Four 90s Comic Films That Deserve A Second Chance

We all know that 1978’s Superman and 1989’s Batman paved the way for comic-inspired films. Even though they set the bar, other comic movies would follow. However, while some found success, others sputtered through. By 1997 it looked as if comic films might not make it (thanks Batman and Robin). Once 2000 arrives, X-Men hits the screens with Spider-Man in 2002. They helped bring credibility back to the comic film genre.

That leads us to where we are today! Looking back at some of the 1990s films, there are a few I think would have done better if they had been made during the comic film boom. Now that there is also the small screen streaming option, let’s take a look at a few comic-inspired 90s films that deserve a second chance. Some are said to be in the works, however, we have heard this before. Will they make it across the deserved finish line?

The Rocketeer

I definitely saw this 90s film numerous times in the theater. Once was for my birthday with some friends. That’s right, these were the days birthday parties consisted of going to the movies, McDonalds, or Burger King. Not the wild blowouts like now. I digress.

My dad even made an amazing Halloween costume with the rocket pack and helmet from an old football helmet, school backpack, miniature footballs, and paper mache! Yes, I even added the chewed piece of bubble gum to the rocket pack. Can’t figure out how the helmet fit my huge dome, but I still have it to this day!

The Rocketeer is from the late Dave Stevens first appearing in 1982. The character is a nod to the serials of the 40s and 50s. Disney brings the character to life in 1991. The film reflects the pulp-style of the comics, but is much more family friendly.

Disney‘s original plan was to have a sequel to the film. There were some whisperings about possibly fighting against the Soviets in a second. However, it did not receive the reception they were hoping for. Combine that with changing the adult-esque tone to family friendly, and it did not meet the expectations for the company. The 90s movie-goers did not seem as keen on the early 1900s pulp era.

However, that no longer appears to be the case. Disney has seen the same era work on screen, such as Captain America: The First Avenger. They can also see that the movie going community accepts anything from family-friendly to rated R superhero films now. In 2019 an in cannon, animated show, Rocketeer Junior, is released, but we all wanted more. Finally, it looks as if we fans may get what we have been longing for.

In 2016 Disney claimed that there will be a Rocketeer sequel. Taking place after the original, the film is said to focus on an African-American female taking the lead during the Cold War. While that did not pan out, the idea still moves forward in 2021 with Disney stating that The Return of The Rocketeer will come to Disney+ and will feature a retired Tuskegee Airman donning the rocket pack.

I am really excited for this! I am hoping it is cannon and we can even see Bill Campbell’s Cliff and Jennifer Connelly’s Jenny!

You may ask why I am adding this if Disney+ already confirms it. Well, there have been whisperings of the sequel for years and we have seen ideas come and go. Here is to hoping it sticks! Oh, and this time I hope they create a stronger toy line. The main Rocketeer merch. I have is the NES game. Go figure, it is extremely difficult. Or maybe it’s just me. Pizza Hut had an awesome tie-in where you could get the huge cup. I definitely have it. Didn’t pop just taste better in the cups from restaurants? We still would have loved some action figures, though.

With the new comic series The Rocketeer: The Great Race, now is a as good a time as ever to bring the character back to the screen!

The Shadow

Another good 90s film is The Shadow from 1994. The character is either really well known, or not known at all depending on the generation. The Shadow dates back to the 1930s. There are novels, TV shows, toys, and even a radio drama with Orson Welles! Very much a pulp, or noir style and a strong cast. The likes of Alec Baldwin, Tim Curry, John Lone, Ian McKellen, Penelope Ann Miller, and Peter Boyle. Why didn’t it work? I think the average movie-goer of the 80s and 90s did not follow comics, or the majority mainly knew the “big” comic names.

The Shadow could work today, and bring in more success with the range of comic films today. Plus, with everything nostalgia being so high right now, you can bring in multiple generations of those who know The Shadow. The dark nature of the character, and pulp era are no longer foreign to audiences, which could grant it more success.

They had a pretty decent toy line as well. I still have a couple of the figures. Now you may be thinking, “Well, they tried that with The Spirit in 2008 with a solid group of actors, a Sin City style, and look how that turned out.” True.

This Makes Me Happy: Fannish Speculation: The Rocketeer and the Shadow

However, much like The Spirit, The Shadow actually is in the same universe as The Rocketeer. Dave Stevens even has a really great storyline where the two come together. Maybe The Return of the Rocketeer could take advantage of this and reintroduce the character. Others find success doing this, such as The Flash debuting on the already established Arrow. I think it could be a great story and give The Shadow the return he deserves!

Dick Tracy

Another great 90s film, Dick Tracy hits the screens in 1990. While the story is great, I always remember being fascinated with the colors and setting. The visuals are amazing. It feels as if it is straight from the comic strips. Even Roger Ebert gives the film four stars claiming:

“Dick Tracy,” which is a sweeter, more optimistic movie, outdoes even “Batman” in the visual departments. This is a movie in which every frame contains some kind of artificial effect. An entire world has been built here, away from the daylight and the realism of ordinary city streets. And “Dick Tracy” also reflects the innocence of the comic strip that inspired it. Unlike the movie version of “Batman,” which hyped up the level of its violence to a degree that could have been truly disturbing to younger viewers, the PG-rated “Dick Tracy” contains no obscenity, no blood, and no “realistic” violence. It is one of the most original and visionary fantasies I’ve seen on a screen.”

Ebert was a man known for not liking comic-inspired films. So his high regard for Dick Tracy speaks for itself! With great characters and wonderful acting, the Warren Beatty production is a classic. You have Al Pacino as Big Boy as well! The makeup and effects for all of the films mentioned so far were good for the time and somewhat hold up. But Dick Tracy‘s makeup and costumes for the characters are still amazing. Yes, most of his villains die in the film, but hey, it’s comics. Anything can happen.

If Dick Tracy comes back, the toys need to as well. They are awesomely chunky with cool weapons. My grandma went on a wild search to find The Blank. It is still the only one we could never find!

The film did not do poorly in the theater, but did not do well either. Batman 89 set the bar, and if many of the comic films did not hit the bar, there was not a sequel. That, plus it seems like the early 1900s timeframe did not attract during the 90s. As mentioned earlier, Captain America, along with other shows taking place during that time, shows there is definite interest now.

Beatty has made it no secret that he is open the a follow-up. Again, if it cannot make it to feature film, a 10-episode streaming series is a great option.

Spawn

Alright, many people hate 1997s Spawn. I mean, it has a 17% on Rotten Tomatoes. So while I don’t feel it is an amazing film, it does have potential. The late 90s is an odd stage for graphics. It’s like the in-between stages of growing your hair out. There just isn’t anything you can do to make it look good.

Michael Jai White, John Leguizano, and Martin Sheen carry the film. However, not a well-known character to the general public at the time, and many other issues, lead to its demise. Spawn is first introduced in 1992, so having a film only five years later isn’t much exposure, especially pre-internet days.

As with the other comic-inspired 90s films mentioned, Spawn more than likely would have different responses today. Spawn is another that has been on hiatus for some time. Creator Todd McFarlane is said to direct the said upcoming feature with Blumhouse Productions.

So there is credibility there. Jamie Foxx and Jeremy Renner were attached in 2016, but much has changed since then. Still, now with Spawn being around for 30 years, he is more established. Combine that with the creator directing, a good production company, and advanced CGI, there is a recipe for success!

I say keep it in line with the 1990s HBO animated series. It’s dark and amazing. Our very own Tim Nardelli reflects on the series which you can check out below.

ALSO SEE: The Not-So-Kid-Friendly Show: Remembering HBO’s Spawn Animated Series I LRM’s Retro-Specs

All of the films mentioned fell victim to the lacking exposure of superhero/comic 90s films. I really think if they were made today, there would be a much stronger following, and success. While I know many are said to be coming to us, they have also been help up in limbo for years. It’s time they get their second chance to shine! What are your memories of the films I mention? Is there anything you would add to the list? While you are here, be sure to check out all the other amazing content on the site! As always, leave your thoughts in the usual spot, and thanks for reading!

Sources: Looper, ScreenRant, Roger Ebert, THR

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Mark Cook

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