6 Superhero Films (That Made Your Favorite Heroes Idiots)

Making comic-book heroes look awesome is a big part of the movie industry. These days, studios will spend more money on getting the Hulk's cheekbones CGI'd just right than they do on whole other movies. But a lot of these iconic characters didn't start out as s**t-hot movie properties, meaning some of them had to settle for some pretty crappy early screen appearances while longing for the day that Joss Whedon would get in the mix. For example ...

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6
Harley Quinn Was A Regular On A Cancelled TV Show

Originally created for Batman: The Animated Series and later adopted by hundreds of girls who are trying to explore their sexuality through cosplay, Harley Quinn is perhaps most famous for her role in the Spotify playlist put on shuffle that is the movie Suicide Squad.

Warner Bros.
Played by Margot "The Best Part of this Movie" Robbie.

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But back before she infected the public consciousness with her Stockholm syndrome, Harley Quinn was a regular on the ill-fated DC show Birds Of Prey. For those who don't remember, Birds Of Prey took place in a post-Batman Gotham City, telling the story of Batman and Catwoman's daughter Helena, who was raised by Batgirl. There's also a third woman who was some kind of mutant? It's been a long time. Let's just say she was Two-Face's second cousin's ex-girlfriend or something.

Warner Bros. Television
Twice removed. Probably.

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The main villain of the show was Harley Quinn, played by Mia Sara who's most famous for her role as Ferris Bueller's girlfriend/enabler of terrible behavior. She's Helena's psychiatrist, but also secretly evil, like a quirky twenty-something version of Hannibal.

Warner Bros. Television
"I'll eat your liver with fava beans and a wine cooler."

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Though she appears much more stable in this outing, Harley still has her dark psychotic side -- which mainly manifests in some aggressive crotch-grabbing.

Warner Bros. Television

Warner Bros. Television
"I don't know if I hate this or love this."

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Perhaps not anticipating how wildly popular the character would eventually become, the producers didn't even attempt to give her anything resembling her original costume. Whenever she did something evil, she just wore a kind of clown-like leotard that looked like she found it in her mom's closet next to some old VHS exercise tapes. That would be like if Darth Vader was just a regular-looking dude who threw on a pair of sunglasses whenever the rebels were near.

Warner Bros. Television
"Just cut some boob vents in a Power Rangers costume; who gives a s**t."

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In the final episode she does give herself bad CGI hypno-eyes ...

Warner Bros. Television

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... and has to fight the girl power heroes while a t.A.T.u song plays. It's pretty much the most early-2000s moment in history.

Warner Bros. Television

Warner Bros. Television
All the things she said were bad dialogue.

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5
A 90s Doctor Strange Movie Lost the Rights At The Last Minute, Still Got Made

Doctor Strange tells the story of an eminent surgeon who leaves his job after he starts to believe in impossible magic -- so it's basically the Ben Carson story. Recently, the massive success of Marvel's Doctor Strange proved that the character can appeal to a wide audience -- which wasn't a guarantee for the sorcerer, who was specifically spawned by and for filthy acid-flashbacking hippies. In fact, a cursory glance at this goateed aging hipster immediately makes us think he belongs inside a crappy blurry VHS copy, not a massive IMAX 4K theater. It's fitting, then, that that's exactly where Strange started out.

Marvel Studios
It's like a psychedelic mushroom made a film.

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Doctor Strange's road to the big screen is one paved with rancid dog turds. First, there was the 1978 TV adaptation starring Arrested Development's Jessica Walter and a sentient mustache stapled onto a mannequin. Then, in the early 90s, it seemed as though Doctor Strange would be coming to the big screen, albeit in a schlocky low-budget form. Charles Band, the B-movie producer of Ghoulies infamy, was all set to tell the story of Strange when the rights reverted to Marvel, who then sat on them for 20 years biding their time like some evil ancient dragon that hoards intellectual property. So Band did what any responsible producer would -- he told the writers to change the character's name, lose the goatee and make the damn movie anyway.

Full Moon Entertainment
"Do a find/replace on all mentions of 'Sorcerer Supreme,' too."

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Doctor Mordrid stars Jeffrey Combs as the titular character who, not unlike Doctor Strange, is a powerful sorcerer living in New York. But instead of living an ancient and hallowed sanctum, "Mordrid" balances cosmic forces in a sweet Friends-style apartment.

Full Moon Entertainment

Full Moon Entertainment
Joey often comes over to steal food.

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And instead of Dormammu, Doctor Mordrid battles Kabal, a villain who doesn't look like an evil wizard as much as a guy who teaches kids karate at the mall.

Full Moon Entertainment
Or half of a set of evil twins bent on destroying the Matrix.

In the movie's big finale, the evil wizard/roadie for Whitesnake is trying to conjure demons from a dimensional gate in a natural history museum, magically bringing the prehistoric skeletons to life in the process.

Full Moon Entertainment
Note this was a only a year before Jurassic Park.

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But Doctor Mordrid uses his own powers to turn the paleolithic tables on Bizarro David Lee Roth and in a bold move that puts Night At The Museum to shame, kills him using archeology.

Full Moon Entertainment
"Did- Did I finally lose my virginity?"

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Despite the movie being terrible, it does pay proper homage to the schlocky and trippy origins of the man we call Strange. And at least Doctor Strange had some IMDB credits before his recent movie, unlike Ant-Man, whose only other screen appearance before making it big was a Saturday Night Live skit about how useless Ant-Man is.

SNL Studios
Presenting the only time white nerds didn't whine about a changing a character to black.

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4
Thor and Daredevil Both Popped Up in TV Movies Starring The Incredible Hulk

Before he became a regular fixture in summer blockbusters, the hammer-wielding deity Thor didn't seem like a sensible choice to anchor a feature film. That must why the closest thing we got to a Thor movie in the 20th-century was some girl mistaking Vincent D'Onofrio for a Norse god in Adventures In Babysitting.

Buena Vista Pictures

Buena Vista Pictures
"The name's Fisk, squirt!"

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But before his recent cinematic incarnation, Thor did make a brief appearance on the small screen. After the TV show The Incredible Hulk ended in 1977, a few made-for-TV movie specials were made to answer any questions the audience still had about a dude who can transform into a bigger, angrier dude. The movies also decided to bring in other Marvel characters that didn't necessitate slathering green paint on bodybuilders. First in line was Thor in the god's first live-action appearance -- though his role is a little different. He's still the God of Thunder, but in the movie, he's also a genie in a bottle, forced to do the bidding of some random jackhole who found his hammer. He even calls him "master" like some puny mortal.

NBCUnivesal Television
Everything was furrier in the 70s.

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Not everything's different, though. Remember that badass fight between Thor and Hulk in The Avengers? We get a sort of a version of that, but instead of an epic battle of the supremely powerful, Thor just starts shoving David Banner like some douche at a frat party.

NBCUnivesal Television
"Do something about it 'Incredible Sulk.'"

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And then accidentally elbows him into an electrical panel.

NBCUnivesal Television
"Pleasedon'tsuePleasedon'tsuePlease-"

Then, because it was TV in the 80s, the nerdy master and the tough god wind up in a s****y biker bar. At which point, even the schmuck who has an immortal ancient god at his disposal is getting pretty tired of his quarterback antics.

NBCUnivesal Television

NBCUnivesal Television
He just realized what movie he was in.

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So complain about the Marvel Universe misusing Thor all you want, at least he never quits chasing Ultron to get drunk and go line-dancing.

NBCUnivesal Television

NBCUnivesal Television
"Whoever Holds This Hammer, If He Be Funky, Shall Possess The Power Of Thor"

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But Thor wasn't the only iconic comic character to show up in a Hulk TV movie. In The Trial Of The Incredible Hulk, David Banner finds himself being defended in court by Matt Murdock -- who, as we all know, is secretly Daredevil.

NBCUnivesal Television
Who, despite his handicap, emerges with perfectly coiffed hair.

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Also, in this version, Daredevil seems to moonlights as a stagehand for a high-school theater department.

NBCUnivesal Television
Which is ironically where they found the actor for the part.

And because the 80s didn't have cool CGI effects for Murdoch's blind-o-vision, Daredevil's blindness has apparently given him blurry, neon-green Predator-vision.

NBCUnivesal Television
"We're just used a recording for the weather tracker from the nightly news."

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Which doesn't feel so much like ninja sonar as how everyone perceives the last few hours of St. Patrick's Day.

3
Spider-Man and Aquaman's Movie Debuts Were Bizarre Fan Films

At this point, the Spider-Man franchise has been rebooted more times than a computer still running Windows 95. But most of us can still remember being so innocently excited about the first Spider-Man movie starring immortal elf Tobey Maguire, before superhero movies were a dime a dozen. But long before then, way back in 1969, another nerd made the first ever film about everyone's favorite web slinger, hoping that being a big enough fan would also make him a good enough filmmaker. Surprisingly, he was kinda right.

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The 11-minute-long short finds Spidey tracking the kidnapped daughter of the evil Dr. Lightning. And it actually works surprisingly well, especially if you can convince yourself that Spider-Man's superpowers also involve the ability to transmogrify into a tiny plastic doll.

Donald F. Glut
Spider-Man, Spider-Man, does whatever our budget can.

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And there are action scenes where Spidey gets to shows off his superhuman fighting abilities by not being punched in the face.

Donald F. Glut
Our s****y-sense is tingling.

All of this then builds to an ending so abrupt it makes The Sopranos feel like the third The Lord Of The Rings movie.

Donald F. Glut

Donald F. Glut
"And I am a cartoon now."

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But the first Spider-Man is child's play compared to the another classic Marvel hero's fan debut. In 1984, two film students got their hands on ten grand to make an Aquaman movie with the full blessing of DC -- who cared as little about making good movies then as they do today. The two film students aimed to pay appropriate homage to the fish-chatting hero, mainly by making Aquaman waterski on dolphins:

Thomas Farr & Jeff Klein
Let's see Khal Drogo pull this s**t off!

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Most interestingly, this movie also adds to Aquaman's heroic skills, taking his ability to breathe underwater and adding ethical disregard by going all Harley Quinn on his adversaries' ball sacks.

Thomas Farr & Jeff Klein
"Now your balls live in your stomach, evildoer!"

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Their trailer-sized short got the duo some Hollywood meetings, but nothing really came from their fanboy project. Of course, if two fresh-out-of-school filmmakers made a crappy viral video about Aquaman today, DC would probably give them 100 million dollars, Jason Momoa's home number, and tell them to let Warner Bros. know when the movie was done.

2
The First Ever Marvel Movie Had Captain America as a Gun-Toting Lawyer

Except for the times when he's revealing himself to be a literal Nazi, people love Captain America and his humble American values. In the new Marvel Cinematic Universe, Cap is a courageous hero, badass soldier, and charming enough to not make it seem weird that he's dating his ex-girlfriend's grand-niece.

Marvel Studios
"Please, call me 'Uncle Steve.'"

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But before Marvel had their own studio, before they were even called Marvel, the first attempt to bring their characters to the big screen was with a 1944 Captain America serial. And though you'd think there's only one way to portray a man who fights Nazis when the world was fighting Nazis, this Captain America has a very different way of dispensing justice.

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For starters, instead of being super-soldier Steve Rogers, this version of Captain America is Grant Gardner, a District Attorney who became Captain America presumably out of some kind of mid-life crisis.

Republic Pictures
He bought a sports car and a carton of Raleighs.

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Rather than fight evil with his iconic shield, this Captain America simply packs a pistol -- and to be fair, the Constitution doesn't say anything about the right to bear giant discs made of deadly alien metal. Add in the fact that his costume is amazingly half-assed and the world's first cinematic Captain America looks less like a superhero and more someone trying to knock over a convenience store on Halloween.

Republic Pictures
"Hand over all your girders. Quick!"

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At the height of global violence, this Cap doesn't bother going around kapow-ing bad guys. His mission? To investigate a series of suspicious suicides -- which he should probably be doing anyway seeing as he's the district attorney. That would be like if Clark Kent only changed into Superman to type his articles at super speed. And unlike the recent, more conflicted, version of the character, this bastion of American values could not give two fucks about straight-up murdering people.

Republic Pictures
Uh, he was a Nazi ... Probably.

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And if you think that our criticism is a bit harsh, Marvel's wasn't much better. In an effort to explain (and distance themselves from) the egregious changes to the character, a 70s comic book turned the serial into a movie within the fictional universe, and even Captain America himself takes a turn (politely) tearing the show to shreds.

1
The First Wonder Woman Movie Prominently Featured a Donkey

Wonder Woman is probably the most famous female superhero of all time, and yet she only just made it to the big screen in Batman V Superman -- you probably remember her as the only female character who doesn't get naked or abducted.

Warner Bros.
Also the only hero not making a poop-face 75 percent of the time.

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But Wonder Woman has logged as much screen time as any other superhero, starring on her own show between 1975 and 1979. But before even the classic TV show, there was a 1974 Wonder Woman TV movie, itself a failed attempt to launch a series. Why did it fail? Well, for starters, instead of the costume from the comics, they decided to go with a look that resembles between what Elton John and Santa Claus have in their closets.

Warner Bros. Television
"Just put a skirt on an Evel Knievel costume; who gives a s**t."

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In this Wonder Woman, Diana Prince is an assistant to a government agent. Not because she can use her proximity to government intel to better fight crime, but just because it was the 70s and even super-powered Amazonians had to work below men. The opening of the movie literally cuts from her being tasked with journeying to Earth to save humanity, to her taking phone messages for some jerk.

Warner Bros. Television

Warner Bros. Television
"Ah, Boss Jerk, my greatest nemesis. We meet again."

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She eventually gets sent on a mission of her own -- but bizarrely their big plan involves following a live donkey that will lead them to the villain. Seriously, a good 40 percent of this movie features a f*****g donkey and the myriad problems one encounters when trying to follow a f*****g donkey.

Warner Bros. Television

Warner Bros. Television
Most notably, donkey s**t on your wonder boots.

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In the end, Wonder Woman catches the bad guys and is rewarded with, of course more secretarial work.

Warner Bros. Television
"Thanks for saving the world. Now get these back to me by 5, sweet cheeks."

Which, to be fair, honors the sexist-as-hell origins of the character .

For other strange appearances by iconic superheroes, check out 4 Signs the Best Fantastic Four Movie Was Made 20 Years Ago and The 5 Most Awesomely Bad Comic Book Movies.

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