Author: Robert Greenberger

Heroes and live toons

Heroes and live toons

While waiting for Heroes to return on April 23, fans can now help Hana, the former Mossad agent.  She’s looking for interested viewers to aid her attempts to stop Linderman’s still-unexplained plot.  Details are at

Meantime, Susan Sarandon and John Goodman have been named as Speed Racer’s parents.  The Wachowski Berothers’ are set to begin filing this live-action adaptation of the popular Japanese anime this spring for a summer 2008 release.  Whether Goodman will sport Pops Racer’s trademark mustache remains to be learned.

Go Speed Racer!

Go Speed Racer!

Emile Hirsch, the relatively unknown actor, has been cast as Speed Racer in Joel Silver’s live-action adaptation of the beloved Japanese anime from the 1960s.

Hirsch has already been seen in Alpha Dog and Lords of Dogtown and will next be seen in Sean Penn’s Into the Wild, opening in September.  He told E!  the film would be “Blade Runner meets Andy Warhol meets pop art.”  No other casting has been confirmed thus far.

Speed Racer is on track for its May 9, 2008 release with filming set for Potsdam, Germany this spring and summer.  Silver has already announced that the film will be intended for all audiences and is aiming at a high octane G-rating.

USA Sci-Fi Summer

USA Sci-Fi Summer

The USA Channel announced premiere dates this week for their returning sci-fi series to make summer television watching a little less boring.

The 4400 – fourth season debuts June 17 at 9pm

The Dead Zone – sixth season begins June 17 at 10pm

Monk – sixth season premieres July 13 at 9pm

Psych – returns July 13 at 10pm

Green Hornet stings again!

Green Hornet logoThe Green Hornet has been optioned for feature films once again. Columbia picutres announced yesterday that they have optioned the one-time radio and television hero from Neal H. Moritz of Original Film. Moritz, in turn, picked up the rights from Green Hornet Inc., and will serve as producer along with Ori Marmur.

The property has been under repeated option since the 1990s. At one point, George Clooney was ready to portray Brit Reid, newspaper magnate and secret crimefighter, with Jason Scott Lee as Kato, his faithful manservant. In 2004, Kevin Smith was signed to write and direct the film with Jake Gyllenhaal and Jet Li in the main roles. Smith then backed off the directing aspect and in 2006 announced he was no longer attached to the property.

The Green Hornet debuted on WXYX radio in Detroit back in January 1936 and quickly went network. The creation of George W. Trendle and Fran Striker, the two already had a hit with The Lone Ranger. In addition to the long-running radio show, the Green Hornet has appeared in movie serials, a long running and a frequently reprinted newspaper comic strip distributed by King Features and later revived under the pen of Russ Heath. The feature also enjoyed numerous comic book runs, last seen in the popular series from Now Comics. The television series on ABC lasted one season but gave the world Bruce Lee. The theme music, "Flight of the Bumblebee" (the television version was recorded by Al Hirt) has continued to thrill movie-goers, as most reccently heard in Kill Bill: Part 1.

ROBERT GREENBERGER: Super-Heroes D2DVD to your home!

ROBERT GREENBERGER: Super-Heroes D2DVD to your home!

We’ve spent the last few weeks looking at how Hollywood operates, optioning properties, including comic books, which they think might work as a movie or television series. With the success of 300, we also paused to examine how full the calendar was getting the next few years and wondered if a glut was coming.

If that’s the case, what alternatives might there be?

Television remains skittish with comic book properties despite the runaway success of Heroes. Beyond Smallville, there are no comics-related shows on prime time and none likely to be added to the 2007-08 schedule (to be announced in May). Cable, with dozens and dozens of channels, has one: Painkiller Jane on Sci-Fi.

Animated fare, either for Saturday mornings or weekday afternoons, has turned away from comic books for source material, preferring anime imports or original productions. The last handful of attempts have not been resounding successes such as the WB’s Legion of Super-Heroes.

But there are new signs of life in the still growing Direct to DVD market, a.k.a. D2DVD. Here, producers go for the familiar as they crank out sequel after sequel on shoestring budgets and churn them out like so much shovelware, clogging the shelves at mass merchandisers from Sam’s Club to Best Buy. In 2006, D2DVD releases generated $1.3 billion in revenue, and that’s expected to grow 5% to 7% this year, according to Variety.

This is fertile ground for all the comic book publishers but so far only the majors are exploiting it to the fullest.

The earliest releases were not from DC, but from Warner animation, starting with Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. The story worked and the look matched that of the successful Bruce Timm/Paul Dini animated series and played better than expected so got upgraded to feature film release. Unfortunately, the subsequent efforts: Batman & Mr. Freeze: Sub-Zero, Batman vs. Dracula and Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman fared less well both creatively and financially.

The nadir may have been hit last year when they rushed out the ill-conceived Superman: Brainiac Attacks which resembled neither the animated continuity nor the Superman Returns feature film. Both were played off on the Cartoon Network.

Fortunately, it came and went with little fanfare and was totally eclipsed last summer when DC announced they were finally working as full partners with Warner animation in creating animated adaptations of classic DC stories from the company’s rich and deep library.

The first four announced releases, for those who missed the news, are:


ComicMix flicks hits!

ComicMix flicks hits!

With 300’s $70 million opening weekend, everyone’s eyes lit up. No one expected this number, with the best estimates at least $20 million lower. Now everyone is scrambling to read the tea leaves and try to understand what just happened.

A few thoughts from our corner of the universe. First, this will make 2007 the best year ever for comic book movies. There are six feature films scheduled for release this calendar year and I will guarantee you that combined, they will add up to huge box office receipts.

As a result, this will fuel future comic book-into-movie activity. It also makes Frank Miller a suddenly bankable name. Forget his work on Robocop 2 and look at Sin City and now 300. Once he begins directing The Spirit later this year, expect that to get onto a release schedule ASAP.

Projecting ahead, there are five more comic book movies have firm release dates for 2008 with at least two others penciled in (see schedule, below).

I’ve said all along that the comic book adaptations will continue until there are enough flops to sour Hollywood on the genre. This year opened with Ghost Rider opening to surprisingly huge numbers and then had legs. With 300, the reverse seems to be happening. I suspect production heads will fast track properties in the various studio pipelines and we’ll see one or two more movies added to 2008 and 2009 could possibly get jam-packed even though all that’s for certain that far out is the next Bryan Singer Superman release and Captain America.


Arnold Drake passes away

Arnold Drake passes away

Mark Evanier posted the sad news that Arnold Drake passed away this morning.

Drake was a prolific writer for comics, prose and film, refusing to be typecast.  In the early 1950s he wrote It Rhymes with Lust which can be argued as America’s first graphic novel (readers can judge for themselves when Dark Horse reissues this later in 2007).

While best known today for creating Deadman, Drake also wrote a wide variety of titles, mostly for DC Comics featuring the Doom Patrol, Space Ranger and Tommy Tomorrow.  Given his versatility, he also handled Bob Hope, Jerry Lewis and the delightful Stanley and his Monster.

For film, he may be best remembered for The Flesh Eaters.

Drake was outspoken about the changes he saw happening to comics in the 1960s, as Stan Lee and his Marvel cohorts rewrote the rules.  As a result, he was in the forefront at demanding improved working conditions and tried to wake DC’s editors up that there was finally some serious competition for readers.

The efforts led to his removal from DC assignments although he would return to write now and then into the 1980s.

His last effort, a proposed Doom Patrol graphic novel, was in the works at the time of his death.

Pulps and pulp comics

There has been quite a revival of interest in the old pulp heroes over the last year or two. Moonstone Books launched with the pulp-like exploits of Kolchak the Night-Stalker before adding characters such as The Phantom and The Spider, while Anthony Tollin has relaunched The Shadow and Doc Savage in two lines of facsimile reprint editions. In Hollywood, Sam Raimi has signed on to produce a movie about Doc Savage, the Man of Bronze. With so much renewed interest, we here at ComicMix thought we should dig a little deeper.

The energetic Joe Gentile has been running Moonstone Books for a decade now and has grown the line from a one or two comic books a month outfit to a burgeoning publisher of not only comic books but prose works. I chatted with him by e-mail to learn what’s been going on.

In the interests of full disclosure, I have written one story for Moonstone’s anthologies, with work beginning on a second, and ComicMix columnist John Ostrander has contributed a story to the recently released Kolchak prose anthology.

Robert: Joe, for those not in the know, what is Moonstone’s mission?

Joe: Well, we thought there were some niches that weren’t being filled in comics. We thought that if we could fill some of those, perhaps (with promotion and advertising, which we did a lot of at the beginning) we could bring either new people or readers who left the hobby, to come back to the comic shops. Great stories was always our #1 priority, all things else aside.


Keep your eye on the body

Keep your eye on the body

I got a note from a long time comic book reader on Wednesday. He was incensed that Marvel disgraced themselves by killing Captain America. Worse, they did it sneakily, without telling the retailers this was the issue so it sold out to the fan boys before the general public could see the bloody body for themselves.

Marvel certainly got a nice boost from the coast-to-coast coverage Captain America’s death received.

But, is Captain America – Steve Rogers – really dead?

It used to be that a death to a major character was a major event. Writers would find themselves running out of interesting stories to tell with a character and decided to shake up the title character’s life by killing off a familiar face. Spider-Man writer Gerry Conway has always said that’s why Gwen Stacy had to go.

That happened time and again, at both DC and Marvel and it made the fans uneasy, since you never knew what would happen next. That certainly helped sell comics for a while. Then, killing the title character seemed the next logical step. Jim Shooter and Jim Starlin helped pioneer that with the Death of Captain Marvel graphic novel and then there was the phone in stunt that saw Jason Todd, the second Robin bite the big one.


Reboots abound!

Reboots abound!

Robert GreenbergerWith J.J. Abrams now confirmed as not only producing and scripting but also directing 2008’s Star Trek XI, the buzz has begun on the latest reboot of a beloved franchise. As one might imagine, fans of the series have been divided over whether or not this has been necessary, a debate we’ve all heard before.

The entire notion of a reboot is an interesting one because, looking back, reboots were largely throwing ideas against the wall to see what might stick. While there were fans of The Flash, there was certainly no groundswell of support demanding DC Comics bring Jay Garrick back. Instead, management created Showcase as a title to try new things and after three issues of straight-forward adventure, they thought it was time for something different. As legend has it, someone thought the time might be right for a new super-hero and all heads turned to the last editor with any success as characters without S-shields and bats: Julius Schwartz.

Instinctively, Schwartz knew Jay Garrick and his mercury-helmet felt too dated. Things in the 1950s were fresh and new, sleek and shiny. He kept the name and the powers and recreated from the ground up, perhaps pop culture’s first reboot.