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Countdown To Hulk: John Turman talks about 'Hulk' and other heroes

On Friday, Comics2Film/CBR News presented partone of our interview with Hulk screenwriter John Turman. Turmantalked about the excitement of his first job with a major studio being work on acomic character he'd always loved. In part two Turman gives additional insightsinto bringing jade jaws to the silver screen, and which other projects are onthe horizon for him.

CGI LEADING MAN

In the mid 1990s, CGI effects were just starting to explode. Turman recallsthat early on they were talking about rendering the Hulk as a virtual actor.

I started out as a storyboard artist and I remember in my early meetings withGale Hurd, I brought in a few sketches even though I was just the writer,Turman said. I know that we had anumber of discussions about the look of the Hulk. I had always seen him as aCGI wrapped around the actor. I just felt that it would be very difficult topaint a body builder green in this day and age.

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Turman may have been influenced by another movie, which was one of the firstto present compelling organic creations in CGI. I remember in an earlyoutline I described the Hulk as looking more like a dinosaur from 'JurassicPark' than a body builder. I had always wanted that thick, big-limbed,force-of-nature look to it.

So does the CGI leading man look as good as Turman envisioned eight yearsago?

At this point, I've only seen the trailers and it looks great to me,Turman told C2F/CBR News. I'mtrying to separate out how much of that is my rooting interest in it and how much of it isjust being a fan.

NOT EASY BEING A FAN

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C2F asked Turman what impact being comics literate has on his screenwritingcareer.

It makes me a lot more frustrated. I grew up on thatstuff and its tough because you know there are things that you know would makewonderful films and you don't have the clout to get them done, Turmansaid. Being a comics guru also has its pluses.

I think it helps now because comicbook films are hot this year, Turman said, but the increased interestbrings increased competition. I've been working on these types ofprojects and trying to move them forward through production through most of mycareer on and off. Lately the market is tougher because there's a lot morepeople who want to get on the bandwagon.

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However, understanding thelanguage of both comics and films may give writers like Turman an edge intranslating them.

There's one big difference in howcomics are consumed and how films are. With a comic you sit there with a pageand you can look at a panel or a page as long as you want. The pacing of that storyis largely up to the reader. With film, they unfold in a set period of time. Theweight to give a scene and an image is the filmmaker's choice. It starts withthe writer but real quickly it's the director.

Another fundamentaldifference is the episodic nature of comics versus the self-contained nature offilm. However, Turman sees a blending of those ideas that benefits both mediums.

You've got a lot more comics which are graphic novels with self-containedstories that unfold like films. Conversely, films are recognizing the power and theaudience's interest in investing in a character or a group of characters andwatching their continuing adventures, like the old serials did, Turmansaid.

This blending leads to blockbuster fare like The Matrix.

NON-COMICSCOMIC FILMS

As The Matrix demonstrated, not all the best superheromovies are based on comic books.

I believe that the best comic bookfilms aren't always based on comic books,Turman said. Tome a great comic book film is 'Matrix' or 'Indiana Jones' or 'Terminator' or 'Robocop.'I love these films.

I've tended to feel in the past that those films arebetter comic book films because they take the characters really seriously.

The old belief on the part of Hollywood that comic books were a second-rate genrehad the contradictory effect of allowing for well-made genre fare that wascomic-like, but often soured projects that were actually based on comics.

In the past I'vefound it's often hard to get the studio executives to take the desires of thecharacters as seriously as they do films that aren't based on a comic booksource, Turman said. 

That trend appears to be changing, with the advent of movies likeX-Men which took Marvel's mutants dead seriously.

Fromwhat I can tell of the final film of 'The Hulk,' they're taking the characterseriously, which is why I'm thrilled to be a part of it and am so encouraged bythe final product.

NEW COMIC-LIKE HEROES

To that end, Turman hasturned his attention to a new big-screen action hero.

'Casca' is based on a series of novels by Barry Sadler, Turmansaid of his new project, which blends military and religious themes. They're based on a character who was a roman soldiers who, legendhas it, pierced the side of Christ on the cross. As a result of that he wasblessed or cursed to never die and to walk the earth, from battle to battle forover 2000 years.

The movie is set in the present day. Scott Kroopf and Tom Engelman (Pitch Black)are producing under their Radar Pictures banner.

It's sort of an existential action film. A character who's been alive for solong, his purpose and meaning have gotten lost through time, Turman said.

Turmanalso revealed that he's writing an original spec script that, while comic-likein certain aspects,is not based on pre-existing comics.

OTHER COMIC MOVIES

As a comic fan,Turman continues to pursue comic-based movie projects. While he's pitchedseveral, he told C2F that a few still hold his interest.

I'm not currently involved with the Silver Surfer but I sure would love to beagain. I like the character and I was very proud of that script,Turman said, having taken a crack at the character a few years ago.

He'd also love to take a pass at Doc Savage or Will Eisner'sThe Spirit. Of course, he'd also like to continue to delve into themind that created The Hulk.

The guy who really created modern comics is Jack Kirby. Soin many ways his stuff is first and oldest, yet in many ways his creations seemto have the most complexity and translate the best to film, Turman said,citing The Hulk and X-Men as examples. 

There's a reason that Jack Kirby is such a seminalfigure. His stuff endures. I would consider it an honor and a treat to work onany of his concepts.

In talking with Mike France after the final determination of credits onThe Hulk, Turman realized they were both big fans of another Kirbyconcept called Challengers of the Unknown.

That's not a super-hero comic, but it's sort of a crossbetween 'Fantastic Four' and 'Doc Savage' and 'Indiana Jones.' That would be a dreamproject. If anybody out there is reading this andworking at Warners, give me and Mike a crack at 'Challengers.'

Until he gets the Challengers gig, Turman will have to be contentwith seeing his first and favorite work on the screen next month. TheHulk smashes into theaters June 20.

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