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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The 25 Most Influential People in Comic Book Movies: #10 Guillermo Del Toro

Guillermo del ToroIf #13 Mike Mignola is Hellboy’s father, then Guillermo del Toro has got to be his big brother that got him into all that trouble growing up. The Mexican director began making movies in the 1980s, venturing into comic book territory with 2002’s Blade II with writer/executive producer #5 David S. Goyer and designer Mignola. In 2004 Del Toro directed and wrote the story and screenplay for Hellboy, which he followed with Hellboy II: The Golden Army (arriving in theaters July 11, 2008), both of which he made with producer/designer/writer/creator Mike Mignola and producers #6 Mike Richardson and #17 Lawrence Gordon. Between these films, in 2006, he wrote, directed, and produced the critically acclaimed and Academy Award winning Pan’s Labyrinth, displaying some of the same visual style that will be evident in Hellboy II. Del Toro also wrote and consulted on the Hellboy: The Science of Evil video game and served as creative producer for the Hellboy Animated: Sword of Storms, Hellboy Animated: Blood and Iron, and Hellboy Animated: Iron Shoes animated features, the first two of which were executive produced by Richardson.  Guillermo is attached to direct the 2010 release of Marvel’s Doctor Strange (with David Goyer also on the project) and a future film adaptation of Phil Hester’s The Coffin, originally published by Oni Press.

Influence Meter: ++++++

The 25 Most Influential People in Comic Book Movies: #13 Mike Mignola

Mike MignolaWhile Professor Bruttenholm may be Hellboy’s father on screen, the real father of Hellboy and the Hellboy franchise is none other than Mike Mignola.  While illustrating for Marvel and DC Comics during the 1980’s and early ‘90s, Mignola ventured into film by illustrating the storyboards for Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 version of Dracula.  The same year he created a new character design for Warner Bro’s Batman animated TV series (with #8 Benjamin Melniker and #5 Michael E. Uslan as executive producers).  In 1994 Dark Horse was the first company to publish Mignola’s original concepts in the 1994 Hellboy: Seed of Destruction. Since that time, his work on Hellboy has grown exponentially, leading to a popular spinoff comic known as BPRD (also published by Dark Horse) and numerous screen projects.  His artistry has been described as “German expressionism meets Jack Kirby” by esteemed comics creator Alan Moore.  In 2002 Mignola worked as a concept artist on #10 Guillermo Del Toro’s Blade II (with executive producer #22 Michael De Luca and writer/executive producer #5 David S. Goyer). In 2004 he saw his red-handed creation reach the big screen with Hellboy, for which he was the associate producer and design consultant along with director Del Toro, producer #6 Mike Richardson, and producer #17 Lawrence Gordon. He has served as consulting producer and writer for the animated features Hellboy Animated: Sword of Storms, Hellboy Animated: Blood and Iron, and Hellboy Animated: Iron Shoes, the first two of which were executive produced by Richardson, and all of which were released in 2006/2007.  In 2006, Mignola oversaw the art direction for the television adaptation of his comic The Amazing Screw-On Head, featuring the voices of Paul Giamatti and David Hyde Pierce. Mignola is currently credited as a consultant and co-story writer for the up-coming Hellboy: The Science of Evil video game, writer and consulting producer for 2008’s Hellboy Animated: The Phantom Claw, and co-story writer and co-producer (again with Gordon, Del Toro, and Richardson) of the highly anticipated Hellboy II: The Golden Army, to be released on July 11, 2008.  Variety reports that another future project is in the works for Mignola, specifically a film adaptation of his 2007 graphic novel Baltimore, or The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire, to be directed by David S. Goyer.

Influence Meter: +++++

The 25 Most Influential People in Comic Book Movies: #14 Mark Steven Johnson

Mark Steven JohnsonSome may call him a pioneer of dark and gritty comic book films. Others might say he’s the worst friend Marvel Studios could have. Either way, Mark Steven Johnson has certainly made his mark on Hollywood.  In 2003 he directed and co-wrote the screenplay for Daredevil, based on the eponymous Marvel character.  Interestingly, Johnson appeared in Kevin Smith’s 2001 comedy Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back pretending to direct a Daredevil movie.  A few years later, he was actually hired by Twentieth Century Fox to direct Daredevil. Smith wrote several issues of Daredevil comics for Marvel in 1999 and had a cameo role in Johnson’s Daredevil. Ben Affleck, who starred in Daredevil, co-starred in Jay and Silent Bob.  These fateful coincidences notwithstanding, the film opened to mixed reviews.  In 2005, Johnson was the executive producer for the spinoff film Elektra (based on the Marvel character created by #7 Frank Miller), for which he also wrote an early draft script.  Reviews for this film were awful, and Rotten Tomatoes ranked it the second worst reviewed comic book movie of all time.  Did Johnson find redemption in 2007’s Ghost Rider (produced by #22 Michael De Luca with executive producer #5 David S. Goyer), which he directed and for which he wrote the screen story and screenplay?  It depends on who you ask.  It didn’t completely flop at the box office, and it got slightly better critical reviews than Elektra, but that’s not saying much. Despite these misfires, Johnson is set to direct a possible Daredevil II and co-write the screenplay for a film based on Marvel’s Luke Cage, but release dates have not yet been issued for these films. Johnson is currently involved as executive producer and writer for a television adaptation of Garth EnnisPreacher for HBO.

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