10 comic book movies you may have forgotten

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There’s been a lot of talk about superhero movies and the seemingly excessive amount of comic book adaptations that have crept in over time. But comic book movies have been around much longer than people often realize.

RELATED: 10 Comic Book Anthologies That Would Make Great TV Adaptations

Whether it be The batman 1940s soap opera or the infamous critical failure Howard the duck, comic book adaptations were a part of pop culture long before this recent boom. In some cases, moviegoers may not even have known that some movies were actually adapted from comics. It’s reminiscent of some of the adaptations that fans may have sneaked around over the years. And in some cases, it could have been a blessing in disguise.


ten The Punisher (1989)

Dolph Lundgren in The Punisher 1989

Before Jon Bernthal or Thomas Jane, there was Dolph Lundgren. In 1989, the first live-action appearance of Marvel’s comic book character, the Punisher, took place. Frank Castle first appeared as a skull clad antihero in the Apes of The Amazing Spider-Man # 129 and was created by Gerry Conway, John Romita Sr. and Ross Andru.

The live-action film was not shown widely in the United States and was not well received by critics at the time. Frank Castle’s character wasn’t even featured in his signature skull outfit that the comic book character has worn in various styles since his debut, so it was easy to ignore.

9 Dr Strange (1978)

Doctor Strange 1978 TV Movie

This 1978 TV movie was the first live look at Doctor Stephen Strange, the Supreme Sorcerer. The film starred Peter Hooten as Strange the Psychiatrist, one of many changes from the comic book that must protect Earth from the evil Morgan le Fay, played by the late Jessica Walter.

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Ambitious for the time, the film featured plenty of special effects that the crew members had to work on intensively. It aired on CBS in hopes of creating a series, but unfortunately the series was not picked up and this Dr strange is no more than a distant memory.

8 Swamp Thing (1982)

1982 Swamp Thing movie poster, featuring Swamp Thing carrying Alice Cable through the swamps.

Written and directed by horror icon Wes Craven in 1982, Swamp thing is based on the DC Comics creature. The great green hero first appeared in the pages of House of Secrets # 92 in 1971 and became a household name during the infamous run that comic book legend Alan Moore had on the title.

The live-action movie starred Ray Wise as the main character and Adrienne Barbeau as the female version of fellow DC hero Matt Cable. It can best be described as a campy horror monster movie, but it had enough charm and fun that movie critic Roger Ebert gave a positive review for its release.

7 Captain America (1979)

Movie Captain America 1979

A TV movie released by CBS in 1979, Captain America was far from the super-soldier fans have followed since his introduction in Captain America Comic books # 1 of 1941. Actor Reb Brown played the role of an unnamed Steve Rogers, wearing a motorcycle helmet and wielding a transparent shield.

The film also portrayed the hero as an artist and not as the soldier who fought against Nazi forces in WWII. However, when a sequel to the film, Captain America II: Death Too Soon, released in the same year, it showed a noticeable improvement in Captain America so that fans could easily recognize him as the leader they fell in love with.

6 Nick Fury (1998)

David Hasselhoff as Nick Fury in the TV movie Nick Fury Agent of SHIELD, standing against a wall as he prepares for battle.

Based on Marvel Comics character Nick Fury, this 1998 TV movie shows a retired Fury, played by David Hasselhoff, once again recruited by SHIELD to take down HYDRA. The film managed to include other Marvel characters like Dum-Dum Dugan and Valentina Allegra de Fontaine as well. There was even an important plot point that used the Marvel term, Life Model Decoy.

RELATED: 10 Questions About Nick Fury, Answered

An important credit to note is that this TV movie was actually written by David S. Goyer, who was credited on Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, Blade, and the next Netflix series The sand man.

5 Steel (1997)

Steel film with Shaquille O'Neal

Released in 1997, Steel was a superhero movie based on a DC Comics hero of the same name. John Henry Irons II first appeared in The Adventures of Superman # 500 in 1993 and became identified by his steel suit with his signature hi-tech hammer.

The film starred basketball player turned actor Shaquille O’Neal as the main character who fights against criminals who wish to use the weapons he designed for evil. Shaq even contributed the song “Men of Steel” for the soundtrack. The modified costume Shaq wore for the film removed the original design with the Superman ‘S’ logo on the chest, but kept the outfit stocked with high-tech gadgets. Unfortunately, at the time of the film’s release, it received critical criticism.

4 Superdaughter (1984)

Phantom-Zone-In-Supergirl-The-Movie

A spin-off of the Superman film series that began in 1978, Super girl was a 1984 film based on the comic book heroine of the same name. In the comics, Kara Zor-El (Supergirl) made her first appearance in Action comics # 252 in 1959. She was Superman’s cousin until his death in 1985.

The film starred Helen Slater as Supergirl and Faye Dunaway as antagonist Selena, who takes a mighty orb for her own gain. The film was directed by Jeannot Szwarc and written by David Odell, who wrote other screenplays like The black crystal and the Masters of the Universe movie adaptation.

3 Man-Thing (2005)

man-thing film 2005

One of the few Marvel horror characters to be adapted, Man-Thing was inspired by the character of the same name, who was first created in Wild tales # 1 in 1971 and was created by the combined efforts of Stan Lee, Roy Thomas, Gerry Conway and Gray Morrow.

RELATED: 10 Best Horror Movies From MCU Directors

Man-thing rreleased in 2005 in only a few theaters internationally when it premiered via Sci-Fi in America, with mostly negative reviews. The story followed a sheriff who was investigating a series of murders in a swamp and was soon in contact with Man-Thing.

2 The Incredible Return of the Hulk (1988)

Thor and Hulk in Return of the Incredible Hulk.

When The Incredible Hulk Wrapped up in 1982, the show didn’t have a proper ending until this TV movie premiered in 1988. The Incredible Hulk Returns starred Bill Bixby as Dr. David Banner (instead of Bruce) while actor Lou Ferrigno played his giant green counterpart, The Hulk.

What makes this sequel particularly interesting is that the Hulk is fighting his fellow Avenger, Thor. Played by Eric Kramer, Thor later agrees to fight alongside the Hulk against a criminal organization before the Hulk again has to seek another cure.

1 American Splendor (2003)

American Splendor movie poster and comic book cover

Released in 2003, American splendor was a biographical film about the life of writer Harvey Pekar, who wrote the comic book series of the same name in 1976. The series was very autobiographical, as shown by his popular graphic novel, Our year against cancer.

American splendor starred Paul Giamatti as Pekar and was directed by the team of directors Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini. As well as retaining its comedic style, the film also featured the real Harvey Pekar in meta-style segments. The film was then nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay at the Oscars.

NEXT: 10 Best TV Adaptations Of Comic Book Characters

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