By Andrew A. Smith

Tribune Content Agency

Well, Sin City 2 didn't make any money, so I guess we’ve seen the end of movies based on comic books.

Ha ha! Just kidding. Frank Miller’s Sin City: A Dame to Kill For tanked at the box office quite impressively, but movies based on comics aren’t going anywhere. I just like making fun of those movie critics who desperately want movies based on comics – especially superhero movies – to go away, and gleefully and transparently jump on every bad comic book movie to say that this proves that they have no business being popular, and that all movies should be about Very Serious Things, like period dramas and heroic suffering.

Oh, those scamps! Don’t they know that one Avengers (worldwide box office: $1.5 billion) outweighs any 20 badly performing superhero movies? Don’t they know that superhero films have the kind of razzle-dazzle built in that draws young males to the theaters multiple times? Don’t they know that comic books provide characters and storylines that have essentially been focus-grouped for decades, and are already storyboarded? Don’t they know that Stan Lee proved in the ‘60s that superheroes are a medium, not a genre, wherein any kind of story from romance to Westerns can be told, but amped up with great spectacle?

Plus, there have already been a lot of movies derived from comics that are just plain terrible, and the roof hasn’t caved in yet. For one thing, no matter how bad those movies were, most of them made money.

For example, there are few superhero movies worse than Batman and Robin, the 1997 campfest that presented the titular heroes as, essentially, a bickering gay couple. This headache-inducing film – thanks to the screechingly loud score and a kaleidoscope of pink and purple strobe lights – threw all kinds of nonsense at the walls of the Batcave (except a coherent plot) and virtually nothing stuck. All anyone really remembers about B&R is that the Dynamic Duo both sported impressively large Bat-nipples on their body armor. Cost? $125 million. Worldwide gross? $238,207,122.

With money like that possible for even a universally loathed Bat-movie, it’s no wonder that Warner Bros. re-launched the franchise only eight years later with Batman Begins. Heck, Sony only waited five years after the end of its first Spider-Man trilogy to launch a second one!

But those are mostly good movies, and let’s face it, the bulk of movies based on comics (and probably in general) are so awful they could make the village idiot weep with impotent rage. For example:

Spider-Man 3 (2007): Since I brought up the Spider-movies, I might as well explain that most folks don’t care for the final installment of the Tobey Maguire trilogy, which had too many villains (Sandman, Venom, Green Goblin Jr.), too many plots and too much emo Peter Parker. Of course, it still grossed $336,530,303.

The Spirit (2008): Director Frank Miller took a charming, beloved comic book series by charming beloved comic book creator Will Eisner and turned it into something so utterly charmless and unlovable that it lost $21 million. You’d think Hollywood would stop hiring this guy.

* Small screen: There have been three made-for-TV Captain America movies (1990, 1992, 1979), all of them abominations. One of them gave Cap a plastic shield. Another inexplicably made Johann “Red Skull” Schmidt, the ultimate Nazi … an Italian. In 1997, CBS aired a Justice League of America pilot whose highlight was David Ogden Stiers as a corpulent Martian Manhunter. And don’t get me started on Dr. Strange (1978), in which Marvel’s Sorcerer Supreme was … a hip psychiatrist with a curly ‘do.

* Blade: The three movies starring this Marvel Comics vampire hunter all run together for me in a blur of kung fu staking, beheading and voguing. All I remember is that one of them had popular redneck zombie killer Norman “Daryl” Reedus, and he looked exactly the same then as he does now on The Walking Dead!

* Green Lantern (2011): Ryan Reynolds was in one of those Blade movies also, and was just as forgettable as DC’s Emerald Gladiator in this big-budget, would-be franchise launcher that everyone seems to hate. I actually mildly enjoyed it – whenever Reynolds and love interest Blake Lively weren’t on the screen, that is (he was bland, she was boring). More Sinestro, please!

* Catwoman (2004) and Elektra (2005): Both of these movies starred extremely attractive women in skimpy leather. So how on earth were the scripts so painfully dull and nonsensical that even teenage boys were turned off? Naturally, the lesson Hollywood drew from this is that women can’t headline movies. (Of course they can. Just not movies this bad.)

* Supergirl (1984): Elektra made $13 million, while Catwoman lost about $18 million. But pity the poor Maid of Steel, whose debut movie lost $23 million! And I do pity actress Helen Slater, who managed to make Kara Zor-El waifish, charming and attractive in a dopey script and an unforgiving outfit. As if to say “I’m sorry,” Warner Bros. later cast Slater as Superman’s Kryptonian mom Lara on Smallville.

* Fantastic Four: Most people know there were two Fantastic Four films so bad that not even Chris Evans and Jessica Alba could save them. (For one thing, they seemed to have been written for kids – and not Rocky & Bullwinkle kids, either, but ADHD kids. For another, they made the same mistake Green Lantern did, by making the Big Bad a really cranky cloud.) But there was a third Fantastic Four film, made in 1994 for the sole reason of retaining the rights, and never released. It was directed by schlockmeister Roger Corman in just a few weeks, and was so terrifyingly, franchise-killingly bad that Marvel producer Avi Arad reportedly bought up all the copies of the movie just to destroy them. Don’t worry, it’s on YouTube (

* Superman: Superman III (1983) miscast Richard Pryor badly, but still made money. Superman IV (1987) ran out of money midway, which showed on screen, and lost $1.8 million. But the worst Superman movie to me is Superman Returns (2006), which turned the Man of Steel into a deadbeat dad and a Super-voyeur (with X-ray vision)!

I’m out of room, and there is still so much more awfulness to go! I haven’t even mentioned the two Ghost Rider movies or the three Punisher movies, which you could avoid. And there’s no room to ridicule Spawn or the Shaquille O’Neil-starring Steel, both 1997, which surely deserve all the ridicule an outraged world can muster. Nor have I pointed out how the screenwriters forgot to include in Judge Dredd (1995), Howard the Duck (1986) and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003) the things that made those concepts interesting. And who thought turning Green Hornet (2011) into an odd-couple comedy and Jonah Hex into a ghost story were good ideas? (Hint: They weren’t.)

Next column, maybe. After all, if there’s one thing we can count on, it’s that there will always be more bad movies than good ones – whether based on comics or not!


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You know the worst thing about the Doctor Strange movie? That music that played every time something happened. Last time I watched the movie I found I couldn't keep from laughing every time it started playing. Inappropriate music can really kill a project. Look at Robin Williams' Popeye. Fast forward through all the songs and it's not bad.

There were two made for TV movies starring Captain America in the 70s. The first spent half the movie trying to get Cap's son to agree to the super soldier treatment, only to keep refusing until they had to use it on him to save his life, and the second was about some mad scientist making something that aged everyone at an incredible rate. I believe the shield looked different in the second one, but still not right. Both forgettable, and surpassed in awfulness only by the movie that had Cap easily beaten up by the Red Skull and frozen in his first case so nobody every heard of him, then wake up in the present only to get easily beaten up by the Skull again. Why did they think making the Skull much stronger than Cap was a good idea? I've read Stan said the ending stunk and begged them to use an ending he quickly made up, but they ignored him. He was right: the ending did stink. But then that just made it match the rest of the film.

Interestingly there has NEVER been a good superheroine movie. Supergirl, Barb Wire, Catwoman. They were all bad. And not in a Plan Nine From Outer Space  fun to watch way. I've heard Marvel is thinking of a Ms. Marvel film. Lots of luck.

...I seem to recall that that 1992 " TV movie " Cap (with Matt Salinger IIRC)(Italian Red Skull:-)!!!!!!!!!) was an announced theatrical release , but ended up going - Perhaps it was on some TV network before a video , so...

  That late-90s adaptation of the "Bwah-hah-hah ! " JLA has , the last time I read about it , never even been shown on any US network (let alone a home video release) legally...only India's version of HBO ?!?!!!!!!!!

  I saw much of the Thomas Jane PUNISHER recently , after a hospital stay , on IFC (Which has appeared , at least during daytime , to have become a " We show action movies with commercial breaks but with the R-rated language kept " outlet ?!?!!!) ~ If nothing else , cantcha love how John Travolta , as the main villain , not only chews the scenery like the combined 1910 Fruitgum Company/Ohio Express/Captain Groovy and his Bubblegum Army reunion tour but (Spoiler .) actually revives/revamps the " tying her to a railroad track " concept ??!!??!!??!!??!!??!!?

  I've still yet to see it ~ :-( ~ I still remember the CBG cover story about the announced WP at the Mall Of America !!!!!!!!!!! ~ but re the 90s FF , hadn't Roger Corman long vacated the directors' chair by the time of that contract-retainer ?

  I recall reading that two VAMPIRELLA movies were premiered on a " Roger Corman Presents " premium-cable network anthology abnout the 90s .

The JLA where it looked like there were two Flashes? A couple of minutes was enough to tell me I didn't want to see more.

Corman stopped directing around 1971 although he directed a web series in 2009, and has recently been producing some horror movies that from the titles alone must be horrible: Dinocroc vs. Supergator. Sharktopus. Pirhanaconda. I don't even want to know what those are about.

It really galls me how bad Jonah Hex the movie was, because at heart, Jonah Hex the comic is a spaghetti Western on paper. How hard could it be to take that and make a spaghetti Western on screen?

Some films are so bad you'd think they must have done it that way on purpose. Ed Wood was not the worst director ever.

I will still take Spider-man 3 over the 2 Amazing Spider-man movies, and the third X-Men.

I saw Sharktopus. It wasn't bad, just intentionally goofy. How could a shark crossed with an octopus not be fun?

Ron M. said:

Corman stopped directing around 1971 although he directed a web series in 2009, and has recently been producing some horror movies that from the titles alone must be horrible: Dinocroc vs. Supergator. Sharktopus. Pirhanaconda. I don't even want to know what those are about.

Perhaps he's entered his second childhood?

Except for the "unreleased" FF movie (that everyone has), I don't believe any Corman movie has ever lost money.

Ron M. said:

Perhaps he's entered his second childhood?

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