Comic book adaptations are huge business nowadays, with more and more characters getting a shot at the big screen every year. With a vast amount of source material to work from, studios don’t even have to create entirely new storylines. Fans are more than happy just to see their favorite characters brought to life in glorious technicolor.
Despite this, some films still decide that the comic book origins that have worked just fine for decades on the page just aren’t good enough, and choose to create entirely new origin stories for classic characters. Sometimes, this is merely strange and vaguely annoying. Other times, it leaves fans confused and disappointed. And sometimes, the changes made end up completely missing the point of the original characters, leaving us with bad movies and an angry fandom… like most of these ten films that went completely off-(comic)-book.
Here are 10 Movies That Ruined Comic Book Origins.
10. Wonder Woman (1974)
When you think of Wonder Woman in the ‘70s, you undoubtedly think of Lynda Carter. What few people remember is that there was also a terrible TV movie made as a pilot for a non-starter TV series. Comic book Wonder Woman is an Amazon from the island of Themyscira, who comes to be a hero in the “real” world after pilot Steve Trevor lands on the island. She’s known for her dark hair, bulletproof bracelets, lasso of truth, and weaponized tiara.
This Wonder Woman (Cathy Lee Crosby), however, only resembles the original in that she is an Amazon. She’s also blonde, has no tiara, bracelets or lasso (but does wear a natty jumpsuit-skirt ensemble), and has no powers (but uses some kind of martial arts). Her secret identity of Diana Prince is known by everybody, including government agent Steve Trevor. It’s all a truly bizarre twist on the original female superhero, one that simply doesn’t work. Hopefully, her upcoming big screen adaptation will be a bit more respectful of the source material.
9. Steel (1997)
A lesser-known DC superhero is the focus for this even less-well-known superhero movie. The original character, John Henry Irons, is a former weapons engineer for AmerTek. After being saved by Superman from a near-fatal fall off a skyscraper, Superman inspires John to make something of his life, to do good instead of building weapons. From this encounter, and out of guilt for the damage his weapons had done, he built himself armor to mimic the powers of Superman and used his suit to destroy the weapons he created.
For reasons presumably related to character rights, Superman does not appear at all in the movie Steel – which means a major change for a character inspired entirely by Superman. In this version, John Henry Irons (Shaquille O’Neal) is still a weapons engineer, but his decision to quit and become a superhero is sparked by two very different events. First, a soldier fooling around with one of his guns decides to set it to full power and shoot at an abandoned building, but the weapon backfires and ends up killing Iron’s partner instead. Then, after quitting, he discovers that his weapons have been sold to criminal gangs, and decides to build a suit to take them down. Superman isn’t even mentioned.
8. Dr. Strange (1978)
This little known TV-movie is essentially bad on every level, so it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that Stephen Strange’s origin bears little resemblance to the one in the comics. Originally, Doctor Strange is an arrogant (but brilliantly talented) surgeon. After his hands are damaged in a car accident, he searches the world for a way to heal them, and eventually find the Ancient One in Tibet. Abandoning his quest to be healed, he instead learns the magical arts from the Ancient One, to become Sorcerer Supreme.
In the movie… his name is still Stephen Strange (Peter Hooten). Rather than a surgeon, Dr Strange is a psychiatrist, whose father gave him a ring and the potential to be the next Sorcerer Supreme. Dr Strange also doesn’t seek out the Ancient One in the film. Instead, the current Sorcerer Supreme of Earth seeks him out, teaching him magic to battle Morgan Le Fay, and take over as Sorcerer Supreme. As is the case with Wonder Woman, we’re hoping the upcoming adaptation of Strange is a more faithful one.
7. X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)
Fox did relatively well with the main character’s origin in this film, but did some very strange things with the rest of the characters. The film centers around brothers Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and Sabertooth (Liev Schreiber), who are both functionally immortal, and live the centuries together before being recruited by the Weapon X project. The rest of the film involves Wolverine leaving Weapon X to live with Silver Fox (Lynn Collins), Silver Fox lying to him to save her sister Emma Silverfox (Tahyna Tozzi) who is sort-of-but-not-really Emma Frost, and a big battle with Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) – who has his mouth sewn shut.
There are some accurate elements here, but they are mixed together with completely bizarre twists. Wolverinedid have adamantium grafted to him by the Weapon X project in the comics, but he didn’t have the long friendship with Sabretooth that the film depicts. He did live with a woman named Silver Fox, but Silver Fox has no relation to Emma Frost. And Deadpool… well, the Merc With A Mouth simply doesn’t make sense with his lips sewn together. Nor does he get a combination of various mutant powers, laser eyes, or any of the other odd things that happened in this film. Even Ryan Reynolds himself can’t believe they did that!
6. Supergirl (1984)
Supergirl, despite being a powerful Kryptonian like her cousin Superman, is still often perceived as a little more than a blonde cheerleader of a superhero — or at least, the makers of the 1984 trainwreck Supergirl certainly thought so. In the film, Supergirl (Helen Slater) is happily living in Argo City, where she laments her stupidity with an impressively vacuous expression. Her mentor, Zaltar (Peter O’Toole), has stolen an immensely powerful orb, and shows it to Kara, who promptly manages to send it shooting off into space, and steals a ship to go after it.
In the comics, Kara Zor El isn’t nearly so stupid, and she is sent to Earth by her father to escape the destruction of Krypton. Much like Superman, she is placed in a pod (although at a much older age), and while Kal El is sent straight to Earth, her pod orbits the sun for years before she ends up landing on our planet and meeting Kal-El as an adult. Superman doesn’t make an appearance in the film at all, by the way.
5. Big Hero 6 (2014)
This adorable animated superhero movie is so far from the original that the characters are barely recognizable. Of course, this was done intentionally, to create child-friendly versions of the originals, so they get something of a pass.
Honey Lemon (Genesis Rodriguez) is a cutesy, pink-clad valley-girl of a scientist in the film. In the comics, she is a deadly secret agent, recruited as much for her looks as her intelligence. She dresses in red and black, and often uses her attractiveness as a sexual weapon. She has a power purse in both, although one is used to store weapons in extra dimensions, and the other… creates pretty colored chemical orbs.
GoGo Tomago (Jamie Chung) is a cute tomboy with a bike in the film, but in the books, she is a motorcycle gang member and criminal-gone-good,tgc who turns into an egg-shaped ball of energy thanks to an exosuit. Wasabi (Damon Wayans Jr) in the film is a neurotic student who designed gauntlets with retractable plasma blades. Originally, he is a master chef and weapons master who can create energy blades using only his mind. Baymax was originally built by Hiro himself, and is a robotic synth former who can turn into a dragon. In the film, he was built by Hiro’s brother, and is an inflatable medical care robot.
4. Batman Returns (1992)
Tim Burton lent his inimitable style to this early ‘90s Batman classic – and for the most part, it worked beautifully. However, he definitely did some interesting things with the origins of the characters.
Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman suit is now iconic, but her story is very different from Selina Kyle’s in the comic book world. Rather than a streetwise cat burglar who becomes a costumed villain, this Selina is a shy and frumpy secretary. Her employer pushes her out of a window after she discovers his evil plans, and she is revived by…cats licking her? It’s not really fully explained, but she destroys her wardrobe and whips up in a shiny black catsuit to go prowl around the city.
Penguin (Danny DeVito), the other villain of the film, also gets a revamped origin. In the comics, Oswald Cobblepot was hated by his father, bullied by his siblings and schoolmates, and smothered by his mother. He developed an affinity for birds and a hatred for people, and started out in minor criminal enterprises before becoming the Penguin we know. In the film, however, his parents dumped him off a bridge as a baby, and he is raised in an abandoned zoo (that somehow still had the animals in it) by penguins.
3. Spider-man 3 (2007)
Spider-Man 3 had quite a few issues. One of the best Spidey villain in existence, Venom, was given a terrible portrayal, the romance was over-stated, and there were three (count ‘em) villains, Goblin (James Franco), Venom (Topher Grace), and Sandman (Thomas Haden Church). Out of all this mess, there was one character in particular who bore almost no resemblance to their comic book counterpart: Sandman.
In the comics, Sandman was a promising football player who ended up expelled from school, kicked off the team and turned to a life of crime. He attained his sandy powers after escaping from prison to a nuclear testing site on a beach, where contact with irradiated sand turned him into Sandman. In the film, however, he gains his powers after falling into an experimental particle accelerator where he is engulfed by sand. On top of the change in his superpowered backstory, he is a much more sympathetic figure, who turns to crime to pay the medical bills for his sick daughter. Possibly the biggest deviation of all was the decision to make the movie Sandman Uncle Ben’s killer, which is completely off-book. Eddie Brock and Harry Osborn deviated heavily from the comics as well, though even entirely faithful depictions wouldn’t have saved this overstuffed mess of a superhero flick.
2. X-Men (2000)
Although some characters in the early X-Men films were done well, others were very, very different. Rogue (Anna Paquin), a fan-favorite, was given almost an entirely new backstory. In the comics, she is raised by her aunt and literally run out of town by a mob after her power manifests after kissing her first boyfriend. Heading into the swamps, she is adopted by Mystique. She became a villain, and a member of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, attacked the Avengers, and nearly killed Ms. Marvel before becoming a member of the X-Men.
In the X-Men franchise, however, only one element of this backstory remains. Her powers first appear when she is kissing her boyfriend. Beyond that, she runs away from home, finds Wolverine, is attacked by Sabretooth, rescued by Storm and Cyclops, and brought directly to the X-Men. Her entire backstory as a teen and young woman is simply wiped out, along with most of her personality.
1. Catwoman (2004)
This travesty of a comic book movie always makes the “worst” lists, and what they did to Catwoman’s origin is a big part of that. In the film, Patience Phillips (Halle Berry) is a shy and mousy artist, working as a graphic designer for a large corporation. After discovering a conspiracy to launch an unsafe product, she is murdered, and a mysterious cat who has been following her around bestows upon her magical cat powers. There’s some talk of Egyptian cat goddesses, and Patience is now two women: herself, and Catwoman.
Every element here is wrong, starting with the name. Catwoman’s comic book alias is Selina Kyle, not Patience Phillips. She’s also not a graphic designer or a shy woman (WHAT?). She is not dead and resurrected, nor does she actually have any superpowers. In the comics, her agility and skills are the result of gymnastic and martial arts training, and she is a prostitute-turned-thief. Her origin story in Catwoman feels like a (bad) rehash of the one in Batman Returns, with no connection to the comics whatsoever.
Which big screen character neutering angered you the most? Let us know in the comments below!