By Rob M. Worley
September 19, 2007
The process of developing comic book properties independently became refined as Michael Uslan and F.J. DeSanto navigated the Hollywood waters in an effort to launch the upcoming movie based on Will Eisner’s ‘The Spirit.’ Although it predates the Comic Book Movies umbrella, Uslan and DeSanto have been working for years to create a movie that is true to Eisner’s comics.
Just as Hollywood was slow to spark to Uslan’s vision of Batman as a moody, mature film, they’ve also had trouble “getting” into ‘The Spirit’. Uslan rejected offers to make the character supernatural, or to put him in a costume. Things changed when Uslan walked into a meeting at an independent company called Odd Lot Entertainment:
“Years ago, he met Deborah Del Prete and told her, ‘I have the single greatest comic book creation in the history of man.’ She looked at him and said, ‘Oh, you have ‘The Spirit?’ And the skies opened and the sun shone through and the choir sang, because we found someone who understood,” DeSanto said. Once Del Prete’s team got involved, Uslan and DeSanto began courting legendary comics creator Frank Miller in hopes of him taking his first solo turn behind the camera. After some initial reluctance, Miller signed on to write and direct the film, which sees Uslan producing and DeSanto co-producing.
“I think Frank felt confident that people who truly loved Will’s material were behind this film”, DeSanto says, “and that helped him overcome any reservations he might have had about coming onboard the project. The advantage Michael and I have is that we have one foot in the world of movies and the other in the world of comics, manga and anime. The relationships he and I have built over the years in both give us access to people and properties others normally couldn’t get. There’s a trust and respect for the properties and people see that and understand, and that’s the foundation Comic Book Movies is being built upon.”
While the lid of secrecy on the movie is tight, DeSanto’s enthusiasm is high. “I’m so honored and thrilled to be involved with this film. I can’t say much about it, but Frank’s gonna knock it out of the park. The people that are involved with it all get it, all love it, and all know the material. There are a lot of ‘Will is looking down at us’ conversations. We know he’s watching and we know he’s sitting on Frank’s shoulder sometimes giving him a hard time. But that was their thing, their dynamic.”
DeSanto believes that “getting it” is a big part of what makes the Comic Book Movies operation work. Whatever film grows out of their efforts, fans can rest assured they’ll approach it with a sense of protective custody about the source material.
“Michael and I are fans. We are of that ilk. We both taught ourselves to read at an early age from comic books. We’re not some Hollywood guys who went, ‘Oh my God, this comic book thing is taking off!’, but on the flipside, we’re not just fanboys who just go and set up movies” DeSanto enthuses. “Michael has been doing it for 30-plus years. I’ve been extremely lucky to have him as a mentor, to see how to inspire the same kind of passion in the hearts of people we want to partner with and even how to keep momentum up when obstacles arise. Michael says it best when he says we’re living in a golden age of comic book movies, and now Comic Book Movies, the company, is determined to bring our fellow fans what we all want.”