Lost & Unmade Superhero movies of the 1990s
By Bert Ehrmann
March 15, 2013
These days superhero movies are some most popular types of films. Flicks last year like The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises and The Amazing Spider-Man grossed a staggering $1.3 billion combined in ticket sales alone. But superhero movies weren't always this popular. While there were successful superhero films in the 1970s and '80s with Superman and 1980s and 90's with the Batman films, superhero movies pre-21st century were a rarity rather than the norm.
But with the success of a movie like Batman that earned over $400 million at the box office why weren't there loads of imitators in theaters in the 1990s? In fact, there were plenty planned but only a few that were made.
The ones that got made in the 1990s include three Batman sequels as well as Captain America and Punisher movies too. A Fantastic Four movie was filmed but was never officially released. There was a Judge Dredd movie that did okay at the box office and movies based on the comics Barb Wire, Spawn and Steel (anyone remember those?) that were all bombs. In fact, the only comic book to movie that was successful enough at the box office to warrant any sequels other than Batman in the 1990s was Blade (1998).
But many more comic book movies were planned but for whatever reason never went into production. Much of this information comes from old issues of the magazine Comics Scene that used to chart comic book movies in the making. Note, while many of the movies listed below would eventually be made, they would be created after the 1990s, under different circumstances and with different creative teams.
The most famous of these unmade movies is Spider-Man that would have been written and directed by James Cameron (Aliens, Avatar). James Cameron's Spider-Man would have been released sometime after his smash Terminator 2 (1991) and would have featured Spider-Man battling Sandman and Electro. Unfortunately, the company that owned the film rights to the webhead went bankrupt and legal issues with the character would only be settled in the early '00s.
For a time Cameron was also attached to produce a The X-Men movie in the 1990s too.
There were Watchmen and V for Vendetta movies planned too. A 1990s Watchmen film might be the most amazing "what if" unmade movie on this list. It would have been written by Sam Hamm who co-wrote the '89 Batman and directed by Terry Gilliam (Twelve Monkeys, Time Bandits) who's visual stylings are only matched by Batman director Tim Burton.
Vendetta would have been a bit more odd. That one was slated to be written by Hilary Henkin who wrote both the Patrick Swayze Road House and Wag the Dog. Hmmm…
There were also a group of superhero movies that would have been written by horror directors. A fifth Superman film would have been written by Mark Jones and Cary Bales. Bales is a comic book writer and Jones the creator of the horror Leprechaun little-person series of movies. Green Hornet would have been written by Don Mancini who created the Child's Play movies and Iron Man would have been written by Stuart Gordon who wrote and directed the Re-Animator movie. There was also an attempt at a Dr. Strange movie that would have been written and directed by horror-master Wes Craven.
Two movies that I think would have definitely gotten me in the theater include WWII hero Sgt. Rock that would have been directed by Renny Harlin (Die Hard 2, Deep Blue Sea) and written by John Milius (Conan the Barbarian, Apocalypse Now) as well as the comedy comic Plasticman which would have been written by Larry Wilson who had a hand in the great Beetlejuice and wrote The Addams Family movie too.
There was a Black Panther movie planned that would have starred Wesley Snipes (Blade) and have been directed by John Singleton (Boyz n the Hood) and Zorro that would have been directed by Steven Spielberg and starred Andy Garcia (The Untouchables, Oceans 11) in the title role.
But that's not all, there were movies planned for Wolverine, Thor, Sub-Mariner, The Silver Surfer, The She-Hulk (starring Brigitte Nielson), Green Lantern, Ant Man, Ghost Rider, G.I. Joe and Elektra Assassin too. And Wonder Woman, Daredevil, Green Arrow and Suicide Squad TV shows were in the works as well.
I'm guessing that budgets and the state of special effects in the 1990s were the main reason these movies never got made, or would eventually be made after the advent of computer graphics made it possible to translate comic book action to the big screen.