As expected, the producers of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark announced this evening that Julie Taymor will step aside as director of the much-delayed and derided $65 million musical. They also confirmed that opening night has been moved from March 15 to early summer, marking the show’s sixth postponement.
Taymor will be replaced by Philip William McKinley (The Boy From Oz), who joins an expanded creative team — it includes playwright and comics writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, musical consultant Paul Bogaev and sound designer Peter Hylenski — that will overhaul the production over the next three months. Performances are expected to shut down for two to three weeks in April and May to accommodate the retooling and rehearsals.
According to The New York Times, the producers, along with composers Bono and the Edge, told the cast this evening that Taymor was out but would remain involved in the show, although not in a day-to-day capacity.
That point was emphasized in a joint statement from lead producers Michael Cohl and Jeremiah J. Harris: “Julie Taymor is not leaving the creative team. Her vision has been at the heart of this production since its inception and will continue to be so. Julie’s previous commitments mean that past March 15th, she cannot work the 24/7 necessary to make the changes in the production in order to be ready for our opening.”
The Times notes that the producers’ press release doesn’t include a comment from Taymor, an omission the newspaper characterizes as “a sign of the discord among them.” Indeed, today’s announcement follows weeks of friction, during which the Tony Award-winning director reportedly refused requests by producers to allow outsiders to make changes to the widely panned show.
Publishing | John Jackson Miller delves into September’s grim direct-market sales figures and discovers a (relative) bright spot: Sales of lower-tier titles — those that don’t crack Diamond’s Top 300 — appear to be increasing, to record levels. “How do we know?” Miller writes. “Believe it or not, a record for high sales was actually set in September. The 300th place comic book, Boom’s Farscape #11, sold more copies to retailers in September than in any month since November 1996: 4,702 copies. That’s a record for the period following Marvel’s return to Diamond. This bellwether tells us about the shape of the market, and how prolific the major and middle-tier publishers are; when many of their titles are being released and reordered, higher-volume titles tend to push farther into the list.”
However, the higher you go on the list, the worse things look: “The average comic book in the Top 25 is selling more poorly in 2010 than in 2003. At the very top of the chart, 2010′s average top-sellers are about 25% off what the best-sellers of 2003 were doing.” [The Comichron]
Creators | Artist J.H. Williams III has posted a two-page spread from Promethea #39 under the cryptic title “Something is coming …” Oddsmakers say it’s an Absolute Edition of the well-regarded series by Williams and Alan Moore, published from 1999 to 2005 by America’s Best Comics/Wildstorm. Too much to wish for?
Williams won’t give any more details … yet: “I can’t comment any further at this time. I’ll have something to say about it relatively soon.” [J.H. Williams' blog]
Comics strips | Cartoonist Mike Peters talks about being sued by the Colombian coffee-producers association over a joke in his Mother Goose & Grimm strip: “… I am totally amazed at this. I’m an editorial cartoonist. I expect bad things from my editorial cartoons, not from my comic strip.” [Comic Riffs]
Legal | Marvel Entertainment has sued MGA Entertainment, claiming the California-based toymaker overstepped the terms of its licensing agreement by producing merchandise based on Spider-Man and Ghost Rider, which were excluded from the agreement. MGA recently lost a legal battle with Mattel over ownership of those ubiquitous Bratz dolls. [Los Angeles Business Journal]
Sales charts | Still reaping the benefits of the buzz from the (judge willing) upcoming movie adaptation, Watchmen jumps 16 spots to No. 29 on USA Today’s list of the Top 150 books. The collection of the 1986 DC Comics miniseries by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons is in its 25th week on the chart.
The 33rd volume of Masashi Kishimoto’s Naruto, meanwhile, leaps 36 places to No. 68 in its second week. [USA Today]
Passings | Scott Timberg of The Los Angeles Times pens a tribute to novelist Donald E. Westlake, who passed away on New Year’s Eve at age 75. Neil Gaiman and Christopher Mills also note Westlake’s passing. Under the pseudonym Richard Stark, Westlake wrote some 20 crime novels about the professional thief Parker.
IDW Publisher and Editor-in-Chief Chris Ryall reveals the cover to Darwyn Cooke’s graphic-novel adaptation of the first Parker book, The Hunter, which is due out in July: “For anyone who hasn’t read any of Westlake’s books, and especially his Parker novels written under the name Richard Stark, hopefully this project coming next summer kickstarts some new interest in his novels.” [The Los Angeles Times]
Webcomics | Lyle Masaki profiles a handful of gay-themed webcomics, and webcomics with gay characters. [AfterElton.com]
Art and design | Comics artist Jock (The Losers, Green Arrow: Year One) has created concept art for the upcoming Judge Dredd movie. [io9.com]