Comic book movies have come to dominate cinema in the last twenty years, and it now feels like barely a day goes by without a new sequel/reboot/shared universe being announced. The genre also has many fascinating abandoned projects that came close to happening, like Tim Burton’s Superman Lives, Green Arrow: Escape From Supermax and George Miller’s Justice League: Mortal.
The reasons these movies were scrapped vary from case to case, be it bad timing, script or budget issues, or the studio simply getting cold feet. Comic book movie spinoffs have also proven to be a tricky genre for studios to master, despite their built-in name value; for every raging success like Logan, there’s an Elektra or Supergirl lurking around the corner. Even Wolverine got off to a shaky start with X-Men: Origins.
Maybe that’s why studios are reluctant to embrace them, and why so many planned spinoffs never escape development hell. Some of these projects sounded ill-conceived from the beginning, but a couple of them could have been pretty cool with the right talent behind the camera.
We’ll never know either way, so here are the top 15 Cancelled Comic Book Movie SpinOffs, and the reasons why they never got made.
15 The Sinister Six
The Amazing Spider-Man franchise is one of the more embarrassing examples of a studio being humbled in recent memory, where Sony seemed more focused on crafting sequels and spinoffs than delivering quality films.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was particularly messy as a result, being loaded with unnecessary subplots and characters, with storylines left unresolved so future sequels could pick them up. While the movie was in production, Sony announced a Sinister Six spinoff, where a rogues gallery of Spidey’s villains would assemble for a "heist" movie. Harry Osborn was would be the leader – as teased by the end of the second movie – with other confirmed team members including Rhino and Dr Octopus.
Drew Goddard was attached as writer/director, and he described it as a “redemption” story for the team. While Sony was excited about the film, it came to screeching halt when their second Spidey film underperformed, and the studio instead negotiated a deal to bring Spider-Man into the MCU. Another version of the concept is likely to happen down the road, but it will have no ties to the version Goddard developed.
14 Michelle Pfeiffer's Catwoman
While Batman Returns is well liked now, it received something of a backlash upon release. The film was considered too dark and disturbing for younger viewers, and the box office disappointed Warner Bros to the point they decided to make the next entry – Batman Forever – much lighter.
Around this time, the studio was still interested in pursuing a solo Catwoman film, with Michelle Pfeiffer reprising the role and Tim Burton directing. A script was written where Selina Kyle finds herself in a Las Vegas style city following the previous movie, and she has amnesia. This city is run by male superheroes, but when they prove ineffective, Selina has to become Catwoman again.
Unfortunately, the script was turned in shortly before the big success of Forever, which proved the family friendly tone was more lucrative. Burton and Pfeiffer soon lost interest too, and the idea was abandoned. Warner Bros revived the concept of a solo Catwoman movie years later as a star vehicle for Halle Berry; history knows how well that panned out.
13 The Nightstalkers
While the first two Blade movies hold up as great action movies, Trinity profoundly does not. Everything from the story to the action is weak, and Wesley Snipes is on autopilot throughout. Oddly enough, the film seems to function as a testing ground for Ryan Reynolds’ Deadpool, where his Trinity character is a wisecracking, irrelevant action hero.
It’s well known that Snipes wasn’t a happy camper onset; he was unhappy that the original post-apocalyptic concept was dropped, and that Blade was saddled with two new heroes – Abigail Whistler and Hannibal King - who were being groomed for a spinoff called The Nightstalkers. He responded by staying in his trailer, refusing to speak to director David Goyer, and only appearing onset for close-up shots.
Had things gone to plan, The Nightstalkers would have had their own film series, with an alternate ending hinting that they’d be chasing Werewolves next. But Trinity only did mediocre business, and fan reaction to the new characters was tepid, so the idea was quickly scrapped.
When the Bill Bixby era of The Incredible Hulk was due to wrap up for good with The Death Of The Incredible Hulk TV movie, a spinoff series featuring She-Hulk was proposed as a replacement. In fact, the character (as well as her alter ego, Jennifer Walters) was supposed to appear in that movie, but for some reason, it didn’t happen.
The studio then greenlit a TV movie that would lead into a potential series, with Jennifer being played by Mitzi Kapture and She-Hulk played by volleyball player Gabriele Reece. Despite Banner’s apparent death in the previous movie, he would have returned, befriending Walters on vacation. A hitman shoots Walters, and when she’s in desperate need of a blood transfusion, Banner has no choice but to give her his blood to save her.
This would cause the Walters’ transformation, with this version of She-Hulk being another mute wrecking force like Ferrigno’s Hulk. While filming began, it was never completed, with the studio quickly losing confidence in Kapture’s ability to lead a potential series.
A movie version with Brigette Nielsen was also announced shortly after the TV movie fell apart, though it's unknown if it would have directly tied into the TV series.
11 War Machine
Rhodey has proved to be a great supporting character in the MCU, and he provides Tony Stark with a moral sounding board whenever he needs one. Don Cheadle has come to own the role after Terrance Howard’s controversial exit, and for a brief time, Marvel appeared interested in a solo entry for War Machine.
Following Cheadle’s introduction in Iron Man 2, the actor confirmed a writer was hired for a potential spinoff, and in a later interview, he gave his pitch for the story. He felt Rhodey would choose to go rogue and take a mission against his superiors' will, making him a fugitive. He’d have to avoid arrest while asking for Tony Stark’s help, and Cheadle felt this darker, more character driven approach would help set it apart from the other MCU films.
Despite Cheadle’s enthusiasm, it doesn’t seem like Marvel ever truly pursued the idea, and they later confirmed a solo War Machine movie wasn’t actively in development. Given Marvel’s full slate look ahead, it probably won't happen anytime soon.
10 The Silver Surfer
The Silver Surfer was easily the best part of the turgid Fantastic Four: Rise Of The Silver Surfer, thanks to Doug Jones' performance capture combined with Laurence Fishburne’s voiceover. The studio seemed to think they had the makings of a spinoff on their hands too; they really pushed the character’s appearance in trailers, and a post credit scene reveals he survived his encounter with Galactus.
Fox hired famed comic writer J. Michael Straczynski to write a script, which would pick up from the ending of the previous movie. It would have filled in more of his backstory, including why he became the Surfer and where he came from. While the script apparently turned out well, Fox grew cold on it, with the middling reaction to Rise Of The Silver Surfer critically and commercially causing them to shelve the entire franchise for a few years.
Quentin Tarantino is rumored to have penned a script for the character back in the early '90s as well; the rights holders saw no value in a then unknown filmmaker tackling a cult comic book. Whoops?
9 Venom (Raimi-verse)
It’s fair to say Sam Raimi isn’t the biggest fan of Venom. He’s admitted as much in retrospective interviews, stating he doesn’t quite get the character’s appeal. The studio wanted the iconic villain to appear in Spider-Man 3 regardless, and while Raimi did his best to incorporate the character, his heart clearly wasn’t in it.
The studio was still planning Spider-Man 4 around this time, and felt a solo movie for Venom would be a good way to redeem the character. Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick – the pair that would later pen Deadpool – were hired to write, and worked on two drafts of the script.
It’s unknown if Topher Grace’s Eddie Brock would have returned, but the plan was to frame Venom an antihero rather than a full-on villain, with reports tapping Carnage as the potential villain. Gary Ross was then hired to rewrite and direct the script, but when Spider-Man 4 was canned, the Venom movie died with it.
While the original Kick-Ass had many great performances - from Nic Cage to Mark Strong - it was Chloe Moretz who stole the show. Hit-Girl was a foul-mouthed and lethal young assassin, though Moretz was able to play her vulnerable side too. While Kick-Ass 2 disappointed many fans of the source material, Moretz’s performance was easily the strongest part.
A solo movie with Hit-Girl felt like the next logical step for the series, and writer Mark Millar confirmed the idea was briefly considered. Gareth Evans – the mastermind behind The Raid movies – was attached to direct, and apparently, the concept would have been a prequel of some sort, but the indifferent response to Kick-Ass 2 doomed the movie. Millar also said his concept for the story was utterly "insane" and was worried it was too out there for audiences to accept.
Moretz has said it’s unlikely she’ll be playing the role again, and at this stage, the series is more likely to get a reboot than a direct follow-up.
7 Taylor Kitsch's Gambit
X-Men Origins: Wolverine is another example of a studio focusing on making sequels rather than making a solid movie, so they shoved a number of popular comic characters into the plot in the hopes that it would lead to spinoffs. This includes – most infamously – Deadpool, who was so badly botched that the eventual solo movie version actively made fun of it.
Gambit also made an appearance, played by Taylor Kitsch. The actor was poised to become a major star around this time, leading to his appearances in John Carter and Battleship, and he was quite charismatic as Gambit despite his brief screentime and lacking Cajun accent.
Following his introduction, Fox was eager to spin Gambit off into his own movie, but those plans were short-lived. Thanks to the instant negative response to Origins, Fox decided to sit on any planned spinoffs and decide what to do later, which is partly why Deadpool took so long. During this period, Kitsch’s star vehicles failed to generate much business, and with the X-Men timeline being rewritten post-Days Of Future Past, the notion of a Kitsch-led Gambit movie died for good.
6 Deacon Frost
Comic book movies were considered something of a joke back in the late nineties; at least until Blade made them cool again. Wesley Snipes was born to play the lead character, an ice cool vampire hunter armed with awesome weapons and salty quips.
Stephen Dorff also made an impression as Blade’s enemy Deacon Frost, who tries to resurrect a vampire god and gets destroyed in the process. Dorff and Blade director Stephen Norrington liked the character so much that they talked about making a prequel, showing how Frost became a vampire in the first place.
They envisioned it as a vampire version of Scarface, where the human Frost yearns to be something more, potentially leading to its own trilogy. It seems the Blade franchise’s early demise with Trinity killed those plans, and as it’s been nearly twenty years since he last played the role, it's very unlikely that a prequel would be greenlit now. Dorff claims he might resurrect the concept with a new character, but the project hasn’t been mentioned for a while now.
5 X-Men Origins: Magneto
A Magneto prequel was proposed as far back as 2004, which would have explored how the character evolved from vengeful Auschwitz survivor to a mutant villain. The movie would open with the character being liberated from the camp by Charles Xavier, who was a young soldier at the time.
The two form a friendship based on their shared experiences and mutant powers, but Magneto’s quest for vengeance against the Nazis who tortured him sees him turn to the dark side, and the story ended with Xavier and Magneto becoming enemies. Ian McKellen would have appeared as a framing device, with the story being told in flashbacks. Beast also would have shown up at some point in the story, but after years of development, the studio went cold on the idea, and the project was indefinitely shelved.
Much of the planned prequel's story got absorbed into X-Men: First Class instead, which makes another movie exploring the Master of Magnetism's past slightly moot.
4 Venom: Carnage (Webb-verse)
Alongside the Sinister Six movie, Sony also announced plans for a solo Venom outing. Reports at the time suggested that Marc Webb planned to include Eddie Brock in The Amazing Spider-Man 3, which would lead to the character becoming Venom in a future movie.
Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci were working on the script, with Kurtzman being linked to the director’s chair. Carnage once again appears to have been the villain of choice, with fan favorite Alan Tudyk being linked to the character during the early stages of development.
Just like Sinister Six, the project was put on ice following the reaction to The Amazing Spider-Man 2, and the creative team moved on when Sony made their deal with Marvel to bring Spider-Man into the MCU. It seems like the third time is the charm for a solo Venom adventure, with Tom Hardy now confirmed to play the character in a 2018 movie; a prospect that honestly sounds more exciting than a movie linked to The Amazing Spider-Man universe.
3 Chris O'Donnell's Robin
Warner Bros got a little drunk off their success with Batman Forever, with both the movie and its merchandise pulling in stellar numbers. That’s why Batman & Robin essentially became a brain-dead toy commercial, and during the production of that movie, they had plans for two more adventures.
One was Batman Unchained, where the dynamic duo would face Scarecrow and Harley Quinn, but various disagreements would lead to them splitting up. This would have set up a solo Robin adventure, which Chris O’Donnell confirmed was in the planning stages. It’s not known if the character would evolve into Nightwing over the course of the story, which seems like the natural direction. Reports also suggest that Tim Drake would have appeared in Unchained as well, setting him up as Dick Grayson’s replacement in future Dark Knight outings.
Both Unchained and the solo Robin adventure withered on the vine when Batman & Robin faced a toxic backlash from fans and critics alike, leading to the studio rebooting the franchise with Batman Begins.
2 Hellboy: Silverlance
Guillermo Del Toro fans across the globe were crushed when the filmmaker confirmed Hellboy III was totally dead, with any lingering doubt being destroyed when a reboot was recently announced. It’s a real shame, because the planned story will never be completed, and we'll never get to see Ron Perlman play the character again.
Neither will Doug Jones, who played sentient fish man Abe Sapien in both movies. Abe really got to shine in part two, where he is an active part of the story, getting to fall in love and even drunkenly sing a Barry Manilow song. A spinoff project titled Silverlance was put in development for Abe, which would have had close ties to the second movie.
Abe would have investigated the past of his deceased love interest Princess Nuada, and her links to some of Hellboy’s past villains. Agent Myers from the first movie would have returned, while The Angel Of Death and Hellboy himself were due to make cameo appearances. Writer Peter Briggs confirmed that the reboot has killed the project outright, so it will sadly never come to pass.
1 Batman Beyond
Warner Bros developed a number of potential projects following the hostile response to Batman & Robin, including Darren Aronofsky’s stripped down take on Batman: Year One. Around the same time, they considered a live-action version of Batman Beyond, which featured an elderly Bruce Wayne mentoring a new Batman to take his place in a futuristic Gotham City.
The cartoon was great and provided lots of juicy ideas for a potential movie series, so writer Paul Dini teamed with proposed director Boaz Yakin to pen the first draft. Reports suggest that Paul Newman and even Michael Keaton were considered for the older Bruce Wayne, with Ace the Bat-Hound also playing a big supporting role.
For whatever reason, Warner Bros decided not to go ahead after the script was submitted, with Aronofsky’s Year One also being shelved. Of all the potential spinoffs, it feels like Beyond had the most potential, offering a chance to create a new take on perhaps the most beloved superhero of them all, but since the next movie was Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins, it feels like WB’s ultimately made the right decision.
What other superhero spinoff projects found their way into development hell and never made it out? Let us know in the comments.