“*snorts the biggest line of cocaine* I’m sorry, what was that? Sure, whatever, that sounds fine, here’s some money.”
Comic book movies are such a cash cow right now in American culture that even movies that no one in their right mind would watch can get hundreds of million dollars thrown their way. Oh, we see you noticed our Green Lantern picture right up there. That’s, um, totally unrelated. Anyway, the point being that even if a comic movie isn’t good, there’s at least the assumption that, yes, this movie has an audience, it makes sense to spend money on this. That hasn’t always been the case, however. Before Spider-Man came around to remind everyone that people happen to like movies about heroes (huh, weird) those devoted to putting superheroes behind camera were either people with a comic book and a laughably low budget, or people who, well, maybe didn’t know what they were doing. The point is, outside of Superman, successful comic book movies weren’t a guaranteed slam dunk, which might help explain how some movies that managed to honest-to-God get released in America had story lines or plots that must have seemed like a bad idea when they were originally pitched, and an even worse idea when they were put on the big screen. We’re here to talk about those movies.
Absurd American Superhero Movies That Were Actually Released
Before we go into our list, we should clarify the purpose of this article. This is not to point out incredibly bad superhero movies that exist, because in that case it would start with Superman IV and end with us breaking down into ugly sobs. No, this isn’t just about bad movies (though these movies are almost uniformly bad). These are movies that, for the life of us, we cannot explain the existence of. It baffles us to think about a studio going, “This sounds like a good idea, here, take *insert amount that is higher than your annual salary, in most cases exponentially so* and get to work, this is a story that must be told.”
These stories really did not have to be told. But told they were. God help us.
Superbabies: Supergeniuses Part 2 (2004)
Do you remember Baby Geniuses? It was the kind of movie that was designed in a lab to punish parents who dared to have children in the 1990’s. Thousands of parents worldwide were fooled. “Okay we need to find a movie that’s good for the kid. How about this Baby Geniuses? It’s got Christopher Lloyd and Kathleen Turner in it! How bad could it be?” Bad. So, so bad. But here’s the thing—if you’ve seen the movie, well, we’re sorry for you. But you’ll also know that the concept has nothing to do with superheroes. The movie is about the fact that babies are born as geniuses who speak a secret, untranslatable language called Babytalk until the age of 2 or 3, when they lose their knowledge. So it’s basically that babies are smarter than us until they grow up, which, well given the current election cycle is not something we’d disagree with.
That movie’s sequel said, fuck it, let’s make the same movie, only some of the babies have superpower now. They are superbabies. Fuck it, we have but one life to live on this Earth to create something meaningful, but this boat isn’t exactly paying for itself. And boom, the movie was made. And, incredibly, released in theaters. Why? It’s not like Baby Geniuses was a box office smash—it made less than $30 million domestically and probably resulted in the studio’s cocaine supply getting spiked by an angry drug dealing parent. But no, they just dove right into this “Baby…genius…super…babies fuck you’re right I shouldn’t write while on codeine” mindset and let her fly. It got exactly zero positive reviews, made less than $10 million, and now only exists as documented proof that Jon Voight had one helluva stroke in 2004.
Man, fuck the 80s. Just look at this shit. This Disney movie wasn’t even based on a comic book, it was inspired by a spy novel, The Game of X. It just happened to feature a man going around in the most awkward looking wing flapping devise to fly his way out of danger. The movie follows Woody Wilkins, a comic book writer (sure) who, in an effort to get some realism for his comic book hero (eh, with you so far) builds his own flying suit and jumps off the Eiffel Tower (#RIPWoodyWilkins), has his suit break, and crashes into the river. He then is asked by a CIA file clerk friend to perform a paper swap in Istanbul, and that’s where things get out of hand. So it’s basically an accidental spy movie, that culminates with a comic book character becoming a giant fucking condor and, we guess, fighting the Russians. 1/10 would not read synopsis again.
It was a disaster of a film and was panned by critics, and honestly we can’t understand how the hell Disney could agree to keep sinking money into this thing once they saw the costume. It currently has a small cult following among Disney fans, but it’s important to remember that as far as cult films go, for every Idiocracy, there are a dozen Condorman.
Rat Pfink a Boo Boo (1966)
You might see this title and assume that it’s a foreign language film, or the person writing the title suffered from aphasia, but you would be wrong on both counts. Rat Pfink a Boo Boo was a 1966 very low budget film directed by Ray Steckler that sort of tried to be a parody of the 1960s Batman TV series, but really never knew what it wanted to do. Here are some important facts for you to know about this movie. The first 40 minutes of the movie were supposed to be a crime drama called The Depraved, inspired by the director’s ex-wife, who had received a series of obscene phone calls (thank God she never had to see the internet). Then, midway through the movie, Steckler decided, fuck this, let’s make this into a Batman movie, so the main character walked into a closet with a previously minor character, and they emerged as costumed heroes named Rat Pfink and Boo Boo. Also, the title was supposed to be Rat Pfink and Boo Boo, but the artist creating the title page accidentally made “and” into “a” and the budget couldn’t afford the $50 it would take to change that. Okay, well that’s the legend behind the title, and even though the director actively contradicted it, we still choose to believe it.
The movie follows (we promise we are making none of this up) the rock-and-roll star Lonnie Lord, who becomes Rat Pfink to save his girlfriend, Cee Bee Beumont, who has been abducted by a the murderous “Chain Gang.” After defeating the Chang Gang and rescuing his girlfriend, she is again abducted, this time by Kogar the Ape, an actual gorilla that escaped from the zoo. It knocks out Rat Pfink, but is defeated by…his zookeeper coming over and collecting him to bring him back to the zoo. Seriously. It ends with a fucking parade. So…spoilers, we guess?
Since Shaq was so convincing as a genie in 1996, apparently the next step was to turn him into a superhero. That is how we got Steel, a DC Comics movie starring Shaquille O’Neal and featuring Quincy Jones as a producer, because we are so numb to the world that nothing would surprise us at this point. Shaq stars as John Henry Irons, a weapons designer who invents high tech weaponry and armor for the US military. Judd Nelson, who has a character name but you’re only going to know him as “Hey look, it’s that grown man from The Breakfast Club”, is a soldier who tries to fire a sonic cannon made by Irons at an abandoned building for some reason. It backfires, collapsing the building with Shaq and his team, and crushing Irons’ assistant, Susan “Sparky” Sparks under debris and paralyzing her below the waist.
Anyway, Shaq resigns, and Judd Nelson is dishonorably discharged and somehow manages to steal a whole bunch of Shaq-designed weapons, which he promptly starts selling to gangs. Since gangs with military futuristic weaponry is almost universally considered a bad thing, Shaq, oops, we mean Irons finds his now-wheelchair-bound partner, where they work together to make a suit and weapons to fight Judd Nelson as well as the gangs. Now, Steel is an actual DC comic book character, so this movie could have been handled as something somewhat passable. But by centering their entire film around the acting of Shaquille O’Neal, this movie pretty much established from the get-go that it was going to be a disaster.
Let’s just put it this way. There’s a scene in the trailer that shows “Sparky” spinning around in her wheelchair shooting lasers, and Judd Nelson ends up dying because he shoots a laser into Shaq’s laser-proof iron suit where it bounces back and kills him. So that’s this movie. That’s this movie that spent $16 million to make $1.6 million. Let this be a lesson to you producers out there, Shaq is actually surprisingly boring on camera.
Super Fuzz (1980)
No, not Hot Fuzz, a movie that was, you know, an awesome spoof of action films as part of the Cornetto Trilogy. Super Fuzz was about a Miami cop who gets superpowers from accidental exposure, so long as he doesn’t see the color red. Seriously. Like all lighthearted superhero action comedies, it starts with the main character sitting in an electric chair facing his fourth execution attempt. Now this technically shouldn’t be on the list—it was produced in Italy, though got an American release and has Ernest Borgnine in it as the main character’s boss and friend. But again, it’s a movie where a guy has super powers so long as he’s not looking at the color red…how…how do you even come up with that?
And that’s not even the craziest thing about this fucking movie. We’ll just cherry pick some lines from the plot summary for you to really let it sink in how weird and unnecessary this movie is.
- Dave (Speed, the hero of the movie) reveals his secret to Dunlop (Ernest Borgnine) and Evelyn (Dave’s fiancé and Dunlop’s niece), who are somewhat upset by the news. Evelyn’s main issue with this is that she does not like the idea of having a “too-perfect” man in the house.
- Dave uses his hypnotic powers to have Dunlop dance with Rosie, the villain’s mistress who Dunlop has a crush on.
- Dunlop tells Rosie about Dave’s power, and his weakness to the color red, so he can…impress her. Wait, what?
- Torpedo (the bad guy’s name is actually Torpedo) traps Dunlop into a freezer on a fishing trawler, sinks it, and has Rosie get Dave arrested for the murder.
- Rosie makes sure to keep red around Dave so he doesn’t escape from jail, but somehow manages to forget this during the first three execution attempts. Yes, three.
- On the fourth, Rosie “cleverly” places roses in front of Dave as he “cleverly” asks the pastor to take the roses with him, and escapes. Oh, before he escapes he asks, for his final request, for a piece of gum to put in his pocket “for later.”
- Dave finds Dunlop, who is frozen stiff but still alive, at which point Dave uses the borrowed piece of gum to make a balloon, which is used to float both men out of the sea and back to the city and wait why are our fingernail’s bleeding all of a sudden what is happening is this some kind of spell?
- In the climactic final scene, Dunlop jumps off the balloon, and Dave races to catch him and save him…but somehow, this results in the two of them plunging through the Earth and going straight to China and oh great now our eyes are bleeding our world is a sea of red…oh we get the color thing now.
- Anyway, everyone lives happily ever after, and it ends with Dave and Evelyn’s wedding, but of course Dave’s insecure wreck of a wife has her hair dyed red so she can “have the last laugh.”
- Hundreds of people made money in the creation of this film, and the world is filled with cruelty.
Listen, all of that is an insane mess of a movie, but you know what bugs us the most about this entry? Look at the poster again. If his super powers go away when he sees the color red then why is everything fucking red in the poster!?
You know what, on second thought, maybe Batman v Superman wasn’t that bad of a movie after all.