CCI EXCLUSIVE: Levine talks "Hercules" on Film

Radical Publishing announced Wednesday during Comic Con International in San Diego that Peter Berg ("Hancock," "The Kingdom") will be producing a film based on their "Hercules" series. "Hercules: The Thracian Wars," written by Steve Moore with art by Admira Wijaya, was one of the two launch titles for the young publisher. Issue #4 will be available at Comic Con, along with the fourth installment of "Caliber," which is also coming to theatres courtesy of John Woo. CBR News spoke with Barry Levine, President and Publisher of Radical, about the "Hercules" movie and the next wave of comics to come down the line.

Levine mentioned that film rights to "Hercules" had been picked up once before in Radical's brief history, but that the option was only for three months. "Then we found someone like Peter Berg and his company Film 44 and Spyglass, who believed in the content," Levine told CBR News. "Pete Berg read Steve Moore's scripts for the comic book -- which, by the way, were voluminous, the first issue was like 58 pages; those are his average scripts, he's so about details. So it was almost like having an over 200-page script to read, and Pete and Sarah [Aubrey, of Film 44] 100% got it." Ryan Condal, who is also writing the screenplay for Warren Ellis's "Ocean," will be adapting Moore's story for film, though Levine said he expects it to hew closely to what is seen in the comic.

Regarding the story of the comic and the film that will arise from it, Levine said that "Hercules" is about more than ruddy men flexing their muscles. "There's a lot of set pieces, a lot of action, but it is more along the lines of a 'Braveheart,' where it's a character-driven film," he explained. "It's not a sword-and-sandals type of movie. It really is a dark version of 'Jason and the Argonauts' and all that -- we don't even have monsters in the film. We don't have mythological Cyclops and Hydras or anything like that. This is about a journey. Not only his journey, but the people who buy into his vision, the other six who go along with him. They all have their demons and conflicts, too, it's about resolving those conflicts. The one whole theme of this movie is redemption, in the vein of 'Seven Samurai.'"

Hercules:The Thracian Wars

Levine noted that, with familiar characters like Hercules whose stories are well known, the challenge comes in offering the material in a new way. "Taking on something like a 'Hercules,' an 'Aladdin,' those are the hardest things in the world to take on, because it's all about execution, it's all about stylization," he said, "It's the same with Zack Snyder, the way everybody knows the story of the 300, but it's the way Frank Miller wrote it and the way he visually adapted it, stylized it."

"Hercules," though, is not the only film to emerge from Radical's publishing program. The publisher will officially announce in its Friday panel at Comic Con that Bryan Singer, director of the first two "X-Men" movies and "Superman Returns," will be producing the film version of "Freedom Formula," an upcoming Radical series. The project has already been reported in the film industry press. Levine said that talks are also underway to develop an anime movie or series and a video game based on "Freedom Formula." Finally, Friday will also see the Radical team discussing the film version of "Caliber," its Arthurian tale set in the Wild West, which will be directed by John Woo.

In addition to the movie news, Levine discussed Radical's upcoming comics schedule, as well. "We've already started Steve Moore working with the artist on the next series of 'Hercules,'" he told CBR, adding that it takes place in Egypt and will feature the Egyptian pantheon of gods in some form. Steve Niles's "City of Dust" will premiere as an ashcan edition at Comic Con. "Steve and I go way back together, doing [the film version of] '30 Day of Night,'" Levine said. "I was the first guy on it, before I lost it. So we've always wanted to try to find a project together. And knowing Steve, he's definitely going to write the screenplay as well."

Levine noted that the first issue of "City of Dust" would be 48 pages, a format Radical will be experimenting with for several new series. "One of the reasons why we do that is to give the audience a better understanding of the backstory and more of the characters, develop the story a lot more than you can do in just 22 pages," he said. "On 'Aladdin,' on this one, on a couple of others we're going to do that, and for this one we're only going to charge $3.99." Other projects coming up planned for the rest of 2008 include "Oblivion," written by new "Tron" director Joe Kosinski and writer Ian Edgingon and illustrated by Kai of Imaginary Studios, and "Assassins," co-written by video game producer Flint Dille and Daniel Arey. There is also an as-yet untitled vampire story by David Hine in the works.

"'Aladdin's' going to be probably one of our biggest ones this year," Levine said of the May 2009-debuting series created by Dave Elliott and written by Edginton. Then, laughing slightly, he added that "the biggest book that we've committed to is basically 'Lawrence of Arabia' in space." This project is based on the upcoming video game "Shrapnel" developed by Zombie Studios, and Radical will show a thirty-second clip of footage from the game at Comic Con.

"There have been three major, A-list directors that have been extremely interested in it. Studios have all expressed major interest in it," Levine said, returning to a familiar theme, "but I'm not in a rush to go sell anything right now. All I want to do is focus on our publishing entity at Comic Con, our brand, the retailers, the fans -- we have enough to announce as feature films, we're not going to sell 'Shrapnel' as a film, we're not going to sell 'Aladdin' as a film, there's already offers down there. But I want to walk before I run."

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