In spite of the obvious success that comic book-based films have had in Hollywood over the past year, and despite the fact that fellow AOL/Time Warner company DC Comics has an enormous roster of characters, Warner Brothers has been unable to pull the trigger and squeeze off another round in the battle of cinematic superheroes, even though rival studios like Fox (Daredevil, X-Men2) and Universal (The Incredible Hulk) have major comic book offerings in the works. 


Earlier this summer Warners announced the imminent production of Batman vs. Superman, which was to be directed by Wolfgang Petersen (see 'Batman vs. Superman Set For 2004'), only to pull the plug on the project several weeks later because Petersen had decided to make a film about the Trojan War instead.  Last Thursday's New York Post had a different take on the situation.  According to unnamed 'Hollywood insiders' quoted in the Post's PAGE SIX column, the Batman/Superman superhero slugfest was nixed by Warner Bros. president and COO Alan Horn -- and the cancellation is responsible for the abrupt departure of Warner Executive V.P. Lorenzo di Bonaventura, who had just been appointed a vice-chairman two months before he 'decided' to step down and ink an independent production deal with Warner Bros.


The torpedoing of Batman vs. Superman was supposed to clear the way for a Superman film written by J.J. Abrams, the creator of Alias and Felicity, but that project currently still doesn't have a director and hence remains, at least temporarily, in limbo.  Our own Hollywood insider, who has seen the Abrams script, told ICv2 that it is indeed as good as advertised, and that the studio thinks it is the right vehicle to revive the cinematic fortunes of the DC superheroes.  If the Abrams script is as good as it is reported to be, then the demise of Batman vs. Superman might well turn out to be a good thing, but Warner Bros. needs to act quickly if the studio wants to get the Abrams Superman film to market while superhero films are still in vogue.  Pop culture retailers can only hope that Warners will find a director and get the Superman project underway in the near future.


Meanwhile, di Bonaventura's independent production company is reportedly concentrating on resurrecting another troubled DC Comics project -- a film based on the Vertigo title, Hellblazer.  Di Bonaventura, who brought the Matrix and Harry Potter to Warner Bros., has a solid track record in Hollywood.  Here's hoping he can shepherd his Hellblazer movie (now entitled 'Constantine') to success.