Mage Comic Book Optioned

August 3, 2010 Every year around Comic Con time I start thinking of older or lesser-known comics that would be great on screen. (Time to run a list, I know.) One that has long been in mind is Matt Wagner‘s Mage. The series depicts the adventures of an ordinary, down on his luck guy who meets a mage and discovers that he has a greater destiny than he’d ever suspected. Wagner’s art and scripting are powerful, simple and direct, and Mage could make a hell of a film.

Now it might get there as Watchmen producer Lloyd Levin has optioned the series.

Variety says that Levin has taken the rights to the first story arc, called The Hero Discovered. Wagner planned three arcs, The Hero Discovered, …Defined and …Denied, but only the first two have ever been published. Discovered ran from ’84 to ’86, and Defined didn’t appear until ’97. (One of my greatest comics regrets: finding the original pencil and color overlay art for one issue of Discovered at a con in 1990 and waiting an hour to buy it, at which point it was gone.)

Levin will finance the development and production of the film, and then take the project to a studio. That’s a cool tactic that basically puts Mage in territory similar to Kick-Ass, from a financing perspective. It’ll probably have a smaller budget than some comic adaptations, but also a lot fewer cooks in the kitchen. Hopefully this way Levin can maintain the elegant, propulsive energy of the series.

You might remember that Zack Snyder was once attached to a film adaptation of the series, when Spyglass held the rights to the books. That’s no longer the case; Levin will find new talent to write and direct. And if this works, I’ve got to wonder if Levin will take Wagner’s crime series Grendel. OK, ‘crime’ is a massive understatement/reduction with respect to Grendel, but I don’t have space to summarize that sprawling set of stories.

I will summarize Mage for those who are unfamiliar, and I won’t even throw out any serious spoilers:

A seeming chance encounter with a strange birdlike guy in an odd outfit is Kevin Matchstick’s first inkling that he might have more potential than he’d ever thought. The strange guy is Mirth, a mage who has been around for centuries. The pair encounters a girl named Edsel, and the baseball bat Edsel carries for protection turns into an unlikely weapon of power in Matchstick’s hands. Mirth leads them on a campaign to stop a powerful magical creature. There are beasts to fight along the way (including a dragon of sorts), a stygian hotel to navigate and a deep mythological backstory underpinning it all.

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