As superheroes continue to dominate the worldwide box office, the demand for more unique takes on those with superpowers grows. Luckily for viewers, comic publishers outside of the friendly competition between DC and Marvel are stepping up to fulfill this newfound interest in superhero stories. Some major developments for the genre include comics mainstay Todd McFarlane rebooting Spawn with the help of Blumhouse Productions and Valiant Comics partnering with Sony Pictures to bring the Harbinger Wars and more to cinemas.
Sadly, not every potential superhero movie or franchise from an aspiring comics publisher like Image Comics or Top Cow makes it past the proposal stage. Here are ten of those canceled superhero movies that aren’t from either DC or Marvel that we really wanted to see.
10 Rising Stars
Considered by its fans to be an often overlooked gem, Rising Stars takes a dark, politically-charged, and realistic look at how society and the superheroes (aka Specials) themselves would react to the advent of superhumans.
MGM bought the film rights to the limited series back in 2016, but hasn’t done anything with the property ever since. Some believe that the comics’ similarities to Heroes and The 4400 may have something to do with the delays, since those unfamiliar with the source material may think that Rising Stars imitated the aforementioned TV shows even if it predates them.
For years, Rob Liefeld futilely pitched a movie starring his team of extreme government-sanctioned superheroes/reality stars. His determination paid off when Brett Ratner was hired to direct it, with Robert Pattinson being eyed to lead the team as Shaft.
But before production began, copyright issues regarding the original comics ground everything to a halt. Worsening matters were the allegations of sexual harassment against Ratner, which tainted the project even more. While Liefeld’s other works have been optioned by different studios, it may be a while before his first superhero team gets the live-action treatment.
8 The Darkness
The story of anti-hero Jackie Estacado — a mafia hitman possessed by an ancient evil — was one of Top Cow’s bestsellers in the ‘90s, and its popularity caught the eyes of Hollywood. Problem was, no studio held onto the project for long.
After being passed from studio to studio, it was announced in 2012 that Underworld director Len Wiseman would direct and produce The Darkness. Since then, news about the adaptation has been scarce, with Top Cow COO Matt Hawkins admitting that it’s “one of those projects that just seems to go on forever and ever.”
Top Cow’s most recognized comic centers on the titular ancient gauntlet that imbues supernatural powers to the women who wield it. Given its popularity and the then growing superhero boom, it wasn’t much of a surprise when Witchblade was optioned for a feature film in 2008.
But for unknown reasons, the Witchblade movie was canceled despite having a distributor (Summit Entertainment), director (Michael Rymer of Queen of the Damned), and producers (Darlight Films and Platinum Studios) at the ready. It was originally set for a 2009 release date.
As much a supernatural superhero as John Constantine is, Cassie Hack protects the mortal world by bashing Slashers in the face with a baseball bat. Her road trips with Vlad were set for a movie after Relativity Media and Rogue Pictures bought the rights in 2006, but production has faced roadblocks ever since.
The adaptation was scheduled to premiere in 2008 and then 2012, before Relativity Television decided in 2015 that it would be better as a series. As of 2018, there have been no updates regarding Hack/Slash, though a rumor about Blumhouse adapting it has been debunked.
Invincible chronicled how colorful yet violent the superhero life is, making this story the perfect match for the creatively subversive tandem of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, the showrunners of Preacher and The Boys.
Together with Invincible creator Robert Kirkman, the two were set to write, direct, and co-produce the adaptation before it was delayed in favor of an adult-oriented animated series from Amazon Video. Reports claim that the feature film is still in development, but it’s possible that its fate will be determined by the success or failure of the animated series.
4 Marshal Law
Marshal Law is arguably one of the most influential yet underrated satirical anti-heroes around, and he was considered for a movie more than once. But according to creator Pat Mills, negotiations never went beyond the meeting room.
McG was chosen to direct and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson showed interest in the adaptation. However, the failure of Terminator: Salvation convinced studios to decline McG’s proposal while Mills turned down The Rock because of The Tooth Fairy. At the time, Mills wasn’t ready for the potential backlash that may have ensued from casting the Tooth Fairy as the brutal hero hunter.
3 Kick-Ass 3 and Hit-Girl
Due to the underwhelming box office performance of Kick-Ass 2, the potential finale to the adaptation of Mark Millar’s ultra-realistic and violent superhero trilogy plus a prequel starring Hit-Girl were put on hold indefinitely.
Millar, the filmmakers, and the actors all said that they’re ready to reprise their roles, but the franchise’s future rests in the hands of the producers. Director Matthew Vaughn expressed interest in rebooting the franchise only now focused on the second Kick-Ass Patience Lee instead of Dave Lizewski, making the chances of a direct follow-up highly unlikely.
2 Dredd 2
Despite its critical acclaim, Dredd bombed at the box office and barely made its budget back. This killed its potential sequels that would’ve brought Judge Death and the Dark Judges to the big screen, plus adapting popular storylines like Origins and Democracy.
Karl Urban, who portrayed Judge Dredd, said the film’s dedicated fanbase and newfound cult status continually bolster arguments for a sequel. Though a theatrical follow-up remains unlikely, Dredd may find a future in the series Judge Dredd: Mega-City One, which could possibly bring Urban back as the iconic judge.
1 Hellboy 3 and Hellboy: Silverlance
The conclusion to Guillermo del Toro’s Hellboy trilogy remains one of pop culture’s greatest “What Ifs.” For many reasons, Hellboy III and its proposed spin-off/prequel Hellboy: Silverlance (starring Abe Sapien and Prince Nuada) never got off the ground.
The potential finale would’ve focused on Hellboy accepting his birthright as the Beast of the Apocalypse while also featuring the resurrected antagonists Rasputin and Kroenen. Instead of this, Lionsgate rebooted Hellboy with a new cast and crew. Thanks to the reboot’s colossal failure, the future is now bleak for any future Hellboy project.