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Italian Comics Publisher Bonelli Moves Into Production With ‘Dylan Dog’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Leading Italian comics publisher Sergio Bonelli Editore is branching out into TV production with plans to make an English-language show based on cult horror series “Dylan Dog,” plus other projects based on its properties, which are distributed in 35 countries.

Bonelli’s long-expected move into production, with a dedicated arm called Bonelli Entertainment, unlocks its expandable comics universe for a wide range of adaptations, but comes with the key proviso that the company wants to “be in charge,” following some “bad experiences,” said development chief Vincenzo Sarno. A 2011 Hollywood indie movie adaptation, “Dylan Dog: Dead of Night,” bombed at the box office.

Sarno said the company is in talks with prospective Italian and international partners, including global streaming services, on its new projects.

Bonelli’s move comes amid Italy’s rising profile as a hot territory for high-end international TV series, thanks to shows such as “Gomorrah,” “The Young Pope” and HBO’s upcoming “My Brilliant Friend.”

“Developing new ways for people to come in contact with our most popular and iconic characters and franchises as well as exclusive new shows – on the devices they choose – is one of our studio’s top priorities,” company president Davide Bonelli said in a statement, adding: “We are investing in and creating original, high-quality shows including the new ‘Dylan Dog’ series.”

“Dylan Dog” is being developed as a 10-episode live-action series based on Tiziano Sclavi’s popular franchise chronicling the exploits of its titular British paranormal investigator, who with his sidekick Grouch, a Marx impersonator, takes on cases that usually involve monsters, ghosts, vampires, werewolves and zombies. The 25-year-old comic book series, published in the U.S. by Dark Horse Comics, boasts more than 500 installments and sales of more than 50 million copies in 30 countries. 

Hollywood indie Hyde Park Entertainment’s 2011 movie adaptation of “Dylan Dog” was panned, including by Variety critic Dennis Harvey, who called it “Yankified fantasy comic adaptation” and an “uninspired hash of familiar genre ideas.”

Bonelli bought back the “Dylan Dog” rights a year ago, Sarno said. He noted that the company is now making sure that “the essence of our characters and our properties remain intact” by controlling production.

Other properties in the Bonelli pipeline in various stages include sci-fi series “Nathan Never”; adventure series “Mister No”‘ chiller “Dampyr”; animated fantasy “Dragonero,” which is being produced with RAI; “Il Confine,” being developed with Lucky Red; and “Martin Mystère,” about an Indiana Jones-like archaeologist-detective.

Bonelli editorial director Michele Masiero said their series all have “points of contact” that would allow characters from “Mister No” and “Martin Mystère,” for example, to surface in the “Dylan Dog” TV series, providing hooks for spinoffs. He also said that for their new properties they will choose narratives that, “besides working in print, can also work on screen.”

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