The 25 Most Influential People in Comic Book Movies: #4 David S. Goyer

     Despite his career ups and downs, David S. Goyer has become the go-to guy for getting screenplays written for Marvel, DC, Dark Horse and other comic book publishers. In 1996, he wrote The Crow: City of Angels, the sequel to #20 Jeff Most’s dark hit The Crow. Alex Proyas, director of The Crow, hired Goyer to write a polish for his next film the sci-fi/fantasy success Dark City. Goyer’s first adaptation of a Marvel Comics character was the 1998 television film Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., starring David Hasselhoff. The same year, the cinematic feature Blade was released, written by Goyer and executive produced by #22 Michael De Luca. Goyer created the original character of Whistler, Blade‘s mentor, for the film. Marvel later added the character into the comic book’s continuity. Goyer would follow Blade as writer and executive producer of Blade II, directed by #10 Guillermo Del Toro in 2002 with designer #13 Mike Mignola on board.  In 2004, New Line released Blade: Trinity, which Goyer wrote, directed and produced himself. Although Trinity received an unfortunately ill reception from critics and fans, Goyer found redemption in 2005’s Batman Begins, for which he shared story and screenplay writing credits with director #18 Christopher Nolan. Goyer also wrote the dialogue and story for the accompanying Batman Begins video game. In 2006, Goyer returned to Blade as writer for the short-lived televisions series “Blade: The Series,” which aired only 12 episodes. His last released works include 2007’s Ghost Rider, for which Goyer served as executive producer. The film’s final script was written by director #14 Mark Steven Johnson. Goyer also wrote the screenplay for the segment “In Darkness Dwells,” part of the animated compilation Batman: Gotham Knight to be released on July 8, 2008.
     David Goyer’s future projects include The Dark Knight, set for release on July 18, 2008, on which he again shares story writing credits with director Christopher Nolan. He is working on a final version of a screenplay for X-Men Origins: Magneto, after the original screenplay by Sheldon Turner.  Goyer is also attached to direct the Marvel film, set for release in 2009. He is credited as a writer of the screenplay for the currently in-production film adaptation of the DC character The Flash, scheduled for release in 2010. Hollywood.com reports that he has been announced to produce Super Max, based on the DC character Green Arrow.  He is also announced to produce a film adaptation of Vertigo ComcisY: The Last Man, and to direct an adaptation of Platinum StudiosUnique. Variety reports that Goyer will be directing a film adaptation of the 2007 graphic novel Baltimore, or The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire, co-written by Mike Mignola.

Influence Meter: ++++++++++

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The 25 Most Influential People in Comic Book Movies: #5 Michael E. Uslan

Michael E. Uslan is the undisputed father of the modern Batman film. A comics lore legend, he was the first professor to teach a course on “comic book folklore” at an accredited university (his alma mater Indiana University.) He famously convinced the Dean of the school to allow his course after equating the Dean’s recollection of the story of Moses with the story of Superman. Since 1979, he and co-founder of Batfilm Productions #8 Benjamin Melniker have owned the feature motion picture rights to the DC Comics Batman franchise. Uslan has shared production credits on every one of Melniker’s comic book screen works, including every Batman film since 1989. He was the first to pitch the idea of a darker Batman, as opposed to the campy 1960s TV Batman, to producers, but was turned down repeatedly. His persistence, however, eventually led to the production of Tim Burton’s 1989 classic, and he has remained the Batman authority since then. In addition, he was executive producer of 2008’s direct to video Turok: Son of Stone, based on the Dell, Gold Key and Valiant Comics hero. He is set to produce Billy Batson and the Legend of Shazam, based on the original DC Comics Captain Marvel. With #11 Sam Raimi, he will be producing a film adaptation of The Shadow, a long time pet project of Raimi’s.

Influence Meter: +++++++++

The 25 Most Influential People in Comic Book Movies: #7 Frank Miller

Frank Miller     Frank Miller revolutionized the comic book superhero mainstream in the 1980s and ’90s with his injection of Neo-noir and anti-heroic elements into the stories he drew, wrote, and created. His works have had such an impact on popular culture that filmmakers seem compelled to produce them for the screen. In 1981 he created the character Elektra for Marvel, on which Jennifer Garner’s portrayal in the 2003 film Daredevil and in 2005’s Elektra were based. Both films were created with the involvement of #14 Mark Steven Johnson; the latter being co-written by #12 Zak PennIn 1983, Miller created the limited series Ronin for DC Comics.  A film adaptation is in the works involving 300 producer Gianni Nunnari but no release date has been announced.  In 1986, DC released Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, a critically acclaimed and highly influential work that took the campy Batman of the 1960s television show and redefined him into the darker, grittier hero now well known to audiences. This, along with Alan Moore’s 1986 work Batman: The Killing Joke, were major influences on Tim Burton’s 1989 film Batman. In 1987, Miller wrote the story arc for four issues of Batman titled Batman: Year One.  This story became the basis of the first of many scripts and story ideas that eventually resulted in #18 Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins, co-created with #5 David S. Goyer.  
     After leaving Marvel and DC, Miller went on to create his own independent work.  In 1990 he created the three issue series Hard Boiled, published by Dark Horse, which is in the works to be adapted into a film written by Miller and produced by star Nicolas Cage. No release date has officially been issued. In 1991, Miller wrote and drew his first Sin City story, published under the Dark Horse title Dark Horse Presents. Throughout the decade, Sin City “yarns” became increasingly popular and critically well received, reinvigorating the noir and crime comics genre and giving rise to the 2005 film Sin City. Miller was credited as a co-director on this film with Robert Rodriguez, marking an end to his disdain for Hollywood comic book adaptations. Sin City 2 and Sin City 3 are also planned, with Miller directing both and acting as the producer and writer of the screenplay for Sin City 2. In 1996, Miller created Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot for Dark Horse, which led to an animated television series of the same name airing from 1999 to 2001. In 1998, Miller and long time collaborator Lynn Varley created the acclaimed graphic novel 300, on which the eponymous 2007 film was based, which Miller executive produced. His latest project, a film adaptation of Will Eisner’s golden age comic The Spirit, is scheduled for release on December 25, 2008, starring Gabriel Macht and Samuel L. Jackson, with #8 Benjamin Melniker and #5 Michael Uslan as executive producers, and Frank Miller directing.

Influence Meter: ++++++++

The 25 Most Influential People in Comic Book Movies: #8 Benjamin Melniker

Batman '89 logoFormer Executive Vice President at MGM and current film industry legend, Benjamin Melniker is the co-founder (with #5 Michael E. Uslan) of Batfilm Productions, Inc. On October 3, 1979, Melniker and Uslan acquired all feature motion picture and allied rights on Batman from DC Comics. Since that time, this dynamic duo has executive produced every modern Batman film, including Batman (heavily influenced by the work of #7 Frank Miller), Batman Returns, Batman Forever, Batman & Robin, Batman Begins (helmed by #18 Christopher Nolan, co-created by #5 David S. Goyer and instigated in part by an early script by Frank Miller) and the immeasurably anticipated The Dark Knight (also directed by Nolan and co-written with Goyer), opening on July 18, 2008. Melniker and Uslan have produced or executive produced many Batman animated projects, television shows, and spinoffs, including the 1992 “Batman” animated TV series (with development assistance from #13 Mike Mignola), Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman, Batman: Gotham Knight (written in part by David Goyer, to be released direct to DVD July 8, 2008), Batman Beyond: Return of the JokerSubZero, and Catwoman. Other projects include their work together as producers of DC/Vertigo‘s Constantine (along with #16 Lauren Shuler Donner and executive producer #15 Gilbert Adler) which has led the two to sign on as producers of the hopefully coming sequel Constantine 2 (also with Adler and Shuler Donner), and The Spirit, which Melniker and Uslan will executive produce and which Frank Miller will direct, starring Gabriel Macht and Samuel L. Jackson, due to be released on December 25, 2008.  Prior to Batfilm, Melniker and Uslan also notably produced Swamp Thing and The Return of Swamp Thing, as well as the 1990 “Swamp Thing” television series, all based on DC’s eponymous character.

Influence Meter: ++++++++

The 25 Most Influential People in Comic Book Movies: #18 Christopher Nolan

Christopher NolanAfter over a decade of steady decline, Christopher Nolan resurrected the Batman film franchise into a starkly beautiful and gritty world, telling a new generation of Batman fans that the Caped Crusader has not faded away. Indeed, the Bat has only just begun his flight.  In 2003, after the critical and box-office failure of 1997’s Batman & Robin, and after no less than five unsuccessful attempts at a new Batman film, Warner Brothers approached Nolan to direct a project begun by #7 Frank Miller and Darren Aronofsky, known then as Batman: Year One.  Nolan was a risky choice since he was relatively unknown at the time, but had garnered some critical success with previous films such as Memento and Insomnia. After several false starts, Nolan took over the Batman project and, with writer #5 David Goyer, set out to make a Batman grounded in a “recognizable, contemporary reality against which an extraordinary heroic figure arises.” Nolan directed and co-wrote the screenplay for the finished Batman Begins (with executive producers #8 Benjamin Melniker and #5 Michael E. Uslan on board), which won great critical and commercial success upon its release in 2005, including one Academy Award nomination. Nolan and Goyer were also a writers for the 2005 Batman Begins video game, and Nolan is credited as having produced, directed and co-written (again with Goyer) the screenplay and story for the highly anticipated sequel, The Dark Knight (again executive produced by Uslan and Melniker), to be released July 18, 2008, starring Christian Bale, Michael Caine, and the late Heath Ledger. In 2003, Variety reported that Warner Brothers had optioned The Exec, a comic book created by the late Doug Miers, to be adapted for the screen by Christopher Nolan.

Influence Meter: ++++

My Top 40 Comic Book (or Strip) Movies

1.        Annie*                         1982
2.        American Splendor**†           2003
3.        The Dark Knight¨               2008
4.        Superman¨                      1978
5.        Batman¨                       1989
6.        A History of Violence‡◊        2005
7.        Batman Begins¨                2005
8.        300†                           2007
9.        Dick Tracy*                    1990
10.       V for Vendetta◊                2005
11.       Batman Returns¨               1992
12.       Road to Perdition‡             2002
13.       X-Men©                        2000
14.       Iron Man©                     2008
15.       Spider-Man 2©                 2004
16.       Spider-Man©                   2002
17.       Men in Black§                 1997
18.       Hellboy†                       2004
19.       Sin City†                      2005
20.       Constantine◊                   2005
21.       X2: X-Men United©             2003
22.       From Hellª                    2001
23.       Mystery Men†                   1999
24.       Timecop†                       1994
25.       Over the Hedge‡‡               2006
26.       Superman Returns¨             2006
27.       The Incredible Hulk©          2008
28.       Daredevil©                    2003
29.       Wanted††                       2008
30.       X-Men: The Last Stand©        2006
31.       Hulk©                         2003
32.	 The Mask†                      1994
33.       Fantastic Four©               2005
34.       Hellboy II: The Golden Army†   2008
35.       Blade©                        1998
36.       Batman Forever¨               1995
37.       Men in Black II§              2002
38.       Blade: Trinity©               2004
39.       Howard the Duck©              1986
40.       Elektra©                      2005
 
*  Chicago Tribune Syndicate
** Self-Published
†  Dark Horse
‡  Paradox Press (DC)
◊  Vertigo (DC)
¨  DC Comics
©  Marvel Comics 
§  Aircel/Malibu/Marvel
ª  Top Shelf Productions
†† Top Cow
‡‡ United Media Comics
Last revised and updated: July 19, 2008