William H. Macy is the latest to turn to offbeat comic books

“Fargo”‘s William H. Macy is in final negotiations to star as the superhero The Shoveller (who gained his powers by discovering King Arthur’s shovel) in the upcoming film “Mystery Men.” The Universal movie is based on the Dark Horse comic book of the same name and costars Geoffrey Rush as villain Cassanova Frankenstein.

This project is the latest movie adaptation of an offbeat comic: Dimension, having found success with two films based on the “The Crow,” is developing a horror franchise created from a soon-to-be-released comic, “Ghosting,” about fraternity hazing gone wrong. Last summer’s box office champ “Men in Black” was inspired by a limited-series 1990 issue. And then there’s “Spawn,” whose creator Todd McFarlane is now cowriting a sequel to last year’s movie version of his ultraviolent epic. “Alternative comics present ideas you’d never see in a ‘Superman’ or a ‘Spider-Man,'” McFarlane tells EW Online. “Audiences don’t want Boy Scout puritans, nice little namby-pamby guys. We want something with a little tooth in it — not the usual superhero story with no surprises.”

Bob Burden, author and artist of the “Mystery Men” series, agrees. “These comics have a more personal, less mass-produced touch to them,” he says. “It’s like if you go into a mall, you see the same bookstores and the same chain department stores. They’re pleasant places to be, but I’d rather go to Chinatown where it’s all private proprietors, and you might find something different.”

McFarlane, whose “Spawn” has been the No. 1-selling comic book in the country since he quit drawing Spider-Man for Marvel to start his own company in 1992, sees another advantage to filming obscure comics. “Nobody’s going to tell you that the movie’s wrong because nobody has any preconceived notion of what it is they’re coming to watch,” he says. “Most people would be surprised if you told them ‘Men in Black’ was a comic book. They’re not sitting there going, ‘That’s not how those two characters are supposed to talk to each other.'”

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