Panama Leo shapes up ‘Astro’ pic

Trio launch comicbook movie

Corrections were made to this article on Nov. 21, 2003.

Producer Ben Barenholtz, comicbook author Kurt Busiek and screenwriter Jonathan Alpers, under their newly formed Panama Leo banner, have acquired rights to develop a feature from superhuman comicbook series “Astro City.”

First published in the U.S. in 1995 at Image Comics and since released in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Brazil, “Astro City” was the brainchild of Busiek with interior artist Brent Anderson and cover artist Alex Ross. Series is now published by Wildstorm/Homage.

Winner of several industry awards, the cult comic is set in a fantastic world that reverses the standard formula: Superhumans, not regular beings, are the norm along with rampaging monsters, invading aliens, supervillains and mad scientists.

Lead scripter on the project will be Alpers, who also is slated to direct his first feature, “Peach,” to be produced by Barenholtz.

In thick of things

Busiek will be involved in all creative decisions during development of the “Astro City” feature. The scribe has written for all the major comicbook publishers including DC and Marvel, writing series ranging from Superman, Batman, Spider-Man and the X-Men to Mickey Mouse and Conan the Barbarian. Busiek also has served as an editor, literary agent and sales manager for Marvel Comics.

“This is probably some of the best stuff being written right now in comicbooks and I’m very excited to make it my first venture into that area,” Barenholtz told Daily Variety.

Write stuff

“Kurt Busiek is probably one of the most imaginative people I’ve run across in the field,” he added. “I’m very much looking forward to working with him and also Jonathan Alpers, who’s an exciting young writer.”

A veteran New York-based specialty exhibitor and producer, Barenholtz has been involved as exec producer on a number of features from Joel and Ethan Coen, including an upcoming project for 2004. He was co-exec producer on Darren Aronofsky’s “Requiem for a Dream” and exec producer on Ulu Grosbard’s “Georgia.”

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