Author: Robert Greenberger

Doctor Who in America and on Big Screen

Doctor Who in America and on Big Screen

News of the World reports that two of the four Doctor Who specials for 2010 will be shot in the United States. An unnamed BBC source was quoted a saying, “But two specials in America, with a US setting and a US assistant, will take it to another level. David Tennant is already gaining a huge following and this will make him really hot property.” No actress has been cast as the assistant.

These will mark the final four episodes from Russell T. Davies before turning the beloved franchise over to Stephen Moffat and, according to rumor, a new incarnation of the Doctor in season five.

Moffatt, meantime, is said to be at work on a feature film version of The Doctor. "It would be good to see it in the cinema so long as it is great and fantastic," he told an Edinburgh audience this weekend.

"I’m not against it … so long as it never gets in the way of the TV show. If it got in the way of the show that would be appalling."

Bell, Benson, Keaton Join Voice Parade

Bell, Benson, Keaton Join Voice Parade

With Freddie Highmore on board to voice Astro Boy in the Warner Bros. CGI reincarnation of the classic anime series, one has to wonder what role Kristen Bell will play.  She has recently been linked to the project along with Nicolas Cage, Bill Nighy, Donald Sutherland, Eugene Levy and Nathan Lane. The movie is due out in spring 2009.

The 1963 animated series from the legendary Osamu Tezuka is being recreated by director David Bowers and screenwriter Timothy Harris.

Meantime, Jodi Benson, the voice of Ariel, comes up from under the sea to lend her voice as Barbie to Michael Keaton’s Ken in Toy Story 3. The film, coming June 18, 2010, of course reunites voice actors Tom Hanks and Tim Allen as the toy’s owner, Andy, moves on to college.

Siegel Murder Propels Book Of Lies

Siegel Murder Propels Book Of Lies

Today’s USA Today features a story from David Colton detailing the background for Brad Meltzer’s forthcoming novel, The Book of Lies, which was inspired by the death of Jerry Siegel’s father, Mitchell. The article explores how this tragic event may have been the catalyst for Siegel to go on and create Superman. 

The story discusses how the murder was largely kept under wraps until Gerard Jones covered it in his 2004 book Men of Tomorrow. "It had to have an effect," Jones said in the piece. "Superman’s invulnerability to bullets, loss of family, destruction of his homeland – all seem to overlap with Jerry’s personal experience. There’s a connection there: the loss of a dad as a source for Superman."

The actual events involved a robber who either shot the 60-year-old Siegel or the event triggered a fatal heart attack. Meltzer’s novel, on sale next Tuesday, uses the gun shot but in an afterward he explores the issue and admitted to Colton the truth was more likely a heart attack.

"In 50 years of interviews, Jerry Siegel never once mentioned that his father died in a robbery," Meltzer said in the piece. "But think about it," Meltzer says. "Your father dies in a robbery, and you invent a bulletproof man who becomes the world’s greatest hero. I’m sorry, but there’s a story there."

Virgin Comics Confirmed Closed

Virgin Comics Confirmed Closed

After rumors began swirling late last week, Publisher’s Weekly now confirms that Virgin Comics has closed. The SoHo offices have been shut down, the staff let go and principals Sharad Devarajan, Gotham Chopra and Lance Leiberman have not returned attempts by the media to get details.

Virgin Comics has issued the following statement:

"Virgin Comics announced today that it will be reorganizing its operations and closing its New York office to consolidate in an LA base.

"The Company is currently working with management to restructure the business and will release its future plans in the next few weeks.

"Sharad Devarajan, CEO, said, ‘We remain excited about the business and partnerships we have built through Virgin Comics and are working towards a restructuring that properly takes the business forward. The decision to scale down the New York operations and concentrate on core activities is due to the current macro-economic downturn and is in no way a reflection on the dedicated and valuable employees we have had the privilege to work with.’ "

The comic book publisher launched a collaboration between Gotham Entertainment and Richard Branson’s Virgin Group.  Previously, Gotham had been handling translating and selling major American publishers’ titles to India.

In 2006, the company began publishing three lines of comics, largely written and edited in America with art handled by studios in India.  One line created new characters based on Indian mythology whole the other lines offered high profile talents such as director John Woo a comics venue for their creations.  Just under two dozen collected editions of the choicest material are currently in print.

Their goal, in addition to selling comics, was of course to sell movie versions and they have managed several options, most recently their one-shot The Virulents.

Virgin also entered into a partnership with Sci Fi Channel to use comics as backdoor pilots for cable channel.  Mike Carey’s The Stranded debuted in print back in January and is in active development with Carey writing the pilot script.  The recently announced Superbia from Jordan B. Gorfinkel and Lisa Klink is not expected to go forward.

Despite big names from Stan Lee to Grant Morrison to Garth Ennis being associated with the line, the titles never gained traction with the fans and tastemakers.  Their large presence at Comic-Con International this past July may have been too little too late.

Gotham Entertainment, based in Bangalore, is expected to remain in operation.

Virgin Comics is another in a long line of start-ups that have failed to succeed in either the direct sales comic book market or crossover to mass market readers.  Their Shakti line was not dissimilar to CrossGen’s own universe while their Director’s Cut imprint seemed modeled on Tekno Comics’ model of using Big Name people to bring in curious readers.  The lack of a successful marketing campaign and inability to get readers excited about the material contributed to the line’s failure.

Marvel Lets Japan Recreate Its Heroes

Marvel Lets Japan Recreate Its Heroes

Marvel Comics announced a deal with Japan’s Madhouse that will have their core super-heroes reimagined for Japanese audiences.  Originally designed as animated fare, the long-range plans call for the Marvel Japanese Universe to be found on mobile devices and comic books.

Essentially, the heroes will experience new origins taking into account Japanese culture and society.  Their problems, foibles ands villains will all reflect the country of origin, using “something that is part of the fabric of society” according to Jungo Maruta, the president and chief executive of Madhouse. He told the New York Times, “Marvel gives creators freedom to fly.”

The first characters to undergo transformation will be Iron Man and Wolverine in thirty-minute anime intended for Japanese television in 2010. “Although they say, ‘I want Japanese anime,’ it’s not what they actually want. They want a hybrid between Japanese and Western animation,” Alex Yeh, the chief operating officer of the studio, told the Times.

“Marvel has continuously looked to push the boundaries with the Marvel Universe and seek new mediums for our characters. Madhouse is helping us expand the Marvel brand with a truly global vision tailored to themes and artistic styles popular in Japan, creating a uniquely localized and cross-cultural adaptation of the Marvel Universe,” said Simon Philips, President, International & Worldwide Head of Animation, Wireless & Gaming for Marvel Entertainment in a release.

Marvel previously attempted this concept with an India-inspired Spider-Man which was a commercial and critical flop from Gotham Entertainment Group in 2004.

Madhouse was founded in 1972 and is seen as a creative powerhouse in Asia, perhaps best known for its Vampire Hunter D.


Spoof Soars, Bat Drops, Clones Sink

Spoof Soars, Bat Drops, Clones Sink

The Dark Knight surpassed Star Wars twice this weekend.  First, it firmly grabbed second place on the All Time Box Office charts with a total now estimated at $471,493,000.  Its weekend take of $16,790,000 also surpassed the debut of the CGI-animated Star Wars: The Clone Wars which managed a so-so $15,505,000.  The film received mixed reviews and little in the way of anticipatory buzz so its performance over the next week or two will be telling.

It appears, though, it’s time again for more diverting fare as the actor spoof Tropic Thunder nabbed the top spot with a weekend gross of $26,000,000, and a total of $37,033,000 since its Wednesday opening. The other comedy, Pineapple Express, is holding on with another $10,000,000 for the second weekend.  Its total now stands at $62,932,000 but will reach profitability far faster than Tropic given that it cost one-third of Tropic’s $90,000,000 to produce.

20th-Century Fox, which has had a miserable summer, finally got some good news when Mirrors opened with $11,125,000, exceeding studio estimates by 10%.

Universal’s The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor continues to wrap up bucks for the pyramids. The film brought in $8,609,0; its total now stands at $86,649,000.  While it will likely crack $100 million, this is not what the studio had expected.


The New Star Trek 4

The New Star Trek 4

After teasing us with just four close-ups of selected cast members of next May’s new Star Trek film, Paramount has released four additional teases. This time we can see Scotty, McCoy, Chekov and Sulu. While we can’t see the modified uniforms, we can tell the pointy sideburns remain in tact for which there will no doubt be much rejoicing.


Paramount’s publicity roll out appears to be carefully designed to release drips and drabs of clips and information before the first full trailer which is now not expected until the holiday season. Word is that a rough assemblage of the film was shown to enthusiastic execs at the studio and director J.J. Abrams indicated the film would have been ready for its initially planned Christmas release. Of course, the last few Trek films to open during the holiday season haven’t fared well so slotting it to kick off the summer 2009 season may actually be a blessing.


Dark Knight Rules Fourth!

Dark Knight Rules Fourth!

The Dark Knight continues to rule the box office as it takes the number one position for the fourth weekend in a row, the first time any 2008 release has achieved this.  Its estimated haul of $26,030,000 pushes its domestic take to $441,541,000, faster than any movie in history.


Next week, the movie should surpass Star Wars’ $461,000,000 and become the second highest grossing film in American box office history.  Titanic remains on top of the world with its $600 million record and Warner Bros. suspects Batman will not beat the fabled steamliner.  Instead, they now estimate the film will earn $520 million.


Now, adjust everything for inflation and The Dark Knight will wind up not second but 49th while Gone With the Wind remains the biggest film of all with $1.4 billion in 2008 dollars.


The stoner comedy Pineapple Express opened in second place with a healthy $22,400,000. Counting ticket sales from Wednesday’s opening, the film already has taken in $40.5 million.


In its second weekend Universal’s The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor dropped 60.2%, taking in just $16,113,000.  With a total of $70,671,000, it chugs along although there has to be some concern that bad word of mouth, poor reviews and steep drop off may mean the franchise is running out of steam despite director Rob Cohen already talking a fourth film.



Interview: Bob Rozakis on Creating an Alternate History for the Comics Industry

Interview: Bob Rozakis on Creating an Alternate History for the Comics Industry

The notion of retelling history with a twist has become a very popular sub-section of fiction, heavily mined by Harry Harrison and by Philip Roth. In comic books, Marvel’s What If? title and DC’s Elseworlds imprint also explored possible scenarios.  But no one has ever looked at how a single element could propel comic book history in an entirely new direction.

Until now, that is.

Bob Rozakis has begun writing a series of articles tracing just such an alternate history for TwoMorrows’ Alter Ego and Back Issue. Rozakis is certainly no stranger to comics, given his lengthy tenure as DC’s Production Manager, co-creator of ‘Mazing Man, and writer of titles such as Superman, Freedom Fighters and Secret Society of Super-Villains.

COMICMIX: As DC’s "Answer Man," what can you tell me about the origins of your new article series?

BOB ROZAKIS: I had proposed an Elseworlds back in 1998; just after I left staff, in which Green Lantern and Flash were the heroes who survived the Golden Age instead of Superman and Batman. In addition to the story itself, I had created an "outside the box" chunk of history to go with it. The proposal was rejected, but the idea kept percolating.  Finally, I approached Roy Thomas and Michael Eury with the concept of writing the entire alternate history and they were both quite enthusiastic.

CMix: What was the key event that would change comic book history?

BR: In 1946, after spinning off his All-American Comics line from DC, Max Gaines sold his share back to Harry Donenfeld and Jack Liebowitz. In my alternate reality, Gaines buys them out instead… and the DC line becomes part of AA Comics.


ComicMix Exclusive Interview: Joe Lansdale on ‘Pigeons from Hell’

ComicMix Exclusive Interview: Joe Lansdale on ‘Pigeons from Hell’

Joe Lansdale is a prolific author of horror stories, both short and novel-length, including Drive In and Bubba Ho-Tep.  He’s also no stranger to comics, having partnered with Timothy Truman for projects featuring  such characters as Jonah Hex and The Lone Ranger, and has even written for Batman: The Animated Series and other television series.

This spring, Dark Horse Comics is releasing his four-part miniseries, Pigeons from Hell, adapting a story by Robert E. Howard.  It’s Lansdale’s first time working with artist Nathan Fox, and he recently sat down for a brief chat with ComicMix and a preview of the first issue.

COMICMIX: Thanks for agreeing to chat, Joe.  This is not your first work with Robert E. Howard.  You previously wrote a Conan miniseries. So tell me, what is it about Howard that you like?

JOE LANSDALE: Howard has always appealed to me because there is a raw storytelling talent at work, and he has a Texas background, and like me, he lived in a small town where the sort of profession he pursued was not entirely understood. I always thought he appealed to the little boy in all of us, and by that, I mean that part of us that loves a good raw story. He appeals to that aspect in all of us. Like Jack London, The Call of the Wild is eternal. I don’t think Howard had the same depth that some of London‘s work had, but it has the same primal element, if not the social element. Thing is, I don’t consider that bad or lesser, just different.

CMix: Did you ask to write Pigeons from Hell, or was it an assignment?

JL: I think it was mentioned to me by the film company that has Howard’s work, because I had written the Conan miniseries. It had been well-received, and I mentioned Pigeons From Hell, and it was thought an update might be fun, since Dark Horse had already done a literal adaptation, so, it just sort of snowballed from there and Dark Horse was for it. [It was] kind of an accident.

CMix: How did you approach expanding and adapting a prose work into a four-issue miniseries?

JL: I tried to use the original story as the frame, and I tried to bring younger contemporary characters into it. Howard’s work was of its time, and it could be casually racist, so I wanted to avoid that. I also added more mystical elements. Again, a perfect adaptation had already been done for the comics before, and there was a really good Thriller episode of the story years ago, though now it seems a little dated, so I wanted to approach it in a different manner. I think the story is still true to the original in most ways.

CMix: What is it about Howard’s work that you think still makes it relevant today?

JL: I think it’s the pure storytelling. You can learn to be a better writer with effort and time, but that is something that seems almost inborn, though I’m not sure how to explain it. But he has it, and the work is recyclable and constant.