Master Of The Obvious

Thu, December 26th, 2002 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Steven Grant, Columnist

Rob Worley brings you the latest casting news on 'Hellboy' with an update from director Guillermo del Toro, plus the latest on 'Major Damage,' 'The Punisher,' 'Justice Leageu,' 'Hulk,' 'X-Men 2' and MUCH more!

HELLBOY

Rupert Evans Victoria Smurfit
With just weeks to go before the production team heads to Prague, the casting of the Hellboy movie is now complete. Director Guillermo del Toro told Comics2Film yesterday that the filmmakers have closed deals with actors in the final two parts in the production.

Newcomer Rupert Evans has signed on to play F.B.I. agent John Myers. The character is a fresh-faced outsider who is transferred to the B.P.R.D. where he takes on a hulking red partner. Hellboy is Evans' first major film role, although he has acting credits on various TV shows in the U.K. Viewers there may best know him as Jamie Doughan in the BBC drama Rockface.

Filling out the role of the Nazi femme fatale Ilsa is none other than Victoria Smurfit. Smurfit was seen this year in the excellent About a Boy. She'll also be seen in next year's Bulletproof Monk. In both Monk and Hellboy Smurfit serves as hench-woman to characters played by Karel Roden.

The casting of the pair completes the principal cast list for the movie. For those of you who came in late, here is the entire cast, all confirmed by del Toro:

Ron Perlman (Blade 2).....Hellboy
Doug Jones (Men In Black II).....Abe Sapien
Selma Blaire (Legally Blonde).....Liz Sherman
John Hurt (Harry Potter).....Professor Bruttenholm
Rupert Evans (Rockface).....Agent John Myers
Larry Miller (10 Things I Hate About).....Tom Manning
Karel Roden (15 Minutes).....Grigori Rasputin
Victoria Smurfit (Bulletproof Monk).....Ilsa

Del Toro also tells us that pre-production is running smoothly. "Things are looking awesome," del Toro said. "I'm very, very happy with everything."

The director recently returned from Prague where he oversaw and approved model designs for the film's sets. Construction on some of the sets are already underway.

The production, which has been based in L.A. up until now, is set to ship out to Prague in January. Pre-production work continues until March, and then cameras roll on the project for about three months.

Hellboy is due in theaters Summer of 2004.

GIANT FIGHTERS

Animator and comic creator Shannon Denton was in Florida last week. The reason for the visit? To view a public screening of a CGI animated film version of his Giant Fighters comics.

No, this wasn't some big-budget Hollywood adaptation. The short film is the end product of latest graduating class of The Digital Animation & Visual Effects School (known as The DAVE School for short).

Comics2Film spoke with Denton and DAVE School co-founder Jeff Scheetz about the film and the school.

The school was founded in 2000 as means of providing training in the field of computer animation. Scheetz tells us that DAVE School offers a one year program with small class sizes. Students are usually new to the field and come from all walks of life.

"They're usually people who have started one career or another and have decided that's not what they wanted to do," Sheetz said, continuing, "architects, graphic designers, life guards, bartenders, IT workers."

The final semester culminates in a class project to produce a short animation from beginning to end. Last year's class did a film called Psycho Pump based on a character created by Digger of Art Asylum. This year's project was Giant Fighters. Adapting an existing work is essential to the goals of the course.

"We're trying to duplicate the production process and one of the things that schools often forget is the client," Scheetz explained. "So, our idea here is that we've got not just the teachers acting as supervisors and students acting as animators but we've got somebody like Shannon, who has a property that they need to get done. The only reason it's semi-pretend is that Shannon's not paying anything for it."

Giant Fighters was previously published in Denton's "Actionopolis" anthology comic. It focuses on a team of space-faring adventurers who do battle with giant monsters. An online version of the comic can be found at the Komikwerks website.

Denton tells us that he provided some initial designs and storyboards for the project as well as a script from Keith Giffen. According to the comic-creator, the Giant Fighters short was quite a bit more ambitious than previous class projects, with several models for characters, spaceships and monsters involved.

Denton saw the finished work last week at a graduation screening held on the Universal Citywalk at Universal Studios, Florida. Although there were only eleven students in the class. The film played to a packed theater.

According to Denton, the class did DAVE School proud. "These students did an amazing job."

Denton also enjoyed the Giant Fighters theme song, created for the film, which he describes as a "1960s Godzilla-meets-techno soundtrack."

Plans are to have the Giant Fighters short film available for download on The DAVE School website by the time this article sees print. Currently Psycho Pump and other student animations can be viewed in the site's gallery.

The next graduating class at DAVE School will be tackling CrossGen Comics' Chimera. They hope to have the film ready to play at next summer's Mega-Con.

MAJOR DAMAGE

Fans who are anxiously awaiting the release of the Major Damage short film may have to wait a bit longer. In the mean time fans can watch for the boy-turned-superhero in the pages of Erik Larsen's The Savage Dragon.

Larsen has agreed to publish the original Major Damage comic as a flip book to his monthly title. The comic was initially targeted to be released in October as a flip with Mike Manley's Monsterman. However, that book never materialized.

"When Erik heard what had happened, he was kind enough to offer me space in Dragon. I thought this totally cool as I've been a fin addict since almost the beginning," Major Damage creator Chris Bailey told Comics2Film. "I had met Erik a few times in the past and even used an image of Dragon as a poster in [the Major Damage short] on Melvin's wall."

Bailey had originally sought to simply publish the eight-page origin story that he completed five years earlier. Larsen suggested that Bailey expand the work to sixteen pages.

The new, expanded comic will appear on the flip side of Savage Dragon #107, due out early next year.

"To link the stories together (albeit loosely), Erik used my Tiki terror to run amok through his Dragon story. If you look closely, you can even see a little Major Damage/Melvin drawn in there. He's not in the forefront as in my story, but he's there."

Of course, melding the two tales of Tiki terror wasn't completely seamless.

"There is kind of a weird continuity thing in that my story takes place on Halloween night and his takes place in real time right after Christmas, but I figure it took the Tiki 2-3 months to walk under the ocean to get to the mainland," Bailey said, joking.

The animator also tells us that he still plans to release the movie on DVD. He is currently negotiating with a publisher to release a picture book that will contain the CGI short on an included disc.

PUNISHER, THE

Punisher fans may learn who is cast as Frank Castle in the upcoming movie very soon according to Kevin Feige, Executive Vice President of Marvel Studios.

The V.P. said that, as with previous Marvel movies, the emphasis will be on casting someone who is right for the part, rather than simply looking for the biggest marquee name available.

"It'll be a great actor in the tradition of the majority of the roles we cast," Feige told C2F. "With Daredevil, even had Ben Affleck not been a superstar, he would have gotten the part because he was the perfect guy for it. Like Hugh Jackman, like Eric Bana, like Tobey we go for the people who are best for the role, whether they're known or completely unknown."

Director Jonathan Hensleigh is meeting with potential, skull-chested leading men right now and announcements may be forthcoming.

A THOUSAND DAYS (STRIKEFORCE MORITURI)

Variety reports that SCI FI Channel is working up a TV series based on the late-1980s Marvel Comics title Strikeforce: Morituri. The show, which will be called A Thousand Days is set to debut next year on the cable outlet.

Strikeforce: Morituri featured a 21st century war in which soldiers are enhanced with super powers, but have a life-span of 1,000 days after joining the force. Although the comic book enemies were alien, Variety reports that the show will focus on Earth-bound villains.

Matt Holloway and Art Marcum will write and also serve as executive producers on the series. Ben Silverman is also named as an executive producer.

"(The concept) is born of a potential reality, but is still in the great superhero arena," Silverman, told Variety. "It's a sexy, fun franchise that could go on and on and on."

Although the show is targeted for 2003, SCI FI president Bonnie Hammer said that the show will air only when it's ready. "We've set our own bar with our original programming now," she said. "Everything we do has to be of a certain level."

JUSTICE LEAGUE

Look for supporting players Lois Lane and Alfred the butler to show up on an upcoming episode of Justice League according to a write-up in the L.A. Times. The article indicates that a season-two episode will features the return of Dana Delany as Lois Lane and Efrem Zimbalist Jr. as Alfred.

Comics2Film did a little digging and uncovered some details about that particular segment.

Sources have confirmed that the episode in question is titled "Hereafter," and will feature the return of several characters from the Superman animated series of the 1990s. However, due to various reasons not all of the original voice actors will be reprising their roles.

In fact, voice actor Corey Burton (Brainiac) fills in for three actors. "Bruce [Timm] figured he could have me knock off all three roles," says Burton, "thereby saving a good script. Interestingly enough, all of my characters are in a scene together. I've been on shows before where I have to talk to myself - this time I did it in triplicate."

The recording session for "Hereafter" was held on Friday, October 18.

HULK

Variety reported on Universal Pictures' marketing strategy with regards to the most anticipated comic book movie of next year, The Hulk.

Uni got the ball rolling in the summer with that chilling teaser trailer which featured star Eric Bana contemplating the Hulk-out, just before giving a good what-for to the bathroom sink. Their next move was to release a massive Hulk banner in theaters this month. Images of the banner appeared online a week ago.

While neither promo tool gave fans a great look at the creature, the Variety write-up indicates that a more revealing trailer will definitely be seen come January 26th's Super-Bowl.

F/X wiz's at Industrial Light and Magic were allowed an extra year in post-production to work on the Hulk's look.

Universal is hoping to avoid the catastrophe suffered by Sony when their revamped Godzilla disappointed fans. To that end, The Hulk will look familiar to fans. At the same time Sony scored by releasing early images of Spider-Man which squelched any negative fan murmurs.

Uni marketing is working hard to control the revelation of the creature without frustrating moviegoers who are anticipating the film. The use of the giant-sized banners is one way to convey the epic size of the film.

"It was both an opportunity and a challenge to present the excitement, the power and the realism of this character in the print medium, and we are enormously pleased with the resulting image," said Adam Fogelson, Universal's president of marketing.

Want some insights into the direction of The Hulk? The Comics Continuum tells us they can be had by peeking at the back of the new movie-themed action figures. Here's the description of Bruce Banner lifted from the toy packaging:

"Bruce Banner endures a life without a past, yet filled with dreams. A genetic scientist, Bruce studies the effects of gamma radiation on damaged tissue. Unaware there is a monster inside of him, Bruce continually struggles with fits of anxiety, embarrassment and rage. One day during a freak lab accident, Bruce's inner beast is unleashed and he becomes the most powerful being on the face of the earth - The Hulk!"

Check out The Continuum to see an image of the packaging for yourself.

X-MEN 2

Less than a week after Yahoo! Movies ran it in a rather disappointing quality download, Apple and The Official X-Men 2 Movie site have posted a new, high-quality, QuickTime version of the X-Men 2 trailer.

[Magneto]Lady Deathstrike's claws almost rip the screen in all their brilliance now and Nightcrawler's tail can be seen in it's fully, arrow-tipped glory! Run, or scurry on all-fours (but don't walk!) to check out the new download now!

Fans who stop by the official site are now greeted by Ian McKellen's Magneto. If they venture into the Cerebro area they'll find a Magneto desktop wallpaper waiting for them to download.

Over in the UK fans and a new way to spread some X-Mas cheer: X-Men 2 E-Cards. Now X-Fans can send friends and family members holiday greetings featuring their favorite X-Men 2 movie characters. But you won't find these at the official X2 website.

Instead, direct your browser to the Fox UK website. There you'll find e-cards featuring Professor X, Wolverine, Nightcrawler and Storm. Send off an animated dose of homo superior goodwill towards your fellow homo sapien.

In related news, Alonzo Washington writes in to tell us that he saw the new trailer in theaters this weekend. It's running with The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. Fans who check out the Tolkien sequel may also get a look at Bulletproof Monk and Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.

The January Diamond Previews catalog will feature the first photos of the actions figure s accompanying Twentieth Century Fox's upcoming X-Men 2.

The Diamond Comics Toy Chest has a few preview images from various product line offerings, including the first wave of action figures, the 14 inch deluxe figures, X-Jet Playset, Wolverine Claws, and Roto-Cast vinyl figures.

The first wave of action figures is scheduled to include: Super-Poseable Danger Room Wolverine, Super-Poseable Optic Blast Cyclops, Claw-Slashing Logan, and Super-Poseable Nightcrawler.

The X-Men 2 toys are expected to ship some time in March 2003. Check out Diamond Comics for more photos.

X-Men 2 star Anna Paquin chatted it up with Carson Daly on NBC's "Last Call" show Friday Night. The Comics Continuum gives the highlights about what the actress said about reprising her role of Rogue in the sequel.

"I have a bit more action, some stunts, some fun stuff that I got to train and learn how to do and work with the stunt team," Paquin told Daly. "It's not so much just hanging around being the damsel in distress like last movie. It was a lot more active, which I enjoy."

Paquin revealed that she was back and forth to Vancouver for about six months during the shoot, but spent most of her time at the Canadian location.

For more about Paquin's personal life check out The Continuum's complete account of the appearance.

DAREDEVIL

You've seen them in movie theaters: three dimensional displays featuring Ben Affleck's Daredevil standing in front of a large cardboard DD logo model. Now you can have one sprucing up your living room.

Just send your browser to DaredevilMovie.com and enter the "Daredevil Standup Sweepstakes." Five lucky winners will get one of the giant theater displays. Another ten will take home the Daredevil movie poster.

Come on! You know you want it.

SPIDER-MAN ANIMATED SHOW

The Orlando Sentinel recently spoke with Lisa Loeb, the voice of Mary Jane Watson on the upcoming Spider-Man animated show. Although the majority of the article covers Loeb's newly released album "Hello Lisa" (as well as the singer/actress' love of the strange animated character Hello Kitty), the article does touch on the web-slinger's MTV cartoon.

"The version of Mary Jane that I'm playing in this series is a little bit more edgy and cool, and more of an individual than the character in the movie," Loeb told The Sentinel. "She's more of a real person with a real personality. I relate to her, and I think she's a good role model."

Spider-Man is due on MTV next year.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES - ANIMATED SHOW

NinjaTurtles.com continues to be the place to go for updates on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated TV show. The site has posted their latest sneak peek artwork from the upcoming show. 

The new round of full-color design illustrations features an extensive look at the settings and locales of the upcoming show. Click the thumbnails for a preview and then head over to NinjaTurtles.com for a look at over a dozen new pieces of artwork.

In related Turtles news, the TMNT page at FoxBox.TV reports that the show is now slated to air February 8th 2003.

STRIPPERELLA

[Striperella]Check out The Art of Ed Lee for concept drawings for Stripperella, the new series created and produced by Stan Lee for TNN.

According to Lee, Pamela Anderson, who will perform the lead character Stripperella, chose these drawings herself over other submissions. "Originally they wanted a realistic portrayal but I think they're going for more simpler approach...looks like "Tom & Jerry" style now," Lee wrote on his website.

The 30 minute, animated Stripperella is set to debut on cable's TNN network some time next year.

Thanks to Dark Horizons for the heads up.

NOTE: Although it was online earlier this week, at the time of this article's publication, Lee's website does not appear to be functioning.

ROAD TO PERDITION

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association recently announced its nominations for this year's Golden Globe Awards. This year an actor's work in a comic book film is one of the potential honorees.

Paul Newman has been nominated for his role of Irish crime boss John Rooney in Road to Perdition, which is based on the graphic novel by Max Allan Collins and Richard Piers Rayner. 

Newman faces heavy competition in the category of best supporting actor. His fellow nominees include: Chris Cooper for Adaptation, Dennis Quaid for Far >From Heaven, Ed Harris for The Hours, and John C Reilly for Chicago.

BIRDS OF PREY

A write-up in Tuesday's Variety discusses the latest fan efforts to save their favorite shows, including the recently cancelled Birds of Prey.

Prominently mentioned is the campaign by Birds Of Prey Online which urges disgruntled viewers to send Batman comics to WB Entertainment prexy Jordan Levin and Turner chief Jamie Kellner.

The article also touches on efforts to save the new Fox show Firefly, which got it's walking papers last week.

While the write-up states that there's "plenty of precedent" on the side of fan campaigns, Comics2Film readers this year have watched campaigns to save cancelled programs like The Tick and Witchblade come and go without a response from the powers-that-be.

SPIDER-MAN

Fans who missed out on the recent Spider-Man online event have another chance to relive the magic.

On Sunday, December 15th, 2002, thousands of people enjoyed the highly anticipated online commentary with Spider-Man himself, Tobey Maguire, and J.K. Simmons, who played J. Jonah Jamison.

For readers who missed the engagement, it's not too late you to still check it out. Sony has provided an Online Theater Archive for fans who have the Spider-Man DVD and want to access the commentary. Once you click on the link it will explain how you can access the commentary against playback of your Spider-Man DVD in your PC computer DVD-Rom.

The event has been archived and will be able to be experienced for a limited time.

You can also find a link to a road map to your DVD Easter Eggs on by following the link above.

So if you missed the event don't miss your second opportunity to hear funny stories about the making of Spider-Man from Tobey Maguire and J.K. Simmons.

ZITS

Reports from Variety indicate that Adam "Tex" Davis has done a rewrite on the screenplay for Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman's comic strip Zits. Davis came on board the Universal Pictures project back in the summer.

Shawn Levy (Big Fat Liar) is attached to direct the movie. Universal-based Tom Shadyac and Marc Platt are prodcuting.

Davis' spec script The Gardener of Eden was recently optioned by Leonardo DiCaprio's Initial Entertainment Group-based Appian Way Prods.

BROKEN SAINTS AT SUNDANCE

Here's a press release from Brook Burgess:

Cutting-edge North Vancouver production company and its animation series of the same name, Broken Saints, has been nominated in the prestigious New Forms Category at the upcoming Sundance Film Festival next month.

Broken Saints is a dark and edgy online episodic graphic novel that attempts to revolutionize visual storytelling on the Internet by pushing Macromedia's Flash animation software to its limits.

Its creators, writer/director Brooke Burgess, artist Andrew West, and Flash designer Ian Kirby quit their day jobs in the Summer of 2000 and moved the production headquarters into the basement of the Kirby family home. To date, this project has been completely self-funded except for donations from fans around the world as well as local benefit concerts.

With 21 episodes completed and approaching the story's climax with only three more remaining, the timing with the Sundance nomination heightens the already growing anticipations from over 25,000 hard-core fans, interest from the media, and the possibility of commercializing the series with a DVD box set launching in Fall 2003.

"Broken Saints demonstrates that new media tools can enable creators and small collaborative teams to affordably reach a hungry and informed global audience," says Burgess, who also currently teaches game design at The Arts Institute: Center for Digital Imaging and Sound in Burnaby, Canada.

"To receive critical recognition from a groundbreaking organization like the Sundance Institute only proves that the future of storytelling need not rest solely in the hands of major studios and entertainment conglomerates."

The Sundance Film Festival will be held in Park City, Utah, January 16 to 26, 2003.

Twenty-one episodes of Broken Saints can be viewed online at BrokenSaints.com.

JUSTICE LEAGUE, X-MEN: EVOLUTION

DVD Toons! reports that Warner Home Video has unveiled a slate of animated comic book fare for release in Spring of next year.

Challenge of the Superfriends, Batman Animated Series: Tales of the Dark Knight, Justice League: Justice on Trial and X-Men: Evolution: Mutants Rising are the titles slated for release on April 22, 2003. Each title will carry a suggested retail price of $19.98.

DVD Toons! also has images of the menus for the Superfriends and Batman DVDs.

Thanks to Ralph for the lead.

THIS WEEK ON JUSTICE LEAGUE

It's a grab bag of reruns for Justice League this week on Cartoon Network.

First up, when a renegade Amazon named Aresia takes over Lex Luthor's old gang, Wonder Woman and Hawkgirl must team up to stop her from destroying Man's world. It's girls gone wild in a rerun of "Fury".

"Fury - Part 1" airs Saturday December 28th at 12pm. "Part 2" immediately follows at 12:30pm.

Later that evening the element man puts in a guest appearance in "Metamorphosis - Part 1", which airs at 9:30pm.

Then, in case you missed it earlier this month, or the half-dozen other times it was on, Superman confronts Mongul in another rerun of "War World - Part 2." That episode airs Sunday, December 30th at 7:00pm.

THIS WEEK ON SABRINA THE TEENAGE WITCH

It's a double dose of teenage witchiness this week!

First up: former Charlie's Angel Kate Jackson guest stars in a repeat airing of "It's a Hot, Hot, Hot, Hot Christmas", this week's episode of Sabrina, The Teenage Witch.

Sabrina (Melissa Joan Hart), Roxie (Soleil Moon Frye) and Morgan (Elisa Donovan) spend Christmas with Leonard (John Ducey) in Florida where they run into Roxie's recently paroled mom, Candy (guest star Kate Jackson, "Charlie's Angels"). But when the vacation home is robbed and Roxie's mom is accused, it's up to Sabrina to prove Candy's innocence and give Roxie the Christmas she always dreamed of. Melissa Joan Hart directed the episode written by Dan Kael.

"It's a Hot, Hot, Hot, Hot Christmas" re-airs Christmas day, Wednesday, December 25th at 8:00pm on The WB.

Then, in the show's regular timeslot, Backstreet Boy Howie Dorough guest stars in a repeat airing of "The Big Head".

Sabrina's (Melissa Joan Hart) first assignment at Scorch is to write a profile about an overconfident rock star (guest star Howie Dorough, Backstreet Boys), but when her senior editor (Diana-Maria Riva) publishes the truth about the arrogant superstar, he threatens to sue the magazine unless Sabrina gives a public apology at his concert. Hart directed the episode written by Bill Rosenthal & Andrew Borakove.

"The Big Head" airs Friday, December 27th, 8:30pm ET on The WB.

Thanks to author and comic book movie journalist Andy Mangels for the info.

NEXT WEEK ON SMALLVILLE

In case you missed it Tuesday night, The WB is going to rebroadcast the Smallville episode "Lineage", in which Blair Brown guest stars in a stunning flashback episode.

A mysterious woman (Brown) shows up claiming to be Clark's (Tom Welling) mother, prompting the Kents (John Schneider, Annette O'Toole) to tell Clark what happened after they discovered him in the cornfield that fateful day. Clark discovers why his father hates the Luthors (John Glover, Michael Rosenbaum), how his adoption was fixed, and who really rescued Lex from the edge of death. Kristin Kreuk, Sam Jones III, Allison Mack also star. Greg Beeman directed the episode written by Alfred Gough and Miles Millar with teleplay by Kenneth Biller.

"Lineage" re-airs Sunday, December 29th at 5:00pm ET on The WB.

Then, in the show's regular timeslot, Clark meets his grandfather and Lana discovers that her father may be alive in a repeat of the episode titled "Redux"

After realizing the farm is in financial trouble, Martha (Annette O'Toole) goes to her estranged father (guest star George Coe) for help. Clark (Tom Welling) is thrilled at the prospect of meeting his grandfather but Jonathan's (John Schneider) refusal to see the man prompts Clark to force a reunion that doesn't go exactly as planned. Meanwhile, Lana (Kristin Kreuk) discovers an old photograph that suggests her father may still be alive. Michael Rosenbaum, Sam Jones III and Allison Mack also star. Chris Long directed the episode written by Russel Friend & Garrett Lerner.

"Redux" airs Tuesday, December 31st at 9:00pm on The WB.

Thanks to author and comic book movie journalist Andy Mangels for the info.

NEXT WEEK ON BIRDS OF PREY

Some things are thicker than water on the repeat airing of "Slick", this week's episode of Birds of Prey.

Slick (guest star Silas Weir Mitchell), an evil meta-human who can turn from solid to liquid, is hired by Dr. Quinn (Mia Sara) to kill the honest cops who stand in her way. When Reese (Shemar Moore) is the next intended victim, Helena (Ashley Scott) comes to his aid and their mutual attraction continues to grow. Meanwhile, Barbara (Dina Meyer) believes Dinah's (Rachel Skarsten) story that she's just a runaway, but Helena remains suspicious. Michael Katelman directed the episode written by Laeta Kalogridis and Melissa Rosenberg.

"Slick" airs Wednesday, January 1st at 9:00pm on the WB.

Thanks to author and comic book movie journalist Andy Mangels for the info.

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