With so many comic book live adaptations hitting us, from ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’, ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past‘ and ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier‘ on the big screen and ‘Arrow‘, ‘The Flash‘, ‘Gotham‘ and ‘Constantine’ on the small screen, I thought it would be fun to look back on some projects that never took off. Some were actually made, but not officially released to the public. Some didn’t even make it that far. Let’s see…
10. Captain America – The Broadway Musical
Marvel ran this ad in all of its comics, declaring their desire to turn Captain America, the Star-Spangled Avenger, into a Broadway musical. The show would have featured Cap befriending a precocious young girl. Ugh. Supposedly the show went pretty far into development, with rehearsals and everything, but in the end, it just didn’t gel enough to actually hit the Great White Way.
Recently, the U2-produced ‘Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark’ did make it, but was plagued by accidents and mishaps, not to mention awful reviews and closed fairly quickly.
However, this summer, Marvel did create a touring show starring multiple Marvel heroes that seems to have gone over well.
9. Black Widow and Daredevil
This was the brainchild of Angela Bowie, the ex-wife of rock star David Bowie. She envisioned herself in the role of Marvel’s Black Widow, who had a lengthy romance with Daredevil. As such, she brought in actor Ben Carruthers to play the “Man with no Fear” (but with huge eyes) in a TV adaptation. The project, so far as I can tell, only amounted to a photo shoot. It never got picked up to a series, but Daredevil kind of made an appearance on an ‘Incredible Hulk’ TV movie, portrayed by Rex Smith, although honestly it was one of those “Daredevil in name only” cases. In the 2000s, Ben Affleck played the character in a box office bomb.
Of course, Scarlett Johansson has since embodied the Black Widow in three Marvel films, ‘Iron Man 2’, ‘The Avengers’ and ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ and will also appear in the upcoming ‘Avengers: The Age Of Ultron’… and maybe even in her own solo movie.
8. The She-Hulk
Back in the 80s, Brigitte Nielson was kind of a movie star. Kind of. She was briefly married to Sylvester Stallone. She’s also released some albums and is nowadays more known for appearing on reality TV and dating Flavor Flav. But back in her heyday, she played one comic book character, Red Sonja in a live-action movie. But she had further goals. She heavily campaigned to play the She-Hulk. This was around the time that the first Tim Burton-directed ‘Batman’ came out and broke records, so comic book properties were hot. Unfortunately– or fortunately, depending on how you look at it– Nielson’s She-Hulk project never happened. The green goddess has yet to be adapted to live action.
7. Wonder Woman
When William Dozier’s ‘Batman‘ TV series debuted, it sparked a nation-wide fad, dubbed ‘Batmania’. Suddenly, superheroes and comic books were all the rage. Hoping to capitalize on this craze, Dozier created a short pilot for a Wonder Woman companion series. Unfortunately, the concept varied noticeably from the comic book source material. This Wonder Woman was an “ugly” woman, but when she looked in the mirror, she saw a beautiful woman played by a different actress. She also lived in a suburban house with her nagging mother. Not exactly Queen Hippolyta on Themyscira. The project wasn’t approved however, which is probably for the best.
6. The Justice League of America
In the mid-90s, CBS attempted to bring DC’s flagship super team to television. Unfortunately, at the time, the group did NOT include DC’s most famous heroes. This was a cult classic “international” version of the super team, written by J.M. DeMatteis and Kieth Giffen. While that era has its staunch fans, it maybe could have used a few heavy hitters. At any rate, the show attempted to emulate the comics lighter, comedic tone with the male heroes living as awkward roommates. In the comics, Green Lantern (Guy Gardner) was an insufferable jerk, but here, played by Matthew Settle, he was the responsible leader of the team… who, uh serenaded his date with opera in a crowded restaurant. The rest of the team consisted of The Flash, The Atom, Fire, Ice and The Martian Manhunter.
The costumes really weren’t half bad, but unfortunately TV just didn’t have the proper budget at the time to support a series with characters with such flashy powers. The pilot was simply bad, so CBS passed on it. It has been leaked and has also reportedly been aired on foreign TV networks.
5. Jack Black as Green Lantern
Jack Black was on a role for a while. His musical TV project ‘Tenacious D’ gained a cult following and then he headlined the hit ‘School of Rock’. Unfortunately, his career has cooled since then, but for a while, he was a certifiable, bankable star. Unfortunately, one project that he was attached to was an adaptation of ‘Green Lantern.’ The proposed take would have been comical, since Black is… well… husky. The project fell apart and Ryan Reynolds eventually got the part, in what turned out to be a flop. DC has plans to bring in another Green Lantern in its current film franchise.
This one actually made it to pilot, but wasn’t picked up. The CW had a solid hit on its hands with ‘Smallville,’ a teenage version of Superman’s origin. It was logical to think they could use that to craft another show about a DC super hero’s adolescent years. They chose amphibious Aquaman, a character they had already used on ‘Smallville’ played by Alan Ritchson. As with ‘Smallville,’ they decided not to use the character’s name in the title and instead called it ‘Tempest Keys’ and later ‘Mercy Reef,’ named after the show’s setting. Instead of using Ritchson, the role of Arthur “A.C.” Curry was recast with Justin Hartley taking the lead role.
Unfortunately, the series wasn’t picked up by the network, but the pilot was released on iTunes, under the name ‘Aquaman’ and became their biggest selling TV episode for some time. The episode was later released on DVD with season sets of ‘Smallville’. Ritchson resumed the role of Aquaman on several episodes of ‘Smallville,’ while Hartley became a series regular as Green Arrow.
3. Wonder Woman (Part 2)
The infamous ‘Wonder Woman’ pilot starred Adrianne Palicki as the title character, as well as her alter ego Diana Themyscira… and her other alter ego, Diana Prince. Despite an all-star cast including Cary Elwes and Elizabeth Hurley, the storyline was bland– essentially the same as Halle Berry’s dreadful ‘Catwoman’ movie– and fans reacted with revulsion when the initial Wonder Woman costume was revealed and looked to be entirely made of shiny plastic. (As you can see, they changed that in the final pilot.) This Wonder Woman was slightly neurotic and fretted over the size of her boobs. Producer David E. Kelley (‘Ally McBeal’) admitted that he didn’t want to take on the project and then when he did so, changed it to match his sensibilities.
Never the less, hopes were high, but ultimately NBC aborted the show before it was even fully completed. It has since leaked online in its unfinished format. Recently The CW developed a Wonder Woman project called ‘Amazon‘ that, true to form, would have showcased a younger Diana, but the development dragged on with the network unsure of how to approach it and they eventually dropped it altogether. Gal Gadot will be playing the character in the upcoming movie ‘Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice’.
2. Justice League (The Movie)
Christopher Nolan’s ‘Batman’ movies were in full swing and Marvel hadn’t yet really made a huge splash with their movies. DC Comics’ parent company, Warner Brothers was keen to capitalize on this brand, so they hired George Miller to direct a movie starring the ‘Justice League.’ A full cast was assembled– Armie Hammer as Batman (yes, there would have been two cinematic Batmen at the same time), Adam Brody as Flash, D.J. Cotrona as Superman, Megan Gale as Wonder Woman, Common as Green Lantern, Santiago Cabrera as Aquaman, Hugh Keays-Byrne as the Martian Manhunter, Teresa Palmer as Talia Al Ghul, and Jay Baruchel as Maxwell Lord. The production was even slated to begin filming in Australia…
Then there was a Hollywood writers strike. (The same one responsible for Joss Whedon’s ‘Doctor Horrible‘ shorts with Neil Patrick Harris.) Production shut down… and never resumed. Warner Brothers seemingly just dropped the project altogether. There was talk that they would switch from doing full live action to a mix of live action and CGI, similar to the film ‘Beowulf’ but that didn’t happen either. This film simply… went away.
1. Superman Lives
Finally, we come to the infamous ‘Superman Lives’, which would have been directed by Tim Burton, who had previously helmed the first two ‘Batman’ movies, with a script that, at one point, was written by Kevin Smith, with Nicholas Cage in the title role and with Chris Rock playing sidekick Jimmy Olsen. There were also some polar bears, a giant mechanical spider the eventually wound up in the Will Smith flop ‘Wild, Wild West’ and an effeminate gay robot. (C-3PO called and said, “Bitch, that’s been done.”)
This movie got REALLY far into development, with costumes made, sets built and more, before it completely fell apart. It would have pitted the Man of Steel against villains that had never been used in film before, Brainiac and Doomsday. It would have also included a cameo by Michael Keaton, reprising his Batman role at Superman’s funeral.
There’s even a documentary in the works that will delve into this project and just why it crumbled.
What do you think? Would have liked to have seen any of the projects come to fruition? Have you seen any that were actually produced? If so, what did you think?