Since its earliest days, Hollywood has known that comic books are a fertile source to steal ideas from, since everyone knows the characters but nobody actually reads the stories (right?).
But Hollywood hasn't always treated the source material with the same respect and reverence that it gave characters like Iron Man, Scott Pilgrim or even Howard the Duck. For example ...
7Legends of the Superheroes, or the Live-Action SuperFriends Turn Racist
Yes. Yes, you can go wrong with a bunch of well-known superheroes. Horribly, horribly wrong.
Legends of the Superheroes was the name of two one-hour specials inspired by The SuperFriends, the cartoon loosely based on the Justice League comics. And it was a variety show. With a laugh track.
The cast included Batman, Robin, Captain Marvel, Green Lantern (the better-known one this time), Hawkman and The Flash. The only reason Superman and Wonder Woman didn't show up is that they had a movie and a series in production. Adam West and Burt Ward reprised their roles as Batman and Robin -- except that this was in 1979, more than 10 years after their show went off the air, which means that Batman is now over 50 and the "Boy Wonder" is in his mid-30s. The unintentional result was a Dynamic Duo that looked like it had fallen on some hard times.
"One more crack about the new Batmobile and you're walking home."
The first episode features the heroes trying to discover the location of a doomsday device, but then the second one was, inexplicably, a celebrity roast of the superheroes hosted by Ed McMahon.
But it gets worse: At one point, McMahon tells the audience that there are other less well-known superheroes, "especially in the minority area." From that point the show spirals into a politically incorrect nightmare:
That's right, the only black superhero in the entire show had to be called Ghetto Man and come from the projects. After he's done performing his sassy stand-up act ("I'm sorry, but we don't feel the Green Lantern qualifies as 'colored people' "), he flies away by opening his arms and legs and shouting "KAREEEEEEEEM!"
We'd say that 1979 was a different time, but we're pretty sure that episode qualified as a hate crime even then.
6Archie Returns to Riverdale, Deals With Depression
Most of the (puzzlingly enduring) charm of Archie Comics lies in their complete inability to change with the times, retaining the same innocent view of teenagers since the 1940's. That's also what makes Archie: Return to Riverdale, a TV movie that aired in 1990, so amazing: It takes a massive turn to the dark side by featuring Archie and the gang decades later, as a group of badly adjusted adults dealing with their depressing lives.
Wait until the first kid from Boy Meets World turns 50.
The story shows the characters reuniting for the 15th anniversary of their graduation from Riverdale High -- because if there's one thing more depressing than high school itself, it's high school reunions. All their lives have taken turns for the worse: Betty is a small-time schoolteacher trapped in an abusive relationship; Veronica is a four-time divorcee with an implied sex addiction problem; and the once fun-lovin' Jughead had his soul crushed by his ex-wife and now struggles to connect with his son.
It's all downhill from here, guys.
Archie himself was doing fine, with a hot fiance and a promising career as a lawyer in the big city, until he came back to Riverdale and saw this:
Like an addict falling off the wagon (and being run over by it, then defecated on by the horse it's tied to), Archie finds that his feelings for both Betty and Veronica resurface, putting in jeopardy the only healthy relationship he's ever had. It doesn't help that the home-wreckers don't give a crap about ruining his life and openly pursue Archie despite being fully aware of the existence of his fiance.
Veronica, propositioning Archie for illicit hotel sex.
Betty, kicking things up a notch.
Archie ends up being dumped and throwing his career away to move back to Riverdale, which is the most depressing outcome we could think of. But there are also some light hearted moments, like this scene where Jughead and his son finally bond over a 90s hip-hop remix of The Archies' "Sugar Sugar" ...
... but, of course, that only serves to highlight the song's inappropriate sexual overtones, with lines like "You laid your ever-lovin' stuff on me" and "I'm gonna rock your world complete." Yeah, we're thinking the people who made this thing freaking hated the Archie comics.
They apparently hoped it would spin off into a series, which thankfully never happened. If it did, we're pretty sure Jughead would have hanged himself by the fifth episode, and the season finale would have involved Veronica being convicted for gutting a hobo.
Archie ends up in prison after a botched convenience store robbery costs 14 people their lives.