The 1990s was an interesting time for comic book films. Batman movies ruled the roost, and countless studios attempted to ape the series’ success, with varying degrees of success.
But what were they and where are they now?
In this post I am taking a look at 13 comic book/super hero movies from the 1990s that you probably forgot about. I’m serving up some big names, alongside some true stinkers, with 13 films based on or inspired by the comic book genre.
First up, let’s talk about one of the biggest comic book stars of the ‘90s: Spawn. Created by former Spider-Man artist, Todd McFarlane, Spawn was a huge hit in print and that meant he was perfect for the big screen, right?
Despite good performances from Michael Jai White and John Leguizamo, a poor script and some lousy visual effects torpedoed Spawn’s chances of box office glory. Critics hated the movie and fans weren’t convinced either, resulting in a big flop for New Line Cinema.
If you have forgotten about it – or you are simply trying to erase it from your mind – it is for a good reason, the film is bad.
So, what’s the current status of Spawn?
Well, ever since 1997, McFarlane has been discussing Spawn’s cinematic return, initially as a sequel and then as a reboot. But, at the time of publishing this post, Spawn remains stuck in development hell, where he is presumably fighting the bad CGI that scuppered his film career.
Next up is Darkman – director Sam Raimi’s disfigured super hero who could change his identity using… some kind of science-y stuff… or something. Look, it was a guy in bandages who ran around in a trench coat, and he was played by Liam Neeson, what more do you need to know?
Darkman was a pretty cool super hero B-movie that not only boasted Raimi’s unique flair, but also demonstrated he knew how to handle big screen heroes – which came in handy 12 years later when he helmed Spider-Man (2002).
So, what happened?
Raimi’s film gave birth to two sequels, becoming the Darkman trilogy and then the series just fizzled out. Darkman has remained a cult favourite ever since, but no one seems that arsed in reviving it.
The Shadow (1994)
Ah, The Shadow – a movie that tried to be as good as Tim Burton’s Batman, but sadly failed. Shame really, as The Shadow boasted an all-star cast which included Alec Baldwin, Sir Ian McKellen, and Tim Curry!
So, what happened?
Neither the audience nor the critics cared much for The Shadow and the film flopped at the box office. Again, this was a shame as Baldwin was pretty damn good, and it really deserved a bit more recognition.
At present, The Shadow seems to have largely been forgotten, so don’t expect to see a reboot anytime soon. During the ‘00s, there was talk of Sam Raimi bringing the character back to the big screen, but the project never came to fruition and there’s been no further chatter since.
The Phantom (1996)
I must admit, I have a huge soft spot for this one. Sure, it’s corny as heck, and the final act turns into a pantomime, but there’s some great stuff going on in this movie.
Unfortunately, my love for this film, and Billy Zane’s performance as Kit Walker/The Phantom is not enough to bring it back from beyond the grave. The film was killed by poor reviews in 1996, and an even poorer box office.
Possibility of a new movie?
Regardless of the box office performance, The Phantom did pick up a second wind on the home video market, even leading to chit-chat about a potential sequel, but it never happened. However, I believe that one day the Ghost Who Walks will return – although sadly it won’t involve Billy Zane.
The Meteor Man (1993)
Do you remember this super hero comedy from 1993?
Well, if you said ‘yes’ then you’re probably one of the few, because it flopped at the box office (a common theme in this post) and has largely fallen into obscurity ever since. However, I’m here to remind you that this movie – about a school teacher struck by a meteorite and granted superpowers – was real, and was not a figment of your warped imagination.
Robert Townsend, wrote, produced, directed, and starred in the film, taking the lead role of Jefferson Reed aka Meteor Man. He was joined by a cast that included Eddie Griffin, James Earl Jones, Frank Gorshin, Luthor Vandross, Sinbad, and…er, Bill Cosby.
Likelihood that we will see a Meteor Man II in the future? I’d say you’ve got more chance of being hit by a meteorite and granted superpowers.
Mystery Men (1999)
Although it received a mixed response from critics, and was a box office disaster, this super hero team-up film had its moments. It also had a scene-stealing turn from Janeane Garofalo, and decent performances from Ben Stiller and William H. Macy.
But the age old ‘bad reviews/bad box office’ combo killed Mystery Men, along with any chances of a sequel. A reboot looks pretty much non-existent too.
The Mask (1994)
OK, so you’ve probably not forgotten about this one, but you’ve also probably not thought about it in a while either – and this is largely because there’s been no Mask revival since 2005’s GOSH DARN AWFUL Son of the Mask. And the less said about that the better.
But yeah, The Mask deserves your attention because it’s a heap of fun AND actually bucks the trend in this post by being both a critical and commercial success. It also spawned a good animated series which was in regular rotation throughout the 1990s.
The Mask will return at some point in the future – I’d bet
my your house on it. It’s just a matter of time.
Dick Tracy (1990)
Star of comic books and (decent) movie serials, Dick Tracy was set to be a huge film in 1990, that would put the yellow-coated detective on par with Batman – or at least that was the plan. Sadly, Dick Tracy wasn’t met with the same critical reception as the Dark Knight’s big screen adventure and the film pretty much came and went.
OK, so the movie didn’t do too badly at the box office, and it has gained a cult following since, but Dick Tracy isn’t a movie that gets brought up in casual conversation. It’s also not a film that is likely to get a sequel or a reboot any time soon.
The rights to Dick Tracy spent years locked in a legal battle between Tribune Media Services and actor/director Warren Beatty and that pretty much stopped any sequels from happening. The dispute was resolved in 2013, but nothing has happened since and it’s doubtful that it will anytime soon.
In comics, Steel was created as a potential new successor to Superman. On film, Steel was an awkward superhero played by Shaquille O’Neal. Can you spot the difference?
If you have never watched Steel, be very, very thankful. It’s awful. Truly awful.
A low budget, a poor script, and some terrible casting led to this film floundering at the box office and pretty much sinking without a trace. It’s largely forgotten and only brought up by… erm… me.
I won’t mention it again.
The Rocketeer (1991)
The Rocketeer is a fun movie that has picked up quite the cult following since it first hit cinema screens in 1991; however, during its theatrical run it died a quick death. Disney expected big things, but a mixed critical response and disinterest from audiences brought the movie crashing to the ground.
Once again (and you’re probably sick of me saying this) The Rocketeer’s box office failing was a big shame. This film deserved more recognition and should have led to sequels.
In recent news there has been talk of a movie reboot, so maybe one day it will happen.
The Crow (1994)
I’m going to place this one in the same category as The Mask, because you probably haven’t forgotten about The Crow, you’ve merely forgotten how good it is. And once again, you can pretty much blame this on what followed – a series of increasingly poor sequels, as well as a lacklustre TV show.
The good news here is that the original movie was a hit – and if you do decide to revisit it, you’ll instantly be reminded just how much you loved it.
As for a new entry in the series, well that’s been the discussion of many, many news stories. In fact, a Crow reboot/revival has been in the works for years – but the project always falls apart at the last minute.
Judge Dredd (1995)
Sylvester Stallone took on the title role for this action movie which was misguided. It had its moments, and it seems to play better now than it ever did in 1995 (thanks to rose-tinted glasses), but yeah, it’s pretty bad.
Poor choices, bad dialogue, and Rob Schneider, all contributed to Judge Dredd’s demise, but in short, the film just didn’t capture the character in the way that fans expected. As a result, the movie underwhelmed when it should have been a huge hit.
So, will Judge Dredd return to the big screen?
It’s hard to say.
In 2012, Judge Dredd did get a fresh start via the Karl Urban-starring Dredd – a stripped back take on the character that was far more comic book accurate than its predecessor. Fans LOVED IT, and critics thought it was pretty decent too, but general audiences didn’t show up at theatres and the movie bombed.
There’s been some talk of reviving the property, with Urban expressing interest in making a comeback, but if it happens it’s likely to be via a TV show rather than a movie. And that’s if it ever happens.
Doctor Mordrid (1992)
And finally, if you remember this one then you may need counselling – and a big hug. Doctor Mordrid is one of those films that few people saw, fewer people remember, and no one wants to admit to.
The movie – which starred Jeffrey Combs as a wizard/sorcerer – was originally conceived as an adaptation of Marvel’s Doctor Strange. However, when the rights to the character fell through, the producers removed all of the Marvel links, changed the name, and put it into production anyway.
Chances of seeing Doctor Mordrid II?
Zilch. Zip. Never gonna happen.
Thanks for stopping by It’s A Stampede! to read about all of these ‘90s movies – and I never even mentioned Tank Girl! Maybe next time.
Should you want to remain in the 1990s – and who wouldn’t(?) – then check out ’90 from the ‘90s’ – my journey through an array of movies from the 1990s. Alternatively, check out one of the recommended reads below.