EXCLUSIVE: Legendary Pictures has acquired the feature film rights to Bitter Root, the acclaimed horror-action series from Image Comics that centers on an African-American family of monster hunters who ply their trade in New York City during the stirring era of the Jazz Age.
Bitter Root is set in 1924 against the vibrant backdrop of the Harlem Renaissance where a family of once-great monster hunters is the only line of defense that can protect New York City from an unimaginable evil that is approaching — an invasion by hideous monsters that were once human beings before they were transmogrified by a supernatural force feeding off of prejudice, spite, and bigotry. By all appearances, the Sangeryes family is not up for the challenge. After generations of tracking, trapping, and curing the monsters, the few surviving members of the Sangeryes line are dispirited and divided over their traditionally merciful tactics. The family must overcome the wounds of the past to have any hope of thwarting the supernatural invasion.
The series creators — David F. Walker, Sanford Greene, and Chuck Brown, will executive produce along with Big Machine’s Sean Owolo. Jon Silk and Disney Hall will oversee the project for Legendary. Bitter Root has been a breakout success for Image Comics since the 24-page inaugural issue hit store shelves the week before last Thanksgiving. The critical response was glowing (on Comic Book Roundup, the review aggregation site, the series scored a 9.2 critics rating and 8.7 user rating) and the fan interest was immediate (a second printing was ordered just two days after the debut issue’s street date).
Bitter Root had been a slow-gestating concept by artist Sanford Greene and writer Chuck Brown, who lived near each other in Columbia, South Carolina, and were intrigued by the possibilities of a Harlem-based tale that could meld hoodoo magic, African-American culture of the Jazz Age, and the noir possibilities of post-WWI New York City.
The title, plot points, and character specifics eluded them, however, until Greene suggested they recruit a third partner for the effort. His suggestion was David F. Walker, the Portland-based writer who had collaborated with Greene on the Marvel Comics series Power Man and Iron Fist.
Walker and Greene had already accumulated years of mainstream comics credits with DC, Marvel, and Dark Horse Comics. Greene’s art portfolio, for instance, includes issues of Black Panther, Superman, Deadpool, X-Men, and The Avengers. Bitter Root, however, is the tandem’s first creator-owned endeavor.
Greene is also co-founder and CEO of Secret Sauce, LLC, the San Francisco animation studio. Walker co-created Naomi with Brian Michael Bendis for the new Wonder Comics imprint of DC Comics. Browne’s credits, meanwhile, include Punisher and Black Panther for Marvel, as well as indie fare such as Trench Coats, Cigarettes and Shotguns.
The fifth issue of Bitter Root just arrived in comic book shops on March 20. Image is also the publisher of The Walking Dead, Saga, Happy!, Hack/Slash, Kick-Ass, as well as Port of Earth (the recent Amazon acquisition) and Gideon Falls (which Hivemind just acquired).
Bitter Root joins Hollywood’s robust vein of comic book properties about maverick-minded investigators who challenge otherworldly threats — a list that includes Men in Black (with its fourth film on the way), Hellboy (with a third film due April 12), Blade (three films to date), Constantine, RIPD, Dellamorte Dellamore, and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. The sub-genre’s built-in appeal include its edgier story terrain (with occult and sci-fi trappings) and less-routine aesthetic options (with, say, steampunk designs offering more vanguard opportunities than another batch of superhero battle-suits).
Walker, Greene, Brown, and Owolo are represented by attorney Marios Rush.