UPDATED: Ronald Shusett's 'Shark-Man' takes a bite out of Comic-Con

Mon, July 14th, 2003 at 12:00am PDT

TV/Film
Rob Worley, Columnist

NOTE: This article was updated at 2pm ET/11am PT to include information about the time and location of the Ronald Shusett signing (see last paragraph).

A pulp hero that combines elements of "Batman," "The

Phantom" and "The Count of Monte Cristo" is making his way to

comics and film courtesy of renowned screenwriter Ronald Shusett.

"Shark-Man" will be unveiled to fans at Comic-Con

International: San Diego in the form of a limited edition print, digitally

painted by artist Steve Pugh. We're happy to provide C2F/CBR News readers with a

first look at this new character.

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Ronald Shusett's Shark-Man

tangles with the Sea Witch (Catwoman to his Batman)

Shusett is well known for writing several groundbreaking science fiction

movies, including "Alien," "Total Recall" and "Minority

Report." This new hero is a collaboration between Shusett, actor/writer

Michael Town, comic writer/artist/publisher David Elliott ("Sharky")

and artist Steven Pugh ("Superman Vs. Terminator").

Town initially created "Shark-Man" which Shusett expanded on

greatly. They then brought the project to Elliott to further develop and write

the scripts for the comics from their combined ideas. Pugh, of course, is

providing the artwork for the book.

"Shark-Man is in the tradition of superheroes that take over for their

fathers," Shusett told C2F/CBR news. Adding that when the story starts, the

protagonist "doesn't know it but his father was a crime fighter [who]

appeared to die from suicide but was actually killed."

Further, the deceased father is accused of being a corrupt embezzler and the

son, who is highly placed in the father's corporation, is implicated as well,

then convicted and jailed.

"The son was really just a playboy, like Bruce Wayne if he never became

Batman. He was a wealthy man's son, not really having any responsibility in the

world. It shook him up when his father's suicide came because he thought he had

it made," Shusett said.

Even in prison though, the son finds he has resources to investigate his

father's death. He uses hidden caches of his father's money to buy off the

warden and set up a system where he can come and go from the jail. During his

investigation he discovers that his father was actually the costumed hero known

as "Shark-Man"

"It's very complex, multi-layered, film noir stuff. This is the setup of

how he's a convict by day and a crime-fighter at night, fighting to clear both

his and his father's name, in the guise of Shark-Man."

Most interesting about the new concept is the aquatic milieu that Shusett and

his collaborators have crafted.

"The story is set on a man-made island, artificial island off the coast

of California that's close to present Catalina but much larger. It's built by

his father...maybe fifty or seventy years in the future," Shusett said of

the comics' setting, a city named New Venice.

"So this is sort of a mammoth city: almost utopian-like. It's like

Manhattan but much more resort-like. It was inspired by the fact that Venice,

California was modeled after Venice, Italy," the writer continued. "What

he did was build a much bigger version of our little Venice here, even bigger

than the canals, and more numerous, than Venice, Italy."

New Venice is also known as "Shark City" due to the high population

of sharks, who swim the canals, attracted by the city's waste. 

With the city constructed so, it's only logical that the hero would travel in

a custom built submarine. Further, his costume is designed for underwater used.

He has jet-propelled boots that work underwater but also give him limited flight

on dry land an effect Shusett likens to being, "a little like Tom Cruise

did in 'Minority Report' but much lower."

Most distinct is the Shark-Man mask, which can be seen in the art print at

San Diego. Shusett admits that the appearance of the mask may confuse people.

"The idea is, when you first glance at it you might assume that he's

almost a mutant man, like my 'Alien' creature. Especially having been known for

'Alien,' you see 'Ronald Shusett's Shark-Man,' you might think he's half-shark,

half-man," the writer laughed, "but actually that's a mask and it

closes to be airtight to the tank on his back, so he can breath underwater. When

he's on land, the bottom half comes down and it looks more like a 'Batman'

cowl."

The secondary look for the mask is partly to accommodate actors, once the

movie version comes to fruition. As fans saw in 'Spider-Man,' a full-face mask

creates some difficult limitations.

"When the lower half isn't there, he doesn't look so fearsome. We want

his humanity to show more, some of the time," Shusett said, "but when

he's underwater he's got that scary thing which actually terrifies his opponents

too."

A movie version of "Shark-Man" is definitely something Shusett is

looking forward too. "My first though was that someday it would be a movie

but I felt it didn't have as good a chance at being a movie unless we first

published it as a comic," Shusett said. "Certainly I can make a better

with a bigger budget if I can get it established as a comic book first."

Shusett will be signing copies of the "Shark-Man" print at the Diamond Comics booth (#2200) on Saturday at 10:30am. In addition to signing the print, Shusett, Town and Elliott will be at

Comic-Con to talk

to publishers about getting the book going. Plans are for the first installment

of the series to appear in the "A1" comic under Elliot's Atomeka

imprint later this year.

CBR News

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