ByPramit Chatterjee, writer at
Enthusiastic reviewer of anything that moves. My undercover Twitter id is: @pramitheus
Pramit Chatterjee

Comic book movies have been with us since the early '30s, and the genre has ebbed and waned with the times to eventually become one of the industry's most lucrative genres. However, before Marvel Studios cracked the formula in 2008, many adaptations failed to come to fruition. Some were too ambitious for their time, while others faced financial issues that ultimately ended production. Regardless of why they failed, the end result is that some of the genre's most promising projects will never be seen by fans.

However, due to the artistic possibilities of , movies like Return of the Joker and The Flashpoint Paradox have not only been able to explore the crazier, cosmic side of comic books, but have also co-existed alongside live-action cinematic universes. Recent animated releases like Return of the Caped Crusader and The Killing Joke have given fans multiple takes on the same character, allowing audiences to experience more than just one Batman on the big (and small) screen. These animated titles have embellished the rich history of the Dark Knight and stood as a shining example of co-existence between animated comic-book characters and their live-action counterparts.

So, shouldn't animation be used to bring some of the world's failed comic book productions back to life? While studios vie for release dates and character rights for their live-action portrayals, their animation departments have mostly managed to stay free of such constraints. So, here's four cancelled comic book movies that should be re-purposed as animated films.

4) George Miller's Justice League

Back in the 2000s, Christopher Nolan began a superhero renaissance with Batman Begins. While he was busy building his Dark Knight trilogy, Warner Brothers had roped in George Miller (Mad Max, Happy Feet) to make the first ever live action Justice League movie.

The movie was supposed to have a budget of $220 million and was deep into production until they were hit with the writer's strike in 2008. Although the property was never revisited due to the lack of writers after the strike, early drafts of the script suggested that it was going to be based on Mark Waid's 'Justice League: Tower of Babel'.

'Justice League: Tower of Babel' [Credit: DC Comics]
'Justice League: Tower of Babel' [Credit: DC Comics]

The Animated Universe made a loose adaptation of the comic with Justice League: Doom but neither the script nor the animated movie was able to capture the source material's sense of despair. 'Tower of Babel' has a fast-paced plot filled with action sequences thanks to the sinister Ra's Al Ghul.

As Miller has proved through his Mad Max series that he can handle well-rounded characters in an apocalyptic scenario, 'Tower of Babel' would be a fantastic animated feature.

Although there are countless animated movies and a live-action adaptation coming out in 2017, Miller's vision would provide a unique perspective on the genre and the superhero ensemble.

3) James Cameron's (Adult-Themed) Spider-Man

James Cameron has traveled through time (The Terminator), space (Avatar) and water (The Abyss) but was denied the opportunity to swing across the New York city skyline with Spider-Man. After completing True Lies, Cameron showed interest in adapting the web-slinger's origins. So, Carolco Pictures hired him to write, produce and direct a Spider-Man film in 1990.

After a few months of writing, Cameron had provided a rough script that saw Arnold Schwarzeneggar as Dr. Octopus, Leonardo DiCaprio as Spider-Man and an iteration of Electro that parodied capitalist corporate officials. Despite the digression from the comics, things were progressing at a slow pace, until Carolco Pictures finally shut down production in April 1992, citing financial and legal problems.

'Spider-Man Noir: Eyes Without A Face' [Credit: Marvel Comics]
'Spider-Man Noir: Eyes Without A Face' [Credit: Marvel Comics]

Cameron's script was vastly different from the original comics. It supposedly had sex scenes and anti-capitalist tones, which would've baffled fans of the source material.

However, as Joe Quesada's 'Spider-Man Noir: Eyes Without A Face' has shown that there is room for controversial Spidey stories, perhaps the outlandish script would be perfect as an animated feature.

2) Guillermo del Toro's Hellboy 3

Guillermo del Toro's shelved sequel to Hellboy and Hellboy II: The Golden Army is a tragic tale in itself. From del Toro putting up a Twitter poll to fans petitioning, this property went through hell and is now officially an impossibility. Instead, the franchise is getting a reboot with Neil Marshal at the helm.

Before this announcement, creator Mike Mignola revealed that they had intended to take del Toro's franchise forward with the story they're now using for the reboot. As that would've caused a digression in del Toro's three-story arc for Hellboy, the director had walked away because he'd wanted an apocalyptic ending for the son of Azzael.

Hellboy [Credit: Dark Horse Comics]
Hellboy [Credit: Dark Horse Comics]

During a Reddit AMA, del Toro had briefly discussed the outline of the story he had in mind for Hellboy 3,

"Well, you know, we don’t have that movie on the horizon, but the idea for it was to have Hellboy finally come to terms with the fact that his destiny, his inevitable destiny, is to become the beast of the Apocalypse, and having him and Liz face the sort of, that part of his nature, and he has to do it, in order to be able to ironically vanquish the foe that he has to face in the 3rd film. He has to become the best of the Apocalypse to be able to defend humanity, but at the same time he becomes a much darker being. It’s a very interesting ending to the series, but I don’t think it will happen."

Although we'll never see this in live action, an animated third installment would be hugely popular among fans. As del Toro has already shown his incredible vision throughout his previous Hellboy movies, the world of animation would surely allow him to fully realize the perfect conclusion.

1) Tim Burton's 'Superman Lives'

Before Superman Returns and Man of Steel, there was Superman Lives. An ambitious project with Nic Cage as Superman, Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor and Tim Burton at the helm. Although much of the story was based on 'The Death of Superman', the script eventually became overstuffed with the inclusion of Brainiac, Lex Luthor and an amalgamation of both these villains called Lexiac - go figure!

As revealed in Jon Schnepp's documentary The Death of "Superman Lives": What Happened?, Warner Bros. had deemed Wesley Strick's script too expensive and hired Dan Gilroy to scale down the budget from $190 million to $100 million.

However, after suffering from consecutive duds like Batman and Robin, Steel, Fire Down Below, Mad City and The Postman, Burton's take on not only looked expensive, but also risky. Therefore, the project was ultimately shelved. However, this project could be revisited, using unused concept art created for the film in order to make Superman Lives an animation unlike any other.

Needless to say, bringing these untold stories back to life would provide some excellent fan service, allowing us to simultaneously enjoy previously canned projects alongside the likes of Marvel's cinematic universe and the DCEU.

Which of these cancelled movies do you want to see as animated features? Let me know in the comments.


Latest from our Creators