Comics2Film

Thu, January 2nd, 2003 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Rob Worley, Columnist

2002 - C2F IN REVIEW

And so we come to the close to the year that was 2002, a year which proved to be a high-water mark for comic book movies and TV shows. This year stands in sharp contrast to 1997, the year that Comics2Film was born. In 1997, it took a brave soul to champion comic book movies. The films we were covering then were such funny book classics as Spawn, Steel and the deservedly-reviled Batman and Robin. The sole bright spot that year was Men In Black. While it was barely recognizable as a comic book adaptation, it stood for a long period as the top-grossing adaptation of all time.

Until 2002.

This year the good stuff for comic fans far outweighed the bad. We don't have enough to do a full top 10 list, but we can sure talk about seven reasons that make us happy to be leading the comic book movie charge.

[Welcome To Eltingville]#7 - Welcome To Eltingville - Evan Dorkin brought his razor, caustic wit to animated life on this pilot TV show for Cartoon Network. Nobody was safe as the show, focusing on a group of pop-culture obsessed geeks, turned a critical eye at fandom gone amuck. C2F enjoyed the half-hour segment a great deal. However, the TV version was quite a bit less mean-spirited then Dorkin's black and white comic and failed to attract a significant audience. Nevertheless we view it as a bright spot this year.

#6 - Justice League: Savage Time - Continuing the hit series Justice League, this 90 minute TV movie sent six of the magnificent seven back into time where the team battled Vandal Savage during World War II. A tribute to the world's fighting men, the show aired on Veterans' Day weekend and featured an all-star guest-cast of DC's finest war heroes. The Blackhawks, Sgt. Rock and Steve Trevor were among the nostalgic characters making an appearance.

#5 - G-Men From Hell - The live-action adaptation of Mike Allred's quirky comic finally saw release this year. Although the campy film was screened two years prior at Comic-Con, it was only summer of 2002 in which a DVD version became available to the masses. With a great cast, a funny script and art design ripped right from the pages of the comics, G-Men is a fun little film that is a must-see for Allred fans. As a bonus, the DVD also contains Allred's independent movie Astroesque, a prelude to Red Rocket 7, which the comic creator wrote, directed and starred in.

#4 - Jeremiah - Based on Hermann Huppen's comic of the same name, this made-for-cable TV series surprised everyone and became a big success for ShowTime. With J. Michael Straczynski writing and Luke Perry and Malcolm-Jamal Warner starring, fans flocked to this futuristic tale about a future world where an entire generation of children grew up as orphans. ShowTime has re-upped the show for a second season and added Sean Astin (The Two Towers) to the cast.

[Road To Perdition]#3 - Road To Perdition - Director Sam Mendes transformed Max Allan Collins' graphic novel into a moving and beautiful film starring Tom Hanks. Although the mainstream media spent way too much time clumsily overplaying the distinction between comic books and graphic novels, the critical buzz on the movie helped get the word out to the uninitiated: comics aren't just superhero stories for kids. While the film generated a ton of critical buzz early on, it still hasn't caught up with Ghost World as the most acclaimed comic adaptation of all time. Still, it remains to be seen what the Oscar nominations will bring to this outstanding adaptation.

#2 - Blade II - Visceral, scary and wall-to-wall action, this second installment in Wesley Snipes' comic book franchise kicked all kinds of undead ass. Director Guillermo del Toro's passion for comics is undeniable in this love-letter to comic book fans. As with that other superhero movie, you can freeze-frame moments of this movie and identify the comic artists whose work is being emulated. Fans may not have fully appreciated the excellent blend of CG and conventional effects, which were often so subtle and seamless that we were often hard-pressed to identify which was which.

On top of the great theatrical release, New Line released one of the best DVDs of the year: a two disc set which features some of the most extensive behind the scenes footage ever seen. The DVD offers keen insights into the filmmaking and creative process.

Snipes, Goyer and Del Toro crafted such an adrenaline-pumped film that we're already in withdrawal waiting for Blade III.

[Spider-Man]#1 - Spider-Man - Well...duh. Everyone saw that coming.

And what can we say about Spidey that hasn't already been said? The movie succeeds in so many ways it's hard to know where to begin. Spider-Man is what every fanboy and girl wants in a superhero adaptation.

For one thing, it's true to the source material. The characterizations and tone of the movie are dead-on with the everyman hero that's graced the pages of Marvel comics for years. He looks like our Spidey, not only in the the excellent movie costume, but in Sam Raimi's decree that the F/X team study the comics and make sure the classic poses appear on screen.

The story, although adapted and tweaked, came right out of the comics. While big-screen origin stories often mirror those of the funny books, this movie also used the classic plot of the main villain conflict too.

While being faithful is something all fans crave, what everyone really wants is just a good movie. Spider-Man delivers there too. The feedback we heard from non-readers was almost as enthusiastic as that of the hard-core fans: the movie had a great story that everyone could relate too.

While folks outside of comic fandom may have learned something from Road To Perdition, it seems they also got a lesson from Spider-Man. Comics, superhero stories or not, are a medium for telling dynamic, exciting, relatable stories that everyone can enjoy.

As cool as 2002 has been, it's pretty clear that things haven't peaked yet. Check out this blockbuster line-up for 2003: Daredevil, Bulletproof Monk, X-Men 2, The Hulk and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. That's just the movies. On TV we'll see Spider-Man, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Tutenstein, A Thousand Nights and more. There'll also be imports like Asterix and Obelix and Blueberry. We may even see Lady Death, Starman, Night Thrasher and other cool stuff.

Whatever the future holds, we're happy to have seen a great year like 2002 and to have been Comics2Film before comics-to-films were cool! (OK...they were always cool)

And now, on to the news...

TEEN TITANS ANIMATED SHOW

Comics2Film recently heard from a credible source who got a look at some of the work that's being done with the Teen Titans animated TV series. This is the same source that accurately informed us back in June that the core team would be composed of Changeling, Raven, Cyborg, Starfire and Robin. Now, that source is able to tell us who some of the guest characters will be.

It wouldn't be Teen Titans without Slade Wilson, better known as Deathstroke, The Terminator. This character was introduced in the second issue of the Wolfman/Perez series and became an integral part of the Titans mythos.

Our source tells us that Wilson will be a key player in the animated show, acting more as a mastermind plotting against the Titans, and occasionally going into action as Deathstroke.

Fans can also look for an episode centering on the destructive Vietnamese due of Thunder and Lightning. These characters first appeared in the third year of Marv Wolfman and George Perez's New Teen Titans. In that book they were depicted as young men with out-of-control super powers searching for their long-lost father. Eventually their involvement with the Titans allows them to learn the truth about their father and get their powers under control.

Our source is unsure how much the story adheres to the comic books, but she did say that the show's producers seem to be going for a Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon feel to the episode.

Our source also revealed that at least one episode will feature frequent Titans foe Dr. Light. No other details about that one are available.

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.

MARTIN MYSTÈRE

[Martin Mystere]Comics2Film has learned that work is underway on an animated version of Alfredo Castelli's long-running Italian comic, Martin Mystère (or Martin Mystery as it is known in the U.S.).

Marathon Animation, the producers behind cartoon fare like Marsupilami and Totally Spies are currently in production on 40 half-hour segments for France's M6 channel.

A younger version of the character will be presented in the show. Here's how Marathon describes the program:

[Martin Mystere]"We follow the adventures of Alfredo Castelli's well-loved character throughout forty half-hour episodes of explosive, outrageous comedy and the most inexplicable of paranormal investigations… Prepare to see sparks fly in this unique blend of character-based comedy and action as Martin, Diana and their outlandish friends learn to cope with the peculiarities of the supernatural… not to mention trying to cope with the pressures of every day high-school life and avoiding getting Martin kicked out of class!"

Stéphane Berry, who directed Totally Spies for Marathon, will direct Martin Mystère. Vincent Chalvon-Demersay and David Michel are producers on the show. The show as a budget of 11.2 million Euros.

Martin Mystère is published in Europe by Bonelli. Digest sized trade paperbacks are available in the U.S. from Dark Horse Comics.

SPIDER-MAN, MEN IN BLACK 2

Variety reports that Hollywood movie studios enjoyed a banner year in 2002, with ticket sales record highs.

According to the report, domestic sales hit new record levels, topping $1.57 billion by the year's end. This breaks a previous record set in 1998. Industrywide, grosses are up 13% over last year's record take for a whopping total of $9.2 billion.

As has been widely reported already, Sony enjoyed it's best year ever and led the charge among studios. This was due in now small part to the record-shattering performance of Spider-Man, accounting for $403.7 million. However, the studio had a strong slate overall with hits like Black Hawk Down, Panic Room, Mr. Deeds, Men in Black 2, XXX and Maid in Manhattan ringing up sales as well.

Adding to the overall picture where highly anticipated features like Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Star Wars: Episode II: Attack of the Clones and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

Variety reports that sales were also boosted by an estimated 3.4% increase in ticket prices, which cost movie-goers an average $5.85.

2002's Movies performed as well at home as they did in theaters. The Hollywood Reporter reports that online vendor Amazon.com enjoyed it's busiest holiday season ever, with sales up 1.5% over the period last year. Boosting the bottom line this year were sales of DVDs, which accounted for five out of the top 10 best-selling items at the site.

Topping that DVD list were: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Star Wars: Episode II -- Attack of the Clones, Band of Brothers, Spider-Man and The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (Platinum Series Extended Edition).

THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN

With long lead times on movie-promo websites becoming the norm, fans are starting to wonder when Fox is planning on unveiling the internet destination of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Word that the studio is buying up domain names prompted us to wake Bleeko, the Comics2Film web-monkey from his winter hibernation in search of LXG domains.

The surly simian was none-to-pleased to be sent out into the winter cold, but he did manage to dig up a plethora of domain names, all registered to Fox for use with this movie.

As has been previously reported, LeagueOfExtraordinaryGe ntlemen.com is apparently the first domain name the studio registered. They picked it up way back on April 2000. Currently, visiting that link simply forwards surfers to the FoxMovies.com website.

In January of this year, Fox decided to hedge their bets and buy up a few more related names. LeagueOfExtraordin aryGentlemenMovie.com, TheLeagueOfExtraordi naryGentlemen.com and the mega-mouthful TheLeagueOfExtr aordinaryGentlemenMovie.com were all snapped up in the secondary round. None of these domain names are linked to active sites.

Not content that they've thwarted domain name squatters, Fox purchased additional, and even more improbable domain names just last month. Newly issued names include LXGLeagueOfExtraordi naryGentlemen.com and LXGLeagueOfExtr aordinaryGentlemenMovie.com. These addresses are also currently inactive.

But if brevity is the soul of good internet traffic, Bleeko suspects that this next one is the one we'll see Fox using to promote the movie. LXGMovie.com is the most concise name Bleeko found in Fox's registry. Fox registered it in September, perhaps realizing that the wordy title wouldn't fly and opted to use the three letter abbreviation instead.

With that, Bleeko returns to his winter slumber, dreaming of registrars, IP addresses and DNS servers, until the forces of comic book filmmaking summon him once again to ferret out the secrets of the internet.

DAREDEVIL

Filmmaker and comic scribe Kevin Smith commented on the Daredevil movie in a recent entry of his Jersey Girl Diary at Movie Poop Shoot.

Smith told readers, "I saw it. It's great. Mark and Co. nailed the tone of the character/book. If you're a fan of the comics/character, you'll dig this flick."

Smith, of course, has written the Daredevil comics, including Daredevil/Bullseye: The Target which is currently in stores. The movie's director, Mark Steven Johnson, has stated that Smith's early Marvel Knights run on the character helped re-ignite his interest in the man without fear. Smith also has a cameo in the upcoming movie.

ROAD TO PERDITION

Road to Perdition continues to be the year's most critically acclaimed comic book movie. The film received two more award nominations in addition to the Golden Globe nomination Paul Newman received for his work on the film. Empire Online reports that the London Film Critics Circle have announced their nominations for their awards. The Awards will be presented in February of 2003.

Perdition director Sam Mendes was nominated for British Director of the Year. He's competing against Mike Leigh for All or Nothing and Christopher Nolan for Insomnia. The movie was also nominated for film of the year. It's competing against: About Schmidt, Bowling for Columbine, Lantana, and Donnie Darko, which was released in England this year.

STATIC SHOCK

A couple of Gotham Girls will tangle with Dakota's favorite son in the third season of Static Shock! according to The Comics Continuum.

In what will likely be the season opener, Static travels to Gotham City where he teams again with Batman and Robin. Familiar Bat-villains Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy will be on hand to cause trouble for the titanic trio.

No word on when the episode airs or when the new season begins.

SPIDER-MAN

[Spider-Man]With great power comes great responsibility. Yesterday Blockbuster Inc. announced it used Spider-Man's power to entertain and fulfill the responsibility of brightening the holidays for the kids at Primary Children's Medical Center this holiday season.

According to a press release, the video rental giant donated a life-size replica of the movie webslinger to the hospital. This is a copy of the same statue that fans had an opportunity to win earlier in the year.

"Blockbuster has a significant corporate commitment to the Children's Miracle Network, and so we're pleased to be able to bring some fun and excitement by personally delivering this gift to the kids at Primary Children's Medical Center," said Gomes. "This is also a way for Blockbuster to recognize and celebrate the tremendous service the hospital has given to children from all over the Intermountain West for more than 80 years."

"We're pleased to be the recipient of the wonderful gift," said Joe Horton, CEO Primary Children's Medical Center. "Hospitalized children have something in common with this much loved cartoon super hero. While Spiderman faces great risks to help those in need, our patients are heroes in their own right as they face life-threatening and life-changing medical challenges."

Joe Gomes, Blockbuster Vice President Midwest Area, and Bill Savage, Regional Director, Salt Lake City, presented the Spider-Man replica to Joe Horton, CEO of Primary Children's Medical Center. Also accepting the Spider-Man replica were two children representing all the kids that are served by the hospital -- 9-year old Austin Davis, of Brigham City, UT, and 4-year old McKinlee Barlow, of Riverton, UT.

THIS WEEK ON JUSTICE LEAGUE

Cartoon Network kicks off the new year with a grab bag of reruns for Justice League.

First up, those JSA wannabes, the Justice Guild show up in a repeat airing of "Legends".

"Legends - Part 1" airs Saturday January 4th at 12pm. "Part 2" immediately follows at 12:30pm.

Later that evening the element man wraps up his guest appearance in a repeat airing of "Metamorphosis - Part 2", which airs at 9:30pm.

Finally, it's yet another presentation of "The Brave and the Bold - Part 1." That episode airs Sunday, January 5th at 7:00pm.

THIS WEEK ON SABRINA THE TEENAGE WITCH

Award winning R&B superstar Ashanti guest-stars in a repeat of "Call Me Crazy", this week's episode of Sabrina, The Teenage Witch.

Sabrina's (Melissa Joan Hart) desperate attempts to impress her colleagues and prove to them she's not a kid, backfire when she accidentally blurts out too much information about her magical antics, but a chance meeting with Ashanti (appearing as herself) lands Sabrina an interview and an opportunity for her co-workers to see her in a new light. Ken Koch directed the episode written by Trish Baker.

"Call Me Crazy" airs Friday, January 3rd at 8:30pm 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 "Redux", in which Clark meets his grandfather and Lana discovers that her father may be alive.

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

Then, it's a double dose of Smallville on the show's regular night. First up, fans can catch a repeat airing of the show's season one cliffhanger ending in "Tempest." That's followed by a repeat showing of the season two opener "Vortex."

As a massive tornado rumbles towards an unsuspecting Smallville, Clark (Tom Welling) is on the verge of discovering the first connection to where he came from when the missing piece of the spaceship is found and breathes life into the fallen craft. However, once the tempest hits, Clark rushes off to rescue Lana (Kristin Kreuk) and returns to discover that the spaceship has disappeared along with his father (John Schneider). Meanwhile, Lex (Michael Rosenbaum) makes a tough decision about Lionel (John Glover) and has a hard time dealing with the consequences. Rock band Remy Zero performs the "Smallville" theme song, their hit single "Save Me," in the episode at the high school formal. Sam Jones III and Annette O'Toole also star. Greg Beeman directed the episode with story written by Philip Levens and teleplay by Alfred Gough & Miles Millar.

"Tempest/Vortex" airs Tuesday, January 7th at 8:00pm on The WB.

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

NEXT WEEK ON BIRDS OF PREY

It's a double dose of Gotham girl action this week on Birds of Prey.

First up, our heroes are thrown to the lions in "Gladiatrix".

When young metahuman women are abducted in New Gotham, Helena's (Ashley Scott) investigation leads her to uncover a secret club where the captive women are drugged and forced to fight each other in an arena. When Helena is also abducted, it is up to Dinah (Rachel Skarsten) to rescue her. Dina Meyer, Shemar Moore and Ian Abercrombie also star. David Carson directed the episode written by David H. Goodman.

"Gladiatrix" airs Wednesday, January 8th at 8:00pm on the WB.

Immediately following, is the high school reunion in "Reunion".

When Helena' s (Ashley Scott) former classmates descend upon New Gotham for their fifth class reunion, two of the alums are brutally murdered. While Helena tries to find the killer, she fears that Reese's (Shemar Moore) investigation will lead him to learn too much about her true identity. Rachel Skarsten, Dina Meyer and Ian Abercrombie also star. Chris Long directed the episode written by Eddy Kitsis & Adam Horowitz.

"Reunion" airs Wednesday, January 8th at 9:00pm on the WB.

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

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