As CATWOMAN arrives in US cinemas, Lindsay Duff wonders if the suffering has only just begun. And as San Diego closes its doors for another year, what does the future hold for Marvel and 2000AD?
26 July 2004


It seems increasingly the case that comics are being used as a prefatory stage for an inevitable transformation into a film franchise. The superhero film boom of the past five years shows no signs of halting its inexorable progress, roughly starting with Bryan Singer's X-MEN up to the most recent addition to the slew of titles, Halle Berry's risible turn as CATWOMAN.

The law of diminishing returns, coupled with some pretty terrible film-making, has resulted in most of the films being underwhelming, and for every SPIDER-MAN 2 there is a PUNISHER or LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN lurking just around the corner.

While films such as HELLBOY at least appear to have been made in the spirit of the comic, by people who have an appreciation of the source material, even the most charitable of viewers cannot pretend that the likes of CATWOMAN and PUNISHER are anything other than the crassest and most moronic attempt at bandwagon-jumping and attempted franchise building.

'For every SPIDER-MAN 2 there is a PUNISHER lurking just around the corner.' It's not just the relatively lowbrow superhero books that are being turned into excrescent wastes of celluloid, either; Alan Moore must be thoroughly bemused - lesser mortals would probably be balls of incandescent fury following such hatchet jobs as the aforementioned LEAGUE film and FROM HELL, a pale shadow of the masterly original. The less said about Keanu Reeves as John 'Theodore S' Constantine the better.

Also yet to surface is any news of the movie version of Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith's 30 DAYS OF NIGHT, a property sold entirely on the strength of its - admittedly very good - central concept (vampires invade an Alaskan town where the sun has gone down for a month) and snapped up by movie executives seemingly before the first issue hit the stands. Given the current glut of relatively crappy vampire films and the thinness of the source material, this could be the ultimate in high-concept-low-execution disappointments - except that Jack Black as a comedy GREEN LANTERN probably has that honour all sewn up.

I can't see this last concept pleasing anybody - existing GREEN LANTERN fans are notorious for their emphatic resistance to any alterations to their favourite character, and my Public-Apathy-Sense is tingling fit to bust.


Mind you, at least BATMAN BEGINS looks good, Michael Caine as Alfred notwithstanding. It's just a shame that the movie industry had to waste hundreds of millions of dollars throwing shit at a proverbial wall before they came up with something that looks like it might work, both from a comics aficionado's viewpoint as well as that of your average punter.

'Lesser men than Moore would be balls of incandescent fury following such hatchet jobs.' Also, ROBERT RODRIGUEZ'S FRANK MILLER'S SIN CITY seems to be about three-quarters well cast. Mickey Rourke as Marv is good. Jessica Alba as Nancy is perhaps less so. Ah well. Casting my eye further afield, Bryan Singer directing the ill-starred new SUPERMAN film might save it from being thoroughly tedious, but when you're working with that sort of source material, I don't hold out much hope.

Likewise, I have reservations about Darren Aronofsky being linked with the veritable Siege Perilous of comicbook movie adaptations - directing a WATCHMEN movie. He's not a bad choice, but there's no way a 120-minute mainstream live-action film would ever do the book justice. If only someone would listen to reason and make it a 12-part animated series.

Finally, the strangest comics movie project being rumoured at present is the team behind SPACED and SHAUN OF THE DEAD - director Edgar Wright and writer, actor and all-round comics fan Simon Pegg - being touted as ideal choices for an adaptation of THE FILTH by none other than Grant Morrison himself. Mind-boggling.


The Eisner Awards ceremony at the San Diego Comic Con produced some worthy winners and a resounding thrashing for Marvel, which won one Eisner to DC's 15 gongs. (See the full list of winners at Comicon Pulse.)

The cynic in me wants to smile smugly and spout something along the lines of reaping what one has sown, as Marvel appears to have thrown baby, bathwater and all out in its single-minded pursuit of profitability. But of course, Avi Arad plundering the treasury of titles, franchises and marketable properties to feed the ravenous movie development arm of Marvel may not have anything to do with the relatively moribund state of their comics titles at present, so my inner cynic must just be being churlish.

Marvel has got some quality creators at present - Joss Whedon's take on the X-MEN could be interesting given half a chance, the announcement that Peter Milligan is taking over from Chuck Austen on one of the other X-MEN titles marks a massive improvement by anyone's standards, and Warren Ellis appears to be pencilled in for all the titles that Brian Bendis or Mark Millar no longer have time to do.

Again, the cynic might point out that Whedon's track records on comics is far from stellar, and Ellis' return to the Marvel fold follows some pretty fallow years of self-imposed spandex exile, both in terms of quality and quantity. However, I remain confident that my expectations will be confounded, and the Eisner committee will have categories full of worthy contenders next year.


Speaking of plundering back catalogues, representatives of 2000AD were at the San Diego Comic Convention for the first time this year, invited along by DC who are reprinting 2000AD's sizeable collection from the past 25 or so years, featuring the cream of UK comics talent over that period.

Just like Marvel with its strip-mining for potential movie franchises, this is clearly a big shot in the arm for the UK title and its owners, software house Rebellion. A deal with DC to print and distribute their comics in the US means massive bookstore exposure and hopefully correspondingly large sales.

This is fair enough, but just like with Marvel, this is a finite resource being exploited here - once all the obvious choices have been exhausted, like Spider-Man, the X-Men and the Hulk at Marvel, or Judge Dredd, Strontium Dog and Rogue Trooper at 2000AD, the cupboard will look increasingly bare - how long before the likes of X-FORCE or CHRONOS CARNIVAL have to be considered?

2000AD face a potentially enormous problem here, as it traditionally loses a great deal of its top talent to the lure of the bigger stakes on the tables of the US companies, and most of its famous and easily-sold titles are decades old. I fear for 2000AD - and for Marvel too - when or if they have to attempt to kindle widespread interest in their more recent output and characters; they might just find that their golden geese have stopped laying.

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