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2001 COMICS2FILM IN REVIEW

In four-and-a-half years of writing Comics2Film I've never written one of those end-of-the-year wrap-up columns. No year-in-review. No "10 Best of (fill in the year)." Let's face it, in a typical year we haven't had 10 comic based movies or TV shows to talk about, much less any number of quality adaptations.

But things changed in 2001. This year we've been given a slew of comic-based fun and most of it was worth talking about. While the year lacked a big-screen, big-budget superhero flick it made up for it with high-quality, low-key releases in theaters and TV.

[Witchblade]Witchblade made it's series debut on TNT. The show, starring Yancy Butler and David Chokachi, drew generally positive critical buzz. Although it lacked the slick, sexy style found in the Top Cow comic its based on, the show was anchored by a strong performance from Butler and cinematic visuals served up (on a shoestring budget) by director and show runner Ralph Hemecker. The show pulled in good enough ratings to be deemed the TNT network's first ever success in the original series arena and prompted the cable net to re-up the show for a second season.

Summer brought us Ghost World based on Daniel Clowes comics of the same name. The movie opened in a limited, but ever-widening art-house release schedule and generated universally positive reviews. Stars Thora Birch, Steve Buscemi and Scarlett Johansson have all collected awards for their work in the film, as have Clowes (who co-wrote the screenplay) and director Terry Zwigoff. Birch and Buscemi are currently up for Golden Globe awards.

Early October brought a fresh take on the Superman mythos with Smallville, featuring a young Clark Kent dealing with his emerging super-powers along with the usual teenage growing pains. The show seems to have won over skeptical fans, and took it's place as the highest-rated program ever to air on the WB Network.

Around the same time in movie theaters, From Hell adapted Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell's graphic novel. The Hughes Brothers were charged with the daunting task of distilling Moore's expansive and intricate work down to two-hours of Hollywood-style entertainment. They were moderately successful, delivering a slick visuals around a complex plot. The film debuted at #1 in the U.S. box office, in spite of mixed reviews that complained the involved conspiracy story left little time for viewers to get to know Johnny Depp and Heather Graham's characters.

[The Tick]The Tick put the comic back in comic book adaptation, with a live-action take that's a worthy successor to the franchise started by independent comic creator Ben Edlund so many years ago. Patrick Warburton fills the big blue latex suit with a playful zeal that tells us his casting in the role was nigh-perfect. While TV critics seemed to dig the off-kilter humor of the show, the ratings on the program have been less than stellar. While The Tick may be my personal favorite comic book adaptation of 2001, I'm left to worry that it may not be around much past 2002.

November saw the launch of the much-anticipated Justice League animated program. Like Smallville and Witchblade, Justice League proved to be an unqualified ratings hit, drawing record numbers for the Cartoon Network. While some fans have grumbled that the show isn't all it could be, there's no denying the thrill of seeing DC's greatest characters assembled on the TV screen in a respectful adaptation.

Those are the highlights of 2001, but there was additional comic book fare worth mentioning.

The foreign-made Faust made its U.S. debut on DVD this year. The movie has its flaws but ultimately provides a competently-made splatter-hero/horror story. One comic book rarity is that the screenplay was penned by the comic's creator David Quinn.

Monkeybone hit the big screen for a moment early in the year. The quirky Brendan Fraser flick was a loose adaptation of the defunct Mad Monkey Press' Dark Town. Although it never found its audience, many feel that the animated/live action movie is good fun and worth looking at.

[Josie and the Pussycats]Spring also saw Josie and the Pussycats tour the world with their feature film. The film took a critical drubbing and was a flop at the box office, but it's reportedly well-liked by bald comic-book writers everywhere.

We're also compelled to include two more items in our round up.

Marvel Studios created a highly-successful syndicated TV show called Mutant X. Although it bears no relation to neither the Marvel comic of the same name nor the X-Men movie or comics in general, it's been criticized for being an X-Men knockoff and is the subject of a legal action between 20th Century Fox and the producers of the show. Regardless, the show continues to generate good ratings and can easily be called a hit.

Then there's The Specials. This superhero spoof ended up going direct-to-video. It feels a bit like The Tick TV show in its depiction of superheroes in non-super situations, but with a much harder edge.

There was more comic-book goodness for fans in 2001. The DVD revolution brought new re-releases of older adaptations. Superman, Akira and The Crow all enjoyed new presentations that restored the luster to these past treasures.

As good as 2001 was, 2002 looks to be even better. While comics did well on TV last year, look for some ass-kicking on the big screen in 2002.

The Road to Perdition will feature Tom Hanks under the direction of Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes and is sure to be a hit.

[MIB II]Previous comics-to-film successes Blade and Men In Black both return with anticipated sequels.

I don't think I need to remind anyone that Spider-Man hits the big screen in the Summer in what looks to be the mother of all comic book adaptations.

Cameras are currently rolling on Harvey Pekar's American Splendor which should see release next year. Marvel announced in December that Daredevil is slated for "Holiday 2002" release. Constantine (the adaptation of DC/Vertigo's Hellblazer) is also slated for a December 2002 bow.

On TV, Evan Dorkin has a pilot for The Eltingville Club in the can and ready for airing on Cartoon Network. The makers of Smallville will film a Birds of Prey pilot early in 2002 and there's been plenty of talk of a Spider-Man animated show on MTV following the release of the movie.

Stay tooned, comic fans. The best is yet to come!

MAGE

[Mage]Late last week Comics2Film spoke with producer Andrew Cosby about the latest development on the Mage movie. Mage is based on Matt Wagner's semi-autobiographical comics of the same name. Earlier this year John Rogers (American Outlaws) turned in several drafts of a script. In July director F. Gary Gray (The Negotiator) signed on to helm the features.

Cosby tells us that screenwriter Adam Simon has been brought in to do a polish on Rogers' work. "Adam is really respectful of John's draft," Cosby told C2F. "When we first offered him the gig he turned it down because he's like, 'This is the best comic-to-film draft I've read.'"

However, Simon met with Gray and saw that the rewrite involved only minor changes to the original. "It's more of a polish than anything else," Cosby said adding that Rogers is still in the loop on the development. "Adam's been working with John, they've been e-mailing back and forth so he's definitely sticking close to the old draft."

Simon wrote this year's Bones starring Snoop Doggy Dogg. He also wrote and directed the documentaries The American Nightmare and The Typewriter, the Rifle & the Movie Camera, as well as the dinosaur scream-fest Carnosaur.

Cosby hopes to have the latest script in early in January.

WITCHBLADE SEASON 2

Witchblade returns to TNT in January, with encore airings of the original movie and the first season. Here's the current schedule, as published by TNT:

Episode

FirstShowing 8 p.m.

EncoreShowing 11 p.m.

TheOriginal Movie

1/21/2002

1/22/2002

Episode1 - "Parallax"

1/28/2002

1/29/2002

Episode2 - "Conundrum"

2/4/2002

2/5/2002

Episode3 - "Diplopia"

2/11/2001

2/12/2002

Episode4 - "Sacrifice"

2/18/2001

2/19/2002

Episode5 - "Legion"

2/25/2002

2/26/2002

SMALLVILLE

The January 15th episode of Smallville will be a new installment called "Rogue." The episode introduces the recurring character of Lex Luthor's ex-girlfriend, played by Kelly Brook (The Big Breakfast). The WB provides this description of the show:

Clark's (Tom Welling) secret identity is at stake when a bad cop (guest star Cameron Dye) witnesses him use his superhuman powers and coerces Clark to join forces with him; however, when Clark double-crosses the cop, he is not prepared to deal with the consequences for him and his family. Meanwhile, Lex (Michael Rosenbaum) receives an intriguing proposal from an old British flame (guest star Kelly Brook). David Carson directed the episode written by Mark Verheiden.

"Rogue" airs in Smallville's usual timeslot at 9:00 p.m. (ET).

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

Our friends over at KryptonSite tell us that three new episodes of Smallville follow on the heels of January 15th's "Rogue" episode.

Look for "Shimmer" to follow "Rogue." That episode features the return of Kelly Brook's character, introduces STAR Labs to the Smallville continuity and includes a wraith-like villain.

The next episode is called "Hug", in which Brook also guest stars.

Following that X-Men fans will want to keep their eyes peeled during the "Leech" episode for an appearance by Bobby Drake (a.k.a. Iceman). Shawn Ashmore, the actor who played Bobby in the X-Men movie is set to appear as this episode's freak-of-the-week who sounds like a Smallville version of the comic book Parasite.

Check out KryptonSite's spoilers page for a more in-depth look at these upcoming episodes.

THE HULK

Future Hulk Eric Bana recently chatted with SCI FI Wire about the opportunity to play jade-jaws on the big screen.

Bana said he's a fan of the Lou Ferrigno version of the character. "I was obsessed with the TV show. I was never a huge comic book reader when I was a kid, but was completely obsessed with the television show. So I was very familiar with it."

Bana continues to be tight-lipped about how he'll pull off the dual role of Banner and the Hulk. "All I can tell you is I play both the scientist and the monster, and how we do that I'm not allowed [to say]," he told SCI FI.

Meanwhile, Actress Jennifer Connelly (A Beautiful Mind) continues to rave about landing a role in the Ang Lee directed film. Her latest stop is the Toronto Sun (via Jam! Showbiz) where she talks about what drew her to the role of Betty Ross in the film.

"Ang doesn't see The Hulk as some big horror movie. He sees it as a Greek tragedy, and that really intrigues me," says Connelly.

Sam Elliot plays General Thuderbolt Ross (Betty's father) while Nick Nolte plays Bruce Banner's brilliant but remote father.

Cameras are set to roll on the movie March 18. The Hulk is due for release June 20, 2003.

JUSTICE LEAGUE, BATMAN BEYOND: RETURN OF THE JOKER

[Justice League DVD]ToonZone.net, who previously scooped us on the April 23 Warner Bros. DVD releases has an extra treat for fans this week. That site has posted the DVD menu graphics for four of the five upcoming releases.

ToonZone currently has on display menu screen-shots for Justice League, Batman: The Animated Series - The Legend Begins, Batman: Sub-Zero and The Batman/Superman Movie. Not shown are any graphics related to the uncensored release of Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker.

The menu shots were originally posted by MovieRecords.com.

WONDER WOMAN

Although a smattering of rumors from a few months ago suggested that Sandra Bullock had passed on the Wonder Woman movie, latest word is that she is still the front runner for the part. Chicago Sun-Times columnist Cindy Pearlman recently heard from Leonard Goldberg, a producer on the movie.

"We have a script, and we're in discussions with Sandra, her representative and the studio," Goldberg is quoted as saying. "We're discussing what changes need to be made to the script so that we are all enthusiastic about going forward."

The latest script is by Todd Alcott (13 Ghosts).

Thanks to Cinescape for the lead.

IRON FIST

The Hollywood Reporter tells us that martial arts star Ray Park will next go before the cameras in Ecks Vs. Sever and not Marvel's Iron Fist as fans had hoped. In EvS Park will play a British covert operative/martial arts master who gets in the middle of a battle between the two titular "Terminator-like" undercover agents (played by Antonio Banderas and Lucy Liu). EvS is currently in production.

The article does state that Iron Fist is next on the agenda for Park. The article also mentions that it is uncertain if Park will return as Toad in X-Men 2.

IRON MAN

Although some fans have been crossing their fingers for Joss Whedon to officially come on board the Iron Man movie, it appears we may have to wait. Last week's Variety reported that Whedon is close to signing a big-money deal with Fox Broadcasting to create a science fiction drama for the network. The show, tentatively titled Firefly will cost the net $1.3 million dollars per episode. Fox has committed to 13 episodes of the show.

The show centers around the crew of a spaceship and takes place 500 years in the future.

Just a week earlier Cinescape magazine asked Whedon if he would be writing and directing the Iron Man movie. At that time Whedon said, "Iron Man is a definite possibility, but you know we are talking about a major motion picture, so it won't be any time soon. I'll probably end up doing another series before I do a feature just because of the time a feature will take and my deal with Fox. I'm looking to do a hard science fiction show."

So, it looks like Firefly is that show and Iron Man may have to wait.

The Deadly Batman In Old Lady Harley Is Frighteningly Familiar

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