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Surrogates and Sherlock – Previewing Fall’s Superhero-Free Comic Book Movies

<img src="http://dev.blogs.amctv.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/Sherlock_Holmes_560x330.jpg" alt="" title="Surrogates and Sherlock – Previewing Fall’s Superhero-Free Comic Book Movies” width=”560″/>

Fall is an interesting time for comic book movies. With the big budget superhero spectacles out of the way, Hollywood rolls the dice with non-traditional genre fare. Mysteries, animation, cautionary scifi… anything is possible. Sometimes, the gamble pays off, producing a gem like American Splendor. Other times, we get Samuel L. Jackson in a fur coat in The Spirit. Here’s a preview of the comic book movies Hollywood rolls out this season.

Whiteout
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The comic: Tough-as-nails federal marshal Carrie Stetko investigates the first murder case in Antarctica, all the while hiding from her troubled past. Two volumes of Greg Rucka and Steve Lieber’s gritty crime series have been published, the second of which follows Carrie’s pursuit of killer Russian mercenaries. Sharp, take-no-guff Carrie is just one of the many rich female characters Rucka (the current writer of the current Batwoman-centric Detective Comics) has granted the discerning comics reader.

Whiteout-movie-125.jpgThe movie: Though the movie sticks fairly close to the first mini-series, the cold pun-heavy critical slams should give you a sense of its quality. Whiteout on the big screen is a B-movie potboiler with some decent special effects (and a gratuitous shower scene) that lacks both the gritty intensity and realistic feel of the series. Gabriel Macht replaces the more interesting female British special agent — who in the comic forms a close and possibly romantic bond with Carrie. (Along with The Spirit, Macht is dangerously close to becoming comic book movie poison.)

Surrogates
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The comic: It’s 2054, and humans have taken the concept of “better living with robotics” way too far, living out their lives through remote-controlled robot “surrogates.” When a strange figure starts destroying surrogates and compelling them to “live,” detective Harvey Greer realizes everything isn’t copacetic in perfect utopia-ville. Robert Vendetti and Brett Weldele’s scifi/detective series is like Blade Runner meets Strange Days, with a side of Robocop. (A prequel, Flesh & Bone, was recently released.)

bruce-125.jpgThe movie: “Surrogate” Bruce Willis wears a terrible blonde wig. I can understand Willis wanting his doppelganger to have hair, but does he have to look like an insurance salesman? That said, the movie does looks pretty fun, if lacking in the noirish sensibility of Weldele’s artwork. Director Jonathan Mostow seems to have changed some elements from the comic — such as the addition of Radha Mitchell’s sidekick, and the substantially increased bodycount. Clay Aiken ‘dos aside, this may be one comic flick worth catching.

Astro Boy
Astroboy-125.jpgThe comic: Since his manga debut in 1952, Osamu Tezuka’s beloved robot boy has inspired some of the craziest comic book stories and cartoons. (Who can beat that catchy theme song?) Though mostly known in the U.S. for popularizing Japanese anime, Tezuka’s manga is still in print today thanks to Dark Horse Comics. Start with any volume and you’ll find stories as fun and accessible as anything produced by Disney. (Then move on to Tezuka’s original, more mature works like Metropolis and Buddha.)

astroboymovie-125.jpgThe movie:The CG animated movie (out in October) looks to bring Astro Boy to a whole new generation. While it would have been nice if the movie had been animated in Japan, the filmmakers have managed to capture some of Tezuka’s flavor. And though the addition of Kristen Bell’s Manic Panic-haired gal pal concerns me, I’m cautiously optimistic considering they kept the machine guns that spring from Astro Boy’s backside. That’s some real commitment to source material there.

Sherlock Holmes
Sherlock_Holmes_Watkiss-125.jpgThe comic: Believe it or not, the latest cinematic take on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic detective began life as a comic: Producer Lionel Wigram enlisted acclaimed artist John Watkiss (The Sandman) to draw a series of comic book illustrations to help sell his concept of a swashbuckling, karate-chopping Holmes to Hollywood. The result was a 25-page graphic novel that inspired the film’s story and has yet to see print. (Check out some of the stylish artwork here.) It’s a testament to the popularity of comic book movies these days that even Holmes needs a four-color push to theaters.

holmes-125.jpgThe movie: If the trailer is any indication, Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock has a bouncy, comic book tone: Diving out of windows, popping gadgets out of nowhere, punching out bad guys in slow mo — this Holmes would be more at home in Gotham City than on Baker Street. (Not to mention that, as played by Robert Downey Jr., he’s more like a dapper Tony Stark.) While some may quibble with a Holmes who favors fisticuffs over brainteasers, this updated Sherlock has me counting the days until Christmas. Hopefully the comic will see the light of day so we nerds can proclaim it better than the movie.

When not writing for places like The Onion and HBO, Nick Nadel is in line at the comic book store alongside the other geeks, er, fans of speculative fiction. Want more comic book movie news and opinions? Follow Nick Nadel’s column on Twitter.

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