Given the seemingly endless stream of comic book movies released in recent years, it’s hard to imagine that any film projects like these ever get canceled. Yet plenty are, with spinoffs the most commonly scrapped.
There are several reasons why these cinematic offshoots wind up on the chopping block so often. The most common motivation for a studio axing a spin-off is that the film which spawned it has underperformed financially.
Then there is the disappointing scenario where a character who was expected to be a break-out hit with audiences fails to impress, with their ability to carry their own solo outing appearing a lot less feasible.
And finally, there are those instances where the overall plans for a superhero film franchise change. Suddenly, a spinoff that once made perfect sense fails to align with the broader slate of scheduled films, and is either re-worked into another movie, or dropped entirely.
Whatever the reason, this means that we sometimes miss out on some potentially amazing superhero side projects – even as we dodge a few that look pretty awful! With this in mind, here are 8 Canceled Comic Book Spinoffs That Would’ve Been Bad (And 7 That Would’ve Been Great).
15 Bad – Sinister Six
Back in 2014, Sony – along with numerous production companies – really didn’t seem to have a good handle on what to do with the Spider-Man franchise. Everyone involved seemed desperate to emulate the success of Marvel Studios’ shared universe, which resulted in several questionable choices being made. This included the decision to greenlight several spinoffs, most notably the villain team-up joint Sinister Six.
Right off the bat, this sounded like a bad idea – a misguided attempt to ape Warner Bros./DC’s Suicide Squad property, with needless redemptive character arcs further souring the broth. However, after the lukewarm commercial performance of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 – ironically, partly due to its over-stuffed plot, designed to lay the groundwork for Sinister Six – this spinoff was quickly shelved.
This in turn paved the way for Sony to enter negotiations with Marvel, rebooting Spider-Man as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so there’s no real downside here.
14 Great – X-Men Origins: Magneto
We’d like to make it clear up front that we’re big fans of X-Men: First Class. A fine example of a prequel done right, First Class tells an entertaining and genuinely emotional story, even as it explores the origins of Professor Xavier and his paramilitary school for gifted youngsters.
But if there’s one gripe we have with the film, it’s that its very existence has ensured that we’ll never get to see X-Men Origins: Magneto. This is because the narrative for this canceled production – which would have focused on the Master of Magnetism’s early days, and his doomed friendship with Xavier – was ultimately folded into the plot of First Class.
While we’re undeniably glad that 20th Century Fox opted to broaden the scope of the film eventually released, it’s hard not lament that we missed out on a full-blown “Magneto: Nazi Hunter” movie in the process!
13 Bad – Catwoman
It’s hard to imagine a film worse than the Catwoman movie starring Halle Berry, but this direct spinoff from Batman Returns just might have topped it!
After Michelle Pfeiffer wowed audiences with her sultry turn as the Dark Knight’s feline adversary, Warner Bros. announced a spinoff, with the actress reprising her role.
To say that the premise for Catwoman that Batman Returns screenwriter Daniel Waters devised was bizarre is an understatement of epic proportions. In Waters’ script, Selina Kyle – stricken with amnesia following her ordeal in the previous film – checks into a spa resort for superheroes!
The whole thing was meant to be a satire on the tropes of genre – which in fairness, could have provided a fun, fresh take on the source material. But comments made by Waters suggest the film would have suffered from a mean-spirited tone, so it’s probably for the best this one eventually fell part.
12 Great – Young Nick Fury
Young Nick Fury is the kind of project where it’s kinda stretching the truth to label it “canceled” - as technically, production never commenced. Even so, Marvel Studios co-president Louis D’Esposito has revealed that a spinoff concerning a more sprightly incarnation of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s resident super-spy has been discussed on several occasions, and at least some development took place.
Earmarked for the “Marvel One-Shots” short film series, Young Nick Fury would see a junior actor step into the boots currently filled by Samuel L. Jackson. This rookie version of Fury would be partnered with Captain America’s WWII army buddy Dum Dum Dugan (presumably with an older actor inheriting the part from Neal McDonough).
Basically, it would have been an action/espionage riff on a buddy cop flick, set in the MCU.
This may well have been the most amazing thing ever. Sadly, according D’Esposito, the logistics involved don’t quite add-up yet.
11 Bad – X-Men Origins: Gambit
The X-Men’s explosive playing card-throwing Cajun Gambit is a fan favorite character – which explains why Fox has been trying to get a stand-alone production into theatres for nearly a decade! The studio were so keen to bring the character to the big screen, he was even going to be introduced to audiences as early as 2003’s X2.
However, when Gambit did finally grace the silver screen, it was in the poorly received X-Men Origins: Wolverine, with Taylor Kitsch in the role. Although Kitsch is a talented actor – see his performance in the Friday Night Lights TV series for evidence of this – the end result proved decidedly underwhelming.
In the wake of the muted reaction to Kitsch’s Gambit, work on X-Men Origins: Gambit – which was greenlit under the assumption that the character would be a hit – halted, and it was subsequently superseded by an unrelated project headlined by Channing Tatum.
10 Great – Hellboy: Silverlance
Guillermo Del Toro’s Hellboy films are the definition of cult classic movies – which has its good and not-so-good aspects. On the plus side, this live-action take on Mike Mignola’s celebrated comic book about a demon who fights on the side of the angels has a devoted fanbase. On the downside, this frenzied affection never quite spread to general audiences, with both Hellboy films earning relatively modest box office hauls.
As a result, this led to plans for series finale Hellboy 3 to be scrapped – as well as spinoff Silverlance to be, well, piked. This is a real downer, as the film intended to give Doug Jones’ heroic fishperson Abe Sapien centre stage, continuing his romance with seemingly dead fairy Princess Nuala, which began in The Golden Army.
Silverlance also promised to further explore the mythology of the Hellboy universe, so it sounds like it would’ve been something truly special.
9 Bad – Nightstalkers
Let’s be honest: Blade: Trinity was a fiasco in front of and behind the camera. In his third outing as the titular vampire hunter, Wesley Snipes was unhappy with both the film’s script and director David S. Goyer, and he wasn’t shy about showing it.
While Snipes had a point (the screenplay – which saw Blade join forces with like-minded outfit the Nightstalkers to take down the biggest bloodsucker of all, Dracula – was awful), his erratic on-set behavior and disinterested performance didn’t help, either.
Unsurprisingly, Trinity didn’t exactly light the box office on fire, and frankly, the fallout from this was a bit of a mixed blessing. On the one hand, it meant that the Blade trilogy went out on a bum note. On the other hand, it spared us from the Nightstalkers spinoff – where this forgettable bunch were set to take on werewolves – so it all balances out, really.
8 Great – Hit-Girl
Hit-Girl stole the show in both Kick-Ass movies – as a bloodthirsty pre-teen vigilante with a proclivity for dropping four-letter words, she was bound to.
It stands to reason that Hit-Girl could easily carry her own spinoff film.
This was initially a point of view shared by Universal Pictures, which gave the project the thumbs up. Chloë Grace Moretz expressed interest in donning Hit-Girl’s mask once more, future Star Wars: Rogue One director Gareth Edwards was tapped to direct, and things were looking quite rosy.
Then Kick-Ass 2 made a lot less money than the studio anticipated, and development on the film and Kick-Ass 3 was canceled. Kick-Ass director Matthew Vaughan and comics scribe Mark Millar seem eager to keep the Hit-Girl dream alive, but realistically, don’t expect this one to happen any time soon.
7 Bad – Spider-Man 2099
For further proof that Sony really had no clue what to do with the Spider-Man franchise prior to its deal with Marvel Studios, look no further than the proposed Spider-Man 2099 spinoff. We’re not knocking the concept, mind you.
Of all the characters Marvel re-imagined for the 2099 line of comics, Peter David and Rick Leonardi’s Spider-Man was easily the best.
Given Sony and Columbia Pictures couldn’t even get the mainstream version of Spidey right, what hope did they have of successfully realizing a brand new Spidey with the added baggage of a futuristic setting? Perhaps someday, fans will get to see Miguel O'Hara take up the Spider-Man mantle on the big screen – and it’ll be fantastic.
One thing’s for sure: the version Sony was cooking up – before Amazing Spider-Man 2’s commercial shortcomings put the kibosh on things – wouldn’t have been.
6 Great – Deacon Frost
Nightstalkers wasn’t the only Blade-related spinoff planned, nor was it the first. Way back in 1998, after the first film turned a respectable profit, director Stephen Norrington and actor Stephen Dorff tried to get the ball rolling on a prequel trilogy revolving around baddie Deacon Frost.
We’ll be the first to admit that a series of films centered around Frost had huge potential to suck. After all, despite a decent performance by Dorff, the character isn’t exactly what you’d call deep. However, this ignores the intriguing narrative that would have driven proceedings.
According to Dorff, the Deacon Frost trilogy would’ve been a vampire/gangster movie hybrid, which emulated Brian De Palma’s Scarface. Building on his previously established ambitious streak, the films would have depicted the still human Frost’s descent into pure evil, victim of a misguided quest to make something of himself. Sounds pretty cool, no?
5 Bad – Robin
Batman’s crime-fighting partner Robin is possibly the most popular sidekick in comics history – he’s even held down his own solo title. It makes sense that his cinematic counterpart should prove equally adept at headlining his own film. That’s nearly what happened in the late 90s.
After Batman Forever – which saw Chris O’Donnell debut as a disconcertingly mature Boy Wonder – raked in tons of money, Warner Bros. gave a Robin spinoff the go ahead. Not much is known about the project, other than O’Donnell would be suiting up again as Robin.
Yet thanks to the critical and commercial backlash to Batman & Robin – which drastically dialed up the camp sensibilities and garish visuals of Forever – Warner Bros. pulled the plug on the entire franchise. Given the direction the series was headed in, it seems fortunate that this meant Robin had its wings clipped, too.
4 Great – War Machine
Since taking the role from Terrence Howard in Iron Man 2, Don Cheadle has won fans over with his likeable portrayal of Colonel James Rhodes, better known as War Machine. In four films and counting, Cheadle has brilliantly captured Rhodey’s cool-headed proficiency on the battlefield, and his warm, sharp-witted nature away from it.
Cheadle’s creditable showing in each of his Marvel Cinematic Universe outings didn’t go unnoticed, and a War Machine spinoff was once in the works.
In it, Rhodey would’ve become a fugitive after refusing to execute unethical orders issued by his military superiors.
It’s a novel premise – or was, prior to Captain America: Civil War – and coupled with Marvel Studio’s “Midas touch”, another hit MCU blockbuster seemed assured. Disappointingly, Marvel has since lost interest in the idea, and given the studio’s already-full slate, War Machine looks unlikely to ever come to fruition.
3 Bad – Venom: Carnage
There have been not one, but two movies aimed at spotlighting Spider-Man villain Venom that failed to materialize in the past decade. Both were very similar – each re-cast the symbiote-powered psychopath as a violent anti-hero –but were set entirely unrelated fictional universes.
The first was spawned by Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3, and would’ve seen Topher Grace’s Eddie Brock go up against even more deranged rival and red-hued doppleganger, Carnage. This was axed when Raimi bowed out of Spider-Man 4. Sony opted to reboot the entire franchise as a result.
The second attempt at a spinoff, Venom: Carnage (three guesses who the baddie was going to be) formed part of Sony’s previously mentioned misguided efforts to kick-start its own shared universe centred around Spidey. As we’ve already covered, The Amazing Spider-Man 2’s less than stellar financial performance scuppered these plans, although another Venom standalone film will land in theatres later this year!
2 Great – Batman Beyond
When it first aired in 1999, Batman Beyond achieved the impossible. It took Batman out of his gritty contemporary environment in favor of a futuristic setting.
Bruce Wayne ceded the Bat-mantle to a wisecracking teenager – and it was awesome!
Impressed by the positive response to the animated series, Warner Bros. soon commissioned a live-action adaptation.
With series co-creator Paul Dini part of the screenwriting team, Batman Beyond got off to a promising start. Fans thrilled at the prospect of the cartoon’s stunning visuals being recreated via CGI, as well as witnessing the complex dynamic between Wayne and his protege, Terry McGinnis, on the big screen.
This excitement ended in disappointment, however, as Warner Bros. shelved the production, opting to pursue a Batman: Year One-inspired franchise revamp instead. Although this project would also stall, it did lay the groundwork for Batman Begins.
1 Bad - The Silver Surfer
There few positive comments that can be made about the two Fantastic Four movies Fox released in the mid-2000s. That said, the depiction of the Silver Surfer in Rise of the Silver Surfer was easily one of the franchise’s few high points, so it makes sense the studio would be keen to pursue a spinoff.
Performer Doug Jones, voice actor Laurence Fishburne, and an army of VFX wizards united to craft a version of the character that did the source material justice. Factor in the Surfer’s rich history – which offers up considerable inspiration for a solo outing – and a spinoff starts sounding pretty good to us, too.
Then we realized that many of the other people involved with the series would be overseeing proceedings, and suddenly The Silver Surfer seems much less appealing. Probably for the best this one got canceled after the main franchise tanked financially!
Know of any other canceled comic book spinoffs that would’ve been terrible (or any that would have been great)? Let us know in the comments!