There’s no doubt that the comic book movie genre is big business right now, what with both DC and Marvel creating their own shared universes on the big screen all with multiple films featuring interconnecting stories and characters. Then there are all the animated movies and TV shows and so on…
They seem to the the big trend film-makers are going for right now and for the foreseeable future too with plans for numerous films over the next few years, this genre shows no signs of stopping anytime soon. However, there is something I’ve noticed with some of the more recent comic book flicks how they are praised for being ‘the first’ of something. But are they?
First R Rated Comic Book Movie
When Deadpool was in production before its release in 2016, there were a lot of rumours and concerns that it would be a PG-13 rated flick – and this angered fans. Thankfully it was given an R rating keeping Deadpool’s iconic over the top violence, swearing and humour in tact and the film delivered on exactly what the fans wanted. When it was released, it was praised for being ‘the first R rated comic book movie’.
But Sin City from Robert Rodriguez came out in 2005. Eleven years before Deadpool hit the screens. Sin City was rated R for its violence, nudity and swearing long before the ‘Merc with a Mouth’ was. And guess what, Sin City was not the first either.
What about Wesley Snipes as Blade? Hell, there is even an entire trilogy of the films between 1998-2004 all rated R. The third film even featured Ryan Reynolds who would go on to play Deadpool over a decade later. Sill not satisfied? In 1994 we got the final film from Brandon Lee with The Crow. Yup you guessed it, rated R over two decades before Deadpool was too. Now we getting somewhere right, I just mentioned a film that predated Deadpool and its R rating by twenty two years…I can do better.
The Punisher from 1989, more than a quarter of a century before Deadpool. Yes this Dolph Lundgren starring flick based on the Marvel comic book series was R rated twenty seven years before our favourite ‘Regenerating Degenerate’ did it in 2016. As far as I can tell, 1989’s The Punisher seems to be the first R rated comic book movie. Just before I move on (as I’m sure this will be bought up) The Punisher was released in America in 1991…but it was first released in Germany in 1989. And for those wondering, there are many more that were released between 1989 and 2016 including (but not only); Tank Girl, Judge Dredd, Spawn, From Hell, Road to Perdition, Constantine, 300, Watchmen, Kick-Ass and Kingsman: The Secret Service just to name a few.
Deadpool was not even close to being the first R rated comic book movie as we had almost thirty years of them previously.
First Female Led Comic Book Movie
Ahhhhh, Wonder Woman. A picture so ‘meh’ I couldn’t even be bothered to do a review of it. I quite honestly did not understand the huge praise the film got when it was released last year. It was the best (recent) DC movie yes I agree…but that didn’t make it a great film in its own right. Besides, ‘best DC film so far’ is hardly high praise is it? Anyway, I’m getting a little detracted here. It wasn’t the blandness of the flick that annoyed me, it was its labelling as being ‘the first female led comic book movie’. It wasn’t even the first Wonder Woman movie.
Back in 1974 there was a Wonder Woman TV movie starring Cathy Lee Crosby. Okay so it was bad…really, really bad – but its not the quality of the end product that is being bought into question – its which was first. This TV movie was based on the Diana Prince: The New Wonder Woman comic book series and released forty three years before the 2017 film. Yeah I know what you are thinking, ‘TV movies don’t count’. Okay…
How about 1984’s Supergirl? The first cinematic female led comic book flick released as a spin-off of the Christopher Reeve Superman films and predates Wonder Woman by over three decades. Oh and believe me, there are more too. Elecktra from 2005 or 2004’s Catwoman? I can even raise you the master of schlock cinema producer Roger Corman with Vampirella from 1996. Oh and there was this…
Barb Wire from 1996 and yes, the only reason I mentioned this was to include a picture of Pamela Anderson.
First Black Comic Book Movie
And all this incessant ranting brings things bang up to date with the release of Black Panther. Currently getting praise for being ‘the first black comic book movie’ and again, this is not entirely accurate. Now I admit that things get a little trickier here because there is a distinction that needs to be made. You see, there have been black superhero movies before Black Panther…but not necessarily ones that are based on comic books.
The likes of The Meteor Man from 1993 for instance has a black lead playing a superhero – but the film was not based on a comic book, yet a comic book series was released after the film by Marvel no less. Or what about 1994’s Blankman, a parody of superhero flicks from Damon Wayans.
Of course you can’t talk about black superhero movies without mentioning 2008’s Hancock starring Will Smith in the titular role. But again, none of these films were ‘comic book movies’ but original superhero flicks with a black lead. But all of them came before Black Panther regardless. Still, I did specifically state ‘comic book movie’ meaning they have to be based on an exiting comic book. Oh yeah, I have some of those too, several of which I’ve already mentioned.
What about Steel from 1997? With Shaquille O’Neal in the lead role based on the DC comic series of the same name, which itself is a spin-off of Superman. That’s a black comic book movie before Black Panther. Then there are those films I have previously covered such as Spawn also from 1997 which starred Michael Jai White, 2004’s Catwoman not only had a black lead with Halle Berry but also the first female black led comic book film.
And to finish, quite possibly the most famous and popular black comic book movie…
Blade. Yes it looks like Black Panther‘s current ‘first black comic book movie’ praise is misplaced. Numerous other black actors were playing superheros and even comic book characters before Chadwick Boseman stepped into the shoes of T’Challa A.K.A Black Panther.