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UPDATED: Ronald Shusett's 'Shark-Man' takes a bite out of Comic-Con

NOTE: This article was updated at 2pm ET/11am PT to include information about the time and location of the Ronald Shusett signing (see last paragraph).

A pulp hero that combines elements of "Batman," "ThePhantom" and "The Count of Monte Cristo" is making his way tocomics and film courtesy of renowned screenwriter Ronald Shusett."Shark-Man" will be unveiled to fans at Comic-ConInternational: San Diego in the form of a limited edition print, digitallypainted by artist Steve Pugh. We're happy to provide C2F/CBR News readers with afirst look at this new character.

Click to enlarge

Ronald Shusett's Shark-Man tangles with the Sea Witch (Catwoman to his Batman)

Shusett is well known for writing several groundbreaking science fictionmovies, including "Alien," "Total Recall" and "MinorityReport." This new hero is a collaboration between Shusett, actor/writerMichael Town, comic writer/artist/publisher David Elliott ("Sharky")and artist Steven Pugh ("Superman Vs. Terminator").

Town initially created "Shark-Man" which Shusett expanded ongreatly. They then brought the project to Elliott to further develop and writethe scripts for the comics from their combined ideas. Pugh, of course, isproviding the artwork for the book.

"Shark-Man is in the tradition of superheroes that take over for theirfathers," Shusett told C2F/CBR news. Adding that when the story starts, theprotagonist "doesn't know it but his father was a crime fighter [who]appeared to die from suicide but was actually killed."

Further, the deceased father is accused of being a corrupt embezzler and theson, who is highly placed in the father's corporation, is implicated as well,then convicted and jailed.

"The son was really just a playboy, like Bruce Wayne if he never becameBatman. He was a wealthy man's son, not really having any responsibility in theworld. It shook him up when his father's suicide came because he thought he hadit made," Shusett said.

Even in prison though, the son finds he has resources to investigate hisfather's death. He uses hidden caches of his father's money to buy off thewarden and set up a system where he can come and go from the jail. During hisinvestigation he discovers that his father was actually the costumed hero knownas "Shark-Man"

"It's very complex, multi-layered, film noir stuff. This is the setup ofhow he's a convict by day and a crime-fighter at night, fighting to clear bothhis and his father's name, in the guise of Shark-Man."

Most interesting about the new concept is the aquatic milieu that Shusett andhis collaborators have crafted.

"The story is set on a man-made island, artificial island off the coastof California that's close to present Catalina but much larger. It's built byhis father...maybe fifty or seventy years in the future," Shusett said ofthe comics' setting, a city named New Venice.

"So this is sort of a mammoth city: almost utopian-like. It's likeManhattan but much more resort-like. It was inspired by the fact that Venice,California was modeled after Venice, Italy," the writer continued. "Whathe did was build a much bigger version of our little Venice here, even biggerthan the canals, and more numerous, than Venice, Italy."

New Venice is also known as "Shark City" due to the high populationof sharks, who swim the canals, attracted by the city's waste. 

With the city constructed so, it's only logical that the hero would travel ina custom built submarine. Further, his costume is designed for underwater used.He has jet-propelled boots that work underwater but also give him limited flighton dry land an effect Shusett likens to being, "a little like Tom Cruisedid in 'Minority Report' but much lower."

Most distinct is the Shark-Man mask, which can be seen in the art print atSan Diego. Shusett admits that the appearance of the mask may confuse people.

"The idea is, when you first glance at it you might assume that he'salmost a mutant man, like my 'Alien' creature. Especially having been known for'Alien,' you see 'Ronald Shusett's Shark-Man,' you might think he's half-shark,half-man," the writer laughed, "but actually that's a mask and itcloses to be airtight to the tank on his back, so he can breath underwater. Whenhe's on land, the bottom half comes down and it looks more like a 'Batman'cowl."

The secondary look for the mask is partly to accommodate actors, once themovie version comes to fruition. As fans saw in 'Spider-Man,' a full-face maskcreates some difficult limitations.

"When the lower half isn't there, he doesn't look so fearsome. We wanthis humanity to show more, some of the time," Shusett said, "but whenhe's underwater he's got that scary thing which actually terrifies his opponentstoo."

A movie version of "Shark-Man" is definitely something Shusett islooking forward too. "My first though was that someday it would be a moviebut I felt it didn't have as good a chance at being a movie unless we firstpublished it as a comic," Shusett said. "Certainly I can make a betterwith a bigger budget if I can get it established as a comic book first."

Shusett will be signing copies of the "Shark-Man" print at the Diamond Comics booth (#2200) on Saturday at 10:30am. In addition to signing the print, Shusett, Town and Elliott will be atComic-Con to talkto publishers about getting the book going. Plans are for the first installmentof the series to appear in the "A1" comic under Elliot's Atomekaimprint later this year.

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