Virgin Comics to produce graphic novel

Nash Entertainment is resurrecting the Masked Magician — but this time as the lead character in a graphic novel to be produced by Virgin Comics.

The Masked Magician was the star of Nash’s five “Breaking the Magician’s Code: Magic’s Biggest Secrets Finally Revealed” specs, which scored big ratings for Fox in the late 1990s.

The specials raised the ire of magicians, who were upset that some of the field’s mysteries were being dissected on primetime TV. In the fourth spec, the magician removed his mask; turns out it was Val Valentino, a figure well-known on the illusion circuit.

Now, Nash Entertainment CEO Bruce Nash hopes to turn the Masked Magician into a fictionalized franchise, starting with the novel. Nash hopes ultimately to use the novel as the basis for a feature film.

“I didn’t think just having the specials was enough to show the studios that this could be turned into a real dramatic narrative,” Nash said. “So we went to Virgin with the idea of turning it into a graphic novel, and they loved it. Once it’s produced and distributed, we’ll take it to the studios and networks with the idea of turning it into a movie or TV show. The graphic novel will be sort of like the first script.”

The novel will revolve around the fictional magician, on the lam from the law. The character dons a mask to protect himself and begins using magic to solve crimes — and attempt to redeem himself from whatever past he’s trying to escape. Taking a cue from the real-life specials, the book and movie will show how the masked magician actually conjures up his illusions.

“It’s a cross between ‘Darkman’ and the movie ‘FX,’ ” Nash said.

Robert Kosberg, head of Nash’s feature film division, is also working on the project, along with Virgin Comics chief creative officer Gotham Chopra and Virgin Comics chief marketing officer Larry Lieberman.

Valentino will also be involved, serving as a consultant on the book and script. Nash said a writer has not yet been hired for the graphic novel.

“Breaking the Magician’s Code” first bowed in 1997 to a stunning aud of 24.2 million viewers. Nash said he has no plans to produce a new edition of the special, opting to focus on the fictionalized version instead.

Meanwhile, Fox Reality Channel has picked up the five “Magician” specials, which will air this spring. Alfred Haber Distribution brokered the deal.

“These episodes are truly compelling television and were extremely strong performers on Fox,” Fox Reality programming VP Bob Boden said.

Nash has been expanding his company into film as of late, developing projects including “Time of Their Lives” (with producer Scott Stuber) for Universal and “The Fritz Pollard Story” (along with Don Cheadle) for Walden Media.

Another feature based on a Nash reality special, “When Good Pets Go Bad,” is in development at MGM. Nash is also developing “Win My Soul” with Tobey Maguire for MGM.

On the TV side, Nash is behind the Sci Fi skein “Who Wants to Be a Superhero?” as well as Court TV’s “Most Shocking” and “The Greatest Sports Stories Never Told” for FSN.

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