Twentieth Century Fox is to make a $100m live-action feature based on the Japanese cult comic Dragonball, the inspiration behind 17 animated films as well as a highly successful TV series.

Fox has engaged the comic's creator, Akira Toriyama as creative consultant, and has concluded a rights deal with Shueisha, the Japanese publisher of the comic, which debuted in Shueisha's Shonen Jump comic in 1984 and later spawned a best-selling series of paperback books.

The parties say they also plan to pursue development of other projects controlled by Shueisha, a leader in the field of manga and anime properties.

The hero of the Dragonball comic, Songoku, is a young martial artist who goes on a quest to find seven magic balls, which if brought together in the presence of the dragon god will grant him one wish. He is aided in this quest by his master and a band of fellow seekers, while fending off challenges from super-powered and evilly-intentioned adversaries.

The series' 42 paperbacks have sold more than 100 million copies, while being exported to 21 countries in translated versions. The TV show launched in 1986 and continued in various incarnations until 1997. It has been broadcast in 36 countries, including the United States.

"I have always drawn my manga with the desire to create something unique to comics, something that can only be expressed in the form of comics. I felt that if I didn't do so, the reason for the existence of my comics will become weak. But recent movies have surprised us by entering such territory that used to belong only to comics with wonderful technology and wisdom," said Toriyama, in a statement yesterday.

Commented Jim Gianopulos, chairman of Fox Filmed Entertainment: "Acquiring Dragonball is a major coup for the studio. It's an amazing and creative property, rich in great characters and unique worlds, and we are thrilled to be involved with it. We look forward to launching Dragonball as our newest live-action motion picture franchise."

The Fox studio is already involved in X-Men a film franchise based on the comic-books from Marvel that has already spawned a box office hit and an upcoming sequel, both directed by Bryan Singer.