With the robust launch of the Witchblade anime series, the success The Darkness videogame and the impending release of a major motion picture based on Wanted, ICv2 talked with Top Cow President Matt Hawkins to see what strategies that Top Cow would adapt in order to take advantage of these multi-media opportunities to sell more comic books and graphic novels.  In Part III Hawkins discusses the forthcoming film version of Wanted and, from the perspective of someone who has been involved with at least 30 projects that have been optioned for development, the difficulties of getting films made in Tinseltown.  In Part I Hawkins explained the 'rebooting' of the Witchblade trade series and the different approaches to the bookstore and direct markets.  In Part II he talked about the new The Darkness comic book series and Top Cow's changing business model.

 

Tell us what you have planned for Wanted in the run-up to the release of the movie in March?

Well, we were going to re-release the individual issues with new covers and some 'director's cut' commentary in the back, but we did a lot of retail outreach and we got a pretty behemoth backlash -- the retailers did not want a re-release of the comics, so we pulled it and we decided simply to concentrate on re-releasing the graphic novel.  We thought about doing photo covers and stuff like that, but I went to Universal and to use one of the Angelina Jolie photo covers would cost like a hundred grand, so at that point, I didn't think it was worth it for one image.  So we are going to do campaigns in the bookstores pushing the graphic novel just like they did with 300 and Sin City, because there is not going to be any new Wanted content.  Mark Millar is determined to leave that thing as it is.

 

When does Wanted premiere?

The film comes out March 28th.  I have already seen about 45 minutes of it -- it has got great casting, it looks phenomenal, a great director and an $80 million budget -- I can't imagine that this thing won't hit.  There's nothing else coming out then.  The next notable film coming out is the Indiana Jones movie in May (May 22nd) -- so we've got a great window of opportunity there.  I don't know if you have seen any of the still images of Angelina Jolie on the car with the guns or any of the other stuff -- I'm biased, but to me it looks bad-assed.

 

Are there any other multi-media projects that you can tell us about?

Well there is the second The Darkness videogame -- release date unknown -- these things always take longer than they say they will -- probably the end of '09.  There's a strong likelihood of Witchblade Season 2 in Japan for the anime, given its success.  I am actually going to be in Japan through the latter half of November to meet with Gonzo and a few other people.  We have been developing Aphrodite IX for a long time, we are just waiting for things to fall into place, hopefully within 9-10 months we will have a 90-minute direct-to-video animated feature for Aphrodite IX -- the story is there, and the video game company wants to develop it, so that's probably realistic.  On the live action front both Witchblade and The Darkness are part of a film slate deal with a company named Arclight that is putting money in -- we are doing it in sort of a backwards fashion -- getting the money first and then going out and looking for writers and a director and stars.  You know I have been involved some 30 different film option deals and when you say something is in development, it's sort of meaningless.  I always laugh when I see all these guys in comics going 'Oh I sold my property, you know the film is being made,' and I go 'Oh yeah, we'll see' because 99 out of a hundred things that get optioned never get made.  We are doing pretty well on the TV front, we've only optioned 3 things and they have all gotten made -- the two Witchblades (live action and anime) and the Down pilot thing.

 

On the film front it's a little more sporadic.  We've had Rising Stars attached for live action, Inferno, Witchblade a number of different times.  It's always frustrating when it gets close and then it falls apart, but the biggest thing unfortunately for us is that our most iconic and well known characters are all female leads, and in Hollywood that is not necessarily a good thing.

 

That anti-female hero bias has been in the news recently thanks to Warners' Jeff Robinov, have you been following that?

Yeah, I've been following it and the funny thing is that's not new.  Everybody just picked up on that in the last few months, but that guy's been saying that for years.  It's a pretty common Hollywood thing.  You can do a live action female lead if it's a horror picture -- look at The Grudge, look at Ring, look at all those sorts of things, they seem to work, look at Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  The problem with doing anything else is that you have these enormous spectacular flops like Catwoman that set everything back -- and Catwoman was a failure not because it had a female lead but because it was a crappy movie.  You look at some of these movies that get made like Bloodrayne and I shake my head -- they are using this as a reason not to make action films with female leads but they don't get the right script or the right filmmakers to make it -- I don't know why -- actually I do know why, I have seen how the committee process in Hollywood works, how everyone gets involved and yet distances themselves, how scripts get rewritten whether they need to be or they don't -- this development by committee, it's surprising that any good movies get made ever.  If you look at almost every good movie ever made there was on guy who was sort of the visionary, with the Titanic it was Jim Cameron, with Spielberg films, it's Steven -- very rarely do you have these films by committee from the studios that are any good.  They try to cast this net to appeal to the widest possible audience and they end up with this neutered piece of shit that no one wants to see.

 

But your experience with Wanted has been good?

Wanted has been great.  They haven't tried to water down the comic at all.  Timur (Bekmambetov, the director of Wanted) makes really violent, hyperactive sorts of films.  He was this outsider who was brought in -- and he is the visionary.  If you look at most good films and find that there was one guy who had the power and the ability to tell the studios 'This is what I am doing, leave me alone,' those films tend to do better and they're good.