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Issue #97

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.

  - 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."

  - 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.

  - 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 TickAccording 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

OrionAlthough 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.

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