'I can read the Bible, Homer or Dylan Dog for days on end without ever feeling bored.' So says iconic writer and philosopher Umberto Eco, a self-confessed fan of the comic-strip character created by Tiziano Sclavi in 1986.

Since then Dylan Dog has become a popular phenomenon, and not just in its native Italy. It is the number-one horror comic in the world, with 56 million copies sold in 17 countries, translated into as many languages. It has also made inroads in the US, where, in 1997, Scott Rosenberg's Platinum Studios bought the ancillary right to the property, including TV, film and merchandising rights.

Now the London detective, with his signature black blazer, red shirt, jeans and Clarks shoes, who seduces beautiful women while investigating the paranormal and fighting zombies, vampires and werewolves, is about to hit the big screen.

It is not the first time the character has made it to the movies. Michele Soavi's Dellamore Dellamorte in 1994 starred Rupert Everett in the role - in fact Sclavi, who named the character after poet Dylan Thomas, created Dylan Dog in Everett's likeness.

The new film is a strictly Hollywood affair, produced by Platinum and Ashok Amritraj's Hyde Park Entertainment.

Going under the title Dead Of Night in the US and Dylan Dog in the rest of the world, it will be directed by Kevin Munroe, who directed last year's TMNT, with Brandon Routh (Superman Returns) in the lead role. The script is by Joshua Oppenheimer and Thomas Dean Donnelly, the team behind Sahara and the upcoming Conan The Barbarian.

For Scott Rosenberg, president of Platinum, and Amritraj, CEO of Hyde Park (which recently completed shooting a new film of the videogame Streetfighter), the film is a chance for a new franchise, especially after previous attempts were made to set the film up at Miramax and DreamWorks.

'It's an action movie with a totally original, cool, avant-garde character,' says Amritraj. 'He's surrounded by an absolutely interesting world that will be intriguing to all age groups.'

The story has been moved from London, where Sclavi had originally set it, to present-day New York. Dylan Dog is forced back into his nightmare investigations after he is approached by a woman who claims to have seen her father brutally murdered by a mysterious creature. With his street smart, his gun and a set of paranormal weapons, Dylan attempts to restore order both above and below ground.

'It was important to create a story that would also be relevant to those who know nothing about Dylan,' says Munroe. 'What has set Dylan Dog apart and has for long contributed to his success, isn't pure action in a world populated by absurd monsters - the most exciting journey is an emotional one. Dylan Dog is not a superhero, nor is he supernatural. He is a man who finds himself in extraordinary circumstances.

'I'm fascinated by these stories,' explains the director. 'They are populated by classic characters you see in the likes of Dirty Harry and Die Hard. And like in those movies, you understand the worst monsters of them all are human beings.

'For this reason I'm going to show Dylan Dog's world as realistically as possible. The audience must believe zombies can exist in New York, that vampires roam free even if they can't be seen, just like in Men In Black.

I want a lot of action and very little CGI, more prosthetics and less special effects. I want to bring together comedy and horror, an epic tale of love and horror.'