Wake Up And Smell The Coffee: The Fall Of Comics

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Did I get your attention with that title? I hope so… but it’s not for the reasons you might think. I’m actually talking about the fall of 2001, possibly one of the most pivotal turning points for comics as a whole… through television and feature films. What was beginning to look like a pleasant hors d’oeuvre to next year’s “Spider-Man: The Movie” has turned into a major comic book exposure event. Shows for children, teenagers, adults, and movies… you name it, you’ve got it. Let’s start with the most obvious…

If you don’t already know, the Hughes Brother’s adaptation of Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell’s “From Hell” ranked at number one at the box office this weekend, with an estimated take of over $11 million. Beating out the debuts of both “The Last Castle” with Robert Redford and “Riding in Cars with Boys” with Drew Barrymore. “From Hell”, along with the recent and successful limited release of Daniel Clowes’ “Ghost World”, has proven that even alternative comic book properties can flourish in today’s film market. As expected, these ventures will bring about more studio development for comic properties, but even more direct will be producer Don Murphy (From Hell) and Drew Barrymore (producer of Charlie’s Angels) involvement over the next several years.

Oddly enough, Barrymore is attached to star and co-produce Clowes and director Terry Zwigoff’s (Ghost World) next collaboration, Art School Confidential. As further development hinged on the success of their first picture, it probably hasn’t hurt that Barrymore’s latest film lost to another comic-to-film. Also of interesting note is the full slate of comic properties producer Don Murphy is developing, some that are most likely moving forward now that “From Hell” took off. Included in that batch are Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neil’s “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen”, Carl Potts’ “Alien Legion, and even Grant Morrison and Mark Millar’s “Skrull Kill Krew” from Marvel Comics. In fact, Morrison has been working on the treatment for the picture, currently set up at Artisan Entertainment and Marvel Studios.

Moving onto television, the fall season is kicking off with a strong start. DC’s “Smallville” had an extraordinary debut in the ratings with “The Tick” now less than a month away. I saw the pilot several months ago and I must say… it’s one of the best pilot episodes I’ve seen of any show, ever! I’ve heard people say that you know the quality of a show/film by the amount of quotable lines. In that case, I would have to give “The Tick” a rating over 100. There is so much witty dialogue in the short 23 odd minutes or so, that you’ll have to watch the episode several times just to get it all, because you’ll be laughing so hard it’s nearly impossible to pay attention. Patrick Warburton (Puddy from “Seinfeld”) is astoundingly perfect for the role of the Tick and fellow cast member Nestor Carbonell (Suddenly Susan) definitely stands out as Batmanuel, the flirting, Latin “superhero” of the night. I was unsure if the live-action series could hold up to the comic or cartoon, but having brought writers over from the animated series… the new show definitely holds up and even improves on the original. Watch this one with friends, you’ll thank me later.

The cartoon arena has continues to grow as well. Joining new seasons of Men in Black: The Series, Static Shock and X-Men: Evolution will be Bruce Timm’s (Batman/Superman Adventures) new Justice League series on Cartoon Network. Sporting a team roster with the likes of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Martian Manhunter, the show will take place after the events of the Batman/Superman series but prior to Batman Beyond. Personally, I can’t wait to see this show. There is no doubt in my mind that not only will it achieve great success for Cartoon Network and Warner Brothers, but create some kind of reader influx for the related comics themselves. It’s just too bad we have to wait several more weeks. When is there a bootleg video convention when you need one, huh?

All in all, the fall of 2001 has turned out to be an unexpected and pleasant surprise. I can only hope that all these new shows continue to gain as much popularity as “Ghost World” and “From Hell” have, because the industry can use all the cross-promotion it can get. If we can bring comic books back into mainstream appeal, we can expect fresh faces buying comics with an industry well on the road to recovery.

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