EXCLUSIVE: Universal Pictures has acquired the action film Cowboy Ninja Viking and has Marc Forster ready to make the graphic novel adaptation his next film. The graphic novel and a Disney-developed script by Zombieland writers Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese were acquired by Universal after the script came in and was deemed too edgy for Disney’s family film mandate. The intention is to begin production later this year, after Forster completes the Brad Pitt-starrer World War Z for Paramount and Skydance. The hope is to spawn a franchise.

Cowboy Ninja Viking is based on the Image Comics graphic novel by AJ Lieberman and artist Riley Rossmo. The title character comes from a secret government program to turn schizophrenics into assassins. The protagonist comes through the program with the skill sets of a cowboy, ninja and a viking. While most of the patients involved in the program are sent back to insane asylum after the program went awry in Iraq, he escapes and uses his skills to track down the billionaire who masterminded the program.

The film will be produced by Guymon Casady, Ben Forkner, Mark Gordon and Bryan Zuriff through MG360, the joint venture between The Mark Gordon Co and Management 360. Wernick & Reese are also producing. The scribes are repped by WME, and Forster by CAA and Management 360.

Forster’s zombie apocalypse World War Z will be released by Paramount on December 21, 2012.

This is the second time that Universal has gotten a Disney-developed fast tracked project that was based on a graphic novel. The studio is about to start production on Oblivion, the Joseph Kosinski-directed post-apocalyptic thriller that stars Tom Cruise. Like Cowboy Ninja Viking, Disney let it go and was reimbursed its development costs. In the case of the latter film, the producers got a short window to shop the project and if they weren’t successful, Disney would have redeveloped it.