When Titans Clash – The Spirit vs. The Octopus

“Come on! Toilets are always funny.” So says Samuel L. Jackson as the maniacal Octopus, coming off as dedicated to his character as we’ve seen him since Pulp Fiction. This one short fight scene from Frank Miller‘s The Spirit, due out this December, isn’t yet quite enough to start fully judging the film, but I do feel comfortable saying that Mr. Miller seems to be trying to bridge the gap between the campy cartoony humor of The Spirit‘s golden age comic books and the noir sensibilities of modern age works such as Sin City.

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NEW The Spirit Full Movie Trailer !!!

All-out stylization true to Frank Miller form.

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: #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: ++++