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7 Iconic Characters They Saved from The Cutting Room Floor

It's easy to take iconic characters for granted. We just assume that the moment a Batman or a Rambo were dreamed up, the writer knew he had a world-changing icon on his hands.

Not so. It turns out a lot of the most legendary characters in pop culture came damned close to getting axed early in the game. Characters like...

#7.
The Joker

Every superhero franchise is kind of in a Catch-22. You need a great, memorable archenemy, or even better, more than one. And you need to be able to bring him back again and again and again. But if a villain like, say, the Joker, has been out killing people for 70 years, doesn't that make Batman look a little incompetent? What kind of superhero lets somebody like the Joker keep slipping away?


This kind.

How We Almost Lost Him:

That was what writer Bill Finger was wondering. Finger, who wrote the first Batman stories, thought that if Batman's foes kept coming back, it would make him a pretty lousy crime fighter. Take a guess what happened to the Joker in his first appearance in Batman #1.


He uses playing cards. We get it.

He got stabbed right in the damned heart.

Who Saved Him?

Whitney Ellsworth.

Ellsworth was the editor of National Publications (later DC Comics) in the 1940s, and by all accounts had one of the sissiest names in history. He didn't want Finger to kill off interesting villains (like he had done with Braless Woman and Sluterella in the past), so this time he told Finger to save the Joker. A new panel was quickly added.


Do all doctors react this way when they figure out a patient isn't dead?

If you want to know just how hard it is to think up good comic book villains, remember that scene played out in 1940. Hundreds of issues, a TV show and a bunch of movies later, he's still the best they could come up with.

#6.
Jack Shephard from Lost

Jack was the unquestionable leader of the plane crash survivors for the first couple dozen episodes of Lost and without question is the character we would most like to punch in the face.


"Pretty much everyone on board is dead. But my tie... my tie is alright."

How we almost lost him:

Like the Joker, he was supposed to die in the first episode. Oh, and he was to be played by Michael Keaton.

In typical "everything must have a twist" J.J. Abrams style, the idea was to cast a well-known actor and build him up as the main character... then whiplash the audience by killing him off in the pilot. Not a bad idea, it lets the audience know that pretty much anything can happen, which seems to be 90 percent of the Lost concept.


BOOM! POLAR BEAR! OUT OF NOWHERE!

Who Saved Him?

The producers.

Because this was still network television and challenging the audience usually means giving them a very quick glimpse of side boob, they figured the whole "killing Michael Keaton" thing (which we hope involved suddenly sucking him into the jet engine) might cross the line into pissing people off.

That's another similarity to the Joker situation. If the audience likes him, they'll hate you for killing him. If the audience hates him (again, we're talking Michael Keaton here) then the whole impact of the stunt is gone.

Then again, this is Lost we're talking about here. Does anybody stay dead?


Also, next season the Harlem Globetrotters show up.

#5.
Rambo

If you're young enough that you just know Rambo as a character played by an aging, mumbling Sylvester Stallone desperately trying to grab some box office before he retires, you missed out. From about a decade after 1985, Rambo had a status shared only by Top Gun as a movie that added a word to the language.


And sweet headbands.

During those years, every time you saw a tough guy you'd say, "Look at Rambo over here" and everybody knew what you were talking about (and any guy who was great at anything was called the "Top Gun" on magazine covers and such). He was a damned icon of badass.

How We Almost Lost Him:

Did you know the Rambo franchise was based on a novel? It was. Have any of you actually read the novel First Blood, which was the prequel to Rambo? To save you a trip to Wikipedia, here is a massive spoiler: Rambo dies at the end. The movie originally planned to follow suit:

When you think about it, that ending is actually way more appropriate, especially considering the entire point of the story is how Vietnam vets were abandoned after the war. In that context, his crazy rampage over the city suddenly makes more sense: He was looking for a way to die like a soldier. Also, he was crazy and he wanted to drop Brian Dennehy through a skylight.


"There's no way I'm getting dropped through this skylight."

Who Saved Him?

Stallone did.

Sly apparently felt that this disenfranchised killing machine had the potential to become a massive action hero franchise, so he was opposed to killing him off. This caused a lot of tension on set, especially with Kirk Douglas (the first choice for Colonel Trautman) who demanded the death of Rambo for artistic reasons.


Pictured: Kirk Douglas on the set of First Blood.

Finally, the producers decided to go with Stallone's idea after test audiences reacted negatively to Rambo's death. They also complained about the lack of rainbows, but hey, you have to draw the line somewhere.


"Also, can Rambo have wings? Like Pegasus?"

#4.
Spock

There are certain characters that are just impossible to imagine as anything other than what they are. Like Darth Vader; if somebody shows you early concept art that portrays Vader as a huge lizard man or as having flames painted on his helmet, you'd call bullshit. Characters like that just appear in pop culture fully formed, and you'll be damned if anyone says otherwise. Spock is one of those characters. You just can't picture Gene Roddenberry toying with the idea of making this "Spock" character a saucy Latina.

How We Almost Lost Him:

When Star Trek was first pitched to NBC, the station felt that the character of Spock looked like the devil. Which is ridicul- actually we can kind of see where they're coming from. And now we can't unsee it.


Live sinful and burn in hell.

Who Saved Him?

Women.

Gene Roddenberry, the show's creator, convinced NBC to let him keep Spock on the show as long as he stayed in the background. But Spock's stoic badassery and alien sex appeal unexpectedly attracted lots of female viewers and the show's ratings skyrocketed.

When you get down to it, Spock really is the perfect man: tall, mysterious, brilliant, a bit of an outcast... he's like James Dean and an art history professor all rolled into one pointy-eared package.


You won't be able to unsee this, either

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