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Issue #97

by  in CBR Exclusives Comment


Greetings readers. This week we talk to Greg Rucka for an in-depth
look at the Whiteout movie deal. We also check in on the production
of the Red Rocket 7 movie. The Tick heads back to TV, this time as a
live-action show! Will we or won’t we see the X-Men trailer? Our
sources say “yes!” Get a look at what the New Gods animated feature
might have looked like. As always we have much, much more so, read
on.

WHITEOUT


Columbia Pictures has purchased the feature film option on Whiteout,
the highly-acclaimed, three time Eisner-nominated graphic novel,
written by Greg Rucka and illustrated by Steve Lieber. Wolfgang
Petersen (Air Force One, Bicentennial Man) is set to produce movie
with his Radiant Productions partner Gail Katz. The comic tells the
story of Carrie Stetko, a US Marshal stationed in Antarctica. Carrie
is the only law enforcement on the continent, and when a corpse is
found with its face obliterated, she has to figure out who he is, who
killed him, and why. Her only help is Lily Sharpe, a British secret
service agent pursuing her own agenda. Comics 2 Film spoke with
Rucka about the development.

“I am fortunate to have a very talented and aggressive Hollywood agent.”

  – Greg Rucka

Whiteout

Rucka described for us how the deal evolved. “I am fortunate to have
a very talented and aggressive Hollywood agent,” he said, referring
to Angela Cheng at Writers and Artists. “My literary agent, a guy
named David Smith had shown it to her and she got very excited and
felt that it was a film just waiting to be made!”

From there, Cheng handed the project off to two of her other clients,
screenwriting brothers Jon and Erich Hoeber, the writer/producers of
1998’s Montana starring Kyra Sedgwick. “These are the guys that
actually went out there and made the pitches and beat on the doors.
They pitched Whiteout at a variety of places and got nibbles here and
there.”

The brothers eventually pitched the concept to Sam Dickerman, VP at
Radiant. Rucka told C2F that Dickerman “really, really liked it and
‘got it’ more than that. A lot of people had been receiving the
pitch and were saying things like, ‘Well you know it’d be great, it
needs a male lead, if you rewrite it to a lead guy then it could be a
movie’ and so on. Dickerman understood that one of the thematic
things that was going on in the comic is that is was a woman!” Rucka
intones dramatically, “Alone! Amongst 3000 guys! He and I actually
met a couple months ago and it was a very, very good meeting and I
guess he left that and decided, ‘Yes! We Want it!’ and that is how
[the deal] came to pass.”

However, the movie deal only marks the earliest stages of the
development effort, as Rucka seems well aware. “What they’ve done is
taken an option. That option may turn into a full purchase and
they’d make the movie, but the way the deals are structured is that
there’s so many steps along the way, I’m just taking it as it comes.
Again, I’m just sort of shocked that we even got here.” He added,
“I’m flattered that I’ve written anything and worked with Steve on
something that could be made into a movie.”

Likewise, the writer seemed to have an easy-going attitude about how
the material may be altered during the translation to the big screen.
“As a novelist I’ve heard just about every horror story possible of
selling material for film and then watching it get, one way or
another, massacred. I have to be brutally honest, one of the things
that [Radiant is] buying is the right to do the story however they
like. If that means means that Carrie Stetko becomes the first St.
Bernard in Antarctica, they’ve bought the rights to do that. And
they’ve pretty much bought my complicity in that. So, regardless of
what happens, I’m not going to complain, I’m hope for the best. and
I do trust that they’re going to try to make the best movie they can.”

“As a novelist I’ve heard just about every horror story possible of
selling material for film and then watching it get, one way or
another, massacred.”

  – Greg Rucka

He later added, “Right now they have my trust and my blessing.”

It is uncertain whether or not Petersen will direct the movie, or
simply serve as a producer. Either way, Rucka seemed pleased to have
the project at his production company. “I think Das Boot is a hell
of a good flick. I’m a fan of In The Line of Fire for a variety of
reasons one of them being its a bodyguard movie and my novels are
about personal protection. It’s one of the best protection movies
ever done. Also, some of the things that I’ve heard about Petersen
lead me to belive he’s a really good match for this material. He’s
shooting A Perfect Storm right now at Warner Bros. and clearly
Radiant is aware of environment as character.”

Rucka will have some involvement in the production effort, “I have
been told that I will be a consultant, certainly in the development
if not during the actually filming. But I’m not sure how much I
could actually offer to the filming. You know, ‘Oh! Looks cool! Good
job’, what am I going to say?”

The movie is far from the casting stages, although we did ask Rucka
who he had on his wish list. For Marshall Stetko Rucka told C2F, “I
envisioned Janeane Garofalo (Mystery Men) when I was writing it. I
sort of saw her as Carrie. And I think that would just be
wonderful.” And for the British Secret Service agent Lilly Sharpe?
“I’m a big Jill Hennessy (Law & Order) fan, if she can do the English
accent I’d love to see her do Lilly. My expectation is that Lilly
may not make it to the screen in the incarnation that she is in the
comic.”

Rucka and Lieber’s sequel comic series, Whiteout: Melt is currently
in comic book stores, with the fourth issue set to go on sale in
January. As with the previous series, this one is published by Oni
Press
.

Rucka also wrote major portions of this year’s hit No Man’s Land
storyline in the Batman comics and continues into 2000 as the regular
writer on Detective Comics. He’s also at work on a Grendel Prime
novel which will be illustrated by Matt Wagner. Outside of his comic
work, Rucka is also an accomplished novelist. He is currently
shopping his Atticus Kodiak, the aforementioned bodyguard concept,
around Hollywood.

RED ROCKET 7


Kevin Kelly of the Manifest Film Company recently updated Comics 2
Film on the development of Mike Allred’s Red Rocket 7. Manifest had
been shopping the property around with using the graphic novel as a
pitch tool. Unfortunately, this method has yielded few results.

Kelly and company are now going to plan B. “We’ve decided to shop it
with a completed draft of the script. The pitch process before has
been coming in, having sent the graphic novel ahead of time, going in
with the writer and pitching, basically, the writer’s take on the
project,” Kelly told us.

For the new strategy, Kelly said, “We have a couple writers were
excited about. They have a good take on it. They’re going to write a
script on spec.” When the script is completed Manifest will, “bring
them into the pitch meeting and we’ll be able to leave [the
interested party] with a completed script. Hopefully that’ll work a
little better.”

The producers also toyed with attaching a big name to make the
package. “We approached Kevin Smith [Dogma] about being a producer
on Red Rocket 7. Unfortunately he was unable to come on board as
executive producer.” Recent reports indicated that Lauryn Hill is a
potential for the lead female role. However, in a previous interview
Kelly told us that they had gone to Hill, but the singer/actress’
people “totally didn’t get it,” and consequently she is not involved.

“We approached Kevin Smith [Dogma] about being a producer
on Red Rocket 7.”

  – Kevin Kelly, Manifest Film Company


While RR7 chugs along, Allred’s G-Men From Hell progresses through
filming. “Mike is really excited about his G-Men from Hell project.
We’ve talked several times on the phone about it.”

Kelly also gave us a report of other projects he is involved with.
His boss, Lisa Henson (daughter of Jim Henson) has a position at
Henson Pictures where Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere is in the works.
“Neverwhere continues to go along, We’ll hopefully be shooting that
next year.”

Kelly also confirmed that Rob (Scud) Schrab’s Giant Robot movie is at
Henson Pictures. The working title for this movie is actually The
Untitled Giant Robot Project. “As we call it that more we kind of
like the name Giant Robot. We had to watch carefully when Iron Giant
came out we didn’t want it to conflict.”

THE TICK

The Tick

According to reports in both The Hollywood Reporter and Daily
Variety
, Ben Edlund’s big, blue, arachnid hero, The Tick is headed
back to the small screen. This time The Tick will be the subject of
a half-hour, prime-time, live-action series, instead of an animated
show. Fox TV has given a pilot commitment for the show.

Barry Sonnenfeld and Barry Josephson are set to produce with Columbia
TriStar TV. Sonnenfeld-Josephson previously created ABC’s short-
lived Fantasy Island revamp which starred Malcolm McDowell as a dark
Mr. Roarke.

Edlund’s humorous take on superheroes first appeared as a black and
white comic published by New England Comics. It later became a hit
animated series for Fox Kids and an animated feature has long been
rumored to be in the works.

Sources at Sonnenfeld/Josephson have told Comics 2 Film that,
appropriately enough, Ben Edlund will be the writer developing the
live-action TV show based on his comic book, The Tick. We were also
curious as to how the producers planned on depicting the larger-than-life hero in the show. Although its too early to talk about such
details our source could only assure us that the show is to be live-action.

X-MEN


A report in today’s Jam! Showbiz section of the Toronto Sun indicates
that Fox is considering pulling the previously rumored X-Men teaser
trailer from holiday consideration. The report alleges that Fox is
concerned they do not have the “proper visuals” for a compelling
trailer.

However, a source on the production of the movie told Comics 2 Film
that, as far as he knows, the trailer will be shown this month. He
couldn’t confirm a date or movie the trailer would run with, but he
did say that the latest word from Fox is that the trailer is still
happening. Furthermore the studio also plans to unveil the first
teaser poster for the film (the criss-crossed claws poster that’s
been on the internet for months is apparently not an actual teaser
poster, but just publicity artwork generated by Marvel).

Our source did admit that the trailer and poster are totally in the
domain of the studio, not the production team. He said that the Sun
report may well be correct and it wouldn’t be the first time the
production team heard something on the internet first.

In a related story, Collectible Concepts Group, Inc. announced today
that it has signed a license agreement with Marvel Enterprises, Inc.,
to create a variety of merchandise and establish a Collector’s Club
to sell their products for the up-coming Twentieth Century Fox motion
picture, X-Men.

The licensed articles will range from novelty items such as X-Men
Graduation Rings; Dog Tags; Pins and Belt Buckles, to collectibles
such as Resin replicas of the featured motorcycle; Blackbird Jet;
Cyclops’ Visor; Magneto’s Helmet; Professor X’s Mutant Locator
(Cerebro) and Wolverine’s Adamantium Claws and Skeleton. The
Collector’s Club is a marketing continuity program offered to
consumers via an Internet website and through direct mail, and will
offer Collectible Concepts’ X-MEN products to its members. The
Collector’s Club is slated to go on-line early next year.

Collectible Concepts Group has already launched a similar program or
merchandising for Austin Powers and also has the Official Terminator
Collector’s Club in the works for this year.

NEW GODS/SUPERMAN REBORN

Orion

Although these projects may be dead in the water, fans now have an
opportunity to look at concept artwork for the New Gods animated
feature and the Superman live-action movie. Concept art for both
projects, and many others, can be seen on artist Sylvain Despretz’s
web page on the Starwatcher site.

Three images from Despretz’s work on the animated New Gods feature
for Warner Bros. Feature Animation are available. One features an
updated take on Jack Kirby’s Big Barda, while two others depict
Kirby’s Orion.

Also found on the site are four new images from the stalled Superman
Reborn production. Previously the page included two renderings of
Brainiac’s skull-shaped spaceship and one scene of Superman saving
Lois. The latest additions to Despretz’s page include an image of
Superman, presumably rejuvenating after his death, a new look at
Brainiac’s ship and two images of some strange looking Kryptonians.

Despretz has provided concept art and story boards for many motion
pictures. The page contains numerous samples of his work, including
designs for such movies as Ridley Scott’s Gladiator and I Am Legend
and Walter Hill’s Supernova to name but a few.

CASPER


The Harvey Entertainment Company today announced an agreement with
Canada’s Mainframe Entertainment, Inc. to produce the first all-
computer generated imagery (CGI) direct-to-video film based on
Harvey’s Casper, the Friendly Ghost franchise. Production, which has
already commenced, will be funded by Harvey Entertainment, with
release to the home video market scheduled for Christmas 2000. A
previous live-action/CGI Casper direct-to-video feature, Casper, A
Spirited Beginning, sold over 3 million units worldwide. Alisha
Serold, Executive Director of Production and Acquisitions at Harvey
Entertainment will oversee production. Distribution rights are
currently under discussion with a major studio.

Rick Mischel, President of Harvey Entertainment, said, “Our priority
is to reinvigorate our traditional base of operations by developing
entertainment projects that leverage our impressive, proven character
portfolio. This production, which will be the first-ever, all-
computer animated Casper, is being produced by Mainframe
Entertainment, one of the most exceptional and commercially
successful CGI companies in the business. Mainframe’s expertise will
bring a fresh and exciting new look to the Casper franchise to appeal
to today’s kids.” Included in the production will be all new original
songs as well as a new version of the classic Casper, the Friendly
Ghost theme.

“We’re very pleased to be working with the new team at Harvey
Entertainment on the Casper project,” said Ian Pearson, CEO and
President of Mainframe. “The Casper property has such longevity, and
there are so many stories yet to be told. We believe CGI is a perfect
medium for Casper and look forward to the opportunity to blow
everyone away with an amazing new look and feel for Casper in the new
millennium.” Pearson continued, “Mainframe has been planning to move
into the direct-to-video market for some time, and we’re delighted
that our debut will be with Casper, a franchise that has proven
itself to be an evergreen property.”

Previous reports indicated that the movie would be called Casper’s A
Merry Scary Christmas.

DAREDEVIL


Our pals over at Cinescape discovered that Sony/Columbia has
purchased the following domain name: http://www.daredevilthefilm.com.
This comes just weeks after it was announced that Sony is pursuing
the property with an eye towards fast-tracking the movie. The domain
does not appear to be active yet, but presumably will be as the movie
progresses.

BRUCE WAYNE TV SHOW


Over at Ain’t it Cool News, El Cosmico has shed much light on the
previously rumored Bruce Wayne live-action TV show. El Cosmico
currently presides over AICN’s TV section. According to his sources
the Bruce Wayne show is written by Tim McCanlies (Iron Giant, Dancer,
Texas Pop. 81). Cosmico claims that McCanlies is a big Frank Miller
fan and the story for the show backtracks from Year One.

Tollin-Robbins is the production company on the effort. Their
credits include Arli$$ for HBO and Keenan and Kel for Nickelodeon, as
well as the theatrical hit Varsity Blues.

Supposedly Warner Bros. is said to be “thrilled” with the pilot
script.

DARK MINDS


The Hollywood Reporter reports that Chris Lee Productions has entered
into a cooperative agreement with Pat and Roger Lee’s Dreamwave
Productions. Dreamwave created this year’s hit comic, the manga-
styled Dark Minds, as well as Warlands and Neon Cyber. As we told
you last month, CLP is set to produce a feature film version of Dark
Minds. However, the agreement not only give a first look deal to
produce films from Dreamwave concepts, it also lets Dreamwave mine
CLP concepts for potential comic properties.

CLP is also the production company on Top Cow’s The Darkness.

NATHAN NEVER


Bonelli import Nathan Never is the latest comic property to get
scooped up by Hollywood, according to Michael Fleming of Daily
Variety. The comic, originally published by Bonelli Editore in Italy,
then imported by Platinum Studios and published by Dark Horse in the
US, has been purchased for a mid-six figure sum by DreamWorks.

The comic was created by Michele Medda, Antonio Serra and Bepi Vigna
in 1991. The title character is described as “a 21st Century Dirty
Harry who, in the wake of a vicious crime, is charged to protect the
lone witness.”

Walter Parkes and Glenn Williamson of DreamWorks purchased the
concept. Walt Becker, who makes his directorial debut on Buying the
Cow, will pen a screenplay. Platinum chairman Scott Mitchell

Rosenberg will produce. Platinum pres Ervin Rustemagic and senior VP
Gregory Noveck will co-produce.

SHEENA, QUEEN OF THE JUNGLE


Producer Paul Aratow has filed a lawsuit against Sony Pictures over
the production of the planned syndicated Sheena, Queen of the Jungle
TV show. According to a recent article in The Hollywood Reporter,
Aratow is asserting that the studio deprived him of his “first right
of negotiation” when it assigned the TV project to producer Douglas
Schwartz (Baywatch) without giving Aratow a crack at it.

Aratow acquired the rights to the character over 20 years ago. His
Rinzler-Aratow Productions assigned the film and TV rights to
Columbia in 1980. Aratow produced 1984’s Sheena movie, starring
Tanya Roberts, for the studio.

Sony has countered by claiming that the first right of refusal is
unenforceable by California state law. According to the Aratow’s
lawyer, Steven Eggleston, the outcome of this case could have far-
reaching consequences for movie producers. “Sony’s position, if it
is accepted by the courts, threatens the rights of all producers,
directors and other artists whose contracts contain this basic
provision,” Eggleston is quoted as saying. “If this clause is
invalidated by the courts, then hundreds, perhaps thousands, of
contracts will be placed in doubt. The rights of all artists
involved will be clouded, as will those of all studios involved.”
Eggleston has sent letters to all of the Hollywood guilds asking for
support in fighting to protect an important right.

Lawyers for Sony claim that “The right of first negotiation is
legally unenforceable. Under California law, ‘a contract which
leaves an essential element for future agreement of the parties is
held fatally uncertain and unenforceable.'” According to the
article, Sony’s lawyers further contend that Aratow has no standing
to file such a complaint as the originally agreement was with Rinzler-
Aratow Prods and Aratow’s partner Alan Rinzler has not joined the
suit.

Sheena, is not only the subject of a Hollywood lawsuit, but is also a
sought after TV show on the syndicated market. A two page Columbia
TriStar TV advertisement appearing recently in the Hollywood trades
indicates that the show has already sold in over 50% of the U.S.
syndie market.

Gena Lee Nolin, the star on the hour-long adventure show, is featured
prominently in the spread. The ad also indicates that the show is
set to premiere in fall of 2000.

SPIDER-MAN


Ain’t it Cool News posted another round of Spider-Man rumors this
week, only to take a step back and retract them. According to AICN’s
most recent, and most apologetic report there are no firm director or
actor attachments on the Spidey movie.

Following up on recent internet based rumors Cinescape has verified
that Barry Sonnenfeld is not involved with the Spider-Man movie. “At
this time Mr. Sonnenfeld has absolutely no involvement with any

Spider-Man film,” Cinescape was infromed by the director’s people.
“There is not a single scrap of paper in this office regarding the
project.”

The website also tried to follow up with Chris O’Donnell’s people
about the rumors that the actor may be attached to star. No response
to their queries was given.