For the past two years, movies inspired by comics have ended up selling quite a few graphic novels, and 2005 won't break the string. The first half of 2005 will see two major comics-based movies—Frank Miller's Sin City and Batman Begins starring Christian Bale.
Publishers DC Comics and Dark Horse see different opportunities for the comics roots of the two tales, however. Sin City, like last year's success story Hellboy, ties in directly with the comics material that's already produced. Indeed, the movie is taken shot for shot from the comic book panels.
In contrast, Batman Begins, due June 21, is based on elements of the Batman narrative from a myriad of sources (including work by Miller, Dennis O'Neil and Neal Adams.) Besides the comics format adaptation, DC will rely on a strong backlist of such titles as the two-volume Hush by Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee, and several backlist titles by Miller, including Batman: Year One and The Dark Knight Returns. DC also plans to repackage existing titles that highlight the movie's main villains, the Scarecrow and R'as al Ghul, and will also release an art book, Batman Cover to Cover: The Greatest Comic Book Covers of the Dark Knight, with commentary by the artists.
Sin City, codirected by Miller and maverick Robert Rodriguez, opens April 1. The film stars a bunch of indie favorites (Mickey Rourke plus Bruce Willis and Jessica Alba) and follows three interconnected stories involving cops, gangsters and dangerous women in a classic film noir style. To tie in, Dark Horse has just re-released all seven Sin City books in new editions, redesigned by Chip Kidd in a compact 6"×9" format. Changing the size was Miller's idea. "It makes them more intimate," he told PW. "You can put them in your purse."
Dark Horse publicist Lee Dawson pointed out that the series, which first appeared in 1993, is already a star of Dark Horse's backlist. And Sin City readers will have no difficulty getting into the stories. "The look of the film is taken directly from the books," Dawson told PW.
While Sin City is something of a cult favorite, Batman is one of the world's most popular superhero characters. Directed by Christopher Nolan (Memento) and starring Bale, Liam Neeson and Katie Holmes, Batman Begins marks the reappearance of a movie franchise whose spectacular success in 1989 helped drive the growth of the entire comics industry into the 1990s.
DC is lucky enough to have more than 60 years of stories to draw from, and will release material spanning all eras of the Dark Knight. "We have a handful of Batman titles that have proven themselves disproportionately over the years as catalogue titles that become natural promotional tools," said DC president and publisher Paul Levitz. "Batman Begins, for all the expectations, will still surprise people. It's an opportunity for the entire line."
Miller is a key figure for both films. He's the creator of Sin City and the artist who revived the Batman franchise/ mythology in The Dark KnightReturns, the 1987 book that reintroduced a darker, more reality-based Batman, which, in turn, influenced both the Tim Burton film version and Nolan's new take.
In something of a coup for DC, Miller will be returning to the character as a writer (Hush's Jim Lee will do the art) in a new and eagerly awaited monthly comic called All-Star Batman and Robin, which launches in June. It's expected to be a blockbuster with both existing fans and newer recruits.
"This is like Batman: Year One and a half," said Miller, referring to still another classic Batman work. "He's still quite young. But Robin is a kid. I'm treating this like the first Batman book you ever read."