One of the many stories to come out of San Diego Comic-Con this year was a deal between comic book publisher Top Cow and Mandeville Films to create a big-screen adaptation of "Crosshair," one of the upcoming titles in Top Cow's "Pilot Season" line.
Co-written by comics veteran Marc Silvestri and former studio executive, movie producer, and comic book book author Jeff Katz ("Booster Gold"), "Crosshair" tells the story of a CIA assassin turned family man who discovers that he's been brainwashed with orders to kill the President in the next 48 hours. He must uncover the conspiracy behind the plan before someone triggers his "programming."
"Crosshair" is set to hit shelves October 13 as part of Top Cow's "Pilot season" event, in which readers can check out the first issues of several potential ongoing series and decide which one should continue.
I spoke to Katz about the "Crosshair" comic and movie deal, and who he'd like to see in front of and behind the camera in a perfect world. The crew at Top Cow has also provided Splash Page readers with the first look at "Crosshair" ahead of its release next week!
MTV NEWS: I know the "Crosshair" movie deal happened at Comic-Con, but I assume you had more than just a first issue to pitch at that point. How did the idea for "Crosshair" originate, and what made it so appealing to Mandeville?
JEFF KATZ: The concept of "Crosshair" predates Comic-Con by months. It came about weirdly enough because [Marc] Silvestri and I both list "The Manchurian Candidate" with Frank Sinatra in our top five favorite movies of all time. In high school or college, if I was home sick, that was one of my go-to movies. Ironically, it's considered a classic now, but at the time it came out, it wasn't considered anything remarkable.
For those who haven't seen the original movie, the premise is that Raymond Schaw, played by Laurence Harvey, has been programmed at some level as an assassin, and Frank Sinatra, who's in a military unit with him, has to uncover the brainwashing and programming that went on and uncover the mystery. It's John Frankenheimer's classic movie.
We hit on this idea where Frank Sinatra's character and Laurence Harvey's character ostensibly were the same guy. If you took Sinatra's Major Marco and gave him the double programming of having Raymond Schaw in his head, that's kind of juicy — because you are both the hero and the villain. You wear a gray hat in this one, not the white or black hat. It's the very definition of complicated character, so to speak.
I felt it was timely in a lot of ways, too. I've never had the chance to do something that was a straighter version of an espionage thing, so it was fun to stretch that muscle and put it into practice.
MTV: How much do you have planned out in advance? Is this something you envision as an ongoing series?
KATZ: The best stories are ultimately about setups and payoffs, particularly in this style of serialized storytelling. The idea here is that we'll wrap up the larger, first mystery over a year, but do it in a way that spins out into being able to tell a much wider swath of stories.
When you see who [main character] Justin Weller really is, and the world that he comes out of, and more importantly what leads to this situation, it's going to be clear that he's basically scratched the surface of the larger mystery out there.
MTV: Tell us a little more about the main character, Justin Weller...
KATZ: He's a "man's man" sort of character. I miss those characters a lot. At a certain level, we live in such a gray world right now, and there are so many things we thought were bedrock that are now being questioned, so at some level there's something to be said for a guy who gives you a very clear idea of what he believes is right and wrong. ... I always enjoy characters in any medium who have their own certain sort of code.
I know you're a "Doctor Who" fan, and the fun of "Doctor Who" is that every one of the different Doctors has their own different code. They don't kill, but Matt Smith will fire a gun where David Tennant wouldn't, and Colin Baker sneered and snapped at you in a way that David Tennant didn't.
MTV: Wow. I didn't even need to steer the conversation to "Doctor Who" myself — you just took it there on your own. Impressive...
KATZ: [Laughs] Actually, that's the book I'd like to do an issue of more than anything else. I didn't get into "Doctor Who" until I was 29 or 30 years old, and really fell in love with it during the Tennant years, but then I went back and watched everything. ... My big thrill is that I got into "Doctor Who" after doing "Booster Gold," because looking at the stories now in hindsight, they're so similar to "Doctor Who" it's ridiculous.
MTV: Getting back to "Crosshair," I have to ask you: who's the actor you'd love to see playing Justin Weller?
KATZ: It's hard when you ask me that, because I was an executive long enough that I look at it under the guise of "Who makes sense in the current marketplace?" Perhaps I'm cynical. It's a sickness. It's like after Frodo gets the ring, he's touched by it forever. I'll always be an executive in some form.
A guy who will probably have played this part too much at that point, a conflicted action guy, would be Jeremy Renner. Getting him earlier, before "Mission Impossible," right off of "Hurt Locker," he would've been the guy.
A guy who I think is a star and I would put in anything is Tom Hardy from "Inception." That guy has a certain swagger and charisma, he's really come a long way. If you haven't seen "Bronson," you should check that out.
MTV: What about the tone of the film? How would you like to see the comic translated to the screen?
KATZ: I don't want it to be grim. There's a tendency to make these things uber-political and uber-grim, and that's not my philosophy, generally speaking, You want to be serious, but humanity needs to come through. For example, people loved "Casino Royale" when it came out because it made James Bond gritty again, yet "Quantum of Solace" was criticized because it went so far in that direction that people were like, "Where's the joy?"
MTV: Is there a filmmaker you think could make that sort of movie out of "Crosshair"?
KATZ: You need a guy who could go and do a modern aestehtic on a '70s paranoid thriller, which this is a tip of the hat to, of course. ... I don't believe this is a shooter-only movie. You need someone who understands that it's action and popcorn, but gives it a thinking man's feel.
I haven't seen "The Town" yet, but Ben Affleck is being complimented on the fact that it works as a character piece but also works as action. "Crosshair" isn't a Michael Mann movie, it's not Paul Carnahan... It's a movie that Tony Scott in the '80s or '90s would've made.
Like what you've read so far? Check out an exclusive, five-page preview of "Crosshair" here on Splash Page, courtesy of Top Cow! (Click on the thumbnail images below for full-size pages.)
"Crosshair" hits shelves October 13 from Top Cow Productions!