WWC: Top Cow Panel

Top Cow Productions President Matt Hawkins hosted an energetic panel at Wizard World Chicago this evening to discuss upcoming products from the House That Marc Built, including comic books, anime, next-gen video games for the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3, and the company's first foray into filmmaking.

To start things off, Hawkins previewed "The Covenant," a film directed by Renny Harlin ("Die Hard 2," "Cliffhanger") and written by J.S. Cardone ("The Forsaken") about four young men with supernatural powers who must defeat an evil force that has returned to claim their power for him. (Think "The Craft" with guys.) The graphic novel tie-in produced by Top Cow is available now.

Staying with the film theme, Hawkins said there are plans to film not one, but two "Witchblade" movies in the coming years, with tentative release dates of 2008 - 09, and the long-rumored "Wanted" film has landed at Universal Pictures. The adaptation of the Mark Millar/J.G. Jones comic about a son who inherits his father's supervillain status is being written by Michael Brandt and Derek Haas ("2 Fast 2 Furious," "Spy Hunter: Nowhere to Run") and attached to direct is Timur Bekmambetov ("Night Watch").

The Japanese animation studio Gonzo has created 26 episodes of a "Witchblade" animated series. The 16th episode aired recently in Japan, with plans to bring the show stateside in April 2007. The show takes place within "Witchblade" continuity and is set in the year 2100 A.D. Hawkins would like Gonzo to tackle "The Darkness" for its next project.

"Aphrodite IX" made an unexpected return in the form of a trailer for an anime feature film, which will closely follow the comic book Hawkins said. You can see the trailer for the both "Witchblade" and "Aphrodite IX" right here on CBR.

Hawkins showed a short CGI teaser for the upcoming "Darkness" video game being developed by Starbreeze, the company that made "The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay" for the Xbox. The game was written by Paul Jenkins and closely follows his "Resurrection" storyline from the comic. Top Cow and 2K, the game's publisher, will also be releasing six comic books that tie into the game's plot. The first comic will be out in December, just in time for the 10th anniversary of "The Darkness."

"The Darkness," due out in February, will feature a fully 3D world and support multiplayer over both Xbox Live and the PS3 equivalent. It's possible that additional episodic content will be downloadable after the game's release. Hawkins is hoping Starbreeze will follow with a sequel, "The Darkness vs. Witchblade," within two and a half years.

Hawkins showed pages of the long-anticipated "Darkness/Pitt" crossover illustrated by Dale Keown. Announced almost four years ago, Keown is nearly finished with the second issue of the four-issue mini-series. Hawkins said Top Cow will not solicit the title until all four issues are finished.

To celebrate the success of their three longest-running titles, Top Cow is releasing compendium volumes of "Witchblade," "The Darkness" and "Tomb Raider," each containing the comic's first 50 issues. The compendiums will be priced at $50.

A second "Freshmen" series was announced, due to begin in September, and Hawkins mentioned the new Paul Dini ("Jingle Belle," "Detective Comics")-written comic, "Madam Mirage," illustrated by newcomer Kenneth Rocafort, is set to debut in March. Both series were previously announced at Comic-Con International in San Diego two weeks ago.

Stemming from Top Cow's recent three-year deal with Marvel Comics, due for release this fall is a "Cyberforce/X-Men" crossover written and illustrated by the current "Cyberforce" team of Ron Marz and Pat Lee. Hawkins said the one-shot came about because he wanted to prove that Cyberforce was not simply Marc Silvestri doing the X-Men at Image Comics. The story will focus on X-Men Wolverine and Psylocke and their Cyberforce counterparts Ripclaw and Psyblade.

As part of that deal, Top Cow will also be producing a six-issue "Phoenix: Endsong" mini-series drawn by Tyler Kirkham.

Finally, Hawkins revealed that Toy Biz is preparing to release a series of action figures based on characters from companies other than Marvel including Witchblade, The Darkness and the Freshmen.

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