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.

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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: #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: #9 Bryan Singer

Bryan SingerPrior to signing on to direct X-Men, Bryan Singer considered comics to be “low level literature.”  He was not a fan of comics and was unfamiliar with the X-Men characters. Singer’s friend, Tom DeSanto, a huge comic book enthusiast, eventually persuaded Singer to watch every episode of the X-Men animated series and read several comics.  Singer was hooked. His new found enthusiasm for comics coupled with The Usual Suspects tucked away in his back pocket made him a prime choice for 20th Century Fox and producers #16 Lauren Shuler Donner, Avi Arad, and Stan Lee.  The result was the groundbreaking X-Men, which he directed and for which he co-wrote the story, followed by 2003’s smash hit X2, which he directed and for which he wrote the story and served as executive producer.  In 2004, amidst difficulties finalizing a deal for Singer to direct X-Men 3, he was hired by Warner Brothers to direct, produce, and co-write the story for a new Superman film, Superman Returns, released in 2006. Again, Singer was unfamiliar with the comics, but he identified with the character and loved Richard Donner’s 1978 film Superman.  His next comic book film will be Superman: Man of Steel, which he will produce and for which he will write the story.  News suggests that Singer will be directing as well, but there has been some evidence to the contrary.  The sequel is set to be released in June of 2009.

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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.

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The 25 Most Influential People in Comic Book Movies: #15 Gilbert Adler

Gilbert AdlerGilbert Adler kept the Crypt Keeper alive, as it were, owing a great deal of his accomplishment to his antecedent, the late writer/producer #24 Milton Subotsky. Where Subotsky first brought EC Comics stories to the screen with the original Tales from the Crypt in 1972, Adler continued the tradition through the 1980s and ‘90s.  Adler started by directing the Crypt Keeper sequences in HBO’s “Tales from the Crypt” television show in 1989, directing two full episodes in 1992 and 1993, and writing several episodes between ‘91 and ‘96.  During this time, he produced over 60 episodes of “Tales from the Crypt” for HBO.  In 1995, he directed Crypt Keeper sequences for the big screen in Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight, which he also produced.  He soon directed, produced, and wrote the screenplay for his own feature length Crypt film Bordello of Blood in 1996.  In subsequent years he has served as the executive producer for DC/Vertigo’s Constantine (produced by #16 Lauren Shuler Donner, #8 Benjamin Melniker and #5 Michael E. Uslan) released in 2005, and as a producer of Superman Returns, also produced, directed, and co-written by #9 Bryan Singer, released in 2006.  He is reportedly set to produce the Superman sequel, Superman: Man of Steel, again with Singer, scheduled for release in June of 2009. He may also be the executive producer of the sequel to Constantine (also with Shuler Donner producing) if the film is ever actually made.

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The 25 Most Influential People in Comic Book Movies: #16 Lauren Shuler Donner

Lauren Shuler DonnerIt has been said that behind every great man stands a great woman. Be that as it may, it is certainly the case that behind every X-Man stands Lauren Shuler Donner.  She has (with the assistance of #19 Ralph Winter) brought Marvel Comics’ X-Men to the forefront of American pop culture with her productions of X-Men, X2, and X-Men: The Last Stand. Capitalizing on the success of this franchise, she is currently producing X-Men Origins: Wolverine, starring Hugh Jackman, scheduled for release on May 1, 2009. She has also been announced as a producer for X-Men Origins: Magneto, based on a screenplay most recently written by #5 David S. Goyer, also scheduled for release in 2009. Ms. Shuler Donner was instrumental in bringing the main character from Hellblazer (published by DC’s Vertigo imprint) to the screen in her production of Constantine (with producers #8 Benjamin Melniker and #5 Michael E. Uslan and executive producer #15 Gilbert Adler). She remains attached to the possibility of producing a sequel to the film, also with Adler and Melniker, but according to IESB.net, possibilities are waning. Hollywood.com reports an announcement that Shuler Donner will also be producing an adaptation of DC Comics’ Metal Men, but no release date has been revealed.

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