For the longest time, it seemed that 'comic book' flicks were doomed for b-grade treatments - aside from the very rare blockbuster. (For every one Superman, there's a half-dozen Punishers!) I wasn't a HUGE comics fan as a kid, but I did have a healthy collection of Spider-Mans, Fantastic Fours, and Green Lanterns. I am, however, a big fan of superhero flicks...when they're done right! Starting with Superman in 1978, things have been pretty up and down. (For the sake of my own sanity, I'm choosing to essentially ignore the various TV movies like Spider-Man: The Deadly Dust, The Trial of the Incredible Hulk and Dr. Strange, partially because they're fairly obscure, but mainly because they pretty much suck. Plus, TV movies can be cool, but I don't consider them "movies".) Superman (1978) Superman 2 (1980) Swamp Thing (1982) Superman 3 (1983) Supergirl (1984) Sheena (1984) Howard the Duck (1986) Superman 4: The Quest for Peace (1987) The Punisher (1989) Return of the Swamp Thing (1989) OK, so far the various superheroes are not being represented particularly well. Aside from the first two Superman flicks, all of these were either low-budget cheese or just awful. Mostly both. Then along came... Batman (1989) ...and Hollywood started to realize what a goldmine these characters could be. A lot more superhero flicks would soon crop up, but whether or not that's a good thing is up to you: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990) Captain America (1991) The Rocketeer (1991) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II (1991) The Guyver (1991) Batman Returns (1992) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III (1993) The Shadow (1994) The Crow (1994) Timecop (1994) The Mask (1994) Fantastic Four (1994) (Unreleased. Good luck finding it!) Batman Forever (1995) Tank Girl (1995) Judge Dredd (1995) The Phantom (1996) Barb Wire (1996) Vampirella (1996) Spawn (1997) Batman & Robin (1997) Steel (1997) Blade (1998) Mystery Men (1999) So while there were certainly some solid superhero flicks throughout the 90's, this could certainly be considered a "transition period". The modern superhero flick would be redefined by... X-Men (2000) X-Men took the dramatics of the original Batman and modernized it with the latest in FX technology. (Although in my opinion it lacks the charming "gee whiz" factor of the original Superman, but it's still a fun flick.) Studios quickly began snapping up various comic book properties (mainly Marvel characters) and it seems that 2002 is just the tip of the iceberg. New Line made some solid coin with their Blade 2 and May 3rd sees the long-awaited big-screen debut of our beloved Spider-Man. Those who pay attention to such things are fully aware of The Hulk and Daredevil, two films currently in production that are based on popular heroes. So are the days of the straight-to-video low-budget superhero flicks gone forever? It seems that there are so many superhero flicks on the "fast track" that we will inevitably get a few turkeys. But those who grew up on the colorful Marvel/DC/Dark Horse superheroes should have a WHOLE LOT to look forward to over the next several years! Since there are new comic-book movies announced seemingly every week, I thought this would be a good place to drop the scoops on the new ones. (The most recent one annoucned made me giggle, which is what prompted this whole post!) Let's see what's coming! Spider-Man - May 2002 - Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, Willem Dafoe, James Franco. Directed by Sam Raimi; written by David Koepp and Alvin Sargent. - OK, who's NOT mega-psyched for this movie? The Hulk - June 2003 - Eric Bana, Jennifer Connelly, Sam Elliot, Nick Nolte, Brooke Langton. Directed by Ang Lee; written by David Hayter, James Schamus, Michael Tolkin, Michael France. - Lotsa buzz about this one already. Could be fantastic, could be ridiculous. I'm betting on the former... The Hulk 2 - Planned for a May 2004 release. We shall see. Spider-Man 2 - Sam Raimi, Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst will all be returning, and production is set to begin in January 2003. Spider-Man 3 - The contracts are in place. Bet on this one. Daredevil - January 2003 - Ben Affleck, Jennifer Garner, Michael Clarke Duncan, Colin Farrell, Jon Favreau, David Keith, Kevin Smith, Kane Hodder. Directed by Mark Steven Johnson; written by Johnson and Brian Helgeland. - Very cool superhero that could get a great flick. The cast is damn solid, and Johnson is an interesting choice for director in that he's mainly written "cuddly" flicks like Grumpy Old Men and Simon Birch. Elektra - Jennifer Garner is signed to reprise the role from Daredevil in this spinoff/sequel. This one's still in the planning stages, but I bet it happens. (If you're familiar with what Elektra looks like - and what Ms. Garner looks like - this one's a no-brainer!) Sub-Mariner - Screenwriter David Self just signed a deal to write this one. Think Aquaman with a bit more ass-kicking skills. Self also wrote the screenplay for the comic adaptation Road to Perdition. Superman (?) - McG is signed to direct, and screenwriter J.J. Abrams is currently attached. Let's wait and see before rushing to judgment! Wonder Woman - Writers John Cohen and Todd Alcott are attached, but apparently working quite hard! Sandra Bullock is allegedly interested in the part, but word is that she sent the last script back and was none too impressed. Other reports say Bullock's not attached at all any longer. Time will tell. The Punisher - Writer/director Jonathan Hensleigh has just penned a deal with Artisan (Gale Anne Hurd producing) to helm a 'faithful' adaptation to this cult comic hero. Anyone who's seen the 1989 version knows it's got very little to do with the skull-clad anti-hero. Could be fun. Hellboy - This one was just recently annoucned and seems to be on the fast track. Ron Perlman will play the violent undead hero of Mike Mignola's very cool comic. (I've only seen a little bit of this character, but what I've seen is fantastic.) Guillermo del Toro will be directing (and probably writing) for Joe Roth's Revolution Studios. Keep your eye on this one! Ghost Rider - Director Stephen Norrington and writer David Hayter (Mr. Superhero Movie, apparently) are attached to do this one for Sony. Nic Cage has repeatedly expressed interest in the lead role, but there's been no casting yet. Stay tuned. Iron Man - Buffy-meister Joss Whedon WAS reportedly attached to this one, but that is apparently no longer the case. It's not likely we'll see this one anytime soon, but I LOVED this comic book, so I'll be scouting for any news on this one! The Fantastic Four - Director Peyton Reed is currently attached, as are screenwriters Sam Hamm, Michael France and Philip Morton. Fox owns this one, so expect something expensive. Thor - Artisan's got this guy. I'd love to see a Thor movie! Dr. Strange - Some studios got Spider-Man. Dimension studios got Dr. Strange. Not much news on this one yet, but this guy could make for a COOL movie! Iron Fist - Artisan's behind this one, and it seems that Ray Park may have the title role. Director Kirk Wong and screenwriter John Turman are attached, but it doesn't seem to have started production yet. X-Men 2 - June 2003 - Patrick Stewart, Halle Berry, Hugh Jackman, Famke Janssen, James Marsden. Directed by Bryan Singer; written by David Hayter and Zak Penn - Filming is set to begin in June 2002. I'm looking forward to seeing what actors will be playing the "new" mutants. X-Men 3 - Bet on it. Blade 3 - David Goyer has been commissioned for a script and I can imagine no reason that Snipes won't return. Goyer implies a 'world taken over' by vampires. Cool. Captain America - No idea if this one's even in the early stages, but it seems inevitable. Think about it. Catwoman - Ashley Judd and screenwriter John Rogers are currently attached. Might be a while on this one. Green Arrow and Green Lantern - Both of these heroes seem locked in development hell. Too bad; they're pretty cool. Judge Dredd: Dredd Reckoning and Judge Dredd: Possession - Shoreline Entertainment is planning to film these ones back-to-back, and I'm predicting two straight direct-to-video releases. Plastic Man - Nothing's been heard about this one in over three years. Once upon a time, the Wachowski Brothers wanted to make it, but they're working on some Matrix flicks these days. It was mentioned that Jim Carrey wants this part, but since that news was offered on April 1st... Silver Surfer - This one's languished at Fox forever. But who knows? Stranger things have happened... Spawn 2 - Todd McFarlane and Steve Niles have penned a screenplay and that's all I know. --- This concludes the April 2002 Superhero Movies Report! Let's all enjoy the wacky CGI heroics together.