Thursday, September 18, 2008

Funny Papers and Moving Pictures

Meanwhile, Jeff Smith, award winning creator of the Bone comic book series, has created a new Shazam story, again rebooting the original Captain Marvel franchise, in a mini-series using the title of the old Fawcett serial, “Monster Society of Evil.” Though he made his own adjustments to the canon, for instance making Mary Batson a much younger sister, and Mary Marvel the same apparent age as Mary Batson, and making Tawky Tawny a magical changeling whom Billy knew as a homeless man, and making Mr. Mind a monstrous alien, rather than a brilliant evil little worm, his version did prove that DC is willing to give Captain Marvel a chance at something with a look and feel that is more light-hearted, youth-oriented, and with a more “cartoony” drawing style. This willingness has been extended to a new book by Mike Kunkel, Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam! In DC Comics' Johnny DC youth-oriented line.

There has also been, for the past few years, a Shazam! movie on the slow track for production at New Line Pictures with Michel Uslan producing. The script has gone through several writers, including William Goldman and Joel Coen & Alex Soklow. Currently John August is writing the script, with Peter Segal signed to direct. Movies based on comic book characters have boomed lately. The quality and popularity of comic book-inspired motion pictures has been notoriously hit-and-miss since the Superman movie of 1978, but several low-budget movies based on independent characters in the early 1990's proved that when done with respect for the source material, a movie based on a comic book can be good and find its audience. Since then, the recipe for success has been to listen to the fans and find a producer-writer-director team that will serve the material well, rather than simply treat the material as a property to exploit. New Line has been working with PC Hamerlinck, publisher of Fawcett Collectors of America.

In a recent example of serving the audience, MTV Blogs appears to have influenced the casting of at least one character. Rumors had arisen years ago that Dwayne Johnson, the pro wrestler known as The Rock, would play the Big Red Cheese. Fan response was largely negative, some because they doubted his acting ability, some simply because Captain Marvel was never portrayed as half black-half Samoan. Some (including Yours Truly) suggested that he might be better as Black Adam. In late 2007, MTV Blogs held a survey asking whether Johnson should play Captain Marvel or Black Adm. The result was an overwhelming response in favor of Black Adam. So Johnson went public saying he would listen to the fans and would be glad to talk with New Line about playing Black Adam.

Next: Marvel...The Return

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