From Panel to Frame

It’s no secret that comic books are only second to old television series in rate of transition to the big screen. Luckily for us, recent success with the X-Men and Spider-Man franchises have spurred even greater confidence and a wider variety of comic to movie adaptations. It’s possible that you have already even seen some and not even realized it; Men In Black, Blade, and Constantine began life as pencil and ink before making the jump to the silver screen. So, with that in mind, let’s take a quick look at what the comic industry has in store for Hollywood.

June 15 brings with it another Batman movie and yet another Batman. But for those of you harboring ill thoughts concerning the travesties known as Batman and Robin and Batman Forever, fear not! Pretty soon those movies will be nothing than what they are, bad memories. Christian Bale will be taking on the helm of the Batman in Batman Begins accompanied by a stellar cast consisting of Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman, and Katie Holmes. First looks of the film indicate a return to the darker mood of the original Batman film with an emphasis on Batman’s detective skills and stealth instead of the tacky costumes and UV lights that filled the second two. Interestingly enough, word on the street cites Frank Miller’s (author/artist of Sin City) influential Batman: Year One comic series as the source material for the film, further adding to Miller’s filmography. Nevertheless, expect a Batman film that will have you out of your seats cheering instead of b-lining for the exit.

From the other side of the comic’s main rivalry comes Marvel’s new feature, The Fantastic Four. This first family of comics was created in the early 1960’s by comic mastermind Stan Lee (Spider-Man, The Hulk, X-Men). Not only are the F4 one of the longest running comic series ever, they also are also one of the longest running fiction series ever. The F4 consist of brilliant scientist Reed Richards, Reed’s wife Susan Storm, Sue’s brother Johnny Storm, and test pilot Ben Grimm, aka The Thing. They developed superpowers on a test rocket flight and have used them ever since to battle a variety of aliens and other villains. The film is set to release on July 8 with a cast of relative unknowns except Michael Chiklis as Ben Grimm/The Thing and Jessica Alba as Susan Storm.

Fast forwarding a year, 2006 will see the release of the first Superman movie in quite a few years. Director Bryan Singer caused quite a stir when he jumped ship from the third X-Men film to helm this undertaking. This is a film that has been whispered since the mid 90’s when Nicolas Cage was begging to be the Man of Steel. However, current information does not have Cage attached to the project but rather Stephen Bender as a young Clark Kent and Brandon Routh playing the older Clark/Superman. While Routh filmography is rather short, he certainly looks the part although fanboys have been up in arms over a promo photo depicting a slightly altered Superman costume. Expect Superman Returns in June of 2006.

Speaking of X-Men, pre-production has begun on a third X-Men movie but, unfortunately, without Singer as director. Not to fear though, Hugh Jackman (Wolverine), Patrick Stewart (Professor X), and Ian McKellen (Magneto) are all signed on for this third installment. It is currently scheduled for release on Memorial Day weekend of 2006. Besides X-Men 3, fans of Wolverine can be looking forward to the Wolverine spin-off that Jackman is contracted to star in. Wolverine can be also be expected within the next few years.

Director Sam Raimi is keeping the set of Spider-Man 3 in an iron grip. One of the few tidbits that has found its way out is Topher Grace (In Good Company, That 70’s Show) has been signed, but no word on who. Also mystifying is that actor Thomas Haden Church (Sideways) has been signed on as a villain but no word yet on which one he will be playing. With the end of Spider-Man 2 pointing towards Harry Osborn (played by James Franco) following in his father’s footsteps as the Green Goblin II, will Spider-Man 3 feature multiple supervillains with whom Spidey will tangle? With a release scheduled for May 4, 2007, Raimi has plenty of time to keep a rabid fanbase on pins and needles.

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Rounding out the Marvel franchises, fans can expect plenty of new films featuring their favorite heroes. Ben Affleck has admitted that he is still interested in continuing the Daredevil franchise, but only if Kevin Smith is attached as director. Smith is no stranger to the Man Without Fear and has even written several issues of the comic series. According to Marvel executive Avi Arad, a sequel is expected for The Punisher in the near future. First time films can be expected for Ghost Rider (with Nicolas Cage in the starring role), Iron Man, Luke Cage, and Deathlok.

Amazingly, this article only covers a sampling of the more noteworthy comic book films that will be showing up in the near future. As movies attract new readers to the comics, expect producers to start combing comic racks for the next hot property. A marriage made in heaven? Perhaps at least for the fanboys, but, increasingly for the general public who is finding a new appreciation for their comic book heroes.

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