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. AWWWWWWWWW no mention of the truly tragic Generation X made for tv movie from the mid 90′s? Ok so I get that there is no current generation x movie happening but i would consider it the forerunner for the X-Men films.

  2. I haven’t read through all the comments yet so someone might have mentioned this already. I really think what has hurt D.C. the most was that 1979 TV special “Legends of Super Heroes”. The memory of that flop is why D.C. hasn’t produced my live action movies and TV shows.

    • Probably the greatest problem with DC as opposed to Marvel, is that DC tends to be character oriented, while Marvel has always been more story oriented. Not that DC can’t do a good story, and not that they haven’t. But if you go back, even to the times they must have first realized they were going to have to work at it if they were going to compete with Marvel, what they usually came up with was mostly comical, quirky ideas like the Justice League being turned into trees, Green Lantern fighting a giant marionette, the Justice League trying to close a big brass door in the sky with claws coming through it, “Rainbow Batman”. Even if you accept that comic ideas are, well, comical, the portrayals done for the different mags made all the difference too. For instance, during this same time Marvel produced Spider-Man vs the Molten Man, the first issue of The Incredible Hulk to name two, which, if you take just the titles, sound as corny as the DC titles. But looking at the cover art for either of these issues inspires a sense of cinema rather than a sense of cartoon.
      And Marvel discovered early on the way relationships worked. Superman and Lois Lane, (or Lana Lang for that matter) never had a real chance. Marvel knew that the real drama was in the fact that Gwen Stacy loved Peter Parker. Mary Jane Watson Loved Peter Parker. Pepper Potts loved Tony Stark. Jane Foster loved Don Blake. And a good portion of any story might be taken up with the working out of the super hero’s personal relationships, and the problems that being a super hero brought to any relationship. Even in cases where both people in the relationship were super heroes (Sue Storm and Reed Richards, Janet Van Dyne and Hank Pym, Scott and Jean) the drama between them usually arose over domestic issues, children, etc., stuff the reader could relate to.
      It isn’t as though DC CAN’T write and produce good stuff, (I’ve read several multi-issue books and really liked them, Watchmen not being the least) but they don’t really have the wealth of backstory that Marvel has to draw upon when it comes to movies. I loved Smallville for creating much of that backstory that was seriously missing from the DC stable. In fact, DC might be better served at this point in staying with the small screen, and using the medium of multi season shows to flesh out their characters. And they’re doing it right, focusing on the non-super part of the character to draw in the viewer. (In all honesty, I’ve never cared for anything that Marvel has put on the small screen. The live action Spider-Man and Hulk gave us only emasculated versions of what we wanted. And the cartoons were so poorly and cheaply rendered that I was never able to watch them, with the exception of the early Marvel Super Heroes series. But I was a lot younger then.) Marvel had the stories worth making movies about, and we, as the audience, brought most of the back ground stories with us when we went to see the movies. They were only limited by the technology to make us believe in them on the big screen the way we did in the comic books. Glad I lived to see it.

      • Paragraphs exist for a reason.Use them.

  3. Recently I found a Thor movie staring Kevin Nash from the WWE, to say it was God-awful would be a kind thing to say. LOL

    • yeah, that was one of many, many, many rush to video projects courtesy of The Asylum. I haven’t seen that one, but I hear it’s laughable at best. I did catch their version of Sherlock Holmes with Torchwood’s Gareth David-Lloyd (aka Ianto Jones) as Watson and features a giant mechanical dragon at the climax.

  4. I’ve stumbled across a few over the years:

    I’m not sure if the character is a superhero but does anyone remember Sly Stallone’s awful version of “Judge Dredd” (1995)?

    Or “Abar, the First Black Superman” (1977)?

    Supergirl (1984)

  5. Paul Young is one of these garbage writers who believes nothing made before 2000 is worth watching and so sad for him. No, not sad, shame on him.

    • @Ranch – You’re website kept this comment from being approved so I removed it.

      You’re absolutely wrong about your assertion. I actually own and enjoy more films made from before 1970 than I do anything else. Some of my favorite films were made in the 30s and 40s.

      This list wasn’t a “let’s laugh at all the bad attempts”, it was a “hey look at all the bad attempts”. Which of the films mentioned did you thoroughly enjoy that I didn’t think were any good ( and don’t say Punisher).

      Paul Young

    • Sadly, he’s right, and most of these movie/TV pilots ( Challenge Of The Superheroes especially) were crap. You’ll just have to buck up and admit that sad fact.

  6. Why is there no next page button…horrible navigation

  7. Why is there no next page button…horrible navigation!

    • Um, there are next and previous buttons. Don’t know why you can’t see them.


      • There is no “next” button because you are on the last page, page 5. Go back one page and the “next” button will be there.

  8. Nick should never have been made into a black man nor should they have made the kingpin black. that would be like turning a Kato white and the green Lateran pink and a woman(Though that would have been funny).

    The Hulk and Dare Devil was done right back in the day and shows just how muched they screwed up the later ones with cgi. after all you can be a piss poor actor as long as you got cgi going.

    I don’t care what some might think about the old ones but sometimes old is by far better then the new.

    • The black Nick Fury is consistent with the Ultimate line. TBH, I would have preferred a more aryan Fury who would have underlined the somewhat SS-like nature of SHIELD, but I like the actor so it doesn’t bug me that much. At least he still sports the eyepatch. About the Kingpin, please name one white actor who’d be half physically impressive as Duncan was.

      The problem with Lou Ferrigno is that he was way too human-sized to make a decent Hulk, and it would be the same with any non-CGI enhanced green giant. And come on! The poor green paint job and his ludicrous “angry” grimace were just too hilarious. And that wig, jeez, that wig! Wait… That was a wig, right? There’s no way in hell someone could find such a hairdo cool!

      As for Affleck, he always was a piss poor actor, CGI or not. Except in Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back, but he was not really acting in this movie, just having fun with his buddies. His brother Casey, however, is a whole different story.

      • I feel the same about the Fury character, though for different reasons. I felt they lost a lot of good back story because they had to eliminate Sgt. Fury in order to make the current Nick Fury. (Ironically, the “Howlers” appear in the Captain America movie, though they are not called that.) Sgt. Nick Fury had connections to both C.A. and Reed Richards. And could easily have been retconned into the Wolverine movies. All that aside, I can think of very few people, no matter their color, who could have played Fury as well as Jackson does.

        I feel the same way about Michael Clarke Duncan as the Kingpin. I can’t imagine anyone else who could have done it as well. The Daredevil movie itself lacks something. It feels more like the small screen version of Spiderman or the Hulk than it does a major motion picture. And though I’m not one way or the other about Affleck, (not really sure who I would see playing DD, though I think for his first villian, I would have gone with Stiltman, rather than Kingpin, who was originally a Spiderman villain.), he (Affleck) was spot on as a man ‘playing’ a superhero in Hollywoodland, in some ways one of the saddest movies I’ve ever seen.

        I also agree about Ferrigno. In an earlier, unrelated post I mentioned that special effects have finally caught up with our adolescent imaginations. In the TV show, Bill Bixby was the Hulk. Lou Ferrigno was the special effect. And of course, you’re right, no actual human being will ever replicate the comic book character of the Hulk. Hence, the TV story lines were usually like variations of the Fugitive or Route 66 etc travelogue motif. I’ve never been able to make myself watch them. The “villains” were basic lowlifes of the A-Team variety, bad, but certainly not truly worthy to be set upon by the Hulk, or even Spiderman. They were the kind of guys Reed and Malloy, or Friday and Gannon would have handled on a regular basis. (Of course, even the live action Superman show had him dealing with bank robbers most of the time. As corny and as comical as the TV Batman show was, it was unique in that it made the villains a match for the heroes. What it lacked in special effects, it made up for in campiness.)

        One thing truly missing from the Marvel movie universe, is the overlap that appears in the comics. This is most like due to different studios owning contracts on different heroes and villains, but I believe it would have helped some of the “lesser” films, Daredevil, for one, if other characters appeared, were allowed to appear, in them, even if only cameos. Daredevil should have run into Spiderman at least once while climbing around on those rooftops. A whole gaggle of supers should have been at Reed and Sue’s wedding. Even the Avengers could have flashed shots of supers other than the Avengers fighting the aliens. And Captain America didn’t fight the Nazi menace alone.

        Oh well, maybe someday.

        • Stiltman has always been a joke as a villain – Spidey never missed an opportunity to remind him how lame he was! – and would never have enough of an iconic stature to be a major villain in a movie. He could at best have a couple minutes long scene included for comical relief, not more. Though the Kingpin debuted in Spider-Man, over time he’s become more an iconic DD villain, for the simple reason that DD deals with the organized crime much more than Spidey, so it was perfectly logical to see him in the DD movie. I didn’t see Hollywoodland but Affleck just portrayed by far the worst blind man ever! And he was plain bad in every single movie starring him that I saw, except Jay & SB.

          You’re absolutely right about the overlap. I too would’ve loved to see Spidey swinging by the Baxter building to fool around with Johnny, or even just other supes flying across the skyline in the distance. I mean come on, how many gazillion capes are there in NYC alone? And not one of them crosses paths with another, ever? Marvel could also make good use of those big crossovers they enjoy so much. Just imagine a Civil War movie, or more recently, Spider Island… That would be a total blast! And it would let us glimpse many lesser heroes who’d otherwise never make it to the screen. For example, I like Araña’s character very much but I doubt I’ll ever see her in her own movie. She’s just not big enough in the Marvelverse. BUT she played a very important part in Spider Island and could hardly be left out of the picture.

          • Yeah, I kinda cringe at the name Stiltman myself, but one of the first DD comics I ever read, from way back in the 60′s, had him as the villain. It wasn’t so much that he was powerful or anything, but, and I should add, it was Wally Wood doing the artwork, the scenes were depicted so as to enhance what we were supposed to see in DD, an accomplished, acrobatic hero, fighting a villain that could force him to use all his skills and senses. In any case, I was thinking more of what they could do with the graphics, the visuals than anything else. And Wood’s artwork, especially the Stiltman stuff, has stayed with me longer than anything else about early Daredevil comics. Trying to base a movie on DD’s senses is like trying to base a Spiderman movie on his spider sense alone, and that was a lot of what seemed to be going on. (That, and probably the worst costume I’ve ever seen. That freakin headgear still gives me the willies.)

            In the comics Matt Murdock got over his loss of sight pretty fast, after he discovered how much his other senses, and “radar sense” compensated for the loss. And while there was some secret identity scenes, unlike Spiderman, where that was a major part of who he was, for DD, he was Daredevil the way Batman is Batman, ie DD was the real person, and Murdock was the fake. And I would say that DD portrayed that way predates the modern Batman persona as a lone brooding detective.

            Just reread what I wrote and I have no idea why I used the word “detective”. I don’t even remember writing it. But in some ways I guess that’s how I see DD, kinda like Chandler’s Marlowe, or Lee Child’s Jack Reacher. (I know there’s a Reacher movie out, or due our starring Tom Cruise, but, I can’t imagine Cruise, at 5 foot whatever, being able to portray the literary Jack Reacher at 6 foot 5. Another instance where maybe they should have hired Samuel Jackson.)

            Anyway, since really early depictions of Stiltman are my only personal reference for him, I won’t argue with you over it. I have no idea what they made of him in later years, but the first time around was not all that bad. (I guess I need to find a copy of that old WW issue and see if it really was that good, or if my memory is that bad.) (I’m an old guy, so, the major part of my Marvel experience runs from the 60′s to the early 70′s. In all honesty, a great deal of what exists currently in Marvel OR DC is probably beyond my capacity to absorb.)

            • I’m much more familiar with the Spider-Man comics than DD, though I loved him since childhood. It’s just that I recently read the entire scanned 600+ issues of Amazing, which is much more than I ever read of DD. Stiltman, from quite early on in Spidey’s career, has made episodic appearances in which he always was easily defeated and ridiculed by the webslinger, who couldn’t resist mocking the guy in every possible way.

              I’m 39 myself and though I gave up reading comics in my early teens, I got hooked again around the time of the first X-men movie and haven’t detoxed since. Though there’s a lot of crap out there, there’s also great quality stuff and the crossovers I was talking about are just that.

              Civil War tells the story of a schism in the ranks of heroes – and villains, incidentally – resulting from the Initiative and the Superhuman Registration Act (yes, this was the base of plots in Iron Man 2 and the Avengers movie), which led to an all-out war between powers that only ended when an iconic hero was killed by a sniper, which event made the capes realize the foolishness of their fight. The SRA was a major shift in the Marvelverse paradigm that still has drastic consequences in the lives of many heroes and villains, especially Spider-Man’s – it literally turned his whole life upside down when he unmasked publicly.

              Spider Island is the 2011 “Spider-Man all-stars” in which the entire city of New York becomes infected by a bio-engineered virus that gives spider powers to most citizens, heroes, villains and norms alike. You can imagine the resulting mess! This is one of the craziest and most ambitious stories involving Spider-Man ever – considering all that he’s been through since the 60′s, it says something – and I just loved it.

              Araña is one of the many spider-related characters who became the new Spider-Girl after the events depicted in the most excellent Grim Hunt story arc. She’s some kind of street-level teenage Spidey alter ego whom he more or less took under his wing. He sees much of his own past in her (including an orphaned status) and acts as a sort of father figure.

      • Affleck was/is a piss-poor actor to you and everybody else who suffers from the application/affliction of the Tall Poppy Syndrome and it’s effects. There was, and is, nothing wrong with him aside from crappy perception of his abilities; check him out in The Town and Argo as well as Hollywoodland.

        • Sorry pal, but I don’t feel the need to put down successful people only to feel a little less insignificant myself.

          So what, he does OK in 3 movies and I should disregard his entire career? I don’t think so, especially when 2 out of these 3 films were directed by the Fleck himself – we all know his talent as a director. Now go watch Daredevil and tell me how good an actor he is.

          • I think that he’s quite good, judging by The Town and Argo. If that’s not enough for you, that’s your problem. Not mine.

            • Then why are you even commenting?

              • Because I feel like standing up for somebody being victimized by said syndrome, and I’m tired of seeing good people destroyed by Internet know-it-alls who wouldn’t know what acting really is if the hand of God had picked them up and put them in the middle of a film set, or a stage. People like you love to see somebody rise, then fall, and that’s the definition of the Tall Poppy Syndrome, and what’s happened to Affleck, right there.

                • Excuse me, do we know each other? Who are you to presume of what I love or know? No, I don’t enjoy dragging stars in mud. That’s what the ignorant tabloid readers do, and it saddens me just as much as you.

                  I’m basing my appreciation of the Fleck’s acting abilities on the fact that his acting was very bland, if not plain awful, in films like Good Will Hunting, Reindeer Games, Paycheck, Daredevil, The Sum of All Fears, etc… He may have been good in a handful of movies, but since he sucked in so many others (even good ones), it means that he doesn’t take his acting duties seriously and this is a major flaw for an actor. I’m sorry but having such an amateurish attitude towards his job isn’t what I call being a good actor.

  9. I’m surprised they didn’t mention WHY Jackson was replaced as SHAZAM in the middle of production in s2: he went to the doctor.

    Apparently, he was still hurting from a previous stunt, and took the afternoon off from the filming location to get checked out, and when he got back, was barred from the set and told he was fired. Davey was brought in with no notice and was filming the very next day. He didn’t even find out what really happened until years later, but Jackson didn’t hold a grudge against him, just the producers.

    Jackson has also gone on record as saying that some of the stunts they did were highly dangerous and could have cost him his life if he hadn’t already been a trained stuntman and an athlete, and even then, he had a share of close calls.

  10. never understood why they made the flash have a hood in smallville, obv perfect at causing drag, making him slower….

  11. “This photo shoot (pictured on left) was as far as it went.”

    Thank God.

  12. “never understood why they made the flash have a hood in smallville, obv perfect at causing drag, making him slower….”

    It’s just a tv show with characters originated on fantasy comics. Don’t worry too much. If you go that way then you got to ask why he isn’t changing his shoes every three seconds, why his face isn’t affected by his speed at all, instead of sagging like actual sprint runners and/or people on those machines that run them over various G forces, or how come a grain of dust in the air never make him blind and so on.

  13. In the Dolph Lundgren Punisher, the character did not speak in rhyme. A bum that he used for info did. The bum character was inspired by Micro from the Punisher comics. To be honest, this is probably the best Punisher movie. If nothing else, a good 80′s action Movie.

  14. @Spoon! I corrected them on the rhyme error very early in the comments. I’m quite surprised it still hasn’t been amended. Bless you! You’re the first guy on SR that agrees with me that Lungren’s was the best Punisher movie yet. Though I believe that’s because most never watched it ;).

  15. Come on, guys, this is Dolph Lundgren you’re talking about! The guy who made Van Damme look like a genius. Plus, he has the charisma of an amoeba. Seriously, if this is the best Punisher, it says something about the others and I’m glad I never saw them. I did watch this one though, and I was quite appalled by its dullness.

    • Back in his prime, I would’ve liked to see Michael Ironside in the role. He often has that cold emotionless look that would suit the character perfectly. But I guess he’s a bit too old now. Or he could play an adaptation of the arc when an older Punisher comes out of retirement in Columbia (?) for one final burst of violence. Yeah, that would be a kickass Punisher movie!

      Speaking of comebacks, I guess y’all noticed that Governator’s back in business? I just saw the trailer to his new movie, he seems to be as bad an actor as ever, even worse if possible. See that close-up in the trailer, when he talks right in the camera? He’s just ridiculous.

  16. I understand where you’re coming from. You’re taking a ‘general-assessment-of Lungren-as-an-actor’ perspective. I won’t argue with that because I also think he was a bland actor (although, considering that most action stars of the ’80s were all bland actors too: Schwarzenneger, Seagal, Van damme, Chuck Norris). But in the context of the Punisher movie, his blandness, funny enough, brought out an interesting take on Frank Castle. An apathetic killer whose expressionless, drugged demeanour suggested a man who was practically off the plane of sanity. He was beyond anger, beyond hatred, beyond love. Just an avenging machine. This was epitomized when Louis Gossett Jr (his old buddy) begged to be ‘let in’ and the indifferent Lungren (who refused to look him in the eye)pushed him away. He wanted to stay without emotions. No, Lundgren’s blandness worked here. And the drunk thespian was a sharp contrast.

    You say you haven’t watched the others? Don’t bother. Both other Punishers were the stereotypical angry men out for revenge. We’ve seen that guy many times from the old Bruce Lee movies till date. The problem with such fury and anger is that it is unrealistic for such fire to keep burning. It’s meant to burn out after a while i.e. after the enemy has been defeated. And that’s what happened in Tom Jane’s Punisher. Both Punishers were really angry men unlike Lundgren’s who was clearly pathologically disturbed. Such a state can last much longer. So at the end of the movie, when he says he’s still waiting for an answer from God about justice and will keep doing what he’s doing till he does…you really believe him and somehow pity his state of disenchantment ..or dementia.

    Yes, I think Dolph’s lack of expressions worked well for him to convey a disturbed, emotion-bereft Punisher against a backdrop of a huge Yakuza threat and the kidnap of the mafia bosses children. The drunk thespian was cleverly put in the movie to plead with his almost-dead conscience and emotions..and for humour. Movie could have been better, but the concept was quite good.

    I still remember Lundgren’s sleepy, drugged expression(?) when he heard over a bugged line that the Mafia would go to war. He just turned away. It meant nothing to him. Death/life meant nothing to him. That’s the kind of Punisher I have in mind. Not just an angry man from start to finish.

  17. You make valid points that I would most definitely consider should the Punisher be portrayed by any actor who could actually act – like Michael Ironside as I was suggesting above -, except that when Lundgren tries to look “pathologically disturbed”, he just manages to look… well, bovine. So much for the viewer’s empathy for the character! Lundgren as the most tragic figure who is the Punisher is a joke, period.

    • …And Van Damme can be a fine actor when he really means it. Watch JCVD.

    • Holy…WTF are you talking about?!The script for the Lundgren Punisher movie was amongst the worst scripts ever written! Just to pick out a few minor issues; take the last scene where he flees to the roof of a skyscraper, with no rappelling gear, is chased by Louis Gosset Jr. and…vanishes! I know what the director and screenwriter were trying to do but this (trying to lend an air of mystery and awe to the character but failing miserably) was inexcusably stupid! Likewise, earlier in the film the Punisher is standing in the doorway of a mafia guy’s house as news reporters and such crowd onto the front lawn. He then takes two steps to his left and the whole building blows up in a massive explosion (but Castle is of course unharmed). How did Castle avoid being blown to bits?!
      What about the repeated uses of colored transparent overlays in several scenes such as the opening intro and then the fight against ninjas within the skyscraper?! Just unimaginative, uninspired and hard on the eyes.

  18. Kindly understand the premise of my comment. I never said Lundgren was the best Punisher there can be. Far from it. I merely said that he portrayed a more interesting Punisher than the other two IMO. But since you’ve not watched the other two, we can’t have this conversation now, can we?

    I think both Lundgren and Van Damme (though my namesake somewhat) are generally lousy actors. The difference between the two is one isn’t too good with facial expressions and doesn’t bother while the other (though woeful too) gives it a shot time and again. Between these two, I’d go for the one who spares me the agony.

  19. It’s not Lundgren’s portrayal – there is none – that was more interesting but the writing of the character, in which he had no involvement. He just totally ruined it for me with his abysmal “acting”. This is far worse than just watching a generic no-brainer like you say the other two are. At least with these, you know what to expect so you’re not disappointed and you focus solely on enjoying the action. Of course I can’t judge these films but I’ve seen other no-brainers, and when something a bit more ambitious is flushed down the toilet because of the uncaring actor, I just find it almost criminal. To each his own.

    I can’t agree more on the usual lousiness of these two, but much to my surprise, I found Van Damme really good in JCVD. For the very first (and probably last) time in his career, he reached deeply in his inner self to portray this broken man. True acting. This sole movie redeems his whole career in my eyes. For me, the agony is to watch a guy ruin a potentially good screenplay by not bothering even for a minute.

  20. Ok, bfg666. To each his own. I still suggest you watch all 3 movies before engaging in a debate. It gives you better grounds for a comparative and more constructive discussion…not just about an actor but the entire movies themselves.

    • I never meant to compare things I didn’t watch. I was just reacting to Spoon and you considering Lundgren’s Punisher a good movie.

  21. I am offended that you think Impulse and the Flash are one and the same. Sure, Bart did end up becoming Flash for a short time in the comics, but if Smallville said he was Impulse, it means he was Impulse. It’s just not the same as being the Flash.

  22. Don’t knock the Bat Shield.

  23. - The Flash TV series of 1990 didn’t get cancelled out of cheesiness, it actually had a strong critical and viewer reception. What killed it was the constant juggling of it’s time slot due to coverage of “Operation Desert Storm”. It’s really unfortunate too; that was a great show, especially for the early 90′s.

  24. You guys hanging out here trashing superhero movies made in the 70′s and 80′s is like trashing automobiles made in the 1950′s.

    At least several people tried bringing these characters to either the tv or movie screen. Sure we can look at them 40 years into the future and laugh and say “what crap”, but come on. It’s not like these came out in the 90′s next to the Matrix.

    And some of you think DC’s old movies have anything to do with them NOW? It’s only the bad DC movies now that’re hurting DC now.

  25. I didn’t know about the first Daredevil thing you mentioned.

    Are they REALLY trying to portray the likes of “The Adventures of Superman” and “The Incredible Hulk” as laughable obscurities that failed? Seriously?

  26. On the Captain america one, you forgot Captain Japan. LOL. Its sort of a power rangers like show, about a crew of crime-fighters that represent different countries.

    • You mean Battle Fever J? Yeah, the maker’s had planed on Battle Japan’s name being Captain Japan. I think it was because Marvel and whoever made Super Sentai were working with each other for awhile. Saban adapted Super Sentai and made it what you call Power Ranger’s, that’s been going on for awhile now :).

  27. The pic of the X-men is 32 years old. The costumes were made for a comic con back in the day. Home made from scratch, simply for fun and not intended to be Hollywood level outfits. We were doing Cosplay before Cosplay existed.

    • @Tony – HA! Well I like them which is why is why I featured it at the beginning of this article :)

      Paul Young

  28. No mention of Patrick Duffy’s Aquaman? What a travesty.

    • @scott – Duffy’s Aquaman wasn’t based on the comic at all so he wasn’t included in this list.

      Paul Young

      • Duffy NEVER PLAYED AQUAMAN! Holy **** people! Why keep referring to Man from Atlantis as “Aquaman”?! That is like saying the first attempt at writing the Incredible Hulk was ‘Dr. Jeckel and Mr. Hyde’.

  29. The only problem with removing the striped shorts from The Phantom: he actually wore them as part of his costume. Did anyone check the history of the character before saying something so foolish?