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There are so many damn superhero movies out there that it's easy to feel like any movie pitch based on a comic book is automatically greenlit into a trilogy and corresponding spinoffs. However, that's not actually the case -- for every Spider-Man reboot, there are countless comic book adaptation projects that never made it past the developmental stage. And while some of them were clearly too ridiculous to be allowed to live, others sound way more interesting than the movies we wound up getting instead.

Look, we're not saying all of these would have been great -- Hollywood is capable of ruining even the best of ideas. But you can't help but be intrigued when you hear ...

5
Batman Was Almost An Ivan Reitman Action-Comedy Starring Bill Murray And Eddie Murphy

Warner Bros.

It would take a lot to convince most Batman fans that a screwball comedy adaptation of their favorite crimefighting pointy-eared detective would be a good idea. You'd need a freaking dream team of funny people to pull that off -- like, for instance, a Ghostbusters-era Ivan Reitman directing a young Bill Murray as Bruce Wayne and Eddie Murphy as Robin, sticking bananas into the tailpipes of Gotham's criminal underworld.

Warner Bros.
And they fight Gotham's most diabolical villain yet: Gopher.

Well, that almost happened.

In the early '80s, before Tim Burton got his Hogwarts professor hair tangled in the spokes of the franchise, Warner Bros. hired screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz to write a Batman film that would have been much lighter, close in tone to Superman: The Movie or the Roger Moore 007 films (two of which Mankiewicz had also written). Bruce Wayne would have been a smooth-talking, womanizing playboy who drove an Aston Martin and had a giant Batcave like in the comics, complete with a giant penny and mechanical dinosaur (metaphors for his wealth and sexual prowess, respectively, and also for his ability to get drunk and buy things on eBay).

DC Comics
"I have a whole other cave full of even dumber shit."

Since Reitman had just proven he could make a smug asshole likable in Ghostbusters, which was a film that also included gadgets and high-concept, effects-driven action sequences, they offered the director's chair to him. Warner Bros. plan was to pair Bill Murray, the aforementioned likable asshole from Ghostbusters and Stripes, with Eddie Murphy as a wisecracking Robin, which isn't that outrageous when you consider that Murphy basically dressed like Robin back then.

HBO/Warner Bros.
If anything, the Chris O'Donnell version looks more reserved.

Eventually the studio changed its mind and took the movie in a different direction, resulting in the biggest box office phenomenon ever at that time (although they did hire a comedian to play the Dark Knight). Still, a rougher-edged version of the 1960s Batman TV series starring some of the greatest comedic minds of the past century would've undoubtedly been legendary in its own right. Also, Bill Murray thinks he ""would have been a fine Batman," which is really all the assurance we need.

4
Superman Was Almost A Godfather-esque Trilogy Spanning Thousands Of Years

Warner Bros.

Mark Millar is the short Scottish man who wrote the comics behind films like Wanted, Kick-Ass, and Kingsman: The Secret Service, plus a bunch of Marvel stories (including Civil War) that have served as the template for the Marvel Cinematic Universe -- right down to the casting choices.

Marvel Comics
That "Doctor Pym" was "motherfucker" in the script, but Marvel thought it was too on the nose.

But despite the fact that he writes comics in which the Hulk tries to kill Freddie Prinze, Jr. for going on a date with Betty Ross, Millar's favorite character is the most G-rated of superheroes: Superman. He bought the actual cape Christopher Reeve wore in the original movies, and presumably wears it while running around his bedroom making whooshing noises for an hour every night before lights out. He also wrote an acclaimed comic imagining what would've happened if Superman's rocket had landed in the USSR instead of Smallville, Kansas (spoilers: we'd all be spectacularly communist now). Millar wanted to give us an eight-hour Superman trilogy that was somehow more dark and insane than Bolshevik Clark Kent taking control of the entire world.

DC Comics
Spoilers for Batman v. Superman ... probably.

In 2007, after Superman Returns underwhelmed both moviegoing audiences and Warner Bros. accountants, the studio contacted Millar and asked if he was interested in pitching a franchise reboot. Millar answered by immediately whipping out a 200-page document full of all his ideas for a Superman movie.

Millar called his proposal "Godfather-esque" because it told Superman's "entire story from beginning to end," just like Michael Corleone's -- except for the fact that it started a thousand years ago on another planet and ended in the distant future, with Superman facing the existential drama of seeing everyone he's ever loved fade away, plus the more immediate drama of seeing the sun slowly turn red as it grows into a supernova, eventually killing him. Which admittedly sounds a lot like the ending to The Godfather Part III. If you thought Man Of Steel went a little overboard by destroying Metropolis, Millar wanted to do the same thing to existence as we know it.

DC Comics
"Can we keep the beard and lose everything else?" -- Zack Snyder

Warner Bros. loved Millar's proposal ... until they found out he was currently working for Marvel and realized it would look bad if they hired one of DC Comics' archenemies to handle their biggest property.

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3
There Was A Fantastic Four Set To Star Paul Walker, Charlize Theron, And Alexis Denisof (Oh, And John C. Reilly As The Thing)

20th Century Fox

In 2002, after Spider-Man and X-Men proved that the world was finally ready for sophisticated films about people in tights punching each other, 20th Century Fox hired Peyton Reed (director of the upcoming Ant-Man) to do a version of Fantastic Four that wasn't a huge piece of shit.

20th Century Fox
They are still chasing this impossible dream.

However, Reed's idea for a feature film about Marvel Comics' First Family was less a dark and gritty origin story about Earthbound deities frowning at each other and more Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band:

EMI Studios
If the Beatles were a superhero team, Ringo would be a talking dog.

Although it wasn't set in the '60s, Reed's vision was inspired by the Beatles' A Hard Day's Night: It would have started with the Fantastic Four stopping some bad guys (or, if Fox could afford it, a giant monster), only to have to escape from a mass of adoring groupies, which Reed reasoned would be one of the downsides of being celebrity superheroes. Based on that one scene, we already like this script better than 90 percent of comic book movies, simply by virtue of not being another freaking origin story.

So the Fantastic Four would be beloved the world over for their righteousness and superpowers, but behind closed doors, they'd bicker and fight like regular people, which is mostly what the original Fantastic Four comics were about.

Marvel Comics
They'd beat the shit out of Mole Man, and then it was pretty much this for 20 pages.

If that all sounds ridiculous to you, the idea is that tonally it would've been a balance between a comedy and a big sci-fi epic, kind of like a Joss Whedon show. Which makes sense, as the script was written by Doug Petrie, an executive producer and writer/director on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Incidentally, Alexis Denisof from Buffy and Angel would have starred as Mr. Fantastic ... along with Charlize Theron as the Invisible Woman, John C. Reilly as the Thing, Paul Walker as the Human Torch, and Jude Law as Doctor goddamned Doom. A key scene would have shown Doom's handsome face under the mask, only for it to "to sag and melt and scarify in this horrible way."

Unfortunately, Reed ended up leaving the project due to "creative differences," and Fox went on to make two (probably three) shitty Fantastic Four movies.

2
Neil Gaiman Almost Directed An Adaptation Of The Sandman Universe

Vertigo Comics

Besides being a successful Twitterer and an adored Tumblrer, Neil Gaiman has also written a celestial ass-ton of comics, novels, children's stories, radio plays, and screenplays. Just about the only thing he hasn't done, outside of traveling back in time to the wild west, is direct a feature-length movie -- a fact that almost changed in 2007, when New Line Cinema greenlit what was to be Gaiman's directorial debut, Death And Me, a film about the bubbly female personification of Death itself:

Vertigo Comics
Pictured here, looking for all the world like the bridge in an Aerosmith music video.

The movie would have been based on DC Comics' Death: The High Cost Of Living, a spinoff of Gaiman's Sandman series. If you wore black clothing in the '90s, then statistically speaking, Sandman was one of two items on your bookshelf (the second being The Crow). The story of Death centers around Death becoming human for one day every century in order to stay connected with humanity. In this case, "humanity" includes a suicidal teen and a 247-year-old tramp called Hettie whom Didi (the name Death goes by in this story) starts palling around with. It's like The Seventh Seal starring Zooey Deschanel.

Death And Me isn't the first time the Sandman universe almost made it to the big screen, but the previous attempt involved infamous Hollywood producer Jon Peters trying desperately to cram a giant spider into the film's third act (there are no giant spiders anywhere in the Sandman universe). This time, Gaiman himself was going to be in full creative control. In fact, Gaiman even visited the set of Hellboy II to get some directing tips from Guillermo del Toro, who would have produced Death And Me.

Maddy Gaiman
"Tip #1: Hire a mime and stick him in at least two suffocating monster costumes."

So what happened? The 2007-2008 screenwriter's strike halted the project, and by the time it got back on track, DC Entertainment had been restructured and decided it didn't want to pursue a Death And Me movie anymore, robbing moviegoers of a classic offbeat story and the opportunity to see Neil Gaiman guest star as Death's brother, Dream. Because that was clearly what he had in mind this entire time.

Vertigo Comics/Neil Gaiman
Wait a minute, isn't that the same plot as Meet Joe Black?

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1
Green Arrow: Super Max Would've Had Green Arrow Team Up With Supervillains To Break Out Of Prison

Warner Bros. Television

Whether Marvel or DC is home to the coolest superheroes has been an ongoing argument since time immemorial, but when it comes to supervillains, there's no contest: DC wins, hands down. They've got the Joker, Lex Luthor, Two-Face, the Scarecrow ... basically Batman's entire Rogues Gallery, plus a few extra lesser-known ones like Deathstroke, Sinestro, and Crazy Quilt.

DC Comics
Don't forget to save room on those "Best Of" lists for Calendar Man.

Imagine all those legendary supervillains getting locked up in the same prison (not hard to imagine, considering there are like two prisons in the DC Comics universe). Now imagine all of them trying to break out.

That's what Green Arrow: Super Max was going to be about.

Warner Bros. Television
Yeah, Green Arrow was in it too, for some reason.

Before the world's second-most-famous arrow-shooting superhero became a CW sensation, he was going to get his own movie based on an original script by David S. Goyer, who you might recognize as the dude who co-wrote both The Dark Knight and Man Of Steel (and to a lesser extent, Kickboxer 2: The Road Back). In the film, Green Arrow was going to be convicted of a crime he didn't commit and get locked up with that Dream Team of fanciful murderers we just rattled off. Many of those supervillains were sent to the big house by Arrow himself, so he's understandably desperate to clear his name before his fellow inmates begin sharpening toothbrushes to exact horrible vengeance for being thrown in prison by a man who dresses like Robin Hood and shoots arrows with giant boxing gloves attached to them.

DC Comics
In fairness, you would never forget this shit.

When the appeals process fails him, Arrow decides to recruit some of the villains and break the hell out of there. The problem is that the prison itself has superpowers, since it's designed to hold guys who can punch the moon in half and, uh, tell super difficult riddles. Green Arrow: Super Max is essentially The Great Escape starring the A-list villains of DC Comics.

... Or rather, it would have been, if Warner Bros. hadn't stalled the project indefinitely. Now that Green Arrow has his own TV show, Lex Luthor is set to appear in Batman v. Superman, and the Joker and a bunch of other villains will be showing up in a completely unrelated movie called Suicide Squad, it seems like Super Max is never going to happen. Which is a shame, because it would have been an interesting way to introduce all of those characters. Maybe Goyer will take his idea to Marvel, and we'll get to see a reimagining of The Dirty Dozen or Ocean's Eleven starring all the Marvel villains that haven't been blown up by Tony Stark yet.

Marvel Studios
Pictured here.

For more of what will never be, check out 7 Amazing Video Games We'll Never Get to Play and 5 Incredible Real Video Games (You'll Never Get to Play).

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