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The worst comic book movies of all time

Updated on January 20, 2014

Movies based off of comic books can be spectacular work of arts (The Dark Knight, Road to Perdition, A History of Violence). Sometimes they can be campy fun (Captain America TV movies, Batman the Movie, Blank Man). But occasionally these movies stink. You know, like a cat peeing on a wok that’s already burning dirty diapers. This is a handful of those movies. I don’t rank them out, because it was torture watching them once, and I’m not going to watch them again to figure out which smells worse.

Superman III


The tagline for Superman III was, “This time is going to be the best time of them all.” In print, though, it should read like this, “This time is going to be the best time of them all.” It was so bad it killed the Superman franchise. Unfortunately, Warner Brothers wouldn’t realize this until after Superman Returns.

Richard Donner directed the first Superman movie, and most of the second one before being fired. Richard Lester was the scab who stepped in and added the corny scenes to Superman II (you know, like Lois Lane forgetting Clark Kent was Superman because she was injected with…something). But Lester wasn’t done. He was given Superman III, and complete control to do with it as he pleased.

The main character was played by Richard Pryor. Not Christopher Reeves, who played Superman. Pryor played a man who has never used a computer before. He sits down at one for the first time, and learns how to control the army’s missile system and the weather. Oh, and Superman gets drunk at a bar. And he tries to rape someone. Because Superman is all about truth justice and date rape.

How bad could a movie about Superman (that has him and Lois Lane as minor characters) be? There's a scene where Richard Pryor wears a table cloth and skis off a rooftop. A woman is sucked into a supercomputer and turned into a robot. Clark Kent battles Superman in a garbage dump. Worst of all, it lead to Superman IV.


Howard the Duck

The comic book for Howard the Duck was existential in nature. It often parodied other comics, as well as life itself. George Lucas harnessed his film making abilities he would later employ on The Phantom Menace into making Howard a benign walking muppet with no bite whatsoever. The tone of the comic was completely ignored.

The film, made for 36 million, only made half its money back at the box office. It netted four Razzies, including worst picture. And it’s been rumored to cause a fistfight between two Universal executives over who green lit the picture. It was also the first Marvel theatrical release, setting the bar about two inches below the floor.

Green Lantern

Occasionally you can put your finger on exactly what went wrong with a movie. In the Green Lantern’s case I think it was the executives interfering. I can imagine the pitch for this movie at Warner Brothers.

“So we’ve got this popular superhero who we’ve never tapped on the big screen. It’s oozing with potential. This movie is franchise material.”

The suit leans in. “What’s it about?”

“This guy gets a ring from a dying alien and can make green constructs of anything he can imagine. He protects a sector of outer space.”

The suit looks excited. “Van Wilder. The kids love him. We’ve got to give Van Wilder a crack at this. And knock out that space crap. People want something they can relate to, so give them Earth.

“Umm…that’s not…”

The suit turns to his personal assistant. “What was that hero Fox picture I watched on FX last night?”

The personal assistant spits out, “Fantastic Four 2.”

The suit nods, “Yeah. That picture was wild. It's a space picture on Earth. And the bad guy was a cloud. We could save so much money with that.”

“Yeah but the fans…”

“Will love it. Green Lantern, green lit.”


Spawn

What’s not to love about Spawn? How about his giant CGI cape? There’s the catch phrase, “You’ve been violated, girly man,” which ran its course on Hans and Franz SNL sketches eight years earlier. Don’t forget about John Leguizamo in a fat suit dressed up as a blue clown? Then there’s just John Leguizamo in general.

The movie was based off of Todd MacFarlane’s comic that ripped off Ghost Rider, but made it much more entertaining. It’s too bad that the film was worse than Nicholas Cage’s turn as Johnny Blaze several years later. I won’t go so far as to say any Nicholas Cage movie, however. Let’s keep this in perspective, people.

The producers wanted Tim Burton (post Batman and Batman Returns). Instead they got Mark A.Z. Dippe (Garfield ‘s Pet Force, Garfield Gets Real, Garfield’s Fun Fest). The casting to this film didn’t quite make sense, since they turned down Wesley Snipes (Blade) to cast Michael Jai White (Military policeman #2 in Saved by the Bell). Did I mention they actually casted John Leguizamo?


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      Domenick Dicce 4 years ago

      That was a fun article. Although Superman III was bad, I think Superman IV was TERRIBLE and yes I still have all four on DVD.

      I agree with you on the Green Lantern. I was so excited when I heard all the teasers. Ryan Reynolds being cast, the story clues and then the studios started doing things like postponing for 3D conversion and I knew it was over. It had such promise.

      I would also like to nominate Elektra for this list. Daredevil was bad but at least we got to laugh at it. Elektra just caused pain.

    • montuckyblogs profile image
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      montuckyblogs 4 years ago from Helena, MT

      Thank you for your comments, Domenick. I also agree Superman IV was terrible, but I listed part Superman III because it set the awful tone for the rest of the movies.

      I have heard that Elektra was terrible, but I haven't seen it yet and I wanted to be honest in my comments. I will, however, watch:

      Elektra

      Barb Wire

      The Phantom

      That way I can George Lucas this and make it, "The way I orginally intended." Watch for Howard the Duck blinking in the hub revision.

    • cperuzzi profile image

      Christopher Peruzzi 2 years ago from Freehold, NJ

      There are a whole plethora of superhero movies worse than Green Lantern. The truth of its lack of stellar-ness was when they decided that Geoff Johns wasn't relevant as a consulting writer. That's right, the man who brought us "Blackest Night" was shut out. Other than that, I give it a five out of ten. I rank it up there with the "Superman Returns" with Brandon Routh and Kevin Spacey.

      Trust me, there are far worst comic book adaptations than GL.

      If you think that's bad you really haven't lived. Here's some fodder.

      - Man-Thing (2005) - Yeah, Marvel's "fear burns at the touch of the 'Man-Thing'" was just a train wreck. And while we're on swamp monsters, how about...

      - Swamp Thing (1982) - With Adrienne Barbeau and Louis Jourdan. This was before Alan Moore had gotten to the mythos. It is fetid swamp gas.

      - Captain America (1990) - Truly you have not experienced the mind spraining train wreck of this movie. How bad is it? The Red Skull is Italian. Not German... Italian. The other big name in the film is Ned Beatty, who didn't give his very best to this film. It's almost unwatchable.

      Or how about...

      - Batman and Robin (1997) - A movie so bad that it almost killed the franchise. Not that George Clooney deserves any of the blame. No, the blame lay in hands of Joel Schumacher and the Satanic pact he made with the Devil to get his hands on this pic. It is laced with homoeroticism and who knew there were that many naked muscleman statues in Gotham? No really, it was much worse than Green Lantern.

      - Dr. Strange (1978) - Before Marvel got its act together and while it was still spray painting Lou Ferrigno green, it came up with this unwatchable piece of crap. It is about as bad as you can make a psychedelic 70's superhero movie.

      - The Fantastic Four (1994) - BY ROGER COREMAN. I SHIT YOU NOT. This is almost unwatchable. This is B-movie schlock at its best. How bad is it? Coreman thought it was a good idea to record Doctor Doom's voice muffled within his mask. The acting is terrible and, while it is extremely hard to find, bootleg copies exist. Trust me, you will need mental brillo after that.

      So, all in all, you had some good choices up there. Superman III - yup, it sucked. Howard the Duck, legendary in its cheesiness. Spawn? I'll give you that one. But, if you want unwatchable, check out any of my selections.

      Great hub.

    • montuckyblogs profile image
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      montuckyblogs 2 years ago from Helena, MT

      Okay, point by point:

      Man Thing - I forgot about it. You're correct. I got twenty-five minutes into it and could take no more. It's wretched.

      Swamp Thing - Can't ride with you there. For the era it was made in, I thought it was pretty good. Plus I have nostalgia built in for it because at the time there was a lack of comic book movies. And I was going through puberty when I saw Barbeau's side boob in the movie. The sequel with Heather Locklear was not so good, however.

      Captain America (1990) - I love this movie. The Italian changes were because the Berlin wall hadn't fallen when it was being filmed, and the European scenes were filmed on location so they wanted to be authentic. I felt like they made a really good super hero movie (once again, for it's time) with just the right amount of so-bad-it's-good.

      Batman and Robin - Terrible, just terrible. It should be included on here.

      Dr. Strange - I've never even heard of it. I will seek it out and review it on my podcast Box Office Battle ( http://boxofficebattle.blogspot.com ) where I reviewed the aforementioned Captain America and...

      Fantastic Four (Roger Corman's) - I hadn't seen this when I wrote the article. It's got a great story behind why it was made, but it sucks on every level. Especially when the cartoon Human Torch races a cartoon laser. Yuck.

      Thank you for your response. Some day I'll get around to amending this list.

    • cperuzzi profile image

      Christopher Peruzzi 2 years ago from Freehold, NJ

      Swamp Thing and Cap - we'll agree to disagree. I'll give you points for the time period on ST, for its time, it was okay - but before I'd seen the Captain America movie, I'd thought that the reason for its failure was due to its coming out when Batman (the first Keaton version) came out. I couldn't get beyond the Italian Red Skull when every Jack Kirby illustration had a huge swastika there. The character was all about being German.

      So many of the attempts back in the 70's, 80's, and 90's were just terrible. Even going back to the 60's, the scarcely seen Wonder Woman by the same producers of the campy Adam West Batman series was truly abominable. After that, you have to go to the Electra Woman and Dyna Girl from Sid and Marty Kroft (ouch).

      Great article. So much cannon fodder. I would suggest attacking some of the 80's superhero cartoons next - like "Spider-man and his Amazing Friends" or the last season of the 1960's Spider-man by Ralf Bakshi.

    • montuckyblogs profile image
      Author

      montuckyblogs 2 years ago from Helena, MT

      I take your point about Red Skull. It probably would have been wiser to pick a different villain if they couldn't do it right. But they named had a "Senator Kirby". Does that get browny points? Also, I did this article which talks about about older incantations of Spider-Man https://hubpages.com/literature/Spider-Man-and-his...

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