Comic Book Movies Before They Were Cool

Hello nerds and nerdettes! Comic book movies have had a great run for the past 16 years thanks to CGI, 3D and other new technology that’s come along. But what about those comic book movies that everyone forgot? Let's jump into the DeLorean and take a little trip back through time and check these movies out!


In 1984, DC Comics released Supergirl to act as a spinoff to the very popular Superman films that starred Christopher Reeves. The film stars Faye Dunaway, Helen Slater as Supergirl, and Peter O'Toole, with Marc McClure reprising his role as Jimmy Olsen from the Superman films. He was the only actor to do so. The film was released in the United Kingdom on July 19, 1984 and failed to impress critics and audiences alike. Dunaway and O'Toole earned Golden Raspberry Award nominations for Worst Actress and Worst Actor, respectively. However, Slater was nominated for a Saturn Award for Best Actress. The film's failure ultimately led the Salkinds to sell the Superman rights to Cannon Films in 1986. Supergirl hasn't had any kind of recognition until 2015, being released on CBS as an ongoing series that I, personally, am still not too impressed with.





In 1989, Marvel released The Punisher that starred Dolph Lundgren. The film changes many details of the comic book origin and the main character does not even wear the trademark "skull". Frank Castle is the city's most wanted, and most mysterious, vigilante, known as "The Punisher". He has killed 125 criminals in the past five years. An ex­police officer, Castle's family was murdered in a mob hit, in which Castle was also thought to have perished. This combined with Castle's furtive methods of attack have made the Punisher's identity a mystery to the general public. Thank goodness for the 2004 reboot, right?







In 1990, Marvel Entertainment tried to release Captain America before all the awesome effects were available. While the film takes several liberties with the comic's storyline, it features Steve Rogers becoming Captain America during World War II to battle the Red Skull, being frozen in ice, and subsequently being revived to save the President of the United States from a crime family that dislikes his environmentalist policies. The film was supposed to be released in the summer of 1990, to coincide with the fiftieth anniversary of Captain America. Several release dates were announced between fall 1990 and winter 1991, but the film went unreleased for two years before debuting direct­to­video and on cable television in the United States in the summer of 1992 and was given a limited theatrical release internationally.






In 1994, Dark Horse took a shot at the big screen and brought out Time Cop. The film stars Jean-Claude Van Damme as a police officer in 1994 and a U.S. Federal agent in 2004, when time travel has been made possible. It also stars Ron Silver as a rogue politician and Mia Sara as the agent's wife. The story follows an interconnected web of episodes in the agent's life as he fights time­travel crime and investigates the politician's unusually successful career. Timecop remains Van Damme's highest grossing film (his second to break the $100 million barrier for a worldwide gross) as a lead actor. It is generally regarded as one of Van Damme's better films by critics and one of my favorite films by Van Damme.






Also in 1994, an independent film for the Fantastic Four was made but was never actually officially released. Executive produced by low budget specialist Roger Corman and Bernd Eichinger (who went on to produce a big budget Fantastic Four film in 2005), the film was based on Marvel Comics' long running comic book and featured the origin of the Fantastic Four and that superhero team's first battle with the evil Doctor Doom, combining the superteam's origin from The Fantastic Four #1 and Doom's origin from Fantastic Four Annual #2 with original elements. Despite a tentative scheduled 1994 release date, the film was ultimately never released officially, but illegal copies began circulating after a few years. Too bad they've never been able to make a decent FF film.





In 1998, Marvel took another stab at another character. Nick Fury: Agent of SHIELD was a television film that was first broadcast on May 26, 1998 on Fox. Directed by Rod Hardy, the film stars David Hasselhoff as Fury, a retired super spy who is approached to return to duty to take down the terrorist organization HYDRA, who threaten to attack Manhattan with a pathogen they have reconstituted known as the Death's Head virus. This was the first and only time Nick Fury was given his own film.






Have you seen any of these films?

Are there any films that we missed along the way that failed before comic book films were cool? Let us know in the comments.