Well, judging by all the e-mail after last week's column on the impending movie version of "The X-Men," I have to say there are more of us comic-book geeks out there than anyone would ever have thought.

So maybe it's not such a bad idea for Hollywood to continue bankrolling projects based on "funny books." In fact, while shooting for "The X-Men" started this week in Canada, it's just one of dozens of comic book movies in the works.Probably the biggest of the bunch is a long-awaited version of "Spider-Man," which may get under way early next year. However, director James Cameron has moved on to other things -- thanks to the many legal hassles that dogged the project for years, as well as the fact that the filmmaker now plans to work solely with characters that he "created."

Not all of the news about the movie is bad, though. Screenwriter David Koepp ("Stir of Echoes"), who's been writing the treatment for the film, recently made comments to give some of us hope.

When asked by reporters about rumors that Leonardo DiCaprio might be get the much-coveted role as the Marvel Comics webslinger, Koepp said that Leo was "too old" for the part, which he envisioned as going to a "virtually unknown" teen.

(With luck, that means Koepp may actually be holding to the original version of the character, who gained the "proportional powers of a spider" while still a high-school student. But studio heads and Marvel Comics officials could change all that -- especially if they're looking for a name actor to help sell the project.)

Also, word is that the movie version of the irreverent DC horror comic "Preacher" has been scrapped -- most likely for good. Considering the fact that the director was supposed to be Rachel Talalay of "Tank Girl" infamy, we should all breathe a sigh of relief.

In what seems like a perfect match, style-over-substance filmmaker Robert Rodriguez is bringing his buddy Mike Allred's quirky superhero "Madman" to the big screen as soon as he wraps up another project

And similarly visual director Henry Selick, whose unique artistic style was on display in the odd-but-appealing films "The Nightmare Before Christmas" and "James and the Giant Peach," is wrapping up shooting on the live-action/animated movie "Monkey Bone," based on the cult comic book and starring Brendan Fraser.

But perhaps the best news of all is that Paramount Studios and the cable television channel Nickelodeon have given cartoonist Jeff Smith the go-ahead for an animated adaptation of his comic book adventure, "Bone," which is probably the best comic-book fantasy ever published.

(If you can imagine a cross between "Pogo" and the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, you'll get an idea what this gem is like.)

Unfortunately, now it's time for the bad -- or at the very least, more bizarre -- news:

New Line Cinema has already green-lighted sequels to the inexplicable comic book-based hits "Blade" and "Spawn." However, considering the ongoing lawsuit with the former (by the character's creator, Marv Wolfman) and a concept dispute between the studio and the makers of the latter, neither project is moving ahead too quickly.

Raja Gosnell ("Never Been Kissed") has landed the directing duties for the much-delayed version of "Fantastic Four," with "Batman" scripter Sam Hamm writing the screen treatment.

Drew Barrymore will produce and star in a new adaptation of the French comic strip series "Barbarella" that promises to be less campy than the racy 1968 version that helped make Jane Fonda a star.

The big-screen "Wonder Woman" project is going through its umpteenth rewrite, though Ivan Reitman is still interested in directing and the too-scrawny-for-the-role Sandra Bullock is still campaigning for the part of the Amazonian warrior.

Quentin Tarantino has been approached about writing and directing "Iron Man," based on the Marvel Comics character, an alcoholic billionaire who becomes a super-powered, armored hero. But both Tom Cruise and Nicolas Cage, who were toying with playing the main character at one time, have evidently lost interest or moved on to bigger, if not better, things.

And then there's "Torso," an unofficial sequel to "The Untouchables" in which Eliot Ness tries to stop a serial killer. Despite the fact that the comic it's based on is surprisingly well-written, this one doesn't sound particularly appealing.

Deseret News movie critic Jeff Vice can be reached by e-mail at jeff[email protected]