Readers of CBR News will remember Scott Mitchell Rosenberg's name for a number of reasons: his deal with Disney, his pivotal involvement in the "Men In Black" success story and the very open policy of his company, Platinum Studios, when it comes to promoting unknown talent. He may not be mentioned in the same breath as "Brian Bendis" or "Dan DiDio," but with the announcement of his involvement with two major feature film franchises, "The Darkness" and "Witchblade," both Top Cow Comics properties, he's certainly raising his profile. CBR News caught up with Rosenberg to learn more about "The Darkness" (expect some more information on "Witchblade" soon) and how he got involved.
"When I first read [The Darkness], it dawned on me how to start the movie in a way that will get an audience (that hasn't read the comics) to like Jackie," explained Rosenberg. "Were going to focus first on his life in the orphanage: how rough it was, how it was that he was adopted, and the betrayal he felt when he found everything out (as an adult). The other thing that got me was his feelings for the girl. It seemed real."
Some comic book fans dismiss Top Cow as a "TnA" company, whose aesthetic is more about sexualization of women than dynamic art, but it's an assertion that Rosenberg rejects. In detail. "A lot of things, really," he explains.
"There's a strong history, as Marc [Silvestri, founder of Top Cow] was one of the original Image partners that launched through Malibu Comics. We've had a long relationship and I "get" his characters and stories. I've basically grown up with them in my professional and fan life. I like how they approach stories from a dark side, but make it commercial. It's different than a lot of what we see. From a business model standpoint, they fit perfectly with Platinum because of our exclusive deal. What do I mean by that? Well, since we know that all their books/characters are already prenegotiated and part of the deal, and that we don't need to negotiate and issue paper for each one, our development folks are free to play with their stories without running to our legal department with a "can we develop this" question each time. They know we have a set deal for them, so they actually work the development harder, show them to more writers etc. etc.
"It's why we love working with a creator for his 2nd deal or 5th deal or whatever with us. We know if he/she shows us something, that it's going to be the same deal, so we don't have the agony of months with attorneys. We just change the name of the book from the last deal and email the contract.
"It probably sounds strange, but that's one of the secrets for working with us: were an open door for submissions in general, but once a creator has one deal with us, we're very very open. And if there's a universe to play with, we get incredibly excited with geek like glee (well, I'm the geek, but you know what I mean)."
Also attached to the film are the Pang Bros, who will direct the film, with what Rosenberg describes as a unique vision. "They were in our offices one day, talking about various potential collaborations, and saw "The Darkness" comics and toys. It turns out they already knew about the comic and were fans of it. When we showed them the trailer for the video game, they loved that. They immediately started giving a description of what they would do as directors, and it was scary like The Eye, action like they're also known for, and some really interesting new techniques that no one has done. We were all instantly excited about their take on it and how they really instinctively knew how to meld the horror and action aspects of the book. If you look at their other films, you can see how they're doing that already. Because of that, I couldn't think of ANYONE better suited to translating the tone of this book to the big screen."
Still, "edgy" or "dark" superhero movies bring back memories of "Constantine" or the "Blade" franchise (or perhaps nightmares of "Catwoman"), and one of the reasons their audiences have been limited: the "R" film rating. While PG-13 surely opens up the audience, Rosenberg concedes that it isn't his first choice. "As a moviegoer, my first choice is always R (except when I have my horror fan daughter with me). However, there are economic realities to getting movies made, and it's simply a fact right now that PG 13 is easier to get made. That said, I believe in extreme PG 13 and fighting with the ratings board. And, of course, making the R version for DVD.
"Also, were pretty far from the dread of Constantine's world. If we were to be compared, it would be more to Blade (because Goyer is GREAT, and he's directing UNIQUE for us Disney). However, were really planning to focus a lot on the character. There will certainly be action, but there will also be scares and character moments."
The press release issued by Platinum Studios mentions the film's release will coincide with the game and for experienced gamers, there's always the question of "how much will the game suck?" and "why do you think this will help movie attendance?" It's an accepted "fact" that the video game adaptation of a film is generally week, with one of the few exceptions being "Chronicles of Riddick"… and those same developers will tackle Jackie's misadventures. "So far, this game looks great, and it's by the Starbreeze people who were critically acclaimed for "The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay". The game's production, though, started over a year before the movie's, so the stars will have to align quite a bit for us to time it within a couple months. I'm hoping to be in the same calendar year.
"I agree with you that games don't seem to help ticket sales or buzz. Comics certainly do (and have for 60 years), so that's not a negative. I believe that we can make a plus out of it by having more overall Darkness material out for the public. Also, and importantly, it's really movies based on game characters that have the problems, and that's often because there isn't a depth of story or character in the original. In this case, the original is a comic book, so it's really a different situation than, say, 'Doom.'"
Overall, Rosenberg says that 2006 is going to be a banner year for Platinum Studios, with the release of some major films, though there's no update on the "Radar" series, based on Alan Moore's super-dog from "Supreme." "We have a huge amount of stuff coming up soon. Some of the imminent projects include a re-envisioning of Top Cow's 'Witchblade,' for which we just signed a two-picture deal that will go into production (if we find the right writer and direction) in about a year;'Seen,' based on the upcoming Platinum graphic novel by Scott O. Brown, which we're producing as part of our mutlti-picture deal with Gold Circle Films, to which we just signed a screenwriter; 'Meet The Haunteds,' which we've optioned to NBC for television and are now developing the pilot script with producer Chris Conti; 'Cowboys & Aliens' at Sony, based on our upcoming graphic novel; and 'Unique,' based on the upcoming graphic novel by Dean Motter and Stefano Cardoselli, which we're producing with David Heyman (Harry Potter) Disney and for which Michael Cooney is writing the screenplay and David Goyer will be directing. We'll be making a big splash with the debut of our new comics very soon, and we have some other extremely exciting upcoming announcements in the film and online worlds that I can't even talk about yet!"
Admittedly, most of you cynical readers didn't expect Rosenberg to lament his prospects for the new year, nor did you expect anything less than his 100% enthusiasm, but here's an early Christmas gift, in the form of a reminder: Rosenberg wants you, yeah, especially YOU, to be successful with his company. "We love pitches, we love pitches, we love pitches! The rules and requirements are most easily accessible on our website at http://platinumstudios.com/submissions/index.php. It's summed up there in a better way than I could ever do here. There's even a series of articles there that tell you exactly how to sell us a pitch. We're really interested in horror, sci-fi and romance comics right now, but I wouldn't let that discourage anyone from pitching us an outstanding idea. Whether or not a writer has had a lot of professional experience, if we love the idea, we'll give it a try. Our most recent example of this is "Meet The Haunteds", which we just set up at NBC, and is based on the upcoming comic created by Chris Wichtendahl, and a great example is "Men in Black", which was passed on by 70 publishers before we said "we love it."
So, in the end, why should all of you be excited about Platinum Studios, besides the fact that they want to give you your big break? "Well, let's see: there's all the comics and graphic novels we're in production on that we start releasing in the Fall (69 of these are listed on our site: some at http://www.platinumstudios.com/titles/platinum_publishing.php and the others at http://www.platinumstudios.com/titles/macroverse.php) And there are all the comic book based feature films and TV shows we're working on at all the major studios. I've got an email that just came in from a major internet provider regarding what I think will be the next generation of comic book entertainment (more on that soon). Next to my chair are the two massive volumes of the Platinum Bible which contains 1000 other characters we haven't even touched on yet. OH, and my wife is holding on line 1, probably wondering if she'll see me before 10pm tonight. I think a better question is, "What's NOT exciting about Platinum these days?""