Comics crossing over with Hollywood has been a staple of Comic-Con International since its earliest days, although over the past few years the crossover has become a driving force of the show and the industry’s growth. On a similar tract yet a smaller scale, Dynamite Entertainment started its career as a publisher by bringing film properties to comics, and has now come full circle in announcing a wide slate of comics tied to film projects and film development projects. The company spoke about all of that and the resurgence of a classic comic property at their panel in San Diego.
Dynamite Editor Joe Rybant kicked things off announcing Dynamite as “the new publishing home for Joe Simon and Jack Kirby’s ‘Fighting American‘” before handing the mic over to company President Nick Barrucci, who said, “The most important thing I can say about Fighting American, is that we’re honored to be publishing one of Joe and Jack’s greatest creations, a character they kept. We hope to keep it alive for generations to come.” Kirby’s longtime lawyer Paul Levine added, “Nick’s vision and insight into Jack Kirby’s work as work not only created for Marvel and DC made ‘Fighting American’ as a book possible.” Barrucci promised to build off of the original material.
The packed table of Dynamite panelists then made the rounds. Joining the company reps were comics scribe Doug Murray, producer Ford Lytle Gilmore (“War Heroes,” “Red”), American Original’s Jeff Katz, DC Animation vet Sander Schwartz, producer Bob Teitel (“Notorious”), comic and TV writers Marc Guggenheim and Javier Grillo-Marxuach, development executive Rick Alexander (“Cla$$war”), special effects creator Jules Urbach and “The Boys” artist Darick Robertson who joked from the podium, “I’m so important I don’t get a chair.”
Speaking of the just-announced “Militia” – a series created for comics by Lightstorm Entertainment’s Geoff Burdick -Â Murray explained, “It’s a story about the end of the world. An alien race has destroyed the earth, and there’s a handful of people left on earth, and they’re treated like vermin. It’s about that handful of people staying alive, striking the occasional blow against the aliens while they can and retaining their humanity.” Murray then introduced a group of actors whose likenesses were used for the series teaser promo. “Why actors are involved with a comic book, I can not tell you, but there is a connection, and we will find out eventually.”
Robertson made an announcement regarding the rerelease of his earliest work from the publisher, saying, “Never underestimate being bored in summer school,” of his 16-year-old self’s first work. “I created something called The Space Beaver because it made me laugh, too. It’s getting a third life since there’ll be a ‘Space Beaver’ Omnibus coming out. It’ll be a curiosity piece because I’m a self-taught guy…I taught myself how to get into the industry simply by creating something and getting it out there. Now I work for Marvel and DC and especially Dynamite, and none of that would have happened if I didn’t have a good foundation to start from. And getting yourself into print and your ideas out there with those stories, even if you think you’re not quite ready or good enough -Â accomplishing that is a terrific thing.”
Alexander then dove into “Deductible” – a new Dynamite superhero series based on a screenplay by Chris Albrecht. The producer explained that while the screenplay was great in his eyes, its setup of having a fully developed superhero world to play in made it a tough sell as “Deductible” would require a large studio budget as a film. “The story has a really unique way into this superhero world. There’s a key in that title,’Deductible,’ that I won’t tell you any more about…but Chris and I started talking about the endless stories you could tell in this world and with these characters. He suggested we perhaps take them out into the books.”
Teitel spoke on the new deal between his State Street Films and Ross, who was his college roommate in 1989. The pair met in the dorms when Ross was already hard at work at his drawing table. “I was like, ‘How old are you, man?’ and he said, ‘I’m 16.’ I said, ‘What are you doing in college?'” recalled the producer. “I wanted a roommate who was going to drink beer and hang out, and I got this guy who won’t even look up…this kid was just so disciplined all the time. He wouldn’t leave the room. He would just stay up 18 hours a day drawing. The light was always on, is what I remember.
“Throughout the years, we always kept up, and we always said, ‘Let’s work on something together.’ So after [my partner] George [Tillman] directed ‘Notorious,’ Alex saw the movie and we kind of started getting into it and started talking…that’s when we teamed up with Nick, and we’re in the process of creating a character and backdrop -Â wanting to do an African American character coming back from the war. We started riffing this week and getting close to the process of putting this character together, and Nick’s going to take it from there.”
Audience questions engaged the panelists on everything from getting a comics movie made to what makes for the best movie comics. One fan started out by asking what’s the best plan for keeping or throwing out source material when adapting a comic to film. “One of the things I find myself doing continually is that I never take a project where I can’t keep a significant amount of the source material intact,” Grillo-Marxuach said, citing his work on the script for Brian Wood and Rob Spears’ “The Couriers.” “That’s not because of laziness…for me, the question is, ‘Does this have a core ammount of integrity that can sustain a three-act story?’ That’s where I begin. I always need to be able to go back and re-read and gain strength from the source material.”
Asked after the key factors in turning a comic into a cool, successful movie, Schwartz noted, “Getting the attetion of a studio and someone to have the passion to translate it into a movie or a picture is really key. Often things are optioned or put into development because things are hip or cool, but ultimately you’ve got to find a writer, director and producer who really have a vision in knowing what to do with it and getting it done well.” Grillo-Marxuach added that a greenlit project needs “the correct critical mass of empowered key people. In any movie project, movies still operate under this core theory that, really, a lot of the time there is one key slot that needs to be filled to push it through. It could be an actor who is at that point in their career or a director as well…it really requires there be one powerful key figure to be the voice in that thing. If you look at something like ‘Hulk,’ that movie was in development for a billion years with top producers and top people, but it wasn’t until Ang Lee came on -Â for better or for worse – somebody coming out of Oscar nominations and a lot of success who could say, ‘What I say goes. Let’s go in this direction.'”
Questioned about the potential for a “Boys” movie that played more by the dictates of the Hollywood rating system, Robertson rejected the idea saying, “I don’t know that making it more Hollywood-friendly would be the best approach with a film like that. Everything that’s ever good is something that shocks the audience. We’ve achieved that in the comics, and I’d hope whoever’s directing that would want to develop those elements too…it’s a little premature to know what’ll happen, because it’s not been cast and a director’s not attached or anything. But I think the big mistake a lot of people make in the production process is that they assume we have to change things so much. We all have real experience with that…and then nobody goes to see it. Like ‘Constantine.’ What a mistake.” He added that nothing would make him happier than having Simon Pegg star as Wee Hughie in the film.
Asked how much say the owners of properties like the Lone Ranger and the Green Hornet have in the creation of the Dynamite comics, Barrucci said, “They have as much or as little as they want,” adding that “They have input, but they know that we know what we’re doing. So they give us a lot of support.”