Originally published in 2000AD, the weekly UK comic book anthology, Button Man was created by Judge Dredd co-creator John Wagner and acclaimed artist Arthur Ranson.
The series follows Harry Exton, a former merc who enters into an elaborate blood sport, pitting him against other elite killers. Each combatant (or Button Man) is backed by wealthy sponsors (or Voices) who gamble on the outcome of the games. The Button Men are placed in varying scenarios to test their skills and resources and the objective is to kill their opponent or claim their "marker" (which is the first two joints of their finger). After losing three markers the Button Men are executed. Harry soon grows tired of the killing and attempts to exit the games, but it proves harder than he originally thought.
The series was first published in 1992, although Ranson's art style makes it look and feel like something from the 1970s, which is part of the appeal. A movie adaptation might require some modern updates as brick-sized mobile phones are the most modern touch in the source. Personally, I would love to see them embrace the '70s aesthetic and make a period take on the story.
Deadline "broke" the story yesterday but co-creator Arthur Ranson mentioned this on the 17 May on his personal blog:
"I understand that DreamWorks have signed Nicholas Refn as director for a 'Button Man' film," Anson wrote on his official site. "They are now looking for a new writer for the Button Man screenplay. Their option with John Wagner and I has been renewed for another twelve months."
The film would adapt the first arc, sub-titled The Killing Game, and with Wagner's strong, high-concept story and Ranson's atmospheric, realistic artwork, the project has a strong cinematic blueprint in place for any prospective director. A gifted stylist and master of ultra violence like Refn could really get the fullest potential out of the material.