As evidenced by the recent San Diego Comic-Con, 300 won't be the only graphic novel storming the hot gates at the box office. While famed franchises such as Spider-Man, Batman and the Fantastic Four continue to rake it in, studios are increasingly turning to quirkier comics for inspiration, and a variety of publishers are hoping to ring up their own sales.
The next comic book movie out of the gate is IDW's 30 Days of Night, based on the graphic novel by Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith. The tale involves a vampire at large during a long Alaskan night and stars Josh Hartnett. A prequel by Templesmith, set in WWII Russia, and a direct sequel, 30 Days of Night: Beyond Barrow by Niles and Bill Sienkiewicz, are both debuting in the next few weeks. Publisher IDW is giving the original graphic novel a push with major promo positioning at bookstores and a special version of the movie poster for comics shop retailers. According to IDW v-p of sales Alan Payne, more than 200,000 units of various 30 Days of Night books have shipped to Diamond in the past few months. Sales of the original book are up 300% since the trailer debuted, he noted.
Continuing the cold theme, Whiteout by Greg Rucka and Steve Lieber is set for a 2008 debut. Kate Beckinsale stars as a tough U.S. marshal investigating a murder at an Antarctic research station. According to Oni Press's president, Joe Nozemack, recent coverage of the film at San Diego has already sent sales of a new edition of the book climbing, especially in bookstores, which had previously lagged behind comics shops. Volume two, Whiteout: Melt, is already available, and a new third tale from Rucka and Lieber, Whiteout: Thaw, is due early next year.
Filming on Wanted, based on the graphic novel by Mark Millar and J.G. Jones, has already become a cause célèbre, as it stars paparazzi favorite Angelina Jolie. The original story involves a working shlub (played by James McAvoy) who discovers he's the head of a supervillain crime cartel that controls much of the world. The film is rumored to have changed much of the superhero background of the tale, but publisher Top Cow's president and CEO, Matt Hawkins, doesn't think that will hurt sales of the graphic novel. Although PR for the film (expected to be released some time in 2008) hasn't really spiked sales of the book yet, he said, the publisher plans for a big push early in '08. In an unusual move, Top Cow is also planning to rerelease the original six-issue periodical miniseries into comics shops as well.
While these films are already in the can or filming, the number of comics being optioned and developed is at an all-time high; indeed, newer publishers such as Virgin and Boom! Studios are making a cottage industry out of getting their comics optioned. Boom! has set up four of its comics series with various studios in recent months. Virgin has an even more sophisticated setup, with Hollywood players such as Guy Ritchie and Nicolas Cage creating comics they are already developing for films. Actors Rosario Dawson and Edward Burns are also going this route.
The reason for the studio gold rush is not hard to see: according to a recent article in Variety, movies based on comic books are earning on average more than films based on any other source material.
With this gold ring dangling, the trickle-down effect is being felt at even the smallest publishers. Imperium Comics is a tiny outfit that publishes the horror anthology Trailer Park of Terror. Although the comic's print run doesn't top 3,000, it caught the eye of development exec David Tischman, and indie studio Bogner Entertainment has made a low budget film in the bloody horror tradition. According to Imperium's James Dracoules, the publisher hasn't released a collected edition of the comic yet, but one will come out when the movie does.