As has been discussed ad-naseum, Hollywood in this tenth year of the 20th Century is all about adaptations. From comics and cartoons to breakfast cereal and boardgames, there’s nothing you can’t put on film… except, apparently, original screenplays or videogames from before 1998.
The thing about adaptation, though, is that franchises tend to come with baggage – especially if they’ve lived through “interesting times.” Changing social mores, rotating creative teams and the occasional bout of inexplicable bad judgment have left more than a few famous characters with the franchise fiction equivalent of a hastily-chosen tattoo that will definitely be getting covered up for their big screen debuts.
And thus, submitted for your amusement and/or abject horror, a brief sampling of movie adaptations both prospective and forthcoming – and the stuff they probably won’t be bringing with them to a theater near you.
Superman Dated a Mermaid
By now, even casual fans are aware that prior to Lois Lane, the Man of Steel was partial to one Lana Lang – yet everyone forgets about Lori Lemaris, the one “in between”. (What is it with the initials L.L. and Superman? Lex Luthor, too…)
Introduced to the Superman mythos in issue #129 (1959), Lori was Clark Kent’s college sweetheart, a wheelchair-bound fellow student. That’s right: A man who can fly loves a girl who can’t even walk – beat that, Stephanie Meyer! Superman actually proposed to this one, but her secret made that impossible. As it turns out, Lori wasn’t precisely crippled – her ever-present blanket wasn’t covering withered legs but rather a big floppy fish tail. Yes, she was a mermaid, and had to head back to the sea.
How this story never made it onto Smallville, I honestly have no idea.
Wonder Woman Is a Golem
You could probably do this whole article just on Wonder Woman, honestly.
Primarily famous as the inventor of the polygraph, psychologist-turned-Wonder-Woman-creator William Moulton Marston (1893-1947) was also a radically ahead of his time social theorist. Along with living (quite publically) in a polyamorous relationship with his wife and their girlfriend (in the 1940s!) he believed that women would soon become the dominant of the two sexes as technological advancement made homemaking and childcare less time consuming. He saw his groundbreaking superheroine as a vanguard, helping to prepare young girls – and boys – for the coming matriarchy. To that end, he set her origin among the Amazons of Greek myth, a more female-friendly alternate ending to the legend of Hercules and Hippolyta.
However, as you’ve noticed that we are currently not living under neo-Amazonian rule, it can be said that he didn’t have a gift for foresight. Having set up WW as the Amazon queen’s daughter, it later had to be squared with reader queries about where a daughter comes from on an all-female island utopia where men are forbidden. The solution? Maternally-inclined Amazons make babies out of clay, then ask Athena to bring them to life. So yes, Diana and all the other 2nd-generation Amazons in DC Comics are made of clay.
Superman Also Made a Sex Tape
Let’s just get this out of the way: I am not making this stuff up.
In Action Comics #592 and 593, Superman is hypnotized by the villain Sleez. What evil does he plan to do with the strongest man on Earth under his total control? He makes him perform in a dirty movie with the (also hypnotized) wife of fellow hero Mr. Miracle, so they can send him a copy and mess with his head. Really.
Keep in mind: This was a two-part story – which means it was submitted and approved for publication twice.
Sherlock Holmes is a Coke Fiend
The new Sherlock Holmes movies with Robert Downey Jr. shocked a lot of casual fans with onscreen depictions of the hero’s bohemian proclivities, but it’s still a far cry from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original stories, where the great detective’s preferred vice was shooting up liquefied cocaine. Naturally, drug laws and mores were different in Victorian England, but don’t look for this to rear its head in the new series any time soon – though this is where Holmes’ modern-day analogue, Dr. House, gets his Vicodin habit from.
Joker Meets the Ayatollah
Christopher Nolan has, wisely, vetoed future appearances by The Joker in his next (last?) Batman movie following the death of Heath Ledger. It’s certainly a loss in terms of stories that won’t be told, but I know at least one that wouldn’t have been on the list either way.
The mid-1980s Death In The Family Batman storyline is best remembered for the tacky publicity stunt of letting readers vote on whether to let Joker murder Jason Todd, aka “Robin #2.” (They voted “dead.”) That part is so well-remembered that almost no one cared about the story’s most ridiculous element: Joker gets away with the killing via diplomatic immunity because he’s been appointed the Iranian Ambassador to the United Nations by Ayatollah Khomeini. And yes, the depictions of Middle Easterners and Joker’s association therewith are as unpleasant as you’re imagining.
Godzilla Fought Against the U.S. in WWII
In retrospect, it’s pretty amazing that the Godzilla series, which started out using a rampaging atomic dinosaur as an explicit metaphor for the atomic bombing of Japan, has always been so popular in America – so popular that we’re due for another (hopefully better) American remake again soon.
But in 1991, someone at Toho Pictures apparently decided to see how far the uneasy fandom peace could be stretched: Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah reveals a new origin where, prior to his irradiation, Godzilla was a “normal” dinosaur who saved an island full of Japanese soldiers from an American naval attack during The Big One. Not only that, but Godzilla’s ultimate foe Ghidorah is now a bioweapon unleashed by duplicitious time-traveling westerners trying to halt Japanese financial domination in the future.
The “2nd Series” of Godzilla movies always had trouble getting released in the U.S., and this one probably didn’t help the process. So don’t expect this aspect of the mythology in the new one.
Spider-Man Was Molested
So, in the 80s, comic books were still widely read by actual children, so frequently “free giveaway” comics were commissioned to hawk products, local events and – in some cases – deliver public services messages to the young ones.
Perhaps the most infamous of these is “Spider Man & Power Pack” (a kid hero team), in which Spidey helps teach a young victim the importance of not keeping sexual abuse a secret by relating the story of a “young boy” who was molested by an older classmate … a “young boy” whom the readers can see is Peter Parker himself!
Obviously, this was an effort with its heart in the right place – but given that pre-internet it was hard for younger fans to tell what was a “real” story and what was a “special message,” you’ve gotta wonder how many traumatized young readers were wondering if “that guy” was running around in one of the villain costumes now.
Leonardo Killed Raphael (He Got Better) After Learning That Either of Them Could Be the True Father of April O’Neil’s Half-Human/Half-Turtle Child, Mona
That didn’t actually happen. I just wanted to make sure you were paying attention.
Godzilla Is Also Made of Dead People
In the late-90s/early-2000s, Japanese filmmaker Shuseke Kaneko made a big splash re-imagining onetime kiddie-monster staple Gamera – a giant rocket-propelled turtle – in a trilogy of big-budget epics that imbued traditional Kaiju action with New Age spiritual philosophy. When he was given the keys to the Godzilla franchise for a one-off blockbuster, he brought that same idiom with him.
In GMK: All Monsters Attack!, Godzilla is all-out evil while Ghidorah, Mothra and Baragon are recast as ancient spirits defending Japan. Big G himself gets a new backstory, too: He’s imbued with the avenging souls of WWII’s Pacific casualties. Godzilla fans are deeply divided when it comes to this movie, and unsurprisingly Kaneko’s alternate origin has never been revisited.
Supergirl (Probably) F**ked Her Pet Horse
Short version: Pre-Crisis (read: pre-1985) Supergirl had Comet the Super-Horse as a pet. Why does a character who can fly need a horse (even one that can also fly)? The same reason Batman needs a special clubhouse full of his best stuff even though he lives alone. Because that’s what a ten year-old prospective Supergirl reader would want.
Here’s where it gets weird: Comet wasn’t really a horse – he was a Centaur from ancient Greece who got turned “full horse” when a potion to make him “full human” backfired; though he got immortality and flight powers as a bonus. Being that he’s (psychologically, anyway) as much man as he is horse, Comet is also madly in love with Supergirl – i.e. the leggy blonde ingénue who rides around on his back. In a skirt. Yeah, sucks to be Comet.
Through a series of complications, Comet became able to briefly assume human form when a comet passed through Earth’s orbit. On this occasion, he assumes the identity of a rodeo cowboy and put the moves on Supergirl. No, she has no idea.
Now, obviously, this is Gold/Silver Age DC, so nobody appears to be officially having sex, but the pair was all over eachother and you definitely got the idea. I mean, c’mon – What do you think is on his mind, taking her for a malt? Luckily for all involved, Rule 34 had yet to be written.
And there you have it, ten things that you’ll probably never see at the movies … which is a good thing, for most of them. Do I have more of these? Of course I do! But that’s a column for another day.
Bob Chipman is a film critic and independent filmmaker. If you’ve heard of him before, you have officially been spending way too much time on the internet.