The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been expanding rapidly over the last decade or so. But even before the MCU became a household name, Marvel made movies and television shows that have long since been forgotten. With the huge resurgence of comic book movies and television shows, more and more people are curious about exploring Marvel’s past and finding other forgotten gems.
Did you know about the teenage Tony Stark’s high school exploits in Iron Man: Armored Adventures (2009-2012)? 3 The Turkish Marvel rip-off movie with an evil misogynistic Spider-Man, 3 Dev Adam (1973)? The Digimon-esque Marvel Disk Wars: The Avengers (2014-2015) that still needs to come stateside? Or the failed TV pilot for Generation X (1996), which tried to capitalize on the X-Men by using characters like Emma Frost and Jubilee?
Enjoy these pieces of forgotten Marvel movie and television history plus many, many more. Some were failures on every level and others were good pieces of cinema or television that sadly just slipped through the cracks. Here are 20 Marvel Movies And TV Shows You Forgot Existed.
20 Iron Man: Armored Adventures (2009-2012)
In response to the popularity of the Iron Man (2008) movie, an animated television series for the titular tin man was created by Christopher Yost (who also worked on Wolverine and the X-Men). The series focused on a teenage Tony Stark who finds himself against his father’s employee Obadiah Stane, who plans on taking control of Stark Industries. After his father is presumed dead from a plane crash, Tony becomes the invincible Iron Man. Alongside teenage versions of James “Rhodey” Rhodes and Pepper Potts, Tony faces off against Obadiah Stane and Justin Hammer (clearly showing their movie influence).
The show features American/French 3D computer-generated imagery and ran for two seasons and 52 episodes. Some story arcs in the show are loosely based on the comics, including “Armor Wars” and “Stane International.” Some notable characters in the show are Black Panther, The Hulk, S.H.I.E.L.D., Black Widow, Hawkeye, Doctor Doom, and Magneto. Rhodey also becomes Tony Stark’s crimefighting partner War Machine and Pepper Pots dons the armor of Rescue in the second season.
Iron Man: Armored Adventures got mixed reviews, but in 2012 it did win the Pulcinella Award for Best TV Series for Teens.
19 Meteor Man (1993)
Unlike most of Marvel’s films, Meteor Man is not based on any Marvel comic book character. No, instead, Marvel put the superhero into their universe in a six issue spin-off mini-series released after the film. Robert Townsend directed, wrote, and starred as Jefferson Reed, aka Meteor Man. The film is about a school teacher who gets his superpowers after being hit by a meteor. He uses his powers to help out in his neighborhood, but they start to weaken when he’s about to go up against a powerful drug syndicate.
The movie was not well-received but remains a fond memory for some of those who actually remember it. Meteor Man has a 29% score on Rotten Tomatoes' Tomatometer and a 36% audience score. Roger Ebert even said, “The movie contains big laughs and moments of genuine feeling, but it seems to be put together out of assorted inspirations that were never assembled into one coherent story line.” Ultimately, Ebert decided, “If ‘Meteor Man’ has settled for being a children's movie, or a metaphor, or a comic revue, that might have been best; unfortunately, it's all over the map, and the good parts can't carry the rest.”
18 Doctor Strange (1978)
Before the Sorcerer Supreme became a member of the modern day Marvel Cinematic Universe, he starred in his very own film that no one remembers. It was created for TV and to kickstart a television show that never got off the ground. There were a lot of changes from the comics. For one, Dr. Stephen Strange, played by Petter Hooten (Orca, The Inglorious Bastards), works as a psychiatrist in a psychiatric hospital. He’s mentored by Merlin from Arthurian lore and he fights against an evil entity and Morgan le Fay, played by Jessica Walter (Archer, Arrested Development).
The Hollywood Reporter gave a detailed account about the high hopes CBS had for the TV film. They actually thought this would be their big thing, but the TV movie ended up getting really bad ratings. Clyde Kusatsu, who played Strange’s assistant Wong in the film, mentioned that "I don't think the public was ready for that kind of otherworldliness. If you looked around that time, if you look at the old Hulk thing, it was pretty primitive…. But we did the best we could without a lot of greenscreen, CGI and all of that stuff. It was a great experience."
The film is remembered rather fondly for its cheesy nature now, but at the time it was actually a pretty ambitious project that could have made for a unique TV experience.
17 Avengers: United They Stand (1999-2000)
It’s hard to make a good Avengers TV series when other companies own the more popular characters at the time. This animated series focused on the West Coast Avengers roster from 1984, which included the likes of Ant-Man, the Wasp, Wonder Man, Tigra, Hawkeye, Falcon, the Vision, and the Scarlet Witch.
Licensing originally forbade them from using Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor; but Captain America and Iron Man do make appearances, as does Thor in the intro. Roland Poindexter, Vice President and Head of Programming at Fox Kids, said it worked because they were “…a group of second-string characters as far as their powers are concerned, living under this powerful legacy left by Iron Man, Thor and Captain America. They constantly feel the pressure of living up to that legacy. We think that makes for a much more interesting show.”
Fox wanted the series, thanks to the success of Batman Beyond (1999), which is also the reason why Avengers: United They Stand was set in the future. The show only lasted for 13 episodes and received mostly negative reviews. Sadly, these second-stringers couldn’t bring in the ratings like their more popular counterparts could.
16 Man-Thing (2005)
Not to be confused with DC’s Swamp Thing (or a double entendre), Man-Thing actually appeared first in the comics. He may look similar, but he does have some different powers that have a real kick to them… including the ability to make men who feel fear combust into flames with a simple touch. This science-fiction film takes place in a swamp where an oil tycoon’s men visit a swamp and plan to drill it for oil. However, they all end up mysteriously disappearing. While investigating the situation, the sheriff meets the mythical Man-Thing.
The film bombed and received mostly negative reviews. Today, it's widely considered one of the worst live-action Marvel movies. It’s a real shame, because a movie like this had potential. Maybe Marvel will remember their creature from the swamps and finally give him the movie he deserves. After they make another 50 X-Men movies and TV shows, of course.
15 Spider-Woman (1979-1980)
The animated Spider-Woman series, besides featuring Jessica Drew as a woman with spider-like powers, differed completely from the comic books of the time. As a child, Jessica Drew got bitten by a deadly spider, but she was saved by her father, a scientist, who created an experimental serum. She could also communicate with spiders. Jessica’s life was saved and there were some super side effects. She was able to create concussive "venom blasts", had “spider sense”, and got super hearing as well. She could also communicate with spiders and do other super feats even her comic book counterpart could not accomplish. Now all grown up, Jessica works as an editor at Justice Magazine by day and battles criminals by night as Spider-Woman.
The show featured a bizarre assortment of villains. Some of the enemies she went up against included classic movie monsters like Dracula, the Wolf Man, Frankenstein’s monster, and… alien mummies. Spider-Man even guest-starred. However, all of that combined didn’t stop the show from only lasting 16 episodes.
14 3 Dev Adam / Captain America and Santo vs. Spider-Man (1973)
3 Dev Adam (3 Giant Men), also known as Captain America and Santo vs. Spider-Man, is a Turkish film that rips off Marvel characters without worrying about pesky copyright issues. In the film, Captain America teams up with the luchador wrestler known as Santo. The two go to Istanbul to defeat the villainous Spider-Man and his gang.
This bizarre piece of cinema is fascinating to watch. Spider-Man’s depiction may be the most amazing part. His red and blue costume has been replaced by a pink and green one. The way he tortures people is particularly memorable. He starts off by burying a woman up to her neck in sand on the beach and then puts a boat propeller in her face. He’s definitely not your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man here! Then there's the Turkish versions of Captain America and Santo.
This film just may be worth a watch if you’re interested in a bizarre piece of Marvel’s history that they didn’t ask for.
13 Power Pack (1991)
This is a Marvel comic book series that really deserves a full-blown movie or TV show. It’s about a group of young siblings who get superpowers. The original comics from the '80s dealt with rather mature issues, including gun violence, bullying, and homelessness; it attained a cult following and, inevitably, Marvel made a pilot episodes for the Power Pack, but it failed to become a TV show.
The pilot was about the Power kids moving to a new town and getting superpowers... so basically the same thing as the original series, but not as heavy on the mature themes. It also didn’t follow the origin story of the characters, relying on a mysterious narrator in the opening to tell us he gave them his powers, rather than showing us anything-- kind of a bummer considering how they get their powers from an alien who looks like a humanoid horse in the comics. Sure, they probably didn’t have the budget, but couldn’t they just steal the Polluticorn costume from the Power Rangers set or something?
The weird plot and bad kid actors didn’t help matters. Next time Marvel, just make an animated series. Please let there be a next time!
12 Generation X (1996)
Created as a spin-off from the X-Men, Generation X was a failed TV pilot about young mutants training at Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. However, it failed to feature fan-favorites such as Wolverine and Professor X. Instead, this is an off-shoot school for wayward mutants run by Emma Frost and Banshee. Their students include Monet, aka M, an invulnerable and extremely intelligent mutant with an ego to match; Jubilation Lee, aka Jubilee, a newcomer to the school who can create plasma energy like fireworks; Bumper Robinson, aka Mondo, who can become the properties of whatever he touches; Angelo Espinosa, aka Skin, who can stretch his skin out; Arlee Hicks, aka Buff, who can increase her muscles at will; and Kurt Pastorious, aka Refrax, who is basically Cyclops.
The shoe-string budget meant the mutant abilities couldn’t be very super. Add to that a "meh" script that didn’t follow the comics and a clichéd mad scientist villain who was more annoying than threatening, and this TV pilot was doomed to fail from the beginning.
11 Marvel Disk Wars: The Avengers (2014-2015)
Marvel Disk Wars: The Avengers is what you get when you combine Digimon with the Avengers. And it looks awesome, despite clearly being a tie in for toys from Bandai. Animated by the wonderful Toei Animation, the show ran for 51 episodes and originally premiered in Japanese in Tokyo. It was translated to English and appeared on the Disney Channel in the Philippines and Disney XD in Southeast Asia.
The series features Iron Man creating the Digital Identity Securement Kit (DISKs), which were created to hold supervillains. However, things go horribly wrong when Loki breaks villains out of the DISKs and replaced them with Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Wasp, and Hulk. Five children get the DISKs biocodes and get the power to bring out one of those heroes for a little while. The show follows the group as they use their DISKs to track down and capture the rest of the scattered DISKs. Most importantly? Deadpool makes an appearance in the show!
Seriously though, this actually looks really awesome.
10 Captain America and Captain America II: Death Too Soon (1979)
In 1979, Reb Brown (Space Mutiny, Yor, the Hunter from the Future) starred in not one, but two failed TV movie pilots as our star spangled hero Captain America. The first film features his origin story, which includes him taking the FLAG (Full Latent Ability Gain) serum that was created by his father after he crashes his motorcycle. He battles an industrialist who has a neutron bomb that he plans to use in order to wipe out Phoenix. In the sequel, Captain America faces off against a villain played by Christopher Lee (The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars) of all people, who plans on poisoning America by using a chemical to cause everyone to age rapidly.
Even with two made-for-TV movies, Captain America did not turn into a successful series. It may have something to do with the fact that these superhero movies were not action-packed. Also, here’s a fun little factoid: in the epitome of laziness, the box art for the VHS releases of both movies featured the same exact image, but with different colors and a few other minor additions.
9 Spider-Man Unlimited (1999-2001)
Spider-Man Unlimited was a short-lived animated series created by Saban Entertainment, the creators of the Power Rangers. Peter Parker travels to a counter Earth to save a space crew that includes J. Jonah Jameson’s son John Jameson. He is sporting a new Spider suit that uses nanotechnology, which was made by Mr. Fantastic. On this Counter-Earth, Beastials (animal-human hybrids) are the dominant species and humans are second-class citizens.
Spider-Man ends up staying on Counter-Earth, joining a band of Freedom Fighters (as well as fighting alongside John Jameson, who turns into Man-Wolf). The series features several classic Spider-Man villains like Venom and Carnage, while also turning classic Spider-Man villains Green Goblin and the Vulture into heroes.
The show was canceled after a few episodes despite its decent ratings, mostly thanks to Pokémon and Digimon grabbing people’s attention away from it. This is a shame considering the show actually wasn’t totally terrible, and it ended on a cliffhanger that was planned to be resolved in a second season that never came.
8 Night Man (1997-1999)
Somehow, an unknown character like Night Man managed to get a television show that ran for two seasons (44 episodes). The series follows Johnny Domino, a saxophone player who gets hit by lightning. Of course, bound by comic book logic, he gets superpowers. Specifically, he becomes telepathically linked to evil, making it easy for him to find bad guys to take down. Night Man wears special gear to help in his fight against evil, including a bulletproof bodysuit, an anti-gravity belt to fly, a cape that allows him to turn invisible and a mask with a red lens that gives him the ability to see in the dark and shoot lasers.
Not a traditional Marvel character, Night Man was originally created by Malibu Comics, but after they were bought by Marvel Comics, the publisher continued using the character in their Ultraverse imprint. The show also featured a guest appearance by Simon MacCorkindale (Jaws 3-D, Casualty) as Professor Jonathan Chase, reprising his role from Manimal (1983).
7 Spider-Man: The New Animated Series (2003)
Remember when Neil Patrick Harris voiced Spider-Man? Yeah, not many people do. This animated series only lasted 13 episodes and is easily upstaged by the Spectacular Spider-Man series that followed it. The show used computer generated imagery with cel shading rather than traditional animation, and took place after the events of the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man film. Peter, Mary Jane, and Harry Osborn all go to Empire State University. Peter and MJ try and fail pretty hard at pursuing a romantic relationship while Harry (voiced by Sharknado star Ian Ziering) continues to crave revenge against Spider-Man for killing his father.
It is interesting how the writers seemed to bring both Gwen Stacy and Betty Brant into the series by creating one character that took traits from both of them, Indira "Indy" Daimonji. She would often get in the way of Peter’s relationship with Mary Jane. It is two against one, after all!
The show was on MTV but was canceled because of ratings, which left the show with an unresolved cliffhanger. The second season supposedly would have Spider-Man face-off against such classic villains as Mysterio and Vulture.
6 Dracula: Sovereign of the Damned (1980)
Marvel may be known for its superheroes, but they published several long-running horror series as well. One of them, The Tomb of Dracula, first published in 1972 and running until 1979, featured a group of vampire hunters who battled Count Dracula and other supernatural creatures. Dracula: Sovereign of the Damned is a horrible animated movie made in Japan that was based on these comics. The story didn’t focus on the vampire hunters but instead the Vampire King himself, Count Dracula, who steals the Devil’s girlfriend in order to stop Satan from having sex with her. Yep, that’s our story.
Although The Tomb of Dracula is the series that first introduced Marvel's famed vampire slayer, Blade, he never appeared in Dracula: Sovereign of the Damned. Some highlights of the movie include when Dracula bites a woman’s neck and turns her “into Smurfette” and Dracula eating a hamburger. You may want to take a bite out of this one—it’s quite an entertaining piece of… cinema?
5 The Fantastic Four (1994)
Most people remember the recent Fantastic Four boredom bombshell that dropped on us a couple years back, as well as the pair of Fantastic Four movies in the early 2000s with Jessica Alba as the Invisible Girl and Chris Evans as the Human Torch before he put on the stars and stripes. However, some people forget about or have never even heard of the cheesy, low-bugest Fantastic Four film from the '90s.
The Fantastic Four was an independent superhero film about four scientists who come into contact with cosmic rays that give them superpowers. They become the superhero team known as the Fantastic Four and fight their arch-enemy Doctor Doom. Nothing new really from the other film adaptations of the group. So what makes this one different?
The film was never released and featured poor acting and terrible special effects that weren’t so special. However, it has gained something of a cult following. The movie was actually on Wizard Magazine’s list of "50 Top Comic Movies of All Time (...and Some So Bad You've Just Got to See Them).” It was even ranked higher than the following “gems”: Batman & Robin, Steel, and Red Sonja.
4 Silver Surfer (1998)
The Silver Surfer television show followed the adventures of the titular character. It paid homage to Jack Kirby’s style. It leaves out several key characters, including the Fantastic Four and Galactus from the story based on the comics in the first three episodes of the show. Instead, the Silver Surfer gets some of his memories back thanks to Thanos and he decides to protect the Earth from Galactus because it reminds him of his own destroyed home. The show does include some out of this world guest appearances from The Watcher, Ego the Living Planet, Pip the Troll, Drax the Destroyer, and Adam Warlock.
Another show created by Saban Entertainment, the series received decent reviews. It ran for one season (13 episodes) and would have gone for another 13 episodes, except that Marvel was going through bankruptcy problems at the time, so they could not afford to make the rest of the show. So we were left with a cliffhanger to a show that is fondly remembered by those who watched it.
3 Monster of Frankenstein (1981)
In the vein of Dracula: Sovereign of the Damned, a Japanese animated TV special created by Toei Animation. It was based on the original Mary Shelley novel as well as the Marvel horror series The Monster of Frankenstein. The story follows the typical plot: Victor Frankenstein creates a creature he deems a monster and abandons. However, in this version, Frankenstein’s monster becomes friends with a young girl named Emily and her grandfather, who gives him the name Franken. Unfortunately, Franken does not get a happy ending, nor does Victor.
The animation had a limited release in the U.S. It only took from parts of the comic book series. It has a very bizarre scene in which Franken gets shot in the hand by Emily and then goes into a church. He sees a statue of Jesus with holes in his hands and asks God for forgiveness. This parallel between the “monster” and Jesus is probably the most interesting symbolism in the film. Other than that, the ending is a real downer and the animation is rather cheap looking.
2 Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. (1998)
This TV movie stars David Hasselhoff (Knight Rider, Baywatch) as retired spy Nick Fury, who finds himself in a fight against the terrorist organization HYDRA, led by Baron Wolfgang von Strucker. His daughter, Lady Viper (Sandra Hess), leads a group of HYDRA agents to steal the Death’s Head virus. They plan on releasing the pathogen to Manhattan unless they get paid one billion dollars. Fury works alongside the Contessa (Lisa Rinna), Dum-Dum Dugan (Garry Chalk), Gabriel (Ron Canada), and Alexander Goodwin (Neil Roberts).
According to Hasselhoff on Movie Line, “my Nick Fury was the organic Nick Fury that was written and discussed with Stan Lee before anyone got in there to change it. Nick Fury was written to be tongue-in-cheek, and he had a cigar in his mouth, he was a tough guy — he was cool.” The TV film failed to lead to a television show thanks to its campy nature.
1 Black Panther (2010)
Unlike a lot of the other entries on this list, this is actually an awesome motion comic that ran for six episodes on TV. It premiered on BET in the U.S. and ABC3 in Australia. The story is about T’Challa becoming the Black Panther after his father’s assassination in his quest for revenge. Meanwhile, the assassin, T’Chaka, ends up creating a team of villains (which includes the likes of Batroc the Leaper, Juggernaut, the Vatican Black Knight, and the Russian Radioactive Man) to take control of Wakanda. The voice work features the likes of Djimon Hounsou (Gladiator, Guardians of the Galaxy) as the Black Panther, Stan Lee (yes, that Stan Lee) as General Wallace, and Kerry Washington (Django Unchained, Scandal) as Princess Shuri.
This is such a great motion comic and comes highly recommended. It tells a complete story, taken right from the Marvel Knights Black Panther mini-series. If you’re done watching Marvel’s cheesy failed pilots, give this a watch!
Is there a piece of Marvel’s cinematic history that’s been forgotten to the point where it didn’t even show up on this list? Let us know in the comments below!