From Jared Leto’s “gangster” Joker to Oscar Isaacs’ unconvincing Apocalypse makeup, there have been a fair share of comic book movie character designs that left fans very divided. While it’s often hard to stay completely faithful when translating a 2D, drawn-image into a 3D, live-action medium, some have been left feeling bitterly disappointed and underwhelmed by Hollywood’s take on their favorite superheroes and villains. Some casting decisions — coupled with impressive costuming and makeup — look like a nerd’s dream come true. Ryan Reynolds looks and sounds so much like Deadpool he seems like he was born to play Wade Wilson; Hugh Jackman (aside from the significant height difference) is scarily convincing as Wolverine. And of course, Robert Downey Jr. is as close to Tony Stark as you can get!
But, then there are your George Clooney “bat nipple” disasters, your drab Fantastic Four reboot costumes, and your bizarre bra-and-double-belt combos for Halle Berry’s Catwoman. Thank goodness, then, that there are some photoshop wizards out there to show us what we could have had. Not only that, but some of these amazing fan-castings prove that even designs we consider decent leave a lot of room for improvement. Do you think that Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn or Jon Bethnal’s Punisher looks are the definitive live-action versions of the characters? Well, think again!
15. OPRAH WINFREY (AMANDA WALLER)
Whether you loved or loathed Suicide Squad, there’s no denying that Viola Davis’ casting as the steely Amanda Waller was a great choice. Known for playing similarly cool and calculating female characters like How To Get Away With Murder‘s Professor Annalise Keating, Davis brought the kind of gravitas to the role you’d expect from an Oscar-winning actress.
Although not an exact replica of her comic book counterpart, she looked pretty on the money too. At least, that’s what you’d think until you saw this even more accurate photoshop rendering of Oprah Winfrey in the role instead. Created by Kode Logic, this version is instantly recognizable; plus, it would have been fascinating to see someone with such a warm personality tackle an amoral badass like Waller.
14. IDRIS ELBA (GREEN LANTERN)
From James Bond to Spawn to Luke Cage, it often seems like there’s no role that fans think Idris Elba wouldn’t be perfect for. Though he’s been flying the flag for Marvel as Heimdall for a while, many are eager to see him switch over to DC to replace Ryan Reynolds as Green Lantern. Though Reynolds did his charming best as Hal Jordan, that movie was pretty much universally panned.
Rebooting Green Lantern would definitely require a fresh start with a fresh face, and this fantastic mock-up of Idris as Hal’s successor, John Stewart, by poumap practically looks like an official poster for the movie that dropped onto the Internet from the future. The choice of facial hair is also reminiscent of the character’s look in Justice League Unlimited — not a bad reference at all.
13. JAI COURTNEY (CAPTAIN BOOMERANG)
Though Jai Courtney seemed like a good choice for the Aussie Flash villain in Suicide Squad, his underdeveloped character probably left many non-comic book literate fans thinking of him as little more than “that boomerang guy.” The creative license taken with his costume was arguably far more successful — the tracksuit jacket emblazoned with his title was a nice twist while his high-collared coat referenced his original look from the comics.
Having said that, the nerdy satisfaction from seeing comic accurate costumes in live-action is hard to beat. This reimagining of Jai as the boomerang-slinging Captain by Kode Logic trims back the character’s bushy sideburns to a more familiar length and adds his trademark beanie and logo, making it look a lot more costume-y and less like, well, just a disheveled criminal in a tracksuit and coat.
12. JOSH BROLIN (BATMAN)
Sure, after being cast as Jonah Hex, Thanos and Cable, you might be feeling a little Brolin-ed out by this point when watching comic book movies. However, this amazing character poster created by francus321 casting him opposite Henry Cavill in Batman v Superman might just change your mind. BvS certainly had its flaws, but Batfleck generally wasn’t considered one of them (remember that tractor tire workout scene? Ooph!)
Many fans prefer the older, gruffer versions of the character, and they don’t come much gruffer than Josh Brolin! That cold-eyed stare alone looks like enough to give Supes jitters, and — though we’re used to seeing the actor sporting various facial disfigurements in his other roles — he certainly has the rugged handsomeness in this image to pull off billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne.
11. TOM HARDY (RICK FLAG)
Remember when Tom Hardy was going to be Suicide Squad‘s Rick Flag? Well, this fantastic photoshop job by Kode Logic gives us a glimpse of what might have been. Maybe on another version of Earth in the multiverse, there’s a version of the movie with Tom in it, but here on our planet, we ended up with Joel Kinnaman instead. Oh well.
The reason for this casting change was just down to scheduling issues when filming for The Revenant lasted longer than expected. As the Squad’s reluctant military minder, Flag’s eponymous canary-yellow shirt from the comics runs the risk of looking a bit weird when translated to the big screen. But, seeing a muted version of it on Tom Hardy in this image actually makes what we could have had look even cooler.
10. CHRISTINA RICCI (HARLEY QUINN)
As a much-beloved fan-favorite, Harley’s live-action debut in Suicide Squad was highly anticipated. Though the film is riddled with problems, Margot Robbie’s portrayal of the Joker’s long-suffering partner-in-crime is considered to be one of its highlights. From the twanging accent to the creative, punk-inspired redesign, Robbie barely put a booted foot wrong in the role.
The only thing that could have made her performance even better for fans would have been a more traditional take on her distinctive black and red costume from the source material, a version that artist D3SIGNMILTIA gives us a tantalizing taste of here, casting Christina Ricci in the role. This version fits Harley into The Dark Knight universe — possibly in an alternate version of The Dark Knight Rises to fill the Joker’s absence.
9. DWAYNE “THE ROCK” JOHNSON (APOCALYPSE)
Currently, The Rock is signed on to play Captain Marvel/Shazam villain, Black Adam for DC but concept artist Lucas Parolin‘s rendering of him as Apocalypse proves that the actor could definitely pull off more than one Egyptian comic book supervillain. It’s especially effective considering the unfavorable comparisons to bad cosplay and Power Rangers villains that Oscar Isaacs’ costume attracted when the first images of him as the character came out before the release of X-Men: Apocalypse.
With his bulky physique and mean stare, The Rock has the kind of commanding presence needed for a character with the (literal and metaphorical) stature of Apocalypse. Lucas said on his blog that his design was “Alien high-tech plus Egypt,” which sounds dead-on the money, and with just a few effects to alter The Rock’s head proportions, the result is impressive.
8. NEIL PATRICK HARRIS (THE RIDDLER)
Since his modern silver screen debut in Batman Forever, Batman’s most cunning adversary has been noticeably absent from movie adaptations. Many fans had their hopes set on him making an appearance during Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, and this amazing piece by graphic designer Josh McMahon gives us a look at what we could have had.
In his photo-manipulated poster, Josh imagines Neil Patrick Harris in the role, which is a logical choice considering it was another comedy actor — the great Jim Carrey — who preceded him. You can imagine Neil bringing the same dark and zany energy to the character that he did for A Series of Unfortunate Events‘ Count Olaf. The marked improvement here is the costume — Carrey’s garish green bodysuit (what were they thinking with that?) is replaced by Riddler’s signature suit and bowler hat.
7. JON BERNTHAL (THE PUNISHER)
Surely there’s no way to make Jon Bernthal’s Punisher any better than he already is, right? Well, “semi bro-fessional” digital artist BossLogic is here to prove there’s always room for improvement. Since debuting in an issue of Spider-Man back in the ’70s, Frank Castle has become one of the most badass rogues in the Marvel universe, putting the “anti” firmly in front of “anti-hero.”
It’s hard to find any fault with Bernthal’s pitch-perfect version of the gun-loving assassin from the Netflix Marvel-verse but despite this, fans were still left hungry to see his classic skull logo pop up at some point. This beautifully painted piece gives us a fully-realized, comic accurate version of the character complete with scarring and — most importantly — really big guns.
6. JACKIE EARLE HALEY (THE SCARECROW)
One of the most fascinating and creative reimaginings from the Nolanverse of Batman films was Cillian Murphy’s Scarecrow. As the quietly eccentric Dr. Jonathan Crane, non-comic book fans couldn’t have guessed that the character would descend so far down a monstrous path, finally donning his “true” face as the sack-headed master of fear. Despite the well-executed hallucinations, an even more terrifying version of the character is still sorely needed after Nolan’s more realistic take.
This incredible photoshopped job certainly brings the fear-factor. Created by concept artist ms675, the costume is inspired by the character’s redesign for the Arkham Asylum video games and casts Jackie Earle Haley in the role, who — considering his past portrayals of bone-chilling creeps like Rorschach and Freddy Krueger — would no doubt kill it as Scarecrow.
5. WILLEM DAFOE (THE JOKER)
Let’s face it, there are very few supervillains that Willem Dafoe wouldn’t absolutely nail. His moustache-twirling performance as the Green Goblin was one of the best things in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man films, and by the looks of this great piece by BossLogic, he would be perfectly cast as the Joker, too — a character who has rarely been miscast throughout his decades of live-action appearances.
Each actor seems to bring out a different aspect of Joker’s personality for a new generation of fans. However, Jared Leto’s recent divisive portrayal has left many longing for a return to a more classic Joker look, which BossLogic delivers here. With his pointed nose, maniacal grin, and the dastardly twinkle in his eyes, Dafoe hardly needs makeup at all to fit the part.
4. DANIELLE PANABAKER (KILLER FROST)
Unless you’re sinking HBO amounts of cash into each episode, superhero costumes on a TV budget have always been tricky to get right. (And even then, we’re still getting Starks cloaked in IKEA-stained rugs.) The CW has stepped its game up since its Smallville days, and though most of the costumes and VFX in the Arrowverse have been convincing, fan art like this spectacular piece from BossLogic shows there are still improvements to be made.
Killer Frost’s distinctive icy look is certainly difficult to pull off realistically, and though Danielle Panabaker doesn’t look bad, BossLogic’s tweaks — styling her hair more naturalistically with a cool, radioactive glow, and making her costume look less like something the frontwoman of a death metal band would wear — definitely steps the character up a notch from what we’ve had so far.
3. ELIZA DUSHKU (CATWOMAN)
Catwoman has been on our screens since the ’60s and has gone through some pretty wild costume designs. Michelle Pfeiffer’s stitched latex catsuit in the Tim Burton’s Batman Returns and Halle Berry’s ripped-up bra, belt, and leather pants combo for the character’s solo outing represent the more outlandish versions, while lil’ Camren Bicondova’s scruffier look in Gotham and Anne Hathaway’s sleek, combat catsuit from The Dark Knight Rises sit on the more practical side of the Selina spectrum.
This rendering of Buffy alum Eliza Dushku as the cat-themed thief by BossLogic manages to blend the two extremes perfectly — sexy and sassy without bordering on the ridiculously unbelievable, which is what Seline Kyle should be. The “rock chick” makeup and worn-leather also gives it a modern flavor — perfect for that Gotham City Sirens movie we’re all craving.
2. NAOMI HARRIS (STORM)
Much like Black Widow in the Avengers/Captain America movies, you can easily identify any X-Men film simply by looking at screencaps of Storm’s hairstyle. Over the years, the wigs seem to be creeping further and further up her head — evolving, almost as if by design — from her long, white locks in X-Men to her badass mohawk in X-Men: Apocalypse.
Though Alexandra Shipp had the hair down (or, should that be up…) the rest of the costume was sadly missing the classic leather and studs she sported in the comics when she first rocked this dramatically different look. The rebellious spirit of the outfit was kind of lost in translation. That’s why this incredible piece by creature designer Alex Tuis with Naomi Harris in the role works so much better.
1. EMMA STONE (POISON IVY)
Another one from photoshop wizard, BossLogic, and quite possibly their best to date. It stands to reason that the level of greatness for a fan-casting is measured by how disliked the actual casting was, making this gorgeous rendering of Emma Stone as Poison Ivy all the better. You might want to scrub Uma Thurman’s campy portrayal of the character from your memory, but seeing what’s possible in this image just brings all that disappointment flooding back.
Obviously, in a movie in which Batman totes a credit card with his own name on it, you can’t expect the cast to take things all that seriously. Even more reason, then, to reintroduce the character back into the reinvigorated DC cinematic universe with a darker and more seductive (and generally better) version that this fan-tastic photoshop job teases us with.
Which actors do you think would be better casting choices in comic book movies than what we actually got? Let us know in the comments!
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