'Batman: Dead End,' The Batman-Predator Fan Movie That Changed Comic-Con
Before Comic-Con became an excuse to ask famous actors fascinating questions about their diets and workout routines, its main purpose was promoting and celebrating comics. That doesn't mean there weren't any movies at Comic-Con -- in fact, fan films about DC or Marvel characters were a staple of the convention since the '70s. Some of them were turds, of course, but others had Hollywood-level production values and went on to achieve legendary status (like the Stan Lee-endorsed Spider-Man one that has never been posted online).
But then, someone made a fan film that was so good that it accidentally ruined Comic-Con for everyone else. We're talking about Batman: Dead End, the eight-minute movie that ruined countless fanboy undergarments in 2003.
In the short, Batman is in the middle of one of his customary dark alley conversations with the Joker when an Alien (as in, from the movie Alien) shows up and snatches the Joker away. Just when it looks like Batman is about to get his face chewed off, a Predator (from the movie Predator, not the other kind that dwells in alleys) shoots the Alien in the head. After a brutal fight, Batman manages to defeat the Predator, only to find himself surrounded by several of his buddies and more Aliens who were apparently also just hanging out in the most crowded alley in the universe.
Yes, the plot sounds like it was written by a little kid playing with assorted action figures, but what's impressive is that all the characters look spot on. This is because the director, Sandy Collora, is also a professional sculptor and ugly creature designer who has worked in movies like This Is The End, Men In Black, and Predator 2. Collora spent $30,000 making the movie basically just to use it as a reel to show off his directing talent, and at first, it worked: comic book and film industry pros raved about it and Collora started getting offers from studios. Apparently, he could have directed that terrible 2005 Doom film (which he could have greatly improved via the addition of, let's say, some Terminators and a Scuba Suit Max Steel).
When the short was first screened at Comic-Con 2003, over a thousand people lined up outside the room to see it, which we're pretty sure was a longer queue than most official DC events got. It was later shown at the Comic-Con Masquerade in front of 5,000 "screaming, rabid" fans. According to Collora, it "got the biggest, loudest, and most enthusiastic response" of anything shown there that weekend ... and, in the end, that was its undoing.
Collora started working on a fake trailer for a Superman/Batman movie called World's Finest, which was supposed to premiere at Comic-Con 2004 and get him even more media attention -- perhaps enough to make that movie a reality. But then, only a month before the con, the organizers got a letter from Warner Bros.' legal department requesting that they "honor their intellectual copyrights by not screening films which may infringe upon those copyrights." As a result, Comic-Con banned fan films using characters from any major company. Now, when an independent production says it "debuts at Comic-Con," what they usually mean is that it "debuts at a bar 20 minutes from Comic-Con."
As for World's Finest, it was posted online but, without the Comic-Con push, it failed to get anything close to the response Collora hoped for and the Hollywood offers dried up before anything panned out. Still, to our taste, it remains the best Superman/Batman live-action movie to date simply for not including a jar of piss as a plot point.
Top image: Sandy Collora