Movies & TV / Columns

A Bloody Good Time 09.06.12: A Look At Supernatural Superheroes

September 6, 2012 | Posted by Joseph Lee

Opening Logo courtesy of Benjamin J. Colón (Soul Exodus)

Welcome to A Bloody Good Time.

Last week I took a look at my top ten horror guilty pleasures. Let’s see the feedback.

Jimbob Jones said: I think you made a mistake on The Happening… it’s “So Bad It’s Bad”. Honestly, that movie is like Ghost Ship — KILLER opening, with crappy follow-up.

Well the column wasn’t “So bad they’re good”, it was guilty pleasures. Movies that I enjoy watching even if no one else does. But we do agree on one thing, that opening in Ghost Ship was awesome.

cdunc83 replied: I hate the term “guilty pleasure.” If you like it, why be afraid to admit it? I’ve heard, “well, they’re things not meant to be liked.” I disagree with that. You like it or you don’t like it. It’s all about taste, just like anything else that people like or don’t like I say.

I agree with you in a way. Like I’m not ashamed to admit that I like these movies (or I wouldn’t have written about it) but at the same time they’re not considered good in most circles and I still like them. I just thought “Movies people think are bad but I like anyway” would have been a rather long title.

Mario added: Not horror, but I’ll alwyas hold a special place in my heart for the Trancers movies…Jack Deth forever…Did someone mention The Dead Hate The Living? I remember that being good, but it’s been years since I saw it…

You would think that I too would love The Dead Hate The Living, considering it’s a zombie movie by Full Moon, but it just wasn’t for me. I do love Trancers though.

Andre the Midget shared: Much love to anyone who mentioned Blood Diner!! I’d forgot all about that till it was mentioned. Some of my fav’s Chopping Mall, Blood Sucking Pharos in Pittsburgh, I Spit on Your Grave. Also thanks for putting Jason X on the list me and my wife have argued about that movie on several ocassions.

Holy crap, there’s a movie called Blood Sucking Pharaohs in Pittsburgh? That’s just been added to my list.

AG Awesome said: Joe, I have to just mention this again because Im dying for you to watch this movie. Try to find a dvd of Waxwork (here is a trailer : )and review it. I think you will love it. It’s my favorite horror movie of all time. Also you still need to see the Randy Quaid Frankenstein!

Trust me, I’m getting to Waxwork! It is on Netflix and whenever I can set aside some time I will watch it. Shoot me an email sometime in October (when I normallly go on horror binges) and I’ll even tell you personally what I thought of it!

FR3 replied: No love for C.H.U.D. I’m shocked.

I thought C.H.U.D. was well-loved in the horror community and don’t consider it a “guilty pleasure”. I do like that movie. Bud the Chud is more what we’re looking for and yes, I liked that too.

The absolute best part of the comments section last week was how many people knew about and loved $la$her$. As if I needed any more reason to love my readers. I won’t get to all of the comments but special mention goes to AndrewCrow, Lord Keedik, Spike and A Nerd on the Interwebs. You guys all earn a million cool points each. Spend them wisely.

This week we’re looking at dark supernatural superheroes in film. I should have explained more last week, but I don’t mean Batman. Yes, I’m aware that he is The Dark Knight, but he’s also an honest-to-goodness hero that does not like to kill. I’m referring to more supernatural heroes, heroes that fight monsters and are rooted in horror to some degree. I’m sure I’ll miss some, but I just wanted to take a general look at these movies over the years. So for the sake of argument, let’s just look at some of the main ones and consider this an abridged look.

I’m also only looking at those who started in a comic first, so that means that sadly, The Toxic Avenger won’t be included.

Sometimes a dark superhero is adapted into film and is done completely wrong. That is the case with The Mask which took a story about a mask that makes people completely insane (sometimes violently so) and turned it into a slapstick comedy. That’s not to say the film version is bad, as it’s very amusing, but it’s a vast departure from the source material. It’s just that it was re-written to suit Jim Carrey’s comedic talents instead of going for the ultraviolent material of the comics.

Due to the popularity of the film (it ended up making Carrey a much bigger star and turned Cameron Diaz into a name) and the huge box office take ($351 million on a budget of $23 million), it has all but erased the original comic series. Most people consider The Mask to be this version, and even after the film, the comic series toned down the violence. The success of the film led to a cartoon (which I barely remember growing up). Eventually in 2005, Son of the Mask escaped the New Line Cinema studio and the world suffered a result. It’s been considered one of the worst movies of all time and won several Razzies. Personally, I haven’t seen it because I saw the trailer and knew immediately I would hate it.

Not every attempt to bring a dark superhero to film has had to be changed.

Hellboy is one of my favorite superheroes ever. It has everything a horror fan could want from this type of movie. The hero is a demon, it battles countless types of monsters and runs with a pack of equally freakish people. Guillermo del Toro worked with creator Mike Mignola to make sure the film stayed true to the comic, but that wasn’t really necessary since Del Toro has admitted he loves the character. The first film is great outside of a few hiccups, and the second manages to correct those mistakes for an even better movie.

Why are the Hellboy films so good? You could point to the direction of Del Toro, the already fun and quirky characters created by Mignola, but I’d like to say that it’s because of Ron Perlman. Del Toro had to fight for Perlman, a somewhat unknown character actor, to take on the role against the studio’s wishes. Now, I can’t imagine anyone else playing the part. Whenever Hellboy gets rebooted (and I imagine he will be if Del Toro can’t get a third off the ground), whoever they get just won’t be as good.

Hellboy wasn’t a huge success for Colombia with $99 million (on a budget of $66 million), which is why it took so long to get a sequel. It was a cult hit. Universal would take over distribution and would end up reaping the rewards when Hellboy II: The Golden Army made nearly double its $85 million budget and surpassed the original in terms of quality. Which, considering how good that movie was, is pretty amazing. I think the sequel works because we already have our basic idea of who Hellboy is, now we can see him interact more with the world of the paranormal and deal less with his origin. It’s pretty much why most superhero sequels are better than the original.

In between the two theatrical films there were two direct-to-DVD animated films: Hellboy: Sword of Storms and Hellboy: Blood & Iron. These keep the animation style as close to the comics as possible as well as keep the major players in the films (Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, John Hurt) in the voice cast. The movies were both more or less well-received.

This is one series I hope we get another film of with the principal people involved. The Hellboy crew have yet to let me down so I think even the the cliffhanger we left the last film on (well, sort of), we can get another quality and fun outing. That’s the biggest thing to take away from these films: they’re fun. I had more fun at the first Hellboy movie than I did at any of the X-Men films, and that’s by no means a knock on that franchise.

Of course you can’t talk successful superheroes without bringing up Blade. Arguably, Blade is the reason you got to see The Avengers this summer. No, I’m serious. After Batman & Robin, the superhero film was absolutely dead. All plans for films with other superheroes were put on hold or outright canceled. Then Blade, a film based on a more obscure Marvel character, came out in 1998 and earned $131 million on a budget of $45 million. On top of that, it had somewhat favorable reviews, certainly better than Batman & Robin had.

Some credit X-Men for the boom of superheroes that still has yet to end, but Blade came first. X-Men might not have got off the ground if not for the success of Blade and to some degree the earlier success of Men in Black. This was the film that convinced Marvel to run with X-Men and later Spider-Man, which really kicked things off. If for some reason we ever hit another dark period with these films, it’s best to test the waters with a character like this, it seems.

Like Ron Perlman with Hellboy, Wesley Snipes was perfect for Blade. The only other person to play the character (Kirk “Sticky Fingaz” Jones) had maybe half the charisma and was mostly boring in the role, one of the reasons Blade: The Series failed, in my opinion. Snipes may play the character slightly cooler than he was in the comics, but he seems to take the role seriously and Blade is a badass.

The series would get even better with Blade 2. Guillermo del Toro took over the series (can you tell who my favorite director is?) and made a film that was bigger and better than the original. It was beloved critically and made even more money ($155 million on a budget of $54 million) for New Line. Snipes was fully comfortable in the role this time around (although I think he was since day one) and seems to really embrace it. His interaction with the vampires, the reapers and Ron Perlman are all great.

Then came Blade: Trinity, the film that killed the series dead. There hasn’t been a film since and it’s been so long between movies that Marvel now has the rights back. To call Trinity a disappointment would be too high praise. It’s an absolute mess. I can’t tell if it’s the flunkie vampires to blame, the awful portrayal of Dracula or the addition of a miscast Ryan Reynolds and Jessica Biel, but this movie was just bad. It’s a story about the Daywalker vs the original vampire. How in the world do you screw that up? Apparently by letting David Goyer direct.

Part of me hopes that Marvel can get Snipes back for a fourth film, but I also realize the man is fifty and vampires are supposed to be ageless. I just hope they can find the right actor for a reboot that is as cool and badass in the role. I wouldn’t even know who to cast in the role.

In 1982, Wes Craven adapted the comic book known as Swamp Thing into a film, and it became something of a minor hit. It was popular enough at least to get a TV series, a cartoon (with a “so bad it’s good theme song) and a sequel. Swamp Thing is about a scientist named Dr. Alec Holland who is hit with chemicals and is transformed into the titular monster. If you read Alan Moore’s version you’ll find that Holland is dead and the creature just has his consciousness, but we’re going with what the movie says here.

Swamp Thing is a character that probably shouldn’t work as a superhero on the big screen. He’s a big green plant monster battling an evil scientist. Not exactly Superman or Batman. I don’t think the film works all the time but I think the character does. Swamp Thing certainly shows the time and special effects of the early eighties, but he looks as good as possible here. The movie itself seems intentionally cheesy, poking fun at the concept without making fun of the character. My only problem with it is that when Swamp Thing isn’t on screen, I don’t care about anyone else.

Some other supernatural comics were turned into dark superheroes as well, but they didn’t fare as well.

Did you even know there was a film version of Marvel’s Swamp Thing rip-off Man-Thing“. The 2004 film was bad enough that Marvel and Lions Gate didn’t want to release it theatrically, instead letting it become a “Sci-Fi Original” a year later. This is the company that thought Elektra was a good idea. It’s not a very good movie and there’s a reason it’s largely forgotten.

Another obscure comic-book hero movie is Faust: Love of the Damned. When I first saw this I wasn’t even aware that it was based on a comic book. I just went because I saw that Andrew Divoff of Wishmaster played the villain. An artist sells his soul to M (Mephistophales, the devil, etc) to avenge the death of his girlfriend. As a result, he’s turned into a demon that loves to kill on a routine basis. If that sounds familiar, then that’s because you’ve read a Ghost Rider comic once in your life. Still, a Brian Yunza gore-fest is not a bad thing to watch, so if you’re looking to kill a couple of hours there are worse ways. It’s still a better Ghost Rider adaptation than the films we got.

I actually like the Ghost Rider movies for the dumb action movies they are, but we have yet to see the character portrayed as it should be on the big screen. You wouldn’t think it’d be hard to get this character right, but in the hands of Sony their last two attempts have fell flat. The first problem has to be Nicolas Cage. I like the fact he tries hard, I like the fact he seems to enjoy the character, but he’s completely wrong for Johnny Blaze. He has been since the beginning and if ever a property was in need of a reboot, it’s this one.

The first had Mark Steven Johnson directing, and he had a stigma for what he did with Daredevil. The second seemed like it could be good, as it was given the Crank team of Neveldine/Taylor and had a cast that included Ciaran Hinds, Anthony Head and Idris Elba. Even Christopher Lambert had a role! Visually, the movie is great to look at. From a script perspective, it’s a mess. However both movies were hits, as the first earned $220 million (on a budget of $110 million) and the second earned $132 million (on a budget of $57 million).

Hopefully that means that Sony will not give up on the character (or at the very least, get someone else to play him) and that the third time is the charm. Or maybe they should just let the rights revert back to Marvel. Either way, I’m a huge fan of Johnny Blaze and really want to see him properly translated to film.

Speaking of superheroes that really need a new film, Spawn should not be remembered for the 1997 trash that we got in theaters. Spawn is a great-looking and brutally dark hero that could be a big hit for a studio willing to actually turn a film into something good. I will say this about the film. Michael Jai White was a good choice for Al Simmons. I dug his performance and thought it was too good for the movie it was in. Everything else was just bad. Martin Sheen wasn’t very good (something that I’m not used to from him), the special effects were sometimes good but mostly really bad, and then there’s the fact that some idiot studio executive decided to give this movie a PG-13 rating.

Then there’s John Leguizamo. What can you say about him? He’s a large ham and chews the scenery like he is about to die of starvation. Every moment that Clown is on screen (and Violator, but that’s a fault of the hit or miss special effects) is painful to watch. It’s like he thinks he’s in a comedy and everyone else is in a serious movie. Or maybe he just realized the film was bad and decided he didn’t care.

If you’re a fan of Spawn, you’ll have to console yourself with the awesome HBO animated series because this film came out in 1997. It wasn’t a bomb (financially that is) but no one has even attempted to make another film since. Todd MacFarlane and White have talked about a new film as recently as last year but it doesn’t seem like it’s any closer.

If you noticed that The Crow was missing, that’s on purpose. Next week I plan to look at the entire franchise including the great original and the…not so great sequels. There is also Constantine, but I talked about that last week. I loved Constantine and think that’s another film that needs a sequel.

That’s it for me. Who is your favorite dark superhero in film? Leave some comments here on or my Twitter. Next week, as I just said, I’m going to look at the entire Crow franchise.

Closing Logo courtesy of Kyle Morton (get your own custom artwork and commissions at his Etsy account)

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Joseph Lee

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