Comicbook mavens keep studios in mind

Animation holds new key for Hollywood

Comics have been very kind to Hollywood the past few years, helping set B.O. records and providing a wealth of diverse material to mine.

For the relatively small business of comics, the art of selling its wares to Hollywood has become an increasingly important part of the business.

“You can’t make a fortune publishing a comic like you could during the boom years” of the early 1990s, says Ford Lytle Gilmore, founder of Illuminati Entertainment, which represents comics and videogame creators to Hollywood. “Now, if you want to make a good living, licensing is a good part of it.”

Dark Horse Comics has been selling its wares to Hollywood successfully for the past 10 years, turning cult comics like “The Mask” and “Timecop” into films and has Mike Mignola’s “Hellboy” positioned as a tentpole next summer.

Publisher Mike Richardson says that telling a good story is the best way to gain Hollywood attention. “There are many people now creating comics to sell them as movies. “We’ve not been that cynical. We try to tell great stories in comics and many also seem appropriate for film. I think that gets lost in some attempts to create properties for studios to look at.”

And more than sales, it’s the story that helps move a comic onto the screen.

Scott Mitchell Rosenberg, whose Platinum Studios publishes comics and develops them for studios, agrees the story is all that matters. His company sold to Showtime the sci-fi series “Jeremiah,” which is based on a Belgian comic that has never been published in English.

“It wasn’t an issue to them as to how many copies are sold in the U.S. What’s the issue to them is that they loved the story,” he says.

Most see the interest from other media as only a good thing for comics. “There is nothing like the attention a movie gets in the world,” says Gareb Shamus, chairman of Wizard Entertainment, publisher of the leading magazine about comics, Wizard. “It’s always going to be a medium for people to develop ideas or stories or artwork. It’s a perfect medium for that.”

Michael Uslan, a producer on 1989’s “Batman” who is working on films based on DC and CrossGen titles, says the financial appeal of turning comics into films is pretty clear cut. But the attention these movies put on comics only helps them be better.

“The movies and TV and cartoons are the result of the comics just doing what they do best: producing on a grueling monthly schedule a continuing saga of colorful characters, wonderful stories, and — dare I say it? — a Steven Spielberg-type child-alive-inside-me magic and whimsy.”

The success of nonsuperhero comics and the movies based on them means that it will be harder in the future to tell what films originated as comics.

“Even when this (superhero comics movie trend) dies down, like it will, deals will be made in Hollywood for comics properties, as they always have,” Richardson says. “If the material is good, it doesn’t matter where it comes from.”

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