With The Avengers movie breaking all sorts of records and being cheered as the greatest comic book movie ever made (a sentiment with which I just might agree) I thought I would take some time and go through the history of films based on comics books – both the highs and lows.
Although comic book films have been around for over 70 years I really think they are just now entering their Golden Age. With the advancement of computer effects, the stories of flying men are getting easier to tell and more believable. The Avengers is primed to become the biggest grossing film of all time. This is going to lead to two things: One – more comic book movies than ever before are going to be made in Hollywood. And Two – a lot of those movies are going to suck balls. But such is the case with any thing that does well – the copy-cats that want to cash in on the phenomenon are never as good, and ultimately doom the whole deal. This happened in the early 90′s after Tim Burton’s Batman blew everyone away – a shit load of shit followed and brought the comic book movie genre to its knees. But I’m getting ahead of myself – let’s start at the beginning…..
Directed by – William Witney, John English
Starring – Tom Tyler
This was the very first superhero movie, based on the character appearing in Whiz Comics (heh, whiz). At this point in time Superheroes had only been around for less then 10 years, starting with the debut of Superman back in 1932. The character of Captain Marvel is of course a copy-cat of Superman but the twist was, Captain Marvel was just a 12-year-old kid that could speak the magic word “SHAZAM!” and would turn into a fully grown man with super powers. Fucking brilliant twist, as pretty much every 12-year-old boy would kill for that power.
The flying effects for this 1941 serial weren’t too bad either. Get yourself some fishing line and a paper mache dummy and there you go, instant Captain Marvel. These shorts played in the theaters before the main feature and would start the ball rolling for Superheroes and the silver screen.
Directed by – Lambert Hillyer
Starring – Lewis Wilson, Douglas Croft
Another superhero serial that holds the distinction of being the first time the Batman character appears in film. It also holds the distinction of having the most butt-ugly Batman costume to ever be worn by a human being. Holy floppy ears Batman! I will say that some of the stunts they pulled off in this serial were pretty cool – like jumping from car to car and smashing through windows – no computer effects here, just dude in stupid looking costume doing all that shit for reals.
This serial also featured the first Bat-Cave (never seen before in the comics at the time) and also changed Alfred from a short, fat dude (like he was in the comics) to a tall, skinny dude with a thin mustache (and has been that way ever since).
Captain America (1944)
Directed by – Elmer Clifton, John English
Starring – Dick Purcell
The last of the Republic Serials and calling this a Captain America movie is stretching it. I mean, the dudes name isn’t Lt. Steve Rogers, it’s Grant Gardner a fucking lawyer. He doesn’t use a shield but guns. There is no super-solider serum. And no Bucky. What the hell kinda Captain America is this? Wait I know, a shitty one.
Directed by – Spencer Gordon Bennet, Thomas Carr
Starring – Kirk Alyn, Noel Neill
Before the TV series would propel Superman into super stardom, this 12 part serial played in the theaters and was the first time the character of Supes was played for real – not animated (although, the flying bits in this serial were done with animation and look pretty bad. Dudes should’ve taken a page from the Captain Marvel series and used the paper matche dummy).
Next in part 2: The 1950′s brings more bullshit. The 1960′s serves up the camp. The 1970′s things start to go right.