The 25 Most Influential People in Comic Book Movies: #3 Kevin Feige

Kevin Feige is Marvel’s 21st century boy. He began his comic book movie career as associate producer of X-Men in 2000, and moved on to become co-producer of X2 in 2003 and executive producer of X-Men: The Last Stand in 2006, working with the likes of #19 Ralph Winter, #16 Lauren Shuler Donner, and #9 Bryan Singer. By this time, Feige had also worked in some sort of production capacity on eight other Marvel films, including Daredevil, Elektra, Hulk, Spider-Man 2, The Punisher, Blade: Trinity, Man-Thing, and Fantastic Four. In 2007, Feige was named President of Production at Marvel Studios. He continued to serve as executive producer of more Marvel properties that year, including Spider-Man 3 (made with #11 Sam Raimi at the helm) and 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer (working again with Ralph Winter). In 2008, he produced the enormously successful Iron Man and the also popular The Incredible Hulk (with the contributions of star writer #12 Zak Penn and famed producer #21 Gale Anne Hurd.) With the success of these two films, things look good for the future of Feige and Marvel Studios. Marvel’s relatively new comic book movie production studio has several ambitious new projects in the works, as does Feige himself. He is serving as executive producer of the soon to be released Punisher: War Zone, and will be an executive producer, with #22 Micahel De Luca, of a planned 2009 release of The Hands of Shang-Chi, based on the Marvel character of the same name. Feige will return to the X-Men franchise, accompanied by Lauren Shuler Donner and Ralph Winter, with their production of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, scheduled for release on May 1, 2009.

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: #12 Zak Penn

Zak PennZak Penn started his writing career in the early 1990s with such films as The Last Action Hero and PCU. In 1997, Universal Studios, working at the time with #21 Gale Anne Hurd, hired Penn to rewrite an early draft of a script for Hulk written by John Turman, featuring a fight scene involving the Hulk and a school of sharks.  Although a different script was ultimately used, Penn soon graduated to writing the story for 2003’s X2, produced by #16 Lauren Shuler Donner and #19 Ralph WinterAfter this success, he was hired to write four projects over the next three years; Elektra (after executive producer #14 Mark Steven Johnson‘s early draft script, based on #7 Frank Miller‘s titular character), the Fantastic Four video game, X-Men: The Official Game (for which he wrote the screenplay and story), and X-Men: The Last Stand.  He wrote the story and the first three drafts of the script for The Incredible Hulk, released on June 13, 2008, starring star and co-writer Edward Norton and Liv Tyler. Zak Penn is currently engaged as the writer for the upcoming Marvel films The Avengers and The First Avenger: Captain America, both scheduled for release in 2011.

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.

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