The 25 Most Influential People in Comic Book Movies: #6 Mike Richardson

Mike Richardson     So you saw a sci-fi or fantasy movie, and it featured some off-the-wall characters, and maybe you thought it was entertaining, and it got some hype, but you didn’t realize until later that it was a comic book movie.  There’s a good chance that it was produced by Mike Richardson, the president of the world’s third largest comic book publisher, Dark Horse Comics. Since 1986, Dark Horse has been a beacon for restless artists and writers fleeing the ranks of Marvel and DC wishing to make a name for themselves with their own “creator owned” comics.
     In 1994, Richardson served as executive producer of two films made through Dark Horse subsidiary Dark Horse Entertainment.  One was The Mask (with co-executive producer #22 Michael De Luca), based on Richardson’s own comic of the same name, created in the late 1980’s/ early ‘90s.   The film earned several awards and nominations and was instrumental in propelling Jim Carrey’s comedic career forward. The Mask was followed by the three season long “The Mask” animated television series, which ran from 1995 to 1997, and by the Razzie Award winning Son of the Mask in 2005 (also executive produced by Richardson). The other film for which Richardson was an executive producer in 1994 was Timecop, made with producer #11 Sam Raimi and #17 Lawrence Gordon‘s production company Largo Entertainment. It was again based on Richardson’s eponymous comic, published by Dark Horse. This film was nominated for a Saturn Award for Best Science Fiction Film and was particularly lauded for Jean Claude Van-Damme’s surprisingly competent dramatic performance in the starring role.  The film was followed up by the 1997 television series “Timecop” (which he co-executive produced with Gordon) and the 2003 direct-to-video sequel Timecop: The Berlin Decision.  In the latter half of the 1990s he produced two films; 1996’s Barb Wire, another Razzie Award nominee starring Pamela Anderson as the eponymous character published by the Dark Horse imprint Comics Greatest World, and the 1999 comedy Mystery Men (with producer Lawrence Gordon), loosely based on characters appearing in Bob Burden’s Flaming Carrot Comics, published by Dark Horse in the late 1980s/early 1990s. Richardson was also the executive producer of the 1999 movie Virus (producer #21 Gale Anne Hurd‘s first comic book film) based on the Dark Horse comic of the same name. Once again, this film was almost universally panned.
     By the end of the ‘90s, Mike Richardson was making movies, but was in a slump with the critics. Not to be dissuaded, Richardson regrouped, and 5 years later he came back with his production of Dark Horse’s flagship property, Hellboy.  With the all-star team of producer Lawrence Gordon, producer/designer/writer/creator #13 Mike Mignola, and visionary director #10 Guillermo del Toro, Richardson had made a box office and critical success that reinvigorated his company and the independent comic book industry all at once. Hellboy Animated: Sword of Storms won him a 2007 Emmy for Outstanding Animated Program, followed by Hellboy Animated: Blood and Iron a year later. He was executive producer of both and again worked with the invaluable talents of Del Toro and Mignola.  He is currently working on his production of Hellboy II: The Golden Army, starring Ron Perlman and Selma Blair.  He has brought Gordon, Mignola, and Del Toro back together again for the sequel which is set for release on July 11, 2008.  Other Mike Richardson projects include 2004’s AVP: Alien vs. Predator, based in part on the Dark Horse comic series, and 2007’s 30 Days of Night, produced by Sam Raimi and based on the limited series published by IDW. Richardson served as executive producer on both films.
     Future projects for Mike Richardson include feature length productions of Dark Horse comic series R.I.P.D., Damn Nation, Criminal Macabre (based on Dark Horse/IDW character Cal McDonald), Concrete, and Black Cross.  He is slated to work as producer on all of these films.  Release dates have yet to be announced.

Influence Meter: ++++++++

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The 25 Most Influential People in Comic Book Movies: #11 Sam Raimi

Sam RaimiPrior to his infamous run on the Spider-Man franchise, Sam Raimi was best known as the man behind the Bruce Campbell classics The Evil Dead, Army of Darkness, and their progeny.  Raimi has always been a fan of comic books and pulp fiction protagonists, particularly The Shadow.  After trying and failing to secure the rights to a feature film production of The Shadow, Raimi decided to make his own superhero film in the same vein, creating 1990’s Darkman.  In 1994 he produced Dark Horse’s Timecop with executive producer #6 Mike Richardson and #17 Lawrence Gordon‘s company Largo Entertainment. By 2000, Sony had hired him to direct Spider-Man.  His passion for the character earned him the job, and the film was finally released in 2002 after two years of filming delays, a tragic death during filming, and the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The film was a huge success, and in 2004 Spider-Man 2 followed with an even bigger and better box office and critical reception. In 2007, Sony released Spider-Man 3, this time with Raimi writing the story and screenplay as well as directing.  The film was not nearly as successful as the two previous films in the series, but it was good enough to persuade Sony to have Raimi at the helm of Spider-Man 4, due to be released in 2010 or 2011. In 2007, Raimi also produced an adaptation of the horror comic 30 Days of Night, published by IDW, working again with executive producer Mike Richardson. Raimi is working on producing a film adaptation of Korean graphic novelist Min-Woo Hyung’s Priest with #25 Michael De Luca, currently scheduled for release in 2009, and on his beloved The Shadow, to which he finally acquired the filming rights.

Influence Meter: +++++

The 25 Most Influential People in Comic Book Movies: #17 Lawrence Gordon

Lawrence GordonSelznick Award winning producer Lawrence Gordon became known for making films such as 48 Hrs., Predator, Field of Dreams, and Die Hard.  He has been President and CEO of Twentieth Century Fox, Chairman and CEO of Largo Entertainment, and is the founder of Lawrence Gordon Productions. His first foray into the comic book movie world came with his production of Disney’s 1991 film The Rocketeer, based on the Pacific Comics and Comico Comics publications of the same name.  Despite the fact that The Rocketeer was not an enormously popular title in the comic book world, the film garnered a fair amount of success, both critically and at the box office.  In 1994, Largo Entertainment produced Timecop (with executive producer #6 Mike Richardson), starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, although Gordon himself was not credited as a producer.  Gordon did serve as an executive producer (again with Richardson) for the 1997 spinoff television series “Timecop.”  His second credited feature length film was the 1999 comedy Mystery Men, which Gordon again produced with Richardson, based on Dark Horse’s semi-underground title Flaming Carrot Comics. Gordon subsequently produced the successful Hellboy in 2004, and is credited as a producer for the up-coming Hellboy II: The Golden Army, (both made with the multifaceted talents of Mike Richardson, #13 Mike Mignola, and #10 Guillermo del Toro) set to be released July 11, 2008. He is also set to produce the eagerly anticipated Watchmen, based on Alan Moore’s seminal work, to be released on March 6, 2009.  Hollywood.com reports that Gordon has been announced as a producer, with Mike Richardson, for an upcoming film adaptation of Paul Chadwick’s Concrete and of the Dark Horse publication Black Cross. Release dates have yet to be confirmed.

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