Samuel L. Jackson just delivered the best line of the day at Comic-Con:
"Aw c’mon, toilets are always funny!"
That was the payoff line in the wild fight scene from "The Spirit," which for a few minutes at least, appears to meld the physics of Wile E. Coyote with the vivid noir of "Sin City."
The fight scene is in a junk-strewn mud flat between Jackson’s character, the villain called The Octopus, and the title hero, portrayed by newcomer Gabriel Macht.
They whack each other with cinder blocks, then a crow bar and then the hero takes a savage blow to the crotch from a giant spanner wrench. Then, in a scene that looks better than it sounds, the Octopus slams a toilet down over the hero’s head, pinning his arms to his side.
The movie, by the way, is not based on a true story.
The Christmas Day release will be watched closely by comic-book purists because it adapts the most beloved and enduring character of the late Will Eisner, an anointed figure in comics (he is so revered as the "grandfather of the graphic novel" that the industry awards are called the Eisners).
His Spirit is coming to the screen in the solo directorial debut of Frank Miller, the graphic novelist behind "Sin City," "300" and "The Dark Knight Returns." The problem might be the Spirit losing his comic and sentimental edges in the gritty hyper-reality that has marked Miller’s work when it reaches the screen. (He was co-director of "Sin City" with Robert Rodriguez.)
I was the panel’s moderator and, looking out over 6,800 fans, I realized how nerve-wracking it is to be on that stage. Miller brought three clips plus a trailer, which is a LOT (that’s why there were no questions from the audience) and the reason was Miller and his people wanted to show that the movie included romance and comedy (like the classic Eisner newspaper inserts and comics).
Jackson stole the show on the panel, which also included Miller, producer Deborah Del Prete, Macht and starlet Jaime King (Lorelei). He talked about his favorite action figure of himself during his long career in genre films (he loves Mace Windu figures and wonders why he didn’t get an action figure of "Jurassic Park" when almost every else in the cast did) and commented on his upcoming portrayal of Nick Fury, originally a white character in the comics, by saying that America gives anyone the chance to "become a black man."
— Geoff Boucher
Photos: Top, Samuel L. Jackson hugs "The Spirit" writer/director Frank Miller before the start of the panel with producer Deborah Del Prete and stars Gabriel Macht and Jaime King, who gathered to show an exclusive preview of the new film based on the classic comic by Will Eisner at Comic-Con International in San Diego on July 25, 2008. Right, "The Spirit" panel moderated by Los Angeles Times writer Geoff Boucher, left. Spencer Weiner / Los Angeles Times.
UPDATE: An early version of this post had the name of Robert Rodriguez spelled wrong. Sorry for the mistake, that’s what can happen when you write a post on your Blackberry backstage!