In recent history, comic book adaptations have become the biggest trend, thanks to the better special effects to deliver the blockbuster action these characters deserve on screen. But even before today's Arrow and Avengers fan base explosion, there were comic book movies and TV shows that have seen recent adaptations. Let's take a moment to step back and discover these previous adaptations, as well as vote on who was the better hero:
Steve Rogers / Captain America
Before fighting alongside Iron Man and the Hulk on the big screen, the all-American hero first saw screen time in 1944 portrayed by Dick Purcell, with the film that took the most liberties from the comics. The character then got a second chance for an on-screen comeback with Matt Salinger's 1990 portrayal, but instead resulted in another flop. It wasn't until Chris Evans donned the suit in 2011 that the character finally got he screen story he deserved, helping to continue the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The character of Thor is one of the few Marvel characters currently on the big screen that has been portrayed as an animated character for the majority prior to Chris Hemsworth's donning the costume in 2011. Before the Australian actor suited up in the Asgardian gear, Michigan-born Eric Allan Kramer gave the role of the Norse god a shot in the 1988 television film The Incredible Hulk Returns.
Dr. Bruce Banner / The Incredible Hulk
The angry green crime fighter first made his live-action appearance in 1978 when actors Bill Bixby portrayed the normal Dr. Banner and former bodybuilder Lou Ferrigno portraying the creature itself on the hit TV adaptation of the Hulk, as well as the revival TV films. The Hulk would not appear in person again until 2003 when Eric Bana would take on the role of the scientist Banner as he first gets transformed, and though the movie earned plenty of money at the box office, audiences found it truly disappointing. Fans of the character would rejoice, however, when Bana was replaced by Edward Norton in the 2008 sequel, which made the film more faithful compared to the first. Though Norton was thought to be continuing as Banner for The Avengers and other Marvel films the character appears in, he was replaced (supposedly voluntarily) by Mark Ruffalo, who has since portrayed the scientist/creature.
Frank Castle / The Punisher
The Punisher is one of the few characters in the Marvel universe who has yet to appear in the MCU, but is finally set to appear in the Netflix adaptation of Daredevil portrayed by Jon Bernthal. Before Shane - I mean Bernthal - suited up as the skull-shirt wearing vigilante, the character got three chances for success on the big screen, failing each time. The first was Dolph Lundgren's 1989 adaptation, which changed much of the origin story and did not have the titular hero wearing his legendary skull. Lionsgate would then take a stab at the character with the 2004 Thomas Jane adaptation, succeeding more with fans and at the box office, but still not finding enough people to warrant another Jane appearance. Instead, Lionsgate would reboot the series (for a third time) in 2008 in the Ray Stevenson entry, which was the biggest failure for the character, losing over $20 million of its $35 million budget.
The oldest comic book hero team has had the third roughest time on the big screen behind Ghost Rider and The Punisher, with none of the films earning good reviews from critics nor audiences. The first two films were fairly box office successes, but were seen as being too cheesy and not having good stories, but the actors were seen as fitting their individual roles. But after the lack of substantial box office return from the second film, Fox put the franchise on hold for a while, waiting until 2015 to give it the reboot treatment, only for it to result in one of the biggest critical and financial flops of the year.
Peter Parker / Spider-Man
The web-slinging superhero has had multiple animated incarnations, but is most notable for its live-action adaptations collapsing whenever more than one villain shows up for battle. Before Spider-Man got his first theatrical film, he made his debut live-action appearance by Nicholas Hammond in the television films The Amazing Spider-Man, Spider-Man Strikes Back and Spider-Man: The Dragon's Challenge. The arachnid vigilante would then make the explosion onto the big screen in 2002 as Tobey Maguire would don the suit for the fight against his demons and some large villains for three films until he was replaced in 2012 by Andrew Garfield for two films. But after only two films, even Garfield will now be replaced by Tom Hollander in the upcoming Captain America: Civil War, now that the rights to the hero have gone back to Marvel.
Matt Murdock / Daredevil
Justice is blind. At least, it is when it comes when it comes to the first two portrayals of the blind lawyer by day, vigilante by night. The Hell's Kitchen lawyer first was portrayed by Rex Smith in The Trial of the Incredible Hulk in 1989. It wouldn't be until 2003 that the character would make his second live-action appearance, this time earning a solo theatrical film starring Ben Affleck as the hero. After the failure of the Elektra spin-off, a sequel never took off, and the character would remain dormant until 2015, when Disney and Marvel earned the rights back and developed the character into a Netflix series starring Charlie Cox that would connect to the MCU, as well as establish its own universe for future Marvel Netflix series.
Now, you may be thinking to yourself, "Samuel L. Jackson is the only Nick Fury ever." You're not completely wrong, in that he's the only one that should be remembered for portraying the character. However, the leading agent of the covert intelligence agency S.H.I.E.L.D. did get a live-action solo TV film in 1998 starring David Hasselhoff as the eye-patch wearing super spy. Fans all but reject this adaptation, instead choosing only to accept the Sam Jackson portrayal we've come to know since his cameo appearance in 2008's Iron Man.
Some upcoming Marvel characters are looking at recasting, now that some of the actors' contracts are up, as well as the actors not wishing to return. Hugh Jackman only has a couple X-Men films left before retiring as the Wolverine, trying to make sure his age doesn't show on the immortal character. Chris Evans, though expressing interest in returning as America's favorite hero, might not be if Civil War follows the same storyline as the comics. Hopefully, we get to see these actors continue their perfect roles as the characters, or at least ensure we get good final performances from each.