Rob Liefeld, whose disruptive Deadpool creation was the blockbuster movie surprise of 2016, is at the center of the first big film rights deal of 2017. Graham King and Fundamental Films have partnered to build movies from the comic book characters Liefeld created in what is known as Extreme Universe. King has partnered with Weed Road’s Akiva Goldsman, and they will produce the movies with Liefeld and Energy Entertainment’s Brooklyn Weaver. This rights deal is seven figures, I hear.
The Extreme Universe covers nine comic books, encompassing more than 100 characters that include Brigade, Bloodstrike, Cybrid, Lethal, Re-Gex, Bloodwulf, Battlestone, Baboom and Nitro-Gen. This deal follows one made by Goldsman last fall, where he set the fallen angel character Avengelyne at Paramount as a feature he intends to direct.
The Extreme Universe characters are written very much in the subversive, edgy style that defined Deadpool. The Fox film became the highest-grossing R-rated movie ever and now is being sequelized. Goldsman, who recently supervised writer’s rooms to expand the Transformers and Hasbro movie universes, will do the same thing here. Liefeld’s comic books often compare favorably in sales to venerable Marvel titles including Doctor Strange, so this arrangement certainly is forward thinking by King, Goldsman and Fundamental Films chairman Mark Gao. They might well sort out the storylines and movies before involving a Hollywood distributor.
Essentially, they have bet big on a beachhead of fresh IP consisting of new characters for the big screen, at a time when superhero IP is in short supply and routinely fueling global blockbusters. The 8-year-old Shanghai-based Fundamental Films has become one of China’s largest film companies and already is betting big on Hollywood product, acquiring a near-28% stake in EuropaCorp to become the second-largest shareholder in Luc Besson’s company. Fundamental is an investor in Besson’s Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, which it will distribute in China. This after Fundamental partnered with Besson on the Scarlett Johansson starrer Lucy, which grossed $463 million worldwide.
Said Gao: “Rob Liefeld’s unique characters are in great hands with Graham and Akiva. We could not be more excited to see them bring the entire Extreme Universe to theaters and fans around the globe.”
Extreme Universe brings another big project for King, whose long campaign to bring the story of Queen frontman Freddie Mercury to movie screens is about to pay off: Bryan Singer signed on to direct Bohemian Rhapsody, with Emmy-winning Mr. Robot star Rami Malek playing the iconic singer. 2oth Century Fox and New Regency are backing it. King is also in preproduction on a new Tomb Raider, starring Alicia Vikander.
Said King: “Rob has an uncanny ability to create unique stories with unforgettable characters and Extreme Universe is no exception. These stories are fantastic and I couldn’t imagine better partners on this project than Mark and his team at Fundamental Films.”
Aside from Deadpool, Liefeld’s comic creations include the X-Force and Cable comic series, and he has written for such Marvel Comics stalwarts as X-Men, Captain America, Spider-Man and The Avengers before he split off to hatch his own publishing imprint Extreme Studios, where he launched the characters that are the cornerstone of this deal.
“Over the past nearly 25 years, since launching Image Comics, I’ve been lucky enough to see the power of these stories and characters as they’ve resonated with several generations of comic book fans,” Liefeld said. “To now be able to work with Akiva Goldsman and Graham King, who are powerhouses in their own right, to bring these compelling characters and conflicts to life on the big screen is nothing short of a dream come true.”
Liefeld is repped by WME, Energy Entertainment and Morris Yorn.