Robot 6

Six by 6 | Six canceled comic movies we would love to have seen

Comics have become ideal source material in Hollywood’s eternal search for the next blockbuster. But in the numerous attempts to transform comic-book heroes into movie stars, some have, inevitably, failed in the making. I don’t mean failed as in bad, but rather adaptations that were announced only to be canceled before moving into production. For today’s “Six by 6,” I look at six instances of movies that spiraled into an early grave, and commiserate over what could’ve been.

1. George Miller’s Justice League: In 2007, Warner Bros. was hard at work developing a a feature based on DC Comics’ top superhero team. In September 2007, the studio announced the hiring of director George Miller of Mad Max and Happy Feet fame, and pushed to get the film finished before the writers’ strike.  The proposed budget clocked in at $220 million, with set already being constructed by early 2008 in Australia. Producers even went so far as casting Armie Hammer as Batman, Megan Gale as Wonder Woman, Common as Green Lantern and Adam Brody as the Flash, before the project was abruptly shelved. After the creation of DC Entertainment in 2009, this Justice League movie was permanently canned in favor of a new approach. I would love to have witnessed a movie like this. Miller is an excellent, and mind-bendingly diverse, director, and much of the movie would have relied on the strength of the script.

2. Doctor Strange by Guillermo del Toro and Neil Gaiman: Before Guillermo del Toro was as popular as he is now, he was actually signed on to develop a Doctor Strange movie in 2008, and even teased the idea of bringing on Neil Gaiman as screenwriter. The mere thought of that made most every fanboy salivate, but they were ultimately disappointed when the project never came together.

3. Darren Aronofsky’s The Wolverine: Fox’s follow-up to X-Men Origins: Wolverine is opening July 26, but initially it was going to be a far different film. When it was originally announced, avowed comic book fan Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan) was firmly in the director’s chair with him on the same page with star Hugh Jackman to adapt Chris Claremont and Frank Miller’s seminal Wolverine miniseries. Aronofsky ultimately bailed on the project early last year, leading the studio to hire James Mangold has his replacement. They’re using the same source material and most of the same actors that Aronofsky’s The Wolverine would have had, but it’s still bittersweet to know what could have been.

4. Chris Columbus’ Fantastic Four: Long before the 2005 Fantastic Four movie, acclaimed director Chris Columbus (Harry Potter, Home Alone, The Goonies) nabbed the FF film rights, and he worked on the project for years.Eventually he was pulled in other directions (namely, directing the first Harry Potter movie), but he still kept a hand in production and was one of the producers for what finally became 2005’s Fantastic Four. It’s an interesting game to speculate what that movie could have been had Columbus been on board for the casting, scripting and directing stages. Who knows, the gangsters from The Goonies do look an awful lot like something Jack Kirby would dream up.

5. Dazzler: The Movie: Believe it, true believers! It all started when ’70s record label Casablanca approached Marvel about a unique venture in which they’d co-create a character that would be introduced in comics at the same time she debuted as the singer on an actual album. Marvel Editor-in-Chief Jim Shooter hurriedly wrote a script, which included a zany cast of characters such as the rock band KISS (which was signed to Casablanca at the time), Rodney Dangerfield in four roles (shades of Dr. Strangelove), Cher, and a then up-and-coming comedian named Robin Williams. That sounds similar to Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks in terms of an on-screen spectacle, and I would have relished watching every minute of it.

6. Joss Whedon’s Wonder Woman: Well before Joss Whedon directed one of the biggest movies of all time in Marvel’s The Avengers, Warner Bros. had the enterprising director sewn up to write and direct an adaptation of DC Comics’ to superheroine Wonder Woman. What could go wrong?  Everything, apparently. The suits at Warner Bros. apparently didn’t like Whedon’s outline, direction and who he envisioned as Wonder Woman (reportedly Cobie Smulders of The Avengers and How I Met Your Mother fame). At the time Whedon said a “lack of enthusiasm” led to the project never happening, but he’d return if the studio ever got serious about the project. I wonder if that offer still stands now after the success of The Avengers?



I would have loved to have seen a silver Surfer movie using that script written by Quentin Tarantino.

Really? You would have liked to see the CW, rush-job version of the Justice League?

Aranofsky’s Year One gets my vote.

This list is a complete and total failure, due to a lack of Patrick Stewart’s “Transmetropolitan.”

James Cameron’s “Spider-Man”

It might’ve been a train-wreck, but Terry Gilliam’s “Watchmen” would’ve been something to see…

How about Stan Lee’s take on a Silver Surfer film? From “Stan Lee and the Rise and Fall of the American Comic Book”:

In the span of five or six years, [Stan Lee] wrote outlines for dozens of projects that never saw the light of day. Ragnarok, starring Thor, was an off-Broadway musical in the vein of Godspell. A Silver Surfer treatment contained elements of early-1970s blaxploitation movies. In Lee’s proposed storyline, the Surfer races across the Earth on his board. As he swoops down over New York, a “tall, overdressed black man” enters the picture: “It’s Sweet-Daddy Wisdom, leader of New York’s Black Mafia. He aims a hand gun at the Surfer. He commands the Surfer to land gently and get off the board.He says that everyone’s been trying to get a line on him. And now he belongs to Sweet-Daddy Wisdom. Ol’ Sweet-Daddy’s gone and caught himself the world’s choice prize. He’s captured the ultimate honky.”

spider jerusalem

December 13, 2012 at 2:52 pm

i want to see that silver surfer movie so badly i’m going to vomit.

the great French director Alain Resnais (Last Year at Marienbad) was a comic fan and discussed directing a comic related movie. He even developed a script with Stan Lee.

I’m fearing that Deadpool is never going to make it to the full screening and will be added to this list.

Would have been interesting to see David Goyer’s Flash movie

What about The Preacher movie that never went any where?

I don’t often agree with Warner Bros. but I really can’t see Cobie Smulders as Wonder Woman either, she’s just too slight of frame to make a believable Amazon.

Then again if she’d bulked up, who knows what could have been.

Stan. Lee is overrated, Jack Kirby doesn’t get enough credit. I agree with your list except for JL that had disaster written all over it.

What about Bruce Willis as Plastic Man? The world was basically begging for that one to happen in the early 90s.

Holy crap! I didn’t know del Toro was ever attached to a Dr. Strange movie! I’ve been saying for years that I would love to see him direct it.

Joss Whedon’s Wonder Woman is never going to happen, so you can forget about that idea.He is exclusively now and the foreseeable future contractually with Marvel Comics and there is no doubt Marvel is going to pay Joss Whedon tons of money, to keep him in their service.

He’s already working on the Avengers movie script and ABC’s new show about Shield.So he’s not going anywhere any time soon.

Dc comics will have to make due with their blockbuster Man Of Steel movie and hope that the Justice League movie happens on the time table that they have planned, to go up against the Avengers 2.

What, no love for David S. Goyer’s Super Max? It sounded like an awesome idea and it’s a shame nothing happened with it

How about Matt Wagner’s MAGE, that Zak Snyder was supposed to have done?

would have love to see Del torro and gainmans take on dr. strange since del torro would have known how to do the sorcerer supreme right. and surprised to see james camerons take on spider man did not make the list. plus also that there was a dazzler movie being looked at.

I’m still waiting for the She-Hulk movie starring Brigitte Nielson.

James Mangold is a much better film-maker than Darren Aronofsky , so I think that the Wolverine movie may in much better hands than it would have been with the original plan.

I would love to see Bruce McDonald’s adaptation of Chester Brown’s Ed the Happy Clown with MacCauley Caulkin as Ed..

Paul Greengrass’s Watchmen. Oh if only …

Back in the 70’s Will Eisner’s The Spirit was put in development with William Friedkin directing and Harlan Ellison writing the script. Ellison talks in several interviews about how he zeroxed several actual Spirit panels and used them to storyboard the film’s proposed opening sequence. Unfortunately, the whole thing fell apart before a script was written. I myself would have killed to see the finished movie but it wasn’t to be.

I believe that James Cameron should be, by any means necessary, kept as far away from any comic IP as space will allow.

I would’ve loved to see Whedon’s take on Wonder Woman, but if the rumor of Cobie Smulders being the lead was true I’m glad it didn’t happen. Her lack of skill was distracting interest Avengers, I couldn’t imagine what an entire film of hers would be like.

Darren Aranofsky’s take on Wolverine will be missed, it’s going to be interesting seeing the results of Mangold’s take come July.

Really not sure how a list like this can’t include Terry Gilliam’s Watchmen. Ditto James Cameron’s Spider-Man. His Carolco was also developing X-Men back in the day. And for good measure, I’d love to add Matthew Vaughan’s X3, which would doubtless have been far superior to what Ratner phoned in.

Richard Donner directed the Goonies. Make a note of it.

Brian from Canada

December 16, 2012 at 4:07 pm

The Justice League movie was cancelled by the writer’s strike — no other reason. Had the strike not happened, they would have hammered out a script and gone to camera, whether it was finished or not. The alternative was to either jam a script in little time (GI Joe) or start filming and then come up with a script later (Transformers 2).

I don’t see Wolverine as being an unseen film, since directors change all the time.

Personally, the only film I really wish had been made was Fox’s telefilm for The Black Widow. Slag it as much as you like, but the Hasselhoff film of Nick Fury was pretty accurate given the budget they had available, and it would have been interested to see if Fox could have followed up with another decent film.

Nice list. For my part, take the DAZZLER movie, and replace it with the proposed AMERICAN FLAGG film.

Oh! And how could I have forgotten about DEATH: THE HIGH COST OF LIVING, written and directed by Neil Gaiman?

Who in their right mind wants Chris Columbus touching anything they care about? You might as well have the doomed Tim Burton/Nicholas Cage Superman movie on this list.

It sounds like the Wonder Woman movie would have been awful.

I wish they would make a Suicide Squad movie.


January 13, 2013 at 4:47 pm

YES! Suicide Squad is a no-brainer. Watch Justice League Unlimited’s ‘Task Force X’ episode to remove any doubt. It needs no back story. And if Warner Bros does their usual crap and dance, Marvel should shame them with a ‘Thunderbolts’ flick. Justice…like lightning! P.S. Michael Jai White still would make the best Bronze Tiger versus Scott Adkins as Ravan from Jihad. Bad-a$$ery.

“Before Guillermo del Toro was as popular as he is now” …what planet do you live on?! Hellboy, Pans labyrinth, Splice, Mimic, Hellboy 2. These were all done before 2008. He’s been popular for awhile.

Not in favor of live action versions of comic book characters. Would prefer that they were all animated. Possibly like Avatar where real actors were painted over. Then we could have the characters looking like the way they are/were drawn in comic books. Imagine Teen Titans or Wonder Woman looking like Perez artwork. She Hulk as John Byrne drew her.

We didn’t need the JLA movie. That cast was atrocious. Adam Brody? Yikes. And no offense to Armie Hammer but he is NO Batman. He was barely Lone Ranger. Megan Gale would’ve worked out though. Dazzler? It would have been one of the most notorious bombs in history. The spectacle might have made it a cult film, but not for any of the right reasons.

they left out heroes for hire, movie (powerman & iron fist ) that would have put all the rest of these movies to shame (if done right)…..

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