow produced 1984's Sheena movie, starring

Tanya Roberts, for the studio.

Sony has countered by claiming that the first right of refusal is

unenforceable by California state law. According to the Aratow's

lawyer, Steven Eggleston, the outcome of this case could have far-

reaching consequences for movie producers. "Sony's position, if it

is accepted by the courts, threatens the rights of all producers,

directors and other artists whose contracts contain this basic

provision," Eggleston is quoted as saying. "If this clause is

invalidated by the courts, then hundreds, perhaps thousands, of

contracts will be placed in doubt. The rights of all artists

involved will be clouded, as will those of all studios involved."

Eggleston has sent letters to all of the Hollywood guilds asking for

support in fighting to protect an important right.

Lawyers for Sony claim that "The right of first negotiation is

legally unenforceable. Under California law, 'a contract which

leaves an essential element for future agreement of the parties is

held fatally uncertain and unenforceable.'" According to the

article, Sony's lawyers further contend that Aratow has no standing

to file such a complaint as the originally agreement was with Rinzler-

Aratow Prods and Aratow's partner Alan Rinzler has not joined the

suit.

Sheena, is not only the subject of a Hollywood lawsuit, but is also a

sought after TV show on the syndicated market. A two page Columbia

TriStar TV advertisement appearing recently in the Hollywood trades

indicates that the show has already sold in over 50% of the U.S.

syndie market.

Gena Lee Nolin, the star on the hour-long adventure show, is featured

prominently in the spread. The ad also indicates that the show is

set to premiere in fall of 2000.

SPIDER-MAN

Ain't it Cool News posted another round of Spider-Man rumors this

week, only to take a step back and retract them. According to AICN's

most recent, and most apologetic report there are no firm director or

actor attachments on the Spidey movie.

Following up on recent internet based rumors Cinescape has verified

that Barry Sonnenfeld is not involved with the Spider-Man movie. "At

this time Mr. Sonnenfeld has absolutely no involvement with any

Spider-Man film," Cinescape was infromed by the director's people.

"There is not a single scrap of paper in this office regarding the

project."

The website also tried to follow up with Chris O'Donnell's people

about the rumors that the actor may be attached to star. No response

to their queries was given.

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