Producers gravitating toward Sci-fi, horror fare

With most of the major superheroes spoken for, the latest round of deals for the film rights to comicbooks is signaling a new trend in adaptations being developed for the bigscreen.

Just this week, with Comic-Con officially starting today in San Diego, producers have gravitated toward books heavy in the sci-fi and horror realms that don’t yet revolve around well-known characters.

Unless studios locked down major caped crusaders years ago, Marvel and DC essentially control which superheroes wind up on the bigscreen, leaving everyone else unknown properties to launch.

Marvel, now that it’s owned by Disney, and Warner Bros.-based DC, won’t be parting with their titles anytime soon. That leaves producers perusing through the material controlled by indie publishers who often eschew superhero fare.

Producers say what they’re really picking up to develop is a fleshed-out story and characters — a colorful bible they can show studio execs to land their interest.

“No one really knew that ‘A History of Violence’ or ‘Road to Perdition’ were based on graphic novels, and they wound up being great films that appealed to a large audience, not just fanboys that may want to see ‘Thor,'” said one producer behind the newer comicbook deals. “We just want to tell good stories.”

For example, Mandeville Films, behind Disney’s upcoming Muppets movie, will explore its edgy side as it develops a bigscreen version of Top Cow’s “The Darkness,” which has already spawned two videogames.

Story revolves around a hitman for the mob in New York City who has to grapple with his inner demons and a supernatural force known as The Darkness.

Mandeville is also adapting Top Cow’s “Alibi” and “Crosshair,” which are light on tights and heavy on assassins.

Dark Horse Entertainment has set up its graphic novel “Chickenhare,” about a half-chicken, half-rabbit character and his shelled friend Abe, as an animated feature at Sony Pictures Animation.

Radical’s “Schrapnel,” which has Hilary Swank attached, is a sci-fier set in 2250 about a revolt on Venus.

Warner Bros. has picked up “The Red Star,” a based on the indie sci-fi tale that blends Russian military designs and history with sorcery. Original Films’ Neil Moritz and Kickstart’s Jason Netter will produce after the pic was put into turnaround by Universal.

And Waterman Entertainment will produce Marvel’s alien-invasion tale “Strikeforce: Morituri,” this fall.

Last week, Benderspink picked up Pulp Theatre Comic graphic novel “Brodie’s Law,” about a criminal who can steal his victim’s souls.

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