Author: Robert Greenberger

Hollywood Casting Announcements Flow Towards San Diego

Hollywood Casting Announcements Flow Towards San Diego

Comic-Con is upon us and Hollywood studios, like the various publishers, have lined up a series of announcements to whet the appetites of fanboys, geeks, and the mainstream media.  I should note it’s pretty fun the con is receiving more coverage this year than the political conventions will likely receive next year.

Over the last week or so, numerous announcements have been slipping out through the trade press, starting with word that Seth Rogan, riding high from being Knocked Up, will write and star in the long-awaited Green Hornet movie. 

Yesterday, word spread pretty quickly about likely casting for the forthcoming adaptation of Watchmen, being helmed by 300’s Zack Snyder.  Matthew Goode looks to be Adrian Vedit, a.k.a Ozymandias.  Joining him will be Billy Curdrup (Dr. Manhattan), Patrick Wilson (Night Owl) and relative newcomer Malin Ackerman (Silk Spectre).  Jackie Earle Haley, who was recently nominated for an Academy Award, will play the pivotal role of Rorschach.

The Hollywood Reporter, today, added to that by named Disturbia’s director, D.J. Caruso, as the man behind New Line Cinema’s version of Vertigo’s Y the Last Man.  Caruso is paired once more with writer Carl Ellsworth, who cut his teeth writing for Joss Whedon, before leaping to features. J.C. Spink, Chris Bender and Blade’s David Goyer are producing the film, which was optioned some two years ago. The comic book series wraps up a little later this year with nine trade collections currently available.

Additional announcements expected this week include casting for Frank Miller’s directorial debut on The Spirit and maybe some additional word on the long-stalled Wolverine film that now inches towards a green light.

Analyzing Amazing

Analyzing Amazing

Marvel Comics announced recently that they will be canceling Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man and Sensational Spider-Man, while upping Amazing Spider-Man from monthly to three times a month.

Editor Steve Wacker explained to WizardWorld, “It’s a chance to get more Amazing Spider-Man comics out there, quite honestly. It’s because we were already publishing three Spidey books, but what inevitably happens – and it’s happened for decades – is that the books that aren’t Amazing Spider-Man are the first ones that people drop when they need to re-adjust their lists. So the thought was combine what we’re already doing with three titles into one, make them each roll right into one another, almost like a weekly soap opera or television show, and so it’s one-stop shopping for your Spider-Man stuff. You know, historically, from Marvel Team-Up from Web of Spider-Man to Peter Parker to even the current books, no matter how good the stories were within there, they were rarely able to come to the same heights sales-wise as Amazing.”

Taking his lessons from running 52, the summer announcement over the creative team will likely involve key figures running the story and art with built in teams assisting both.  Who they are and how they work will remain to be seen.

But, is the theory a correct one?  Will Amazing, selling at over 100,000 copies a month work at that level?  Or will the average monthly sale be closer to the 50-55,000 a month that the canceled titles were averaging? The Back in Black theme to the three titles these last few months should have bumped Sensation and Friendly closer to the flagship title, but the disparity remains sharp.

Odds are, once the dust settles, some four or five months after the changeover, the title will sell lower, possibly splitting the difference.  If so, that puts it in the 70-75,000 range, which is exactly where Ultimate Spider-Man currently resides (down 50,000 copies or so from its first year numbers).  The title has been pumping out 18 issues a year for a while now and the sales have been steady.

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The Shadow Knows

The Shadow Knows

In the first part of our extensive interview with publisher Anthony Tollin (yesterday), we learned how a story that apepared in The Shadow Magazine some two and a half years prior to Batman’s debut, proved to me the template for the Cpaed Crusader’s debut in Detective Comics #27.  This is fodder for the historians who have studied what Bob Kane and Bill Finger each brought to the table during the creation of DC’s second successful super-hero.  The story will be publsihed this summer in the ninth volume of Shadwo facsimiles being publsihed by Tollin.

Greenberger: How will you celebrate this discovery in volume nine?

Tollin: By pairing it with Doc Savage #8, which showcases Doc’s utility belt (which Bill Finger acknowledged was the inspiration for Batman’s).  By the way, Doc’s utility belt was introduced by ghostwriter Harold A. Davis, Newsday‘s first Managing Editor. (Davis ran the paper through its first four years, and was succeeded by Alan Hathway, another Doc Savage ghost, who headed the paper for 30 years. Will Murray also provides a dynamite article on the real-life inspiration for both Doc Savage and The Avenger—Richard Henry Savage. The real Savage was a fascinating, larger-than-life American hero, a West Point graduate who served in the U.S. and Egyptian armies before joining the diplomatic corps. In his later years, he wrote more than 40 novels, many of which were based on his own adventurous life. Street & Smith published one of them in 1898, and Henry William Ralston, a recent addition to the Street & Smith staff, never forgot the charismatic Savage. Decades later, as S&S’ circulation manager, he launched The Shadow Magazine and developed the characters for Doc Savage and the Avenger, basing elements of all three pulp superheroes on Richard Henry Savage’s adventurous life.

And The Shadow #10 will be a super-villains issue, featuring The City of Doom (the second Voodoo Master story which inspired Batman’s Doctor Death storyline), The Fifth Face (featuring a master of disguise called Five-Face) and "The Immortal Murderer," a 1944 Alfred Bester Shadow radio script which pits The Shadow against an immortal Neanderthal (and yes, it was a rewrite of Alfie’s earlier Vandal Savage story from Green Lantern #10). Along with Sax Rohmer, Walter Gibson pretty much originated the concept of super-crime, and the villains he called super-crooks. In 1933, Gibson introduced a slew of super-villains including The Red Blot, The Wealth Seeker, The Black Falcon and Gray Fist. Others soon followed including The Cobra and Dr, Rodil Mocquino, the Voodoo Master; and years later, Shiwan Khan. Early on, Gibson realized that a superhero like The Shadow needed something more than garden-variety crooks and gangsters to test his mettle, just as Jerry Robinson would later realize that Batman needed his own Moriarty when he created The Joker. In fact, The Shadow’s Dr. Mocquino appears to have inspired Batman’s first recurring villain, Doctor Death.

Greenberger: What else will be in the book?

Tollin: The Shadow  #9 , our special "Foreshadowing The Batman" volume, reprints "Lingo," one of Walter Gibson’s all-time classics which inspired the Batarang, Theodore Tinsley’s "Partners of Peril" (the novel that inspired Detective Comics #27’s "The Case of the Chemical Syndicate," plus a bonus Tinsley novelette: "The Grim Joker" (featuring a murderous, white-faced crime clown). Next spring, we’ll be releasing a special "Foreshadowing The Joker" volume that will reprint Ted Tinsley’s "Death’s Harlequin" and the 1940 Shadow radio script, "The Laughing Corpse." The latter, broadcast six weeks before Batman #1 debuted, featured a chemical that caused victims to laugh themselves to death, quite similar to The Joker’s original M.O. "Death’s Harlequin" was on sale the same month as Detective Comics#27 (when we can be pretty sure that Bill Finger was paying close attention to The Shadow Magazine) and pitted The Shadow against a murderous clown who like The Joker was a vision of madness: "The thin lips were drawn away from skull-like teeth. The cheeks were sunken and leathery. Dank black hair lay matted thinly on a baldish scalp the color of old parchment. A living corpse in the costume of a gay Harlequin! With a wide-muzzled gun. And a jeering laugh that made the silence in the room crawl with menace."

Greenberger: Any idea what DC’s reaction was when you made them aware of this?

Tollin: Actually, Paul Levitz was quite interested and very cooperative with my request to reprint panels from Detective Comics #27 in the historical articles. Paul recognized that his story was part of Batman’s history, and basically just wanted some copies for DC’s library.

Greenberger: Do you think this will change people’s perceptions of Batman’s origins?

Tollin: Actually, my hope is that it alters people’s perceptions of The Shadow. Finger and Kane As I observe in my supporting historical article: "The Shadow was a master of disguise. Perhaps his greatest masquerade was transforming himself into Batman, and in that guise continuing his reign as the world’s greatest detective superhero into the twenty-first century."

I find it quite interesting that at nearly the same time that DC Comics was taking legal action to eliminate Victor Fox’s Wonderman because it was an imitation of Superman, they were about to launch a new character who was a far more blatant imitation of The Shadow, right down to the plots, bat-motif, surroundings, villains and supporting players. At that time, The Shadow was still far more prominent than the recently-launched Superman, since he was featured in the only twice-monthly hero pulp as well as the weekly radio thriller, which was the #1 daytime series in the radio ratings. As pulp publishers of the Spicy line, Harry Donenfeld and Jack Liebowitz and their editors had to realize that Batman was based on The Shadow, even if they didn’t know that the plot of the first Batman story was a recycled Shadow novel.

While I want to give proper credit to Walter Gibson and Theodore Tinsley for their part in inspiring Batman, I’m certainly not out to tarnish Batman or Bill Finger. I have no animosity towards Batman. I’m actually very fond of the character, and Adrienne [Roy] and I used to jokingly refer to our New Jersey home as "the house that Batman bought." While Batman started out as a clone of The Shadow, the feature came into its own with the introduction of Robin, which added a touch of humanity to the formerly grim Batman that was lacking in The Shadow. Robin was almost certainly inspired by Junior Tracy, but it was just what the feature needed at the time. And of course, the succession of wonderful villains that began with The Joker and Catwoman in Batman #1 and continued with The Penguin, Two-Face, The Scarecrow, Clayface and The Riddler made Batman a very special feature. While Finger’s first Batman story was a blatant swipe of a Shadow novel, he quickly developed into one of comics’ greatest and most-innovative scriptwriters.

Greenberger: Are there other parallels between The Shadow and Batman?

Tollin: Certainly. I’ve recently spotted several more early Bat-stories that were lifted from Shadow novels. Readers will be able to compare for themselves when I reprint "Serpents of Siva" in The Shadow Volume 12. The Golden-Age Batman lifted The Shadow’s suction cup climbing device, autogiro, and "yellow boomerang," along with the friendship with the Gotham police commissioner. But the most lasting influence is to be found in Batman’s talent for escaping deathtraps, which started in his debut story when he escaped from the same glass gas chamber that The Shadow escaped from in "Partners of Peril." This mastery of escape was The Shadow’s most lasting legacy to Batman, a legacy from Houdini to his biographer/ghostwriter Walter Gibson and on to Bill Finger’s Batman via The Shadow.

Greenberger: How is this line performing and what’s coming after this?

Tollin: Each Shadow and Doc Savage volume has outsold the previous, and sales are still building. This is most unusual within the Diamond and comic collectors market, where sales usually drop after the first issue. This seems to indicate that our sales are actually generated by people who are actually reading and enjoying the books, and encouraging others to do the same.

The Shadow  and Doc Savage reprints are available from most full-service comic stores, and also Borders and some Barnes & Noble stores. They are also being tested in double-packs at a small number of Costco and Sam’s Club outlets. They’re also available directly from me (sanctumotr@earthlink.net or www.shadowsanctum.com), with six-issue subscriptions available within the USA for $72 via first class or $66 via media mail. They’re also available in Manhattan at The Mysterious Bookshop, and in Minneapolis at Dreamhaven Books and Uncle Hugo’s Science Fiction, The books are also available individually via mail order from me, and from Bud Plant, Vintage Library, Adventure House, Mike Chomko, and in Canada from Girasol Collectables,

Greenberger: Beyond Doc Savage and The Shadow, are there any other pulp figures you’re looking to resurrect?

Tollin: The Avenger and Nick Carter, and hopefully The Whisperer as well. Do you think readers would like to discover the secret life of Police Commissioner James Gordon, aka The Whisperer?

Greenberger: With Moonstone’s recently announced Spider anthology and your facsimile reprints, why do you think people remain interested in the pulp heroes?

Tollin: Hopefully.  It definitely seems to be the case.  But there are many pulp heroes that always seem to be with us.  Don’t forget that Zorro, Tarzan and Conan all originated in the pulps, as well as Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe.

Greenberger: Anything else you’re working on?

Tollin: Well, two double-novel pulp reprints a month is keeping me pretty busy, and this will only increase when The Avenger and some of the other S&S characters are added as quarterlies. I am expanding a Shadow coffee table history that I wrote a few months back. And at this year’s Friends of Old-Time Radio Convention, I’ll be directing an X-Minus One cast reunion. We’re thrilled that this year we’ll be reuniting the series’ scriptwriters, Ernest Kinoy and George Lefferts, who haven’t seen each other in 40 years. Kinoy of course went on to win an Emmy for his screenplay for the landmark TV miniseries Roots.

Artwork copyright DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

The Case of the Chemical Syndicate

The Case of the Chemical Syndicate

Every so often historians find something that appears to be the final piece to a puzzle.  Comic book historians have certain mysteries or questions they’d like answers to.  Recently, Anthony Tollin and Will Murray pinpointed the source material that helped inspire Bob Kane and Bill Finger to create the character of Batman.  The results can now make people further consider how much of Batman is Kane and how much is a result of the popular culture of his day, providing fodder to be reimagined in a new medium.

Comic Mix talked with Tollin, a longtime comic book veteran, who has been producing new facsimile editions of The Shadow and Doc Savage for the full details. 

Greenberger: Tony, for those less familiar with your name, give us the short hand background on your career in comics and old time radio.

Tollin: 20-year DC career, beginning as proofreader, then assistant production manager/color coordinator, then cover colorist for a decade and interior colorist of Green Lantern (15 years), Justice League of America, Superman, Crisis on Infinite Earths, The Shadow Strikes, Doc Savage, The Phantom, etc.  Also co-colored Batman and Detective Comics as a team with Adrienne Roy through much of her 16-year run on the titles (190 issues of each, not to mention The Brave & The Bold, Batman and the Outsiders, Shadow of the Bat, Robin, etc.) And also work at Disney, Topps, Marvel, National Lampoon’s Sunday comic section parody, PS Magazine for Murphy Anderson. Also wrote 70-plus old-time-radio historical booklets for Radio Spirits and the Smithsonian Historical Archives, scripted Stan Freberg’s When Radio Was for six years, and co-authored The Shadow Scrapbook with Walter Gibson.

Greenberger: And what about your fascination with The Shadow?

Tollin: I fell in love with the character in junior high, after previously reading Walter Gibson’s magic books as an amateur magician and ventriloquist.  Back then Shadow pulps were few and far between, so I rationed them, only allowing myself four chapters per day. This was back around the time of the Batman television series when Bats was often pretty silly. The Shadow embodies mystery and intrigue. Of course, Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams later brought Batman back to his dark and mysterious roots, but I guess I was a bit ahead of the curve. The magic of Walter Gibson’s shadowy creation is that it gave the hero the charisma normally reserved for the villain. The melodrama villain, parodied by Dudley Do-right’s Snidely Whiplash, was always the most fascinating and charismatic character in the play. Are we as fascinated by Jonathan Harker or Luke Skywalker as we are by Count Dracula or Darth Vader? Of course not! Gibson described The Shadow as a "Benign Dracula." In the conventional melodrama, the villain in black laughed evilly as he tied the girl down to the railroad tracks. Gibson turned that around, so that the menacing laughter and the arrival of the man in black represented rescue and salvation, not doom. The Shadow is a hero in black who owns all the power and charisma of the melodrama villain. That was, and still is, a brilliant innovation.

Greenberger: You’ve been researching the Shadow on radio and in print for years.  How did you finally discover this nugget?

Tollin: A few months back, Will Murray reminded me of Bill Finger’s quote that his first Batman "script was a take-off on a Shadow story." (from Steranko’s History of the Comics Volume One)  I kept thinking about it and it occurred to me that nobody had ever bothered to find out which "Shadow story" was lifted. I suggested that to Will over the phone one night, and with his assistance I had found the story in less than 20 minutes. Will and I each had ideas as to which stories it couldn’t be, so it became a process of elimination. We had both thought it would be a lot harder than it was. I had expected the lift to be less blatant. It turned out to be the same story with basically nothing changed. I mean, it was a chemical syndicate in both stories! Finger didn’t even change it to some other kind of business. And The Shadow is described as "bat-like" in the rooftop scene where Batman makes his first appearance in costume.

Curiously, it turned out to be the first Shadow novel not written by Walter Gibson. Neither of us recognized it as the inspiration for "The Case of the Chemical Syndicate" when we first read it back in the 1970s. And because we were both friends of Walt Gibson, we tend to spend a lot more time reading his 283 Shadow novels than Theodore Tinsley’s 27 novels.

Greenberger: What makes this story significant for comic book fans?

Tollin: Well, it clearly establishes that without The Shadow, there would be no Batman! Since the first Batman story was a start-to-finish lift of an earlier Shadow novel, it establishes that the similarities between the two characters were no accident. Bruce Wayne is wealthy young man about town Lamont Cranston. The friendship between Bruce and Commissioner James Gordon (whose name comes from The Shadow’s sister magazine, The Whsiperer) is no different from the relationship between Cranston and Weston. Batman’s talent for escapes also comes from The Shadow, since the first recorded Batman escape duplicates The Shadow’s in the same story. And the Shadow lifts continued in subsequent stories, even ones written by Gardner Fox, which gave Batman an autogiro, Bat-a-rangs like The Shadow’s cable-outfitted "yellow boomerang," and a suction-cup device for scaling walls … all Shadow gimmicks. Without the Knight of Darkness, there would be no Dark Knight.

It also raises questions about the extent of Bob Kane’s actual contributions to the feature that bears his creator credit. If Finger’s first Batman script was a blatant retelling of an earlier Shadow novel, and Finger also suggested the Caped Crusader’s bat-eared cowl, bat-scalloped cape, black-and-gray costume and utility belt, what did Kane personally contribute to the feature besides its title? And as to Kane’s claims that  Douglas Fairbank’s acrobatics in The Mark of Zorro were an influence, it now turns out that it was  movie-buff Bill Finger who regularly supplied  the acrobatic stills  of Fairbanks  to Bob Kane and his assistants.

Also, Theodore Tinsley’s first Shadow novel mentions "bat-like" and "bats" on seven occasions. This is most unusual for a Shadow novel. One really has to ask, did this novel actually inspire Batman’s creation from the very start. I mean, it’s a bit of a stretch to assume that Kane and Finger came up with the idea of Batman first, and that it was a complete coincidence that the story Finger chose to imitate was comparatively crawling with bats.

 Of course, comic strips and comic books back then regularly lifted from what was hot in other media. Radio’s The Aldrich Family (and its Broadway predecessor What a Life, which first introduced Ezra Stone as Henry Aldrich) begat Archie Andrews. Frank Packard’s Jimmie Dale, The Gray Seal was lifted as the Green Hornet and The Phantom (before Lee Falk changed his mind and added the jungle motif four months later), while radio’s Chandu the Magician (with his girlfriend Princess Nadja) certainly influenced Mandrake and Princess Narda. And let’s not even mention the similarities between a certain Clark who is the Man of Bronze and promoted as "Superman" in 1934 house ads, and another Clark who was the Man of Steel. And, of course, it didn’t stop with the Golden Age. I’m sure it was no coincidence  that Barry Allen was a police lab scientist like the character of Ray Pinker on the then #1 TV series, Dragnet(or the police scientist played by Jack Webb himself in Dragnet’s film inspiration, He Walked by Night). There are plenty of similarities between Doc Savage’s Iron Crew and the Challengers of the Unknown, and also the Fantastic Four. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby were both Doc Savage fans as teenagers. It’s probably no coincidence that the Fantastic Four are led by the world’s greatest scientist, and operate without secret identities from the top floor of a famous Manhattan skyscraper. And Ben Grimm and Johnny Storm are constantly insulting each other and picking fights just like Monk and Ham. The first generation of comic book professionals didn’t grow up with comic book superheroes, so they imitated the pulp superheroes of their own teenage years.

Greenberger: Is there anyway to know if Bill Finger and/or Bob Kane read The Shadow pulps at the time?

Tollin: Oh, yes.  Bill Finger confirmed it in the Steranko History.  He also admitted that "I patterned my style of writing after The Shadow…. It was completely pulp style." Kane acknowledged a Shadow influence in the text feature that accompanied "Gotham City Line-up," the 1964 "new-look" story that killed off Alfred Pennyworth. (Though of course he got better.) Bob Kane admitted reading hero pulps like Doc Savage when Finger loaned them to him, and also admitted, "We didn’t think anything was wrong with Batman carrying a gun because The Shadow used one."

Greenberger: What prompted you to begin the current cycle of reprints?

Tollin: The opportunity to bring Walter Gibson’s wonderful stories back into print, after a 22-year hiatus.  And the reprints have been as successful as I’d hoped. There are a lot of others who love these classic characters. One of the nice rewards is that most of the subscription checks and renewals are accompanied with "thank you" letters from people telling me how glad they are to be getting the stories in this double-novel trade paperback format. And everyone seems to really like the historical articles too. 

One thing I’m hoping to accomplish is to introduce readers to the real Shadow of Gibson’s novels. Too many comic fans and creators see The Shadow as a murderous executioner, which he certainly wasn’t in Gibson’s novels. People see the strong cover images of the blazing ’45 automatics and think that’s what the character is about. No, The Shadow is about mystery, deduction and misdirection. The Shadow’s powers of deduction are rivaled only by Sherlock Holmes and Nero Wolfe. (By the way, Gibson did know Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; they were introduced by their mutual friend, Houdini.) The Shadow is certainly well armed, usually carrying four ’45 automatics into battle. But he basically treats them as a soldier or police officer would, only using them when his life or an innocent’s is at stake. The Shadow is certainly not a bloodthirsty executioner (while his imitator The Spider certainly is).

I certainly hope the availability of these new reprints well help comic book and motion picture creators to get the character right in the future, and allow them to draw inspiration from more than just the cover paintings.

TOMORROW: Tony talks about what other goodies can be found in this special issue plus some additional insights to DC Comics, Batman and the pulps’ legacy.

More Heroes for Second Season

More Heroes for Second Season

The casting announcements for the second season of Heroes have been flowing of late, with the  cast set to start shooting next week.

The biggest name to join is David Anders, best known as the chaerming villain, Sark, on Alias.  He will play, surprisingly, Takezo Kensei, Hiro Nakamura’s childhood idol.  As viewers recall, Hiro now possesses Kensei’s sword.

 

Nick D’Agosto has been cast as Clarie’s boyfriend and will also have undisclosed super-powers.  D’Agosto has been largely seen in television guest roles from House to ER.  She is expected to return to her cheerleading habit when she winds up in California.  She will be dealing with Lyndsy Fonseca (Big Love) and Dianna Agron (Veronica Mars) as fellow cheerleaders, one bitchy, one sweet.

Eriko Tamura, a pop star and actress in Japan, will be playing a Japanese princess.  She has ten albums and has become quite the idol.

Barry Shabaka Henley (The Horseman) will be a New York police detective named Fuller with Holt McCallany (Vantage Point) as leader of an Irish street gang.

ROBERT GREENBERGER talks Civil War

ROBERT GREENBERGER talks Civil War

It must come as quite a shock to you. We’re talking about a profound cultural shift for the betterment of mankind, People want this, Richard. They need the superhumans of the world to be responsible, properly trained, qualified…and ultimately held accountable. That’s what the initiative is all about. We’re trying to move out of the dark ages of masked vigilantes into a brighter future where tragedies like Stamford can’t ever happen again.

– Tony Stark to Richard Ryder, Nova #2.

World War Hulk began last week and we saw the jade-jawed giant arrive on Earth with a pretty big mad on. With less than twenty-four hours to evacuate Manhattan, Doctor Strange and his, er, estranged Avengers offer to help Iron Man clear the populace. Shellhead magnanimously offers amnesty for their help.

Welcome to the new status quo in the Marvel Universe. The dust continues to settle from the brawl that was Civil War and with all of Earth confronted by a new menace, now’s not a bad time to assess the new political landscape.

After the Mutant Registration Act, unveiled in Uncanny X-Men #181 and passed into law, required all mutants in America to be registered. Those not complying faced criminal charges. Once that was passed, a parallel super-hero or super-power act was an obvious follow up and came up during the Acts of Vengeance crossover. Fantastic Four #335 began the first serious examination of such an act. Reed Richards addressed a congressional subcommittee saying such an act was unnecessary. His odd argument that such a law wouldn’t be followed by the villains anyway struck an odd chord.

While American legislators dithered over it, the Superpowers Registration Act became Canadian law in Alpha Flight #120.

Years went by without much activity on either front with the Mutant law not being vigorously enforced and the super-human law a mere idea.

Then came the House of M.

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Comic Book Box Office Examined

Comic Book Box Office Examined

Comic books turned into motion pictures tend to be expensive exercises given the need to create costumes, simulate super-powers and make things sufficiently larger than life to appeal to filmgoers of all ages.

The traditional rule of thumb is that a movie has to earn three times its budget in domestic revenue to be considered profitable.  This way, the cost of production, backend money to producers and performers and marketing costs could be recouped.  After all, studios receive a sliding scale percentage of the box office gross.  For example, if a movie opens with $100 million that first weekend, chances are the studio sees a hefty percentage, anywhere from 50-80% of that income and as time passes, the ratio between studio and theater change so by week 12 (should a movie last that long), the theater gets the lion’s share.  Which helps explain why popcorn costs $5 a bucket – theaters need to earn profit somehow.

International box office as well as ancillary income (pay-per-view, hotels/airplane sales, home video/video downloads, related licensing) was always considered gravy.  Over the last few years, with movie theater attendance stagnant or down, studios have crowed about being profitable by counting all the money now.  

So, with all but one of this year’s comic book related films now showing, we here at Comic Mix thought it worth taking a peek at how well the films have performed.  The numbers below show the box office income to date followed by their production budget. (Marketing costs are an additional $20-40 million depending on film.)

Ghost Rider, $115,802,596 / $110,000,000

300, $210,250,922 / $65,000,000

TMNT, $42,273,609 / $34,000,000

Spider-Man 3, $330,021,137 to date / $258,000,000

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, $58,051,684 (opening weekend) / $130,000,000

Stardust, August 10

So, from the top, Ghost Rider should have earned $330,000,000 in domestic box office to recoup costs and be profitable.  Instead, it came up short but given how it was received, how it did around the world and how much licensing it brought it, Sony can consider it a hit, albeit a modest one.

Spider-Man 3, despite a critical drubbing, is nowhere near close to ever being profitable.  Unless you look at the international numbers which has it at $800,000,000 with a bullet and will clearly make money for Sony and Marvel.

On the other hand, the all-CGI Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was a flop for New Line.  It did not stimulate toy and related merchandise sales nor did it generate any real buzz for the property.

The one movie to succeed in the traditional model was 300, which earned something like $30,000,000 in box office profit before taking in any wordwide box office income or licensing revenue.  Kudos to Zack Snyder and now we know why studios are willing to gamble on him in the future (which is good news for us since his next two films should be Watchmen and Ronin).

And here’s our schedule scoreboard for the future:

2008

Wanted, March 28

Iron Man, May 2

Incredible Hulk, June 13

Dark Knight, July 18

Hellboy 2: The Golden Army, August 1

2009 & Beyond

Superman Returns 2, June 2009 (may be delayed until 2010)

Sin City 2, no date

Watchmen, no date

Captain America, no date

Veronica Mars Goes Wild

Veronica Mars Goes Wild

 Over at www.eonline.com/gossip/kristin someone on DC’s staff spilled the beans about the fate of the beloved Veronica Mars.

During a chat this week : "Jonathan in New York: I work at DC Comics, and you’ve got some big love here. There’s a bunch of us who take your word for gospel, and though it’s already sorta out there, we just wanted to send some info your way on the Veronica Mars comic books. They’ll be published by our WildStorm imprint, which is based in San Diego, and R.T. [series creartor rob Thomas] is looking to be firmly on board. We’re even hoping for a late fall release of the first issue. Hopefully, more to come…Keep up the good work!Jonathan, we love you. Tubers, buy DC Comics."

No doubt there will be more about this at San Diego next month.

Surfer to fly solo

Surfer to fly solo

Despite so-so advance buzz and a lack of screening for reviewers, 20th Century-Fox seems to believe in the Fantastic Four franchise.  As reported in the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday, they are already looking to spinoff the Silver Surfer into his own film.

J. Michael Straczynski, already writing a Silver Surfer miniseries, Requiem, for Marvel, has been tapped to script the solo feature.

The Times said, “Well, perhaps the studio has heard the negative static, since it apparently hopes to spin the new Surfer franchise in a darker direction to attract the slightly older demographic of its X-Men films. If so, Straczynski, whose original screenplay The Changeling is on director Clint Eastwood’s slate, is a logical pick for the Surfer story line.” JMS is also the writer of the current Silver Surfer mini-series.

20th has already announced plans for spinoffs from its X-Men film franchise although neither the Wolverine or Magneto features seem any closer to actually being shot.

Next up from Marvel’s production slate will be their first self-produced film, Iron Man, coming in May 2008.

Artwork copyright 2007 Marvel Characters. All Rights Reserved.

Heroic Casting News

Heroic Casting News

For next June’s new Incredible Hulk movie, William Hurt (Lost in Space, Altered States) has been signed to play General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross.

NBC has announced that Dania Ramirez (Callisto in X-Men: The Last Stand) has been added as a regular on Heroes. Ramirez’s character is name Maya but her place in the tapestry and her powers remain unknown.  Word is that new characters to at least recur in the second season will include a young African-American mother, an Irish mobster and a hunky boyfriend for Claire.

And the DVD for Season One will be out on August 28.