Dark Horse Comics cements movie deal

Another superhero may soon be lumbering his way down the movie pipeline, as Dark Horse Entertainment has stepped up development on a film project based on its comic book character Concrete.

The film version, currently being written by Larry Wilson (“Beetlejuice”) and Paul Chadwick, is centered on a man who wakes up one day and discovers he has turned into a ton of concrete.

In the comics, Concrete is a guy who just wants to live a normal life despite his sand-and-gravel rotundness. Recent issues find him trying to save a farm, dealing with the death of his mother and even being hired as a rock star’s bodyguard.

Dark Horse Comics, the third-largest producer of comic books nationwide, spun off a movie arm in 1990, signing a first-look production deal with Largo Entertainment.

Next month, production begins on the first greenlighted project for DHF, “The Mask,” skedded to star Jim Carrey for New Line Cinema. The film is based on a comic book character created by Dark Horse founder Mike Richardson.

“The idea was, you put on this mask and you become a Tex Avery cartoon character,” Richardson said. “But the stories have ‘Bugs Bunny’ kind of mischief.”

The second Dark Horse film to be recently greenlighted is “Time Cop,” starring Jean-Claude Van Damme (Daily Variety, June 17) as a time-traveling policeman.

“It’s really a story about the near future, when time travel is possible, and is being abused with disastrous consequences,” Richardson said. “This character gets a chance to travel back in time. He gets an opportunity to spend another day with his wife, who had died.”

Dark Horse wants Concrete to be the third comic creation to make the jump to film.

While these may be heavy stories for comic book characters, Richardson contends that comic books have undergone a major change.

“They are much more dependent on story and they are aimed at an older audience,” he said. Since starting his company in 1986, Richardson has repeatedly tapped into Hollywood, obtaining rights from 20th Century Fox to use the title characters from “Alien” and “Predator” in comic books. One of the company’s biggest sellers was created by pitting the two outer-space characters against each other. There is a comic book sequel, written by Chris Claremont, coming out this summer.

“Movie comics usually were poor sellers because they were put out for reasons other than artistic,” Richardson said. “Our mission was to create stories that were basically sequels to the movies.”

Along the way, Dark Horse was able to obtain the rights to several instantly recognizable characters that became trademarks for the upstart company.

From there, it was only another step before they began building movies around their own comic book creations, such as Concrete.

And there are more Dark Horse characters waiting in the wings, as the company has just launched a new superhero line.

“We’ve begun distributing a line of 16 books that introduce a new universe for these superheroes,” Richardson said.

As readers become familiar with this universe, they will meet such characters as X, Machine, Pit Bulls, the femme fatale Barbed Wire, Mecha, Hero Zero, Catalyst and Amazing Grace.

And while the company has entered into a deal with Total Vision Inc. to put film projects on interactive compact discs, the plan is to also begin production on interactive discs related to comic books.

Dark Horse also owns several comic book stores located in the Pacific Northwest and has just opened a store in Universal’s CityWalk called Things From Another World.