With Aquaman crossing the $1 billion mark at the worldwide box office, it is now the eighth highest grossing superhero movie of all-time. Add that to the fact that the upcoming Avengers: Endgame is one of the most anticipated films of all time, and we think it is safe to say that comic book films have made an impact on cinematic history. We know they can hit or miss; we love some and are critical of others. Overall, these films fuel our desire for fun, fantasy, and epic action. Whether you’re a DC, Marvel, or indie title follower, there’s a film out there for every fan. We lose ourselves in the mythos and eagerly await the next installment. To satisfy our thirst for comic book movie news, we scour the internet looking for that nugget of truth about what our comic book movie overlords have in store for us next.
With everyone clamoring for what’s next on the horizon, what about those film projects that never made it out. We’re talking about the great comic book movie films, or some that were not so great, that never made it out of development limbo. There were some that never made it out of the idea stage, so we won’t even cover those. Others were almost immediately rewritten into projects we did end up seeing so we won’t go over those either. We're talking about films that actually got funding, began development, or even started casting. Some of these were big budget projects that, for whatever reason, got shelved. Read on for 15 comic book movies that were almost made, and 10 we’re glad got shelved!
25 ALMOST MADE: DAZZLER
Marvel’s mutant Dazzler debuted in February 1980’s Uncanny X-Men #130. She had the ability to convert sound into light and energy. She was not only a superhero but also enjoyed a thriving singing career (and creates her own light show)! Marvel was looking to create a tie-in with a record label to produce music that could be marketed as coming from Dazzler, a la Miley Cyrus’ Hannah Montana. Immediately, Marvel expanded the project to include a feature film.
They approached the beautiful Bo Derek, hot off her signature role as the perfect “10,” who was intrigued. With Derek attached, Hollywood took the project seriously. However, she demanded that her husband, John Derek, direct. John Derek had a reputation for being difficult and going over budget; bidding studios began backing out. Bo severed her relationship and the project was shelved.
24 ALMOST MADE: SHE-HULK
In the late 1980s, The Incredible Hulk was a successful television series. Marvel had hoped to bring along their other Hulk property, She-Hulk. The networks weren’t really interested so Marvel decided to produce a full-length feature. Originally they wanted professional volleyballer Gabrielle Reece as She-Hulk, with Mitzi Kapture as her alter-ego, Jennifer Walters.
Around 1989, New World Pictures even hired actress Brigitte Nielsen to pose for some promotional photos as She-Hulk. Some claim she was then attached or in consideration for the role. What we do know is that was the last we heard of the project and it was shelved indefinitely for reasons unknown.
23 ALMOST MADE: DOCTOR STRANGE
We know we finally got a Doctor Strange film in November 2016; however, there was an earlier project in the works as far back as the ‘80s. The first attempt that we could find was a film project based on a 1986 Bob Gale script. Producer Charles Brand discarded it in favor of a script by C. Courtney Joyner; however, his option expired before production began and the rights were lost to Savoy Pictures.
Interestingly enough, Charles Brand continued working on the project, albeit under the new title of Doctor Mordrid, starring Jeffrey Combs as the titular Doctor Strange-esque character. He released the low budget knock-off in 1992. We would have to wait another twenty-four years to get a real Doctor Strange film.
22 ALMOST MADE: SILVER SURFER: PRODIGAL SON
With the Disney takeover looming overhead, Fox was trying to utilize as many of their Marvel brands as possible. Fox was able to lure writer Brian K. Vaughn, famous for his work on Saga and Runaways. Silver Surfer was part of Fox’s license for the Fantastic Four.
The character was included in the 2007 film, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, and, while the visuals were great, the film itself was lackluster. Fox was hoping for another chance to get the character right as the cosmic scale of the Surfer just begs for a big screen adaptation. Though Disney’s bid to buy Fox isn’t final, pretty much all their unused properties are being shelved.
21 ALMOST MADE: KITTY PRYDE
This is another project that Fox was hoping to get off the ground before the Disney takeover. As far back as January 2018, it was reported that Tim Miller, of Deadpool fame, was developing a solo movie for the popular X-Men character which he could potentially direct. Also known at various times as Shadowcat, Sprite, and Ariel, Kitty Pryde is a mutant with the ability to become intangible and pass through solid objects.
While Miller hasn’t given up on the project, he hasn’t exactly been waiting around either. He’s also currently producing the upcoming Sonic the Hedgehog film for Paramount. So while Kitty Pryde is officially still “in production,” We wouldn’t recommend you hold your breath that Fox will ever release it before the Disney deal is finalized...
20 ALMOST MADE: DOCTOR DOOM
This one was announced way back in 2017, at a convention's Legion panel, where showrunner Noah Hawley announced he was developing the character for his own big screen feature. The Fantastic Four baddie is a great multi-faceted character and, if done right, could rival the complexities of the MCU’s Thanos or Killmonger.
We’ve seen Doom before, in Fox’s Fantastic Four films, and they’ve never done him justice. In June 2018, Hawley announced he had finished the script and was eyeing a 2019 release. However, as we’ve heard nothing about it since, it’s most likely been shelved like Fox’s other Marvel properties.
19 ALMOST MADE: THE MULTIPLE MAN
This might have been a fun movie in the vein of Tim Miller’s Deadpool. Jamie Madrox, the Multiple Man, is an X-Men character. Like the other spinoff X-characters, such as Gambit, X-Force, and The New Mutants, there is a lot of uncertainty about their future with Fox right now.
Simon Kinberg was known to have developing the script, with James Franco attached to play the mutant who can duplicate himself at-will. Even with the Disney deal closing in, Kinberg insists he hasn’t abandoned the project, we believe we’re going to see that chapter close with the release of Dark Phoenix.
18 ALMOST MADE: BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN
Back in the early 2000s, writer Andrew Kevin Walker had an idea about putting Batman and Superman together in the same film, pitted against each other (Wow! Groundbreaking!). The studio was interested and, based on the treatment alone, hired Akiva Goldsman to write the film and Wolfgang Peterson to direct. The story would have pit a bitter Bruce Wayne, whose wife had recently been slain, against Clark Kent, whom he blamed for allowing the murder of his wife.
They discover that it was actually Lex Luthor who was behind the demise, uniting the pair against their common enemy. They approached Christian Bale for Batman and Josh Hartnett for Superman. The studio was aiming for a 2004 release, but in the end decided to revive the franchises separately.
17 ALMOST MADE: ELEKTRA: ASSASSIN
Way back in 1992, Oliver Stone had an idea for Elektra: Assassin, based on the mini-series by Frank Miller and Bill Sienkiewicz. Stone was thinking professional volleyballer Gabrielle Reece for the titular assassin role. Stone would change the storyline up a bit and have Elektra go up against the ninja order, The Hand.
Unfortunately, the film rights for Elektra had just been sold to Fox, along with those of Daredevil. Stone dropped the project and all know what we eventually got about a decade later. I would have rather seen Stone’s version.
16 ALMOST MADE: WESLEY SNIPES’ BLACK PANTHER
Just about everyone knows all about the critically-acclaimed 2018 Marvel film, Black Panther. What you might not be aware of is that years before Chadwick Boseman debuted as the Wakandan sovereign, Wesley Snipes was linked to the character. Known for his title role in Marvel’s Blade trilogy, Snipes began pushing for a Black Panther film since around 1992. Columbia Pictures was developing the film and Snipes was in negotiations to build a franchise around the character.
In 1999, after many script setbacks, Snipes was ready to produce and star in the film, alongside Artisan Entertainment. The film stayed in development until at least 2007. With the years dragging on and Snipes’ subsequent tax evasion conviction, it became apparent that this version of the character would never happen, but it would’ve been cool!
15 ALMOST MADE: SUPERMAN LIVES
If you’ve ever watched Kevin Smith in live performances, you might have heard him spend a good hour on this film. It was the late 1990s and Warner Bros. was looking to recoup after the dismal failure of Superman IV. They had a script that would’ve basically been Superman battling Doomsday to the death. His spirit leaves his body and rests within Lois Lane, who gives birth to a reborn Superman. He matures quickly and returns to fighting for truth and justice.
The story was tweaked, bringing in Braniac and changing the reborn aspect to his spirit returning to his lifeless body. Kevin Smith became involved, then Jon Peters, then Tim Burton, then Nicolas Cage as Superman. However, due to constant rewrites and plot changes, everyone dropped out and the film was scrapped.
14 ALMOST MADE: TIM BURTON’S CATWOMAN
After the success of Batman (1989) and Batman Returns (1992), Tim Burton originally had plans for two more franchise films, one of which the studio ended up going in a more family-friendly direction (see Joel Schumacher’s Batman Forever – actually don’t, forget it…), the other was a spin-off featuring Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman.
Daniel Waters returned to write the script; Denise Di Novi was again producing. The finished script was turned in but remained in development limbo for years. Pfeiffer dropped out, Ashley Judd was in, then Burton left and the project was dumped and started over from scratch. We ended up with 2004’s Catwoman, starring Halle Berry (need I say more…).
13 ALMOST MADE: JOSS WHEDON’S WONDER WOMAN
Attempts at developing a Wonder Woman feature film can be traced back to the 1996 project being produced by Ivan Reitman. By 1999, Joel Silver was going to produce it and Warner Bros. were interested in Sandra Bullock for the titular role. In 2002, Silver hired Todd Alcott to write the screenplay. Alcott’s screenplay was revised, with various drafts being turned in from a variety of writers.
In 2005, Silver announced that Joss Whedon would not write and direct the film. Bullock was out, but Charisma Carpenter and Morena Baccarin expressed interest. The studio ended up disliking his script and Whedon exited the project. Enthusiasm for the film waned among execs and the project was shelved.
12 ALMOST MADE: THE SUB-MARINER
Universal Pictures acquired the rights to the Sub-Mariner back around 1999, with hopes in developing a film project. Within a few years, David Self was hired to pen the screenplay, with Chris Columbus attached to direct, for a rumored 2007 release date.
However, Columbus quit the project in 2005, and development was delayed. In 2006, Jonathan Mostow was brought on to direct, but the film was stuck in development and eventually scrapped. Dwayne Johnson, Daniel Dae Kim, and David Boreanaz all expressed interest in portraying the character. As of May 2014, the rights have reverted back to Marvel Studios.
11 ALMOST MADE: THE HANDS OF SHANG-CHI
In 2001, Stephen Norrington, director of Blade, announced his next project was going to be directing a big-screen adaptation of Marvel’s Shang-Chi. Norrington commented that his goal was to bring fans a real martial arts film, rather than a film with some martial arts in it.
In 2004, Ang Lee was announced as producer, then the following year Stan Lee agreed to executive produce for DreamWorks; with Yuen Woo-ping directing. Bruce McKenna wrote a screenplay but the film has been stuck in development limbo ever since. Will we ever see it? Not that version, but as recently as December 2018, Marvel has stated that Shang-Chi is on the shortlist for a feature film character.
10 GLAD SHELVED: FANTASTIC FOUR 3
The first two Fox films, Fantastic Four (2005) and Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007) weren’t that bad, they weren’t good, but definitely better than the most recent version! Though neither film received anything but negative reviews, they both made a ton of money. Naturally, a third film was green lit and pushed into development.
The film was to feature Franklin Richards, the reality-warping mutant son of Reed and Sue Richards. Djimon Hounsou was being eyed to appear as Black Panther, with Julian McMahon returning as Doctor Doom. The rest of the cast was already signed for a third film. However, in 2009, after development lingered, it was decided instead to reboot the franchise (which still subjected us to a bad film).
9 GLAD SHELVED: JUSTICE LEAGUE: MORTAL
In 2007, Warner Bros. announced a live-action Justice League movie. On the strength of Kieran and Michele Mulroney script, the studio hired George Miller, of Mad Max fame, to direct. Preliminary casting choices were already made: Adam Brody as The Flash, D.J. Cotrona as Superman, Common as Green Lantern, Megan Gale as Wonder Woman, Armie Hammer as Batman, Santiago Cabrera as Aquaman, and Hugh Keays-Byrne as Martian Manhunter.
The Writers Guild then went on strike and the film was put on hold. After the strike ended, enthusiasm for the film was gone and by 2010, George Miller announced that the project was dead.
8 GLAD SHELVED: X-MEN ORIGINS: MAGNETO
In 2004, after the success of the first two X-Men films, spin-offs were being bounced around. Writer Sheldon Turner was hired by Fox and he came up with a storyline based around Magneto. The story would’ve begun in World War II and follow a young Magneto struggling to survive in the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland. He meets Charles Xavier when the camp is liberated and the two become friends.
In a desire for vengeance, Magneto begins hunting down his Nazi tormentors which turns Xavier against him. David S. Goyer was brought on to direct but the subsequent Writers Guild strike stalled the production. Ultimately, the project was scrapped, but elements of the storyline were rolled into the prequel, X-Men: First Class (2011).
7 GLAD SHELVED: BOB HOSKINS' WOLVERINE
Before Hugh Jackman was immortalized as the animalistic Wolverine, several actors were lined up to portray the character. Rocker Glenn Danzig, Dougray Scott, and, yes, Bob Hoskins. If writer Chris Claremont had his way, Hoskins would’ve had the role years ago. It was 1990 and Claremont was kicking around the idea for an X-Men film. Wolverine was short in stature and ill-tempered, a perfect role for Hoskins, believed Claremont.
Before you laugh, remember the Wolverine of the comics was short, muscular, and hairy: 1980’s Bob Hoskins! The studio was eyeing James Cameron to produce and when Stan Lee held the meeting, the topic of Spider-Man came up and the X-Men film faded away. Cameron never made the film, but that Spidey project ended up being Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man (2002).
6 GLAD SHELVED: CANNON’S SPIDER-MAN
Back in the 1980s, Cannon Films, owning the rights to Spider-Man, approached Tobe Hooper to direct a proposed feature. The premise is that a mad scientist exposed Peter Parker to radiation which turned him into a human-spider, like eight arms and everything. The plot revolved around Parker’s refusal to join the scientist’s radiated-mutant army. Luckily, Stan lee put the stops on that premise and demanded they stick to the established origin story.
Tobe Hooper left the project and a new script was written. By 1988, $10 million had been dumped into development. Albert Pyun was brought in as the new director but was quick to realize that Cannon lacked the resources for an adequate production. He quit the film and it was shelved. Interestingly, the sets and props created for the Spider-Man film ended up being used in Pyun’s next film, Cyborg (1989), starring Jean-Claude Van Damme.
5 GLAD SHLEVED: BATMAN TRIUMPHANT
Back in 1996, Warner Bros. had plans to release a fifth Batman film, titled Batman Triumphant. Believing Batman & Robin was going to be successful, Joel Schumacher was lined up to return. George Clooney and Chris O’Donnell were naturally going to reprise their roles. Triumphant was slotted for a 1999 release. Scarecrow would have been the baddie, Jack Nicholson’s Joker was to cameo in a fear hallucination. Harley Quinn would also be featured as she wanted revenge for Joker’s demise.
The short list for the role of Scarecrow included Nicholas Cage, Steve Buscemi, Ewan McGregor and Jeff Goldblum. Reportedly, Schumacher’s choice for Harley Quinn was Courtney Love. Luckily, Batman & Robin tanked and we were spared a fifth installment.
4 GLAD SHELVED: BATMAN BEYOND
In 1999, Batman Beyond was a successful animated series. Taking place in 2040, an elderly retired Bruce Wayne take the young Terry McGinnis and mentors his training as the new Batman. In conjunction with Triumphant, Warner Bros. had hoped to produce a live-action film with the character.
Series co-creators Paul Dini and Alan Burnett were writing a script and Boaz Yakin was brought it in to direct. This probably would’ve been a great film, but by 2001, interest waned. Warner Bros. decided to move forward with a new trilogy pitch by a director Christopher Nolan. Had Batman Beyond been released, WB might’ve passed on Nolan’s pitch.
3 GLAD SHELVED: BATMAN: YEAR ONE
Along with Triumphant and Beyond, this is another Batman film that was in development at Warner Bros. They desperately wanted to get another Batman film out. Another of Joel Schumacher’s projects was of adapting Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One.
After Batman & Robin, Schumacher was out. Darren Aronofsky was brought in and pitched his take. He brought in Frank Miller to write the script, with more of a noir crime drama feel. It seemed more like an R-rated film and wasn’t well-received by execs. By 2003, the studio ultimately cancelled the project in favor for Nolan’s proposed trilogy (lucky for us).
2 GLAD SHELVED: MORT THE DEAD TEENAGER
You know Marvel Comics literally has thousands of characters from which to draw from in developing film projects. The fact that some exec believed Mort the Dead Teenager was due for his big-screen debut is inconceivable! Mort was an obscure character from a 1993 mini-series by Larry Hama and Gary Hallgren.
The story is that Mort Graves is a bullied teenager. He dies in a car accident and meets the Grim Reaper’s son, Teen Death. Teen Death returns Mort to Earth to haunt those who mistreated him and attempt to impress his dream girl. Oh, he has the ability to remove his head whenever wants. Yeah, so we were luckily spared this nugget of cinematic excellence.
1 GLAD SHELVED: SILVER SURFER THE MUSICAL
This has to be the film that many of us are ecstatic about having been shelved permanently. We’ve never heard about this one really publicly. In his book, Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, author Sean Howe tells us that this was indeed a film that was being developed for theatrical release.
In the early 1980s, Lee Kramer, executive producer of the disco musical Xanadu, had the idea for a film about the Silver Surfer with a contemporary rock and roll soundtrack. He envisioned an epic film starring Olivia Newton-John, and scored by Sir Paul McCartney himself! Would it have been a hit? Maybe, but we think the film would’ve done the character a major disservice.