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THE PUNISHER

[The Punisher]Last week Comics2Film debunked a swirl of rumor surrounding The Punisher movie, which included a list of potential writers for the project. Now we can reveal that screenwriter Michael France has not only landed the job, but has already turned in a script. France's name should be well known to comic fans. He previously wrote drafts of scripts for The Hulk and The Fantastic Four not to mention the James Bond installment Goldeneye.

The Punisher is part of the 15-character licensing deal that Marvel signed with Artisan in the summer of 2000.

"I wrote a couple of drafts of The Punisher for Artisan and Marvel earlier this year. They liked what I did with it -- which basically was to create a new back story for Frank Castle, while putting in some elements of the Garth Ennis miniseries," France told C2F.

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Fans who lamented the lack of comic book elements in the character's previous big-screen outing will be happy to learn that the skull is in. "I figured out how to work the skull shirt in without it seeming too silly."

Although the project had seemed quiet, France tells us that Artisan is taking the script out to directors and actors. He would not discuss who was being talked to other than to say, "the level of people they've approached, both for the lead role and for the director's chair, are definitely top feature guys who your readers would recognize."

Although a May 2000 write-up appearing in Variety indicated that The Punisher would be a direct-to-video feature, France told us that he's heard no discussion of the movie going that route. Instead, it seems more likely to be on the feature path. "That kind of thing isn't my decision, of course, but I'd be pretty amazed if that's what happened. Every budget discussion we've had is in the $20 million range."

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Although Iron Fist looks to be the first Marvel/Artisan collaboration to go before the cameras, can The Punisher be far behind?

JINX, POWERS

Comics2Film spoke with producer David Engel this week about his ever-increasing slate of comic book movie and TV projects.

Engel told us that he's in final negotiations on a feature film version of Brian Michael Bendis' crime comic Jinx. The project is set up with Miracle Entertainment.

"Most importantly, Brian will be writing," Engel said. "The best thing I can do as a producer of comic book material is get the comic book creator to write the screenplay. It can't always happen because if it's like an $80 million movie sometimes those Hollywood folks get a little scared, but Jinx is so personal, such a passion-project for Brian he's the only writer."

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Jinx represents one of Bendis' earliest successes as an independent comic creator. It tells the story of a female bounty hunter and two grifters on a treasure hunt through the underbelly of Cleveland. A TPB collection of the book can be purchased through Bendis' Jinxworld.com website.

Jinx isn't the only Bendis project on the table for Engel. He's also a producer on the big-screen version of Powers, which is making its way through development.

Engel told C2F that screenwriters Doug Miro and Carlo Bernard (Motor City) have turned in a second draft of the script for that film. "It came in great," Engel said.

The producers expect to go out to directors for Powers shortly.

CONSTANTINE

A source close to the development of the Hellblazer movie, Constantine reports that the film is in pre-production and things are looking good.

"It's just a blast," our source, who preferred not to be named, told us. "The script is really good. The director is really good. He really gets the property."

The director on the film is Tarsem who made waves last year with his visually trippy J Lo film The Cell. He'll be working from a script by Frank Cappello.

Back in October Nicolas Cage signed on to play the title role. Our source reports that casting on the film continues. The producers are currently working to cast the female lead of Angela. A number of actresses are being tested for the role, but our source could not name names.

Cameras are set to roll on Constantine March 1 with Warner Bros. eyeing a December 13, 2002 release date.

CATWOMAN

Today's Variety discusses a recent development deal, which carries actress Ashley Judd as an attachment. Castle Rock has purchased a pitch for a psychological thriller called Untraceable as a starring vehicle for the actress.

What's interesting about the write-up for comic movie fans is that it states the actress is expected to film Catwoman as her next feature. The article indicates that Warner Bros. is about to go out to directors with John Rogers' recent rewrite of the script.

It was announced last April that both Judd and Rogers were attached to the Catwoman development effort. Rogers also penned the much-anticipated adaptation of Matt Wagner's Mage.

Judd is due to appear in a string of new releases including High Crimes with Morgan, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood with Sandra Bullock and Ellen Burstyn and Frida with Salma Hayek.

BLADE 2

Director Guillermo del Toro is making the rounds promoting his new movie The Devil's Backbone. During a recent stop-off at the CHUD website, the filmmaker also discussed a couple of his comic book movie projects: Blade 2 and Hellboy.

Of the original Blade del Toro said, "I like the first one very much. I absolutely love the first thirty minutes. The first 30 minutes blew me off in the sky further, higher, than The Matrix did cause I was like 'holy fuck!' You know? Cause I saw wire fu before, but I never saw wire fu with wire removal before and I was like 'holy fuck!'"

So how will del Toro's follow-up, due out in theaters next year, compare to the original? "[Blade 2] is more balls to the wall. I learned with Mimic: Mimic was a failure in an aspect that was fully crucial to its success: it wasn't a great popcorn movie. It should've been. I learned that lesson and I said, no matter what happens, Blade has to keep the fuckin' popcorn coming. You have to really enjoy yourself and you're grateful you're there and not home."

Del Toro is also waiting to see how the MPAA reacts to the violent content of Blade 2. The director hopes the MPAA views Blade 2's cartoony violence differently than violence that is depicted in a realistic manner. "I have no idea, I hope they understand. We have some really neat anime style violence," del Toro said. "Anime is great, cartoonish type of stuff. But it's very different from the first one, but at the same time the perfect continuation. The Blade 2 that I did and the Blade 2 that I set out to do are the same. And also my expectation was to serve a sequel. I was not trying to make Blade into a metaphor for Christ---although I kinda do at some point (with a devilish chuckle). But whatever you think I may have did with [the film], I did something very different."

Del Toro also commented on Hellboy, a movie that's been in development hell for many years now. After expressing admiration for creator Mike Mignola the filmmaker said, "It's such a fuckin' great story and it's so personal to me that it's not fucked up, that no one messes with it, but yet it's a 70-80 million dollar movie. So…"

For more comments from Guillermo del Toro and his new movie The Devil's Backbone check out the complete interview at CHUD.

THE TICK

[The Tick]Last week the folks at Slashdot posted a 10 question Q & A session with Ben Edlund, the mastermind behind The Tick.

"The Tick is a work in stupid. Just as others may choose clay or stone or paint, I and my compatriots have chosen stupidity as our medium," Edlund told Slashdot readers. "But stupid must be worked and mastered like any other material; during this experimental stage, the viewer of the work may feel he or she is observing 'perceptiveness' or 'art.' This is simply an illusion."

Edlund talked about the new live-action show being thrown to the scheduling wolves by having to go up against NBC's must-see comedy lineup and CBS' Survivor: Africa.

"We're part of a large group of shows, all vying for the most favored programming scraps from Fox's big table," Edlund said. "Where we've been placed on the Fox schedule is both challenging (or if you take a darker view, prohibitive) and advantageous, at least in that Fox will have lowered expectations for the Tick in a timeslot ruled by Survivor, Must-See TV, and other stiff competition. But I can't say that we've been given a red carpet by the network. So I won't."

Fans at Slashdot also expressed concern over the more-adult skew to the live-action show, including the infamous use of the b-word.

"I did not want The Tick to say 'bitch' in the first episode. That I was not given the power to remove it as I saw fit offers some insight into the range of my control over this massive undertaking," Edlund explained. "The mandated presence of other hands and shared authority in television is inevitable. The show wouldn't be here without it. But I digress."

To that end, Edlund reports they are experimenting with the tone of the show. He said that given a long-enough run, the show will nail down an appropriate tone. "There are episodes that go wildly off the mark where Tick's innocence and the credible warmth of his world are concerned. Just wait, they'll come on your TV and accost you in your living room."

As far as creative control goes, Edlund told Slashdot readers, "I do not reign supreme. But in general, I was given enough influence to make things happen, sometimes to steer the show away from material I disliked, sometimes not. In fairness I should say that were I capable of writing at a higher speed, I'd have probably been able to control more."

Edlund reports that he the show could use a bigger budget in order to avoid some of the concessions that were made during the initial episodes. "An increase of 100,000 dollars would suffice, thank you."

He also told readers that a version of the comic book character The Terror will appears in one episode. However he did not comment on whether other characters from the comics, like Man-eating Cow or Chainsaw Vigilante would appear.

Head over to Slashdot for more Tick talk with Ben Edlund. (Thanks to Digital Prozac for the lead.)

The show has been absent from the airwaves for the past two weeks, but this week we'll have double the Tick action to make up for it.

On Wednesday, December 5th, Fox gives us a special airing of the show at 9:30 p.m. It will apparently be the "Couples" episode, guest-starring Ron Perlman (Beauty and the Beast). In "Couples" The Tick and Arthur befriend Fiery Blaze and Friendly Fire, another superhero duo with a dysfunctional relationship.

Then we find The Tick in its regular timeslot on Thursday, December 6th, at 8:30 p.m for an episode called "The License." When it is revealed to Arthur, Captain Liberty and Batmanuel that The Tick is working without a super hero license, he and Arthur go down to the DMV to obtain one. Only one problem, The Tick doesn't know his date of birth, his social security number or what his real name is. In a quest to find out whom he really is, Arthur does a search, which unites The Tick with a woman who claims to be his wife ­ but is she the real thing?

SPIDER-MAN

Spider-Man stars Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst made an appearance on MTV's Movie House program last week. They showed an extended version of the clip that was recently posted on the official website. In the clip, Spidey arrives home just in time to almost be caught in costume by Aunt May and Norman Osborn. However, the MTV clip includes an additional minute, with some additional dramatic tension, over what was shown on the web.

Now MovieHeadlines.net has posted a RealVideo presentation of the entire Movie House segment, including Maguire and Dunst's intro to the clip, and the complete clip itself.

In other Spidey news, the calendar of events on the semi-exclusive "Spider-Man Network" section of the official Spider-Man movie site states that the second Spider-Man trailer will air on network televison on December 13th. The clip will play with Temptation Island 2 on Fox.

RIPLEY'S BELIEVE IT OR NOT

TBS Superstation's weekly look at the world of strange and fascinating phenomena kicks in new elements when Ripley's Believe It or Not!, hosted by former Superman Dean Cain, kicks off its thirds season Wednesday, Jan 9. Among the additions to the show will be a field correspondent, Kelly Packard (Baywatch), as well as new regularly featured segments.

For the past two years on TBS Superstation, Ripley's Believe It or Not! has taken viewers through a world of amazing feats, facts and artifacts that stretch the limits of the imagination.

In its third season, the series will expand that mission with Packard's "Opening Act" segment. The "Opening Act" consists of some of the most outrageous and unbelievable demonstrations of human physical abilities. The segment is taped before audiences at such diverse locations as the Hollywood Blvd./Highland intersection, the Las Vegas Strip or stadiums across the country.

The show will also feature such regular elements as "Spot the Not," a weekly trivia segment in which viewers are challenged to pick the claim that isn't real and special "Ripley's Record" commemoration for people who break a World Record while appearing on the show.

The third season will feature Tiger Man: a Native American by the name of Stalking Cat who has decided to live up to his name. He's spent thousands of dollars on tattoos and surgery to change the shape and color of his face so that he resembles a tiger.

Also on deck for the new season is Foot Archer: Claudia Gomez can perform some incredible stunts on and off the high wire. Among her talents are that she can do almost anything while walking on her hands including hitting a bull's eye at 30 feet with a bow and arrow...using only her feet.

Ripley's Believe It or Not! airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. (ET/PT) on TBS Superstation.

GHOST WORLD

[Ghost World DVD]Several online vendors began taking pre-orders this week for the Ghost World DVD. The movie is due out February 5, 2002. The indie film is based on Daniel Clowes comic of the same name. It stars Thora Birch, Scarlett Johansson and Steve Buscemi.

According to listings at online DVD outlets the disc will contain deleted And alternate Scenes, a featurette and a music video. Many vendors list the disc for less than $19.

We asked John Kuramoto, the co-designer of the Clowes' GhostWorld-TheMovie.com, if the DVD would contain any of the short films (called "Low Key" vignettes) or other goodies found on that site. Kuramoto was unsure if the Low Key vignettes would be used but he did say that MGM had purchased the films.

Kuramoto expects to post more details about the DVD on GhostWorld-TheMovie.com as they become available.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES

[TMNT]Back in June the Hollywood trades reported that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were poised to make a comeback with a feature film and an animated TV series. The new momentum was part of a pact between Peter Laird's Mirage Studios and John Woo and producer Terence Chang's Digital Rim Entertainment. At the time, Digital Rim had developed a short, CGI animated test pilot spotlighting the Turtles' return.

Now NinjaTurtles.com, the official Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles homepage has posted that CGI footage for fans to enjoy. Fans can find the footage by visiting the website, clicking the "New Stuff" link and looking for mention of the "CGI TMNT" under the November 30 posting.

A word of warning: the NinjaTurtles.com server is slow, so only the most patient among you will witness the CGI glory of the Turtles.

In spite of the CGI pilot, plans for an animated TV show are now focusing on traditional 2D cell animation.

A live-action TV mini-series is also in the work, with Steve Barron direction. Barron directed the original live-action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie.

Of course, there is also the new feature film in development with Woo and Chang. Change previously stated that the film would feature "PG-rated versions of Woo's trademark action."

Thanks to Digital Prozac for the lead.

THE HULK

Fans concerned by recent internet rumors that filmmakers are considering setting the upcoming Marvel movie The Hulk entirely on a space station can rest easy. A source at Marvel Studios told Comics2Film that the rumors are completely false.

It is unlikely that radical script changes will be made at this point. Two of the lead roles have been cast with Eric Bana (Black Hawk Down) set to play Banner and the Hulk, and Jennifer Connelly (A Beautiful Mind) on board for Betty Ross. Nick Nolte is also rumored to be in talks for the role of General Ross.

The movie is set to start production in the Spring of 2002 with a 2003 release planned.

A more solid report comes from Corona Coming Attractions. According to that site, legendary film composer John Williams is in discussions with Universal for the music chores on the movie. Williams apparently revealed the news to an Australian monthly music magazine called Capitol.

"I have had some talks with Universal executives about doing The Hulk movie, starting next year," Williams is quoted as saying. "I'll look forward to it, we should have some fun."

BATMAN: YEAR ONE

[Batman Vehicle Design]WizardWorld.com created a buzz early last week when they posted unused designs for a Batman: Year One batmobile. The designs were created by Ken Lashley and Christian Zanier and their Toronto-based Draxhall Jump studio.

"Both of these designs were part of a pitch for Warner Bros.' Batman: Year One movie and toy line," Zanier told WizardWorld. "Basically, what we were going for is the first Batmobile that Bruce Wayne built, unrefined and kinda crude. It's part jet engine and part muscle car."

A source close to the production of Batman: Year One told Comics2Film that the designs were part of a failed pitch, pointing out that if the designs were to be used in the movie, the artists would not be posting them online.

Our same source also told us that other internet rumors that surfaced last week are untrue. Reports indicated that "Batman: Year One had been accepted" by the Warner Bros. and designs for Batman, Catwoman and the Joker are underway. Catwoman will not part of the Year One movie as that character is in development as its own feature.

JUSTICE LEAGUE

The Comics Continuum reports that, while he won't be a part of the regular roster, Aquaman may make a return appearance on Justice League.

The character is the focus of this week's episode, which is the first of the two part "The Enemy Below" story arc.

Story editor and producer Rich Fogel told The Continuum, "I have a feeling people will be talking about this one for a long time to come. And we're already talking about another possible Aquaman story for the (hopeful) next season, so stay tuned!"

Justice League airs on The Cartoon Network. Watch "The Enemy Below" at the following times:

The show rounds out December 2001 and begins January 2002 with repeats of the 3-part "Secret Origins" opener. Fans who were hoping that January would resume the airing of new episodes are in for some disappointment, but fans who missed out on the first run will get a chance to catch up.

The network has released its complete January 2002 schedule and for Justice League fans it's just more of the same. Following the repeat of "Secret Origins" are reruns of the "In Blackest Night" episodes focusing on the Green Lantern. After that are repeats of the currently airing "The Enemy Below" which feature Aquaman.

Here's the complete Justice League schedule looks like:

WITCHBLADE

A recent rundown of film and TV production happening in the Toronto area by The Toronto Sun reveals that Witchblade is headed back to Canada for Season 2 filming. Cameras are set to roll on TNT's hit original series (based on Top Cow's hit comic) on January 22, 2002.

Thanks to Witchblade mega-fan Dex for the scoop!

SUPERMAN VS. BATMAN ON CARTOON NETWORK

While the characters enjoy newfound popularity on the Justice League animated show, Cartoon Network is dusting off the Batman and Superman Animated series for a showdown on their afternoon Toonami programming block in January.

Toonami: Batman Vs. Superman airs Monday, January 21-Saturday January 26. Every night from the 21st - 25th, Toonami will air back-to-back episodes of Batman: The Animated Series and Superman from 6-7p.m. (ET, PT). All week long fans will be able to go to CartoonNetwork.com to play an exclusive online game and vote for their favorite superhero.

On Saturday, January 26, the Caped Crusader and the Man of Steel will return for a seven-hour superhero marathon from 1-7 p.m. (ET, PT). At 5 p.m. on Saturday, the winner of the online vote will be revealed and the final two hours of Toonami: Batman vs. Superman will be dedicated to the victorious superhero.

MARVEL MOVIES

An article in this weekend's Boston Globe Online details the recent positive turnaround for Marvel Entertainment. The company seemed to be floundering after coming out of bankruptcy and comic book sales were at an all-time low. More recent earnings reports painted a much more positive picture for the publisher. The Globe features an in-depth examination of the the new strategies that have put things on track.

The article also talks about how Marvel's developments in Hollywood are an essential part of the entertainment company's comeback. Avi Arad, Marvel's chief creative officer told the Globe, "In March 2002, we'll see Blade II [starring Wesley Snipes]. Fall of 2002 is Daredevil [starring Ben Affleck as Marvel's blind superhero]. In 2003 there'll be Ang Lee's Incredible Hulk and Bryan Singer's X-Men II. New Line is developing an Iron Man film, and Dimension is doing Dr. Strange.

"Marvel is the biggest trump card in the business,'' Arad is quoted as saying. "What does it mean? It means that all the [comic book] lunatics like me are going to go to the movie three times on opening weekend."

Thanks to The Xenos for the lead.

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