Warren Ellis Adapting 'El Pantera' as Universal Cable, Syfy Also Taking on 'The Machine'

The studio has also optioned IDW Publishing comic 'Kill Shakespeare' as it continues to make a big genre push.
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Warren Ellis

Universal Cable Productions is continuing its massive genre push, announcing three new projects ahead of Comic-Con.

The NBCUniversal-owned cable-focused studio is teaming with Warren Ellis and The Walking Dead producer Gale Anne Hurd to adapt popular 1970s Mexican comic book and Televisa format El Pantera as his first original TV series, The Hollywood Reporter has learned. Additionally, UCP is adapting cult British film The Machine into a scripted series for corporate sibling Syfy with the movie's writer, Caradog James, also on board, and has optioned IDW Publishing comic Kill Shakespeare.

The Ellis project, which comes a year after UCP announced it was teaming with the graphic novelist for his first TV foray, is a vigilante crime drama set in a fictional metropolis on the U.S.-Mexico border. When a young officer is appointed head of police, he only has one request: that his friend, who was wrongfully imprisoned, be set free. Under the guise of his rumored death, the two create "El Pantera" to rid the city of the Mexican mob.  Ellis will adapt the comic with Hurd’s UCP-based Valhalla Entertainment attached to produce and Televisa USA on board to co-produce alongside UCP. 

The Machine, meanwhile, follows abrilliant computer programmer, desperate to save his terminally ill daughter, who creates the first-ever piece of self-aware artificial intelligence. But things go terribly wrong when the technology, designed to help injured soldiers, is hijacked by the government and used to create the ultimate robotic weapon. The Machine will follow multiple storylines as it takes a broad view of cutting-edge scientific breakthroughs in genetic engineering, trans-humanism and artificial intelligence. The film's James (Little White Lies) will write the script and John Giwa-Amu (The Silent Storm) will produce for Syfy. 

For its part, Kill Shakespeare — created by Anthony Del Col and Conor McCreery — is a dark take on Shakespeare. The IDW comic, which has also spawned a stage production and board game — pits his greatest heroes (Hamlet, Juliet, Othello, Falstaff) against his most menacing villains (Richard III, Lady Macbeth, Iago) in an adventure to find and kill — or save — a reclusive wizard named William Shakespeare. Del Col and McCreery will adapt it for the studio.   

"These projects speak to UCP’s continued commitment to genre and aligning with the best talent in the business," UCP vp development Dawn Olmstead said. "Warren Ellis and Gale Anne Hurd are a genre dream team — ideal visionaries to adapt Mexico’s iconic comic El Pantera. Comic-Con has been fertile ground for mining great content — it was there five years ago that I first heard about Kill Shakespeare and have been chasing it since. They had me at a love triangle between Romeo, Juliet and Hamlet. Set in a world where all of Shakespeare's villains are seeking to find their creator and destroy him, is well, very Shakespearian. The Machine is a profound story that allows us to explore a poignant and unique relationship between science fiction and humanity."

The news comes as UCP continues to team with comic book properties to build up its scripted roster. This week, the studio announced it has teamed with leading independent comic book powerhouse Dark Horse Entertainment for a first-look deal and is already adapting three of its most beloved properties: Umbrella Academy, Harrow County and Concrete. The company also is prepping Syfy horror anthology Channel Zero; Brave New World; Hyperion, based on the Hugo Award-winning science fiction novels with Bradley Cooper, Graham King and Todd Phillips attached; and Dreadstar,based on the classic 1980s character from the Marvel-owned Epic Comics.

Email: Lesley.Goldberg@THR.com
Twitter: @Snoodit

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