Since the runaway success of Tim Burton's 1989 movie Batman, films adapted from comics franchises have become a staple in the movie business. This year, a host of literary graphic novels will bow on the big screen.

August will see the release of Ghost World, based on the graphic novel by Daniel Clowes and directed by R. Crumb documentarian Terry Zweigoff. In October the Hughes Brothers' interpretation of Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell's From Hell will open. The period piece stars Johnny Depp and Heather Graham in an urban take on the Jack the Ripper murders. The next literary graphic novel slated for the big screen is the Tom Hanks vehicle The Road to Perdition, directed by American Beauty's Sam Mendes, based on a graphic novel by Max Allen Collins and Richard Piers Rayner from DC Comics.

Next year, look for comic book action heroes. Next May, Marvel's signature superhero will swing onto screens when Sony releases Spider-Man. Marvel's top horror franchise, Blade, will return with star Wesley Snipes and director Guillermo Del Toro. The cast and director of X-Men signed on for a sequel. Marvel has also announced that Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon director Ang Lee is attached to an Incredible Hulk movie, scheduled to storm theaters in 2003.

A stream of horror properties are presently in development. Dark Horse is bringing Mike Mignola's supernatural investigator, Hellboy, to the screen. Vin Diesel will handle the title role; Guillermo Del Toro is slated to direct. An edgy, computer graphics--heavy sequel to Todd McFarlane's Spawn is due in 2002. A lighter take on the macabre is being developed by Universal: Supernatural Law, an adaptation of Batton Lash's graphic novel series about two attorneys who specialize in the paranormal. Other graphic novelists taking Hollywood's calls include Greg Rucka, whose arctic thriller Whiteout (Oni Press) is in development by Wolfgang Peterson's production company (he also just closed a deal for the rights to Oni Press's spy thriller Queen and Country). Neil Gaiman is adapting his Sandman graphic novel, Death: The High Cost of Living, for Miramax. Brian Michael Bendis's period true-crime drama, Torso, is also in development, along with his other crime graphic novels, Jinx, Goldfish and Powers.

The result of these various deals is that comics and film are becoming increasingly entwined. Dark Horse publishes graphic novels based on the lucrative Star Wars and Buffy franchises, and filmmaker Kevin Smith fleshes out his properties in graphic novels published by Image. Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski's Rising Stars, also from Image, is now advancing in the development process. Since Batman, media development has become a larger facet of the overall comics economy, while comics have become must-reads for film execs looking to land the next big hit.