As superhero movies continue to pack moviegoers in the aisles and their stars court fans at Comic-Con in San Diego, here's a look at five comic franchises the studios have somehow overlooked -- and five they should have. Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, and Iron Man all have had multiple movies, yet comics' most iconic female figure has never had even one live-action, big-screen portrayal. A script by Joss Whedon (of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" fame) never came to fruition, and a promised Warner Bros. movie is still at least two years away. Do we smell super-sexism? Maybe the Amazon princess hit the glass ceiling in her invisible plane.
Doubtless inspired by Michelle Pfeiffer's memorable turn as the ultimate cat lady in "Batman Returns" (1992), French director Jean-Christophe "Pitof" Comar upped the ante by casting the uber-sexy Halle Berry as the title character in 2004's "Catwoman," but still somehow managed to cough up one hairball of a movie. The narrative has little or nothing to do with the classic Batman villainess (her age-old alter-ego "Selina Kyle" is jettisoned in favor of mousey "Patience Phillips," for instance). And while visually striking in her leather get-up, Berry is so unconvincing that she earned a Worst Actress Golden Raspberry award -- which she bravely accepted in person.
$7 billion. That's how much eight Harry Potter films have racked up. Wouldn't it make sense that the Sorceror Supreme of Marvel Comics, Doctor Strange, could make at least a piece of that magically appear at the box office? Especially when his narrative -- an arrogant surgeon damages his hands in an accident and journeys to the Himalayas in search of a mystical cure, but instead is tutored to become the world's greatest magician (not unlike a certain young Hogwarts student) -- is so relatable and contemporary. Yet aside from a little-seen 1978 TV-movie, the mystic mage has yet to have a live-action adaptation, though scripts have been in development for decades.
Deliciously devoid of even the slightest shred of compassion, Marvel's gun-toting, grimacing antihero The Punisher is precisely the type of comic book character that gives parents pause, given that he's more like Charles Bronson in "Death Wish" than mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent. So, while not the ideal comic book for Junior to be thumbing through, he seemed perfect for the big screen. Yet three attempts have ...er... backfired. The 1989 adaptation starring the wooden Dolph Rundgren was tepidly cheesy and went straight to video. A 2004 version starring chiseled Tom Jane (left) as the vigilante was more faithful, but crumpled under the weight of its own humorlessness. As for "Punisher: War Zone" from 2008, the less said the better. The silver lining? The franchise seems to be finally out of ammo.
Though the original Teen Titans were a superhero team in their own right in the 1960s , DC Comics’ New Teen Titans made their mark in the early 1980s as yin to the yang of Marvel Comics’ wildly popular X-men. No longer relegated to trailing behind Batman’s cape, Robin leads the show here, flanked by other super-sidekicks like Wonder Girl, Kid Flash and new characters like Cyborg, Raven and Starfire. Though possibly lacking the tortured mutant pathos of their Marvel counterparts, the New Titans exuded their fair share of emotional turmoil via the soulfully complex conscience of gloomy empath Raven and the youthful warrior’s rage of alien Starfire, a scantily-clad doppelganger of the X-men’s volatile Phoenix. The New Titans have made it to the small screen via an animated series, and there are rumors of a live-action series about Raven. But there’s no reason they couldn't transition to the big screen with the same success as the X-Men, whose franchise is going strong after five films.
Originally the hero of a clever comic book about a talking duck from another dimension who’s trapped in a world he never made, Howard became trapped in a movie that never should have been made when this bloated mess came out. Though it was produced by Star Wars creator George Lucas, it is considered by many to be one of the worst films ever made. What went wrong? For one thing, Howard was played by various little people in unconvincing duck suits (here's one with Lea Thompson, whose career somehow survived). Today he would be probably be portrayed in CGI – and it still wouldn’t work. Some comic books just belong staying comic books.
Now that Hollywood has finally embraced fairly complex comics like " Watchmen" and the X-Men titles, isn't it time some of the more esoteric superheroes get their due? Not unlike the X-Men, the Inhumans were literally a breed apart, genetically engineered by aliens who later abandoned them. With Black Bolt (so powerful that his faintest whisper can level mountains) as their king, the Inhumans' rich history bears all the classic trappings of an epic poem or Shakespearian tragedy. Or at least an enjoyable two hours at the cineplex.
You have to wonder how the Warner Bros. pitch meeting about this turkeyburger must have gone. “Hey, here’s an idea: With superhero movies making zillions, let’s ignore all the beloved characters our DC Comics division owns. Instead, let’s make a western based a second-tier comic with a hideously disfigured antihero. Yeah, that’ll work.” It didn’t; critics ambushed the bloody western starring Josh Brolin as a supernatural gunfighter. Even Megan Fox as a lovestruck prostitute couldn’t help; audiences stayed away in droves and tie-in toys gathered dust in warehouses. Almost as if Harry Potter or Doctor Strange had put a hex on it.
From the twisted mind of writer/artist Evan Dorkin, cult favorites Milk & Cheese are two pint-size -- literally -- dairy products who were first unleashed on an unsuspecting comic underground in the late 1980s. Driven by a fondness for booze and a rampant appetite for violence and mayhem, the anthropomorphic carton of milk and diminutive wedge of cheese giddily run afoul of all semblance of decency. Though Dorkin has reportedly turned down all offers to turn the nihilistic duo into cartoon or movie stars, there is a deluxe hardcover anthology slated for December 2011. The perfect holiday gift!
If you think what Paz Vega has in mind for Gabriel Macht in this still from the big-screen adaptation of Will Eisner’s 1940s newspaper comic strip is bad, it’s downright merciful compared to what the critics did to it. Eisner, inventor of the graphic novel and a bona fide comics legend, deserved far better than to have his masked crimefighter sullied by this almost universally panned stinker: “To call the characters cardboard is to insult a useful packing material,” Roger Ebert wrote.