ByDan, writer at
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Seeing your favorite comic books come to life on the big screen is an amazing experience, especially when Hollywood gets it right. I remember being blown away as I watched unfold before me exactly as it was drawn, and I'll never forget how spellbound I felt during Heath Ledger's performance as the Joker in The Dark Knight. There is something about seeing the characters I hold in my heart towering over me at the theater that gives me goosebumps every time.

It's an exciting time to be a comic book fan because so many creators are hitting it out of the park. It's now common to hear of being optioned for movies and TV shows. Who would have guessed that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., , Gotham, , The Walking Dead, iZombie, Preacher, and others would all be on TV at the same time? I certainly didn't. If you ask me, it's a great time to be a comic book fan as well as a creator.

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"The Walking Dead": Jeffrey Dean Morgan looks exactly like Negan drawn by Charlie Adlard.
"The Walking Dead": Jeffrey Dean Morgan looks exactly like Negan drawn by Charlie Adlard.

We are living in an age when indie comic creators have a greater opportunity than ever before to see their work published. It's still a difficult process, but with the help of crowdfunding sites, services like ComiXology, and the progression of technology, it's only getting easier. Also, with the assistance of and , you can now even turn your comic book idea into a live-action movie.

Tony McDougall is the man behind superhero mystery comic Hero Killer who one day hopes to see his indie comic on the big screen. McDougall admits it's a big dream, but with the opportunities that are now available, anything is possible. Just look at the likes of 's Robert Kirkman, The Crow's James O'Barr, Kick-Ass's Mike Millar, and Mike Mignola of . These people weren't born with a comic book silver spoon in their mouths. They had to work their way to the top, but once they did, their ideas went from comic books to successful TV shows and movies.

There are various steps that might occur during the process of turning a comic book into a movie and while there are various hoops to jump through in order to go from page to big screen, it's not impossible.

Cover of "Hero Killer" Issue 2, drawn by Martinho Abreu, colored by Justyna Tunkiel.
Cover of "Hero Killer" Issue 2, drawn by Martinho Abreu, colored by Justyna Tunkiel.

Step 1: From Idea To Paper

There is a lot of hard work and variables that go into creating your own comic book. You might have the best idea in the world, but you've got to have the right people supporting your work. In McDougall's case, since he isn't an artist or a colorist, he had to find the right talent that could make his ideas come to life on paper. And in order to save money, he had to learn to letter his own comic.

After assembling his team that included penciler/inker Martinho Abreu and colorist Justyna Tunkiel, McDougall was able to put together a cover and six pages with which he could pitch his idea Hero Killer to publishers.

Step 2: Pitching A Home Run To Publishers

Todd McFarlane vs. Spawn.
Todd McFarlane vs. Spawn.

It isn't easy convincing publishers that you have a marketable idea, with many talented people overlooked for a variety of reasons. But just because you get a rejection letter, doesn't mean you don't have what it takes. One of my favorite artists is Todd McFarlane, who blew up in the '90s. You might know him from his work on Spider-Man or for his owned comic . If you think things were easy for a talent like McFarlane, think again.

On Todd's official Facebook page he posted pictures to show that he submitted 700 sample drawings to various companies and received 350 rejection letters before finally getting his big break in comics. Talk about determination. Now, Spawn is about to surpass 270 issues with its own toy line, McFarlane helped create Image Comics, and a new Spawn movie is in the works.

Step 3: Breaking Into The Mainstream

"Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," drawn by Kevin Eastman.
"Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," drawn by Kevin Eastman.

Breaking that barrier is one of the biggest challenges indie creators face. When thinking about comic book developers that have jumped that hurdle to mainstream success, two names come to mind: Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, the creators of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The Force is strong with the turtles because they have maintained continued success with various audiences since the early '80s. Video games, movies, toys, TV shows, underwear — if you can name it, there has been a turtled-themed item made of it.

No one would have guessed that the small print run of Issue 1 from Mirage Studios in 1984 (yep, before we had the internet) would become the success that it is today, but that's the point. You just never know until you go for it.

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Step 4: Getting Your Comic To The Big Screen

is the most successful R-rated superhero movie to date. Fans and moviegoers alike absolutely ate it up. Yet the movie lingered in Hollywood limbo for about 10 years before getting the green light. During an interview with Los Angeles Times, disclosed the many difficulties of trying to get the Deadpool movie off the ground. Absent someone (Ryan knows who but won't tell) leaking the test footage and the fans going nuts over it, the movie may have never have seen the light of day.

Getting a comic optioned for a movie can happen one of two ways: Either the publisher representing the comic (or a creator associated with the comic) approaches a movie producer, or the movie producer approaches someone associated with the comic (creators, publisher, etc.). Both parties then enter into an option/purchase agreement if they can see eye to eye.

This agreement is for a set period of time, which allows the producer to generate a script, entice actors, and so on, so that the producer can sell the idea to a movie studio. Let's say the studio is interested in the movie. The producer will then exercise their right to purchase the rights to your comic, including characters, settings, stories and merchandise. When producers start talking about purchasing the various rights associated with a comic property, this is the big payoff for comic book publishers and creators.

As comic book fans, we are a very particular group. We have strong opinions as to how certain characters that we love should be portrayed on the big screen. Creative control is something that artists rarely get when negotiating the sale of their property. This is because directors or actors have a different vision for a character than the people who created said character. This is probably why we got a sans-skull Dolph Lundgren in the 1989 movie.

Dolph Lundgren as the Punisher. I guess.
Dolph Lundgren as the Punisher. I guess.

Thankfully, we are living in a time when producers, directors and actors are listening to what the fans have to say (not that we are always right). And it's nice to know that what we think is taken into consideration. Just think — if fans didn't react positively to the Deadpool test footage, the film may have never been made.


Who was the first costumed hero?

[Image: Captain America drawn by Steve McNiven vs Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man]


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