Before They Were Movies: Early Attempts to Bring Superheroes to Life Onscreen

Published 3 years ago by , Updated November 10th, 2014 at 7:35 am,

before they were films x men Before They Were Movies: Early Attempts to Bring Superheroes to Life Onscreen

Both DC Comics and Marvel would have you think that big-budget, blockbuster films like Superman, Spider-Man, Batman, X-Men, Green Lantern and The Avengers are their only attempts to bring popular comic book characters into the live-action arena. They would like everyone to forget the sometimes absurd, ridiculous and often ugly reality: that there were numerous early – and failed – attempts to bring super heroes to both the big and small screens.

Over the next few pages you can read about these early superhero attempts and the actors who portrayed them on-screen. Some you may be familiar with, but we’ll bet you’ve never heard of many of them.

NOTE: This list doesn’t cover every instance of every superhero who has ever appeared on TV or in a direct-to-video movie – that would be far too exhaustive. Instead, we’ve covered only those superheroes who have a movie already released, in development or will have one in development soon.

Batman: First Theatrical Release – 1966

batman lewis wilson robert lowery adam west Before They Were Movies: Early Attempts to Bring Superheroes to Life Onscreen

1943 – Lewis Wilson – Wilson was first to portray Batman in a 15-part serial that introduced fans to items now common in the Batman mythos: the Bat Cave with its grandfather clock secret entrance, and a skinny Alfred.

1949 – Robert Lowery – A sequel starring Lowery as Batman left wartime behind and began falling in line with characters and stories fans knew, including: Vicki Vale, Commissioner Gordon and The Wizard.

1966 – Adam West – West’s campy take on the Caped Crusader is often considered to be the most iconic version of Batman. He battled classic villains with classic tools like his utility belt and the Batmobile.


Superman: First Theatrical Release – 1978

superman kirk alyn george reeves Before They Were Movies: Early Attempts to Bring Superheroes to Life Onscreen

1948 – Kirk Alyn – Alyn (on right) doesn’t even receive title credits in the first, and wildly popular, attempt by Columbia Pictures to bring Superman to life; his name only showed up on posters. The studio touted that it couldn’t get an actor to fill the role, so they “hired Superman himself”.

1952 – George Reeves – The man most associated with wearing the Man of Steel’s red cape on the small screen is Reeves (on the left). The series found instant fame after a successful one hour pilot titled Superman and the Mole Men and ran for 6 seasons. The first two were broadcast in black and white with the remainder in color.

The Shadow: First Theatrical Release – 1994

the shadow rod la rocque victor jory kane richmond tom helmore richard derr Before They Were Movies: Early Attempts to Bring Superheroes to Life Onscreen

1937 – Rod La Rocque – La Rocque was the first to fight evil at night in The Shadow Strikes and International Crime.

1940 – Victor Jory – The Black Tiger was The Shadow‘s nemesis in a 15-part serial starring Jory.

1946 – Kane Richmond –Richmond wore a black mask instead of a red scarf as The Shadow in three low-budget films.

1954 – Tom Helmore – Helmore played The Shadow in the first-ever TV series.

1958 – Richard Derr – Derr starred as The Shadow in a TV-pilot-turned-film called The Invisible Avenger.

The Phantom: First Theatrical Release – 1998

the phantom tom tyler Before They Were Movies: Early Attempts to Bring Superheroes to Life Onscreen

1943 – Tom Tyler – Columbia Pictures created a 15-part serial based on the Lee Falk’s popular comic strip called The Phantom. Tyler starred as Geoffrey Prescott/The Phantom fighting off poachers in the jungles with his trusted German shepherd Devil next to his side. “The Ghost Who Walks” could have used a better costume though, as the striped briefs make him look ridiculous – even in black and white and with two pistols strapped to his hips.

Spider-Man: First Theatrical Release – 2002

spider man nicholas hammond shinji todo Before They Were Movies: Early Attempts to Bring Superheroes to Life Onscreen

1974 – Danny Seagren – Spider-Man (Seagren) appeared in a series of sketches called Spidey Super Stories on the PBS show The Electric Company in 1974.

1978 – Nicholas Hammond – The Amazing Spider-Man TV show attempted to capitalize on the success of previous superhero shows Wonder Woman and The Incredible Hulk. Even though the show was very popular with fans, CBS canceled it after thirteen episodes due to budget concerns.

1978 – Shinji Todo – The Toei Company of Japan created a Spider-Man TV show which made him a crime fighter who received his powers from an alien named Garia and piloted a robot called Leopardon. The show was praised for its stunt work and special effects.

Daredevil: First Theatrical Release – 2003

daredevil rex smith ben car Before They Were Movies: Early Attempts to Bring Superheroes to Life Onscreen

1975 – Ben Carruthers – This extremely laughable attempt at creating Daredevil for television was the brainchild of Angela Bowie – the wife of singer David Bowie. Fortunately, the network nixed the idea due to budget concerns before it ever got off the ground. This photo shoot  (pictured on left) was as far as it went.

1989 – Rex Smith – Smith was first to actually portray the blind vigilante of justice in the made-for-TV movie The Trial of the Incredible Hulk. The biggest change from the comics fans noticed was Daredevil’s outfit – a black ninja-like costume instead of the red outfit adorned with horns and the double “D” on his chest. The movie was supposed to be the vehicle for a Daredevil spin-off  TV show, but that never materialized.

The Hulk: First Theatrical Release – 2003

incredible hulk lou ferrign Before They Were Movies: Early Attempts to Bring Superheroes to Life Onscreen

1978 – Lou Ferrigno – The Incredible Hulk is a huge gamma-irradiated monster who can only now be properly portrayed using today’s computer effects – but in the ’70s, professional bodybuilder Lou Ferrigno came pretty darn close. Covered in green body paint and ripped jean shorts (jorts!) the Incredible Hulk smashed his way through 82 television episodes over the course of five seasons. He also flexed his mighty green muscles in three made-for-TV movies – the last of which aired in 1990.

The Punisher: First Theatrical Release – 2004 (In the U.S.)

punisher dolph lundgren1 Before They Were Movies: Early Attempts to Bring Superheroes to Life Onscreen

1989 – Dolph Lundgren – Marvel’s anti-hero Frank Castle, a.k.a. “The Punisher” is a mobster-killing, bad-guy-busting badass. His seemingly unlimited supply of fantastic weapons had fans of the character eager to see what kind of mayhem he could bring to the big screen.

Unfortunately, the first offering they received was Dolph Lundgren sans the iconic white skull on his chest, with a partner who spoke in rhyme, and riding a motorcycle. Clad in leather pants, he looked more like a Hell’s Angels reject than a hard-ass vigilante.

The movie was supposed to release domestically in 1989 but ended up having a short international run instead. The film landed on the direct-to-video shelves in 1991.

The Fantastic Four: First Theatrical Release – 2005

fantastic four alex hydde white rebecca staab jay underwood carl ciafalio Before They Were Movies: Early Attempts to Bring Superheroes to Life Onscreen

1994 – Alex Hyde-White (Mr. Fantastic),  Rebecca Staab (Invisible Woman), Jay Underwood (Human Torch), Carl Ciafalio (The Thing)

Low-budget B-movie king Roger Corman was chosen to bring Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s superpowered group the Fantastic Four to life. Unfortunately, they only allowed him a budget of a scant $1.5 million – most of which he spent on The Thing’s suit.

The film served only to maintain Constantin Film’s movie rights to the characters and was never intended to be released in theaters – though the actors and crew working on the film weren’t aware of this at the time. As with most early attempts at live-action superheroes, the film suffered from the limited special effects technology of the day.

While The Thing’s rock suit was actually pretty good and the Human Torch looked OK, Mr. Fantastic’s stretching ability was laughable and Invisible Woman’s power was displayed by just making her no longer appear in frame.

Nick Fury: First Theatrical Appearance – 2008

nick fury david hassehoff Before They Were Movies: Early Attempts to Bring Superheroes to Life Onscreen

1998 – David Hasselhoff – Marvel produced a made-for-TV movie in the late nineties using one of its lower-tier characters starring David Hasselhoff as Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. – though few people understood why. Fury is brought out of retirement to once again help S.H.I.E.L.D. battle the evil forces of HYDRA, before they can attack Manhattan with the deadly Death’s Head virus. Hasselhoff sports the traditional eye patch, scruffy beard and chewed-on cigar butt that was synonymous with the character up until that point.

Thor: First Theatrical Release – 2011

thor eric allan kramer Before They Were Movies: Early Attempts to Bring Superheroes to Life Onscreen

1988 – Eric Allan Kramer – The Mighty Thor made his debut appearance in the second of three made-for-TV movies for the Incredible Hulk TV show. Kramer was tasked with playing the Norse god and did so with a mild tongue-in-cheek, over-the-top performance. The producers chose to keep Thor more in line with his Viking roots by dressing him up in fur, leather and a metal breastplate instead of the more familiar red and blue outfit.

One thing that wasn’t changed (thank goodness) was Thor’s hammer – Mjolnir. Kramer wields it like a true demi-god and uses it to dispatch groups of bad guys on more than one occasion.

Green Lantern: First Theatrical Release – 2011

Green Lantern Howard Murphy Matthew Steele Doug Pinton Before They Were Movies: Early Attempts to Bring Superheroes to Life Onscreen

1979 – Howard Murphy – Murphy was the unlucky actor chosen to first portray the Green Lantern in a live-action setting, in NBC’s 1979 special Legends of the Superheroes. His costume was a direct copy from the comics but makes the all-CGI costume Ryan Reynolds wore look good.

1997 – Matthew Steele – CBS tried (unsuccessfully) to launch a Justice League TV show in the late ’90s, where Steele played Guy Gardener – a software salesman by day and the Green Lantern by night.

2010 – Doug Pinton – In the ninth season of Smallville, Pinton shows up as Alan Scott/Green Lantern wearing his trademark power ring in some archival footage that Clark and Chloe stumble upon.

Captain America: First Theatrical Release – 2011 (In the U.S.)

captain america dick purcell aytekin akkaya reb brown matt salinger Before They Were Movies: Early Attempts to Bring Superheroes to Life Onscreen

1944 – Dick Purcell – Republic Studios teamed up with Marvel to make a 15-episode Captain America serial starring Dick Purcell.

1973 – Aytekin Akkaya – In the Turkish-made film Captain America and Santo vs. Spider-Man, Akkaya portrays Cap as the head of a task force assigned to take down the evil Spider-Man.

1979 – Reb Brown – Steve Rogers (Brown) was made a struggling artist pre-transformation in two full-length Captain America TV movies.

1990 – Matt Salinger – The story, costume, and villain were all better in this direct-to-video Captain America movie starring Salinger, yet somehow the movie still managed to fail.

Black Widow: First Theatrical Appearance – 2010

black widow angela bowie1 Before They Were Movies: Early Attempts to Bring Superheroes to Life Onscreen

1975 – Angela Bowie – In the mid-seventies Angela Bowie received the rights to Daredevil and Black Widow from Stan Lee for one year, but this ill-fated photo shoot was as far as the idea ever went. All the studios Bowie approached deemed the endeavor too expensive.

Green Arrow: In Development

green arrow justin hartley stephen amell Before They Were Movies: Early Attempts to Bring Superheroes to Life Onscreen

2006 – Justin Hartley – Sharpshooter vigilante Oliver Queen/Green Arrow made his first appearance in the sixth season of Smallville, played by Justin Hartley. He worked with the new Justice Society, attempting to take down the evil LuthorCorp, but occasionally worked on his own missions.  He uses a compound bow and a crossbow instead of a standard recurve bow, but with the familiar battery of homemade trick arrows.

2012 – Stephen Amell – The CW produced a new series titled Arrow starring Amell in the title role as Oliver Queen/Green Arrow. The show has a darker and edgier feel while his costume is more reflective of the character’s origins. He dresses more like Robin Hood, using the traditional recurve bow and his stockpile of trick arrows.

Dr. Strange: In Development

dr strange peter hooten Before They Were Movies: Early Attempts to Bring Superheroes to Life Onscreen

1978 – Peter Hooten – Hooten played Dr. Stephen Strange in this ill-fated TV movie attempt by Marvel. The film was supposed to be the launching vehicle for a Dr. Strange TV series but after the film received a less than lukewarm reception by audiences the project was nixed. Currently Marvel is working on a new Dr. Strange project.

The Flash: In Development


The Flash Rod Haase John Wesley Shipp Kenny Johnston Kyle Gallner Grant Gustin Before They Were Movies: Early Attempts to Bring Superheroes to Life Onscreen

1979 – Rod Haase  – The Flash (Haase) made his first onscreen appearance in Legends of the Superheroes wearing an atrocious costume.

1990 – John Wesley Shipp  – While Shipp’s version of The Flash was a tremendous upgrade in terms of character and costume, the show itself was just too corny to warrant more than one season.

1997 – Kenny Johnston  – Johnston’s Flash was the leader of a team of superheroes in this failed CBS TV pilot Justice League of America. The costume also took a major step back.

2004 – Kyle Gallner – Gallner appeared as Bart Allan in season four of Smallville and again as “Impulse” (The Flash) in season six as a member of the Justice Society.

2014 – Grant Gustin – After his debut performance as Barry Allen in season two of Arrow, Gustin got his own show, superspeed-resistant suit, origin story, and team. The character and show took on a more light-hearted feel, while still fitting in to the TV universe created in Arrow.

Aquaman: In Development

Aquaman Alan Ritchson Justin Harley Before They Were Movies: Early Attempts to Bring Superheroes to Life Onscreen

2005 – Alan Ritchson (left) – Ritchson made just three appearances as Arthur Curry/Aquaman in Smallville, in seasons five, six and 10. He was an on again/off again member of the Justice Society and displayed all the same superpowers as his comic book influence: super swimming speed and telepathy with all oceanic life.

2006 – Justin Hartley (right) – Hartley became the Prince of Atlantis in Aquaman – a TV series that never made it past the pilot stage because CW decided not to pick up the show after the WB/UPN merger. Writers Alfred Gough and Miles Millar changed most of Arthur Curry’s backstory – “A.C.” was made a teenager living in the Florida Keys who, after the disappearance of his mother, was raised by his adopted father.

Hawkman: In Development

hawkman bill nuckols michael shanks Before They Were Movies: Early Attempts to Bring Superheroes to Life Onscreen

1979 – Bill Nuckols – Nuckols played Hawkman in Legends of the Superheroes, showing up alongside other DC characters to celebrate the birthday of the retired hero the Scarlet Cyclone. Except for the large protruding yellow tabs on either side of his mask, Hawkman’s costume looks decent by today’s standards, even though it was designed in the late seventies.

2010 – Michael Shanks – Hawkman, played by Michael Shanks, showed up in season nine of Smallville during a special two-hour episode titled “Absolute Justice”. His costume had the traditional strap-on wings and spiked mace, but a chest piece  – which served a technical purpose on set – was added that made it look odd.

Lobo: In Development

lobo andrew bryniarski Before They Were Movies: Early Attempts to Bring Superheroes to Life Onscreen

2002 – Andrew Bryniarski – To date, the only attempt at a live-action Lobo film came from director Scott Leberecht titled The Lobo Paramilitary Christmas Special, which he made on a ultra-modest budget of $2,4oo for the American Film Institute.

The film’s bizarre story revolves around the Czarnian anti-hero/mercenary being hired by the Easter Bunny to kill Santa Claus in an attempt to take over Christmas. Bryniarski’s performance as Lobo is spot on – as is the entire look that Leberecht managed to recreate surprisingly well.

Wonder Woman – In Development

wonder woman ellie wood walker cathy lee crosby lynda carter adrianna palicki Before They Were Movies: Early Attempts to Bring Superheroes to Life Onscreen

1967 – Linda Harrison – In this strange failed TV pilot titled Who’s Afraid of Diana Prince?, Harrison played Wonder Woman while Ellie Wood Walker played Prince Diana.

1974 – Cathy Lee Crosby – Crosby plays the flaxen-haired Amazon with superhuman agility in this made-for-TV movie that also served as the pilot vehicle for the TV series.

1975 – Lynda Carter – The most famous Wonder Woman was played by Carter for three seasons on ABC, which became one of their most popular shows of the time.

2011 – Adrianna Palicki – Palicki was chosen to play Princess Diana/Wonder Woman in a television reboot, but NBC canceled the project before the pilot episode ever aired.

Captain Marvel/Shazam – In Development

captain marvel tom tyler jackson bostwick john davey garrett craig Before They Were Movies: Early Attempts to Bring Superheroes to Life Onscreen

1941 – Tom Tyler – Tyler played Captain Marvel in a 12-episode serial which is the very first superhero live-action show.

1974 – Jackson Bostwick – Shazam! was a half-hour TV show on CBS which starred Bostwick as Captain Marvel for the entire first season.

1975 – John Davey – Two episodes into season two of Shazam! Davey took the cape and played Captain Marvel until the end of season three.

1978 – Garrett Craig – Captain Marvel – played by Craig – joined his friends in the Legends of the Superheroes TV special.

She-Hulk – Movie Status Unknown

she hulk brigitte nielsen Before They Were Movies: Early Attempts to Bring Superheroes to Life Onscreen

1990 – Brigitte Neilsen – Marvel’s green female super-heroine She-Hulk was originally slated to make an appearance in the third and final made-for-TV film The Death of the Incredible Hulk, but was ultimately left out. Shortly after that, a She-Hulk TV series was announced, but it too ended up being a project that never got off the ground.

Writer/Director Larry Cohen planned a live-action big screen adaptation of She-Hulk with Neilsen announced to play the title role in 1990. However, all that came of the project was a series of photographs with Neilsen dressed as She-Hulk and her alter-ego Jennifer Walters.


before they were films avengers Before They Were Movies: Early Attempts to Bring Superheroes to Life Onscreen

With Marvel and DC Comics announcing the planned theatrical releases of over 40 films going deep into 2020, there will be plenty of changes to this list (sadly, no Lobo yet).

Did you find any early attempts at live-action superheroes that you didn’t know existed before now – if so, which ones are they?

Follow me on Twitter – @MoviePaul – and let me know which comic character’s TV roots you like the best.

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  1. Good job on this. A great read!

    • Ummm….it does say the first one was in ’66. How foolish. LOL.

    • @Glen – I was under the impression the film only released in Austin, TX but didn’t get a wide release. Upon further investigation it appears the film did go wide. I’ve made the correction.


      Paul Young

  2. A Turkish Captain America and She-Hulk dressed like Madonna! You couldn’t make this stuff up…. and If I hadn’t seen the pictures myself I would have scoffed in derision and disbelief.

    • When I saw Neilson, I was like, “Who is she suppose to be playing?”. When I saw it was She-Hulk, I had to thank God that never happened.

  3. For Flash, you said both the bottom actors were “on the right”. I actually liked the Flash TV show from the 90’s.

    • Same here. I thought it was alright to…

    • i also liked that show, and was sad when it got cancelled. i didn’t think it was too corny. i found it like watching a live action comic book.

  4. Alot of misspelled or misplaced words, but great article.

    • Edit,

      Thanks. Not an excuse, but it’s a 2,600 word post so even after going though once it seems a few issues still slipped through. I’ve gone through it again and hopefully caught everything.


      • Not to nitpick, but I just noticed another spelling mistake. For the page on Green Lantern, Guy Gardner’s name was misspelled as Gardener.
        Also, on the Flash page, when you’re talking about Smallville when referring to Impulse, you put The Flash in brackets, but they are two totally separate characters.

  5. Now if somebody could kindly find some of these gems on youtube and post them here that would be awesome.

    • i have seen about 1/2 of that FF on you-tube. it’s pretty horrible.

  6. What about the Electric company Spider-man? Didn’t he predate the TV show?

    • i was gonna say the same thing. showing our age aren’t we?

      • I don’t think he did anything except shrug his shoulders, scratch his head, and his “speech” was a squeaky sound effect. But I remember watching the show for the sole reason of seeing that Spider-man, hoping he’d do more. And the kids today go on and on about Captain America’s cowl.

        But I guess EC Spidey wasn’t really a genuine attempt at a live action show.

  7. You know I actually have these movies of Batman……….

  8. there was also Generation X, a failed attempt to start a show based on an X-men spinoff. It had Jubilee, Emma Frost, and Banshee.

    • There was Mutant X also…

      • nah, Mutant X was not actually related to the X-men franchise. I think there was some sort of tension between the two franchises because of the title.

        • Lawsuit is more like it, Fox sued Marvel over it.

    • This was a straight to VHS movie, I actually kind of liked it even if it was made for $100 – all of which, was spent on dry ice.

    • @Mike – Interesting…I had no idea about that one. I will add it as soon as I can.


      Paul Young

  9. Good article and research for sure. I didn’t know about Many of these. Especially the obscure TV shows..

    Yes, that Lobo was Spot on and I’m hoping the status for the new one changes from ‘In Development’ to ‘Cancelled’ or ‘Limbo’..

    I actually like the Lundgren Punisher. It’s not that bad it’s just not that good. He’s just kinda crazy in this one…

    • Lundgren’s Punisher was the best Punisher movie imo…I thought it was a theatrical release???

      • Actually, Punisher went straight to video – did not release in the theatres (got shelved in 89, then straight to video in 91).

    • Not really sure what movie they’re talking about. The Punisher doesn’t speak in rhyme on my copy.

      • That’s right. The Punisher doesn’t speak in rhyme. His sidekick, played by the father of Miranda Otto (Eowyn in LOTR)does. The movie was released theatrically outside the US.

    • plus the Lundgren version was almost spot on to the comics as to his origin & reasons. Issue #52 to be exact.

      • HA!

        An overlooked fact. I think I may even have that issue still in my comic box…

    • It was weird on the Lobo page, where it was saying about what a weird story the film has, but the story wasn’t original to the movie, it was based on a Lobo comic, and I would figure that the writer would know that.

  10. I liked all the Smallville recognition. One thing that I loved about that show was their abundance of heroes (who otherwise would probably NEVER be seen on screen).

  11. They all played Barry Allen minus Bart Allen from Smallville, but I miss Wally West:_-(. I have Wally’s face from the Justice League 2000 animated series. Just in live-action:-D.

  12. Ah, the stuff of comic book lore. I lived through some of these and have heard about most of them over the years. This puts perspective on some of the newer projects, since they have come along way in some areas. It also gives a clear example of why, from a production design standpoint, the whole tight spandex costume idea often sounds better than it actually looks…

  13. Errata:

    * The Incredible Hulk Returns, the TV movie in which Thor features, was the first, not the second, of three Hulk TV movies.

    * Reb Brown played Captain America in two TV movies, not one. The first featured a very silly, very ’70s take on Cap’s costume. The second had a somewhat less silly costume, and Christopher Lee as the bad guy.

    * The Dr. Strange movie was made for TV, not “direct to video”, since nobody was making “direct to video” movies in 1978.

    * The 1990 Flash show was not “too corny” (it got very respectable ratings and reviews), but too damned expensive (more than $1 million per episode, which would be more than $2 million in today’s dollars, not counting special Hollywood inflation). Though it had odd moments, the show was actually respectful of the character.

    • I remember watching Dr. Strange. You’re right. I hadn’t even heard of VCRs. They didn’t start becoming common until the early eighties, and then they were pretty expensive luxury items that only some had. No, we had to clear the schedule, negotiate the family TV (black and white for us), and watch the show. It never aired again, maybe late at night. I did see it once on VCR much later I think.

      And the 1990 Flash was a respectable show. I wasn’t crazy about it. It seemed like they were trying to make it dark and gritty like Batman. Thankfully they don’t resort to that sort of desperate coattail riding these days.

    • @jason – There were 3 Hulk TV movies – Daredevil was in the first, Thor in the 2nd and She-Hulk was supposed to be in the 3rd but was dropped.

      Brown did indeed play in two films. A minor point since he is on our list but I made the change.

      You’re right about Dr. Strange. I corrected that.

      I stand by my opinion on The Flash. The show was a psychedelic feast of corniness. I love the costume though.


      Paul Young

      • I know this is old but I had to post…

        Thor was in the first tv movie called “The Incredible Hulk Returns” in 1988.

        Daredevil was in the second movie called “The Trial of the Incredible Hulk” in 1989

      • Lois & Clark was even worse, yet I’ll bet you (and everybody else) loved that show.

    • Additional errata:

      The 70’s Wonder Woman series aired one season on ABC set in World War 2 and two seasons on CBS set in the modern day.

      The Aquaman pilot with Justin Hartley was called Mercy Reef.

      The references to the Justice Society in Smallville for Aquaman, Flash/Impulse and Green Arrow should be changed to Justice League.

      Also, there was a brief shot of the Justice Society’s Flash helmet in the trophy case and archival footage in the Smallville episode “Justice”.

  14. i was 11 when the Hammond spider-man show was on, and i thought it was awesome then, but now it’s pretty sad.

    also, no mention of the green hornet?

    • @jeffro – Grreen Hornet started as a radio serial and not a comic book or strip. I ruled it out because of that. The Shadow started in pulp magazines and The Phantom was a comic strip first, hence why I left them in.


      Paul Young

      • Ala Wikipedia-“The Shadow is a fictional character appearing in serialized dramas on radio in 1930 and later in pulp magazines beginning in 1931.” Hence, by your reasoning, the Shadow should not be on this list either. In any case, the Hornet deserves more respect than has been given him, especially by the most recent theatrical release, which I was unable to watch all the way through. If you include him, maybe we can goad someone into making a movie worth watching.

  15. is it bad that there are only 2 i didnt know about (one of the wonder woman and she-hulk)

    you probably missed some but overall a good list

  16. D. Jason Fleming – The 1990 Flash show was not “too corny” (it got very respectable ratings and reviews), but too damned expensive (more than $1 million per episode, which would be more than $2 million in today’s dollars, not counting special Hollywood inflation). Though it had odd moments, the show was actually respectful of the character.

    I agree with D. Jason Fleming on this, i used to watched it when i came home from high school it was one of my favorites

    • Yep, was probably the best incarnation of Flash to date. I actually thought they did an excellent job considering it was for TV.

      • I loved the Flash TV show too. Own it on DVD and think it’s really well done for its time and budget. Mark Hamil as the Trickster is just great!

    • I agree that the Flash wasn’t what you would call “corny”. Nor was it “campy” like Batman with West. But they did seem to go out of there way to make it appear slightly unreal. It’s been a really long time since I saw any of it, but I remember specifically that there were anachronistic touches to it, a mixture of older and newer cars, etc, not big things, but they sort of enhanced the comic book aspect of it. One of the worst things a film maker can do is to make a comic book character “real”. I could never watch the Hulk TV show, because it really wasn’t the Hulk, it was a mutant version of The Fugitive. And yes, I do understand the limitations of the medium of the day, and the fact that it was a small screen budget, but that’s when you go the Batman route, if you can’t afford really good special effects, then you get over-the-top villains and OTT actors to play the parts. And really, the show was about Bruce Banner, not the Hulk. (Sorry ‘Robert Bruce Banner’). (I’m ranting, I know) Anyway, I think the Flash had more potential than most things I’ve seen made for TV. !!! About to go seriously off subject here. Did anyone ever see something called Lightspeed? (or Stan Lee’s Lightspeed). Guess he couldn’t get the rights to do Quicksilver, or even the Whizzer, (I would have watched this second one, just to see if he got made fun of). Just as well really.

      • Do you mean DAVID Banner? They changed his name from “Bruce” to “David”, according to Stan lee, because they felt “Bruce” sounded too effeminate.

  17. The Thing from ’94 looks better than the new ones! How in the crap is that possible?!?!

    • The ’94 movie Thing looked like the version that gained more power in the comics in the late 80’s giving even Grey Hulk a run for his money.
      The newer Thing has that smoother look as in the comics before that time and to date.

      • Actually the comics before that time featured a not at all “smoother” Thing, much closer to the Corman film version than the newer movies. Look at Jack Kirby’s run on FF during the 60s.

  18. Iron Man was to receive his first television appearance in the next Incredible Hulk television show. After Daredevil and Thor, they ultimately cancelled the idea.

    I have an old copy of a Marvel News comic book discussing Universal Pictures making Iron Man as far back as 1990. Thank God it wasn’t made until the time was right.

  19. I found a Justice League of America that apparently was made in Canada, bought it on Ebay because it’s the closest I’ll get to see one actually made (that was, until I saw the Avenger’s movie) There is hope yet.

  20. Who are those ridiculous looking x-men on the first page, those look like bad home-made costumes.

    • M.A.N.T.I.S. was not the comics Mantis (Marvel). It was a different character.

  21. Man I wish Captain America looked like he did in the 40’s that would have been awesome

  22. These make me uncomfortable… mainly because I remember so many of these earlier versions so well.

  23. I still enjoy the Batman TV show and own the entire series on bootleg DVD. Julie Newmar aka Catwoman is still the hottest ever, sorry Ann.

  24. Like Strange, Hoff’s Nick Fury was also a TV movie and not DTV. In fact, it had not been available on video until 2008…and only at one specific store.
    It should be said that Hoff’s Fury flim was indeed bad…but give it some props. It did have Hydra, Viper, Dr. Zola. Dum-Dum Dugan and Clay Quartermain.

    • Yeah, I can completely remember the TV guide listing for the Nick Fury made for TV movie when it first aired. It was what they called a “back door pilot” in that they hoped if it got great ratings they would make a series out of it. You’d think people would actually research this stuff before just slapping a list together.

      • @Pervis – Slow your roll buddy. There isn’t much difference between a made-for-TV movie and a direct-to-video movie but I’ve made the change. The site I used to research these called it an American film so I went with DtV.

        I take offense at implying I just slapped this list together. This is the only list of this type anywhere on the internet – go ahead and Google it – you’ll find nothing this comprehensive.

        There are 23 characters represented here by 53 actors spanning 2600 words – I had to make up a damn Excel spreadsheet to just keep up with all the notes. Heck, I spent a few days just trying to find images for all of them because a few are so rare and so old.

        What exactly was your “research”? Oh yeah, you remembered a TV Guide listing – that sounds reliable.


        Paul Young

        • Because IMDB is not in your ability to do reasearch?

          Give me an f-break. This was riddled with errors and miss-information.

          • Pervis,

            First, it’s “misinformation” not “miss-information” (as long as you’re being critical.


            Change your tone or you’ll find yourself disappeared from the site.



        • While there may have been several errors in the typing of this article, I feel that the author did quite a stand up job when there were inconsistencies shown to correct them as quickly as possible.

          Take the information he has given with a grain of salt and enjoy the article. Don’t bash on someone who has taken the time to write up something that was quite an undertaking to begin with.

  25. What about Blackhawk with Kirk Alyn

  26. I really hope they do Lobo Justice. The Paramilitary Christmas was awesome. It was surprising how close they got to the comic. I can’t wait.

  27. I’m so glad I was born after most of these popped up lol.
    I can’t decide whether I should watch some of these shows and movies though… they look horrible, but funny at the same time.
    It’s an interesting read, but darn you Paul! Why’d you have to dig up old skeletons! 😉

    • The Punisher, The Flash, Batman, Superman, Spider-Man (American version) and the 90s Captain America movie are worth a watch. Enjoyable for what they are.

      I was 10 when CA came out in 90 and it was also a sick day movie to make me feel better.

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