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1970s Live-Action Versions Of Popular Superheroes

Updated December 13, 2019 947 votes 106 voters 1.3k views16 items

List RulesVote up the heroes who really set the standard for their modern adaptations.

These days, it seems everything that hits a television set or movie screen involves superheroes, and while we're certainly in the midst of a resurgence of the genre, there's nothing new under the sun. Back in the 1970s, Marvel Comics and DC threw nearly every IP they had at developers of animated series, live-action shows, and feature-length motion pictures, and if you're familiar with the era, you already know those projects look nothing like today's CGI-laden, mega-budget affairs.

Sure, the effects were often cheesy and the costumes clunky. But to many fans, that hardly mattered when a live-action Spider-Man or Wonder Woman appeared on their TV screens. Here's are the most memorable examples of a live-action superhero making an appearance on a television show or movie. Check out the entries below and vote up your favorites.

  • Movies: Superman (1978)

    Character: Clark Kent / Kal-El / Superman

    Actor: Christopher Reeve

    Details: The original Superman film is arguably the best of the bunch, and the role made Christopher Reeve a household name. The film tells the story of Krypton's doom, Kal-El's salvation, and his arrival in Kansas, where he is adopted by Jonathan and Martha Kent.

    As young Clark Kent matures, he learns of his identity as a Kryptonian; having been raised by caring and thoughtful Americans, he becomes Superman, a hero who fights for - all together now - truth, justice, and the American way.

    Reeve would continue to play the character well into the 1980s in three sequels. Superman would return to film and television many times over the years, but few could compete with the Reeve's work, making him still the definitive screen Superman in the minds of many.

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  • Series: Wonder Woman (1975 - 1978)

    Character: Diana Prince / Wonder Woman

    Actresses: Lynda Carter and Cathy Lee Crosby (Pilot)

    Details: Wonder Woman was a huge hit in the mid-1970s, and it was largely due to Carter's lead performance. She played Diana Prince, an Amazonian warrior chosen to aid the Allies during WWII in their fight against the Axis powers.

    She returns 30 years later at the behest of Steve Trevor Jr., the son of the man who was the impetus for her call to action in the first place. Following him back to the world of man, she continues to fight evil and stand for justice as Wonder Woman.

    On the series, she has many of the same traits as her comic book counterpart, including a magic belt which gives her strength, bracelets that can stop bullets, a tiara that can be thrown like a boomerang, and a lasso that can force people to reveal the truth. She changes into her costume via a distinctive spin that magically alters her appearance.

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  • Steve Austin In 'The Six Million Dollar Man'
    Photo: ABC

    Steve Austin In 'The Six Million Dollar Man'

    Series & TV Movie: The Six Million Dollar Man TV Movie (1973) and The Six Million Dollar Man (1974 - 1978)

    Character: Colonel Steve Austin / The Six Million Dollar Man

    Actor: Lee Majors

    Details: After ace test pilot Colonel Steve Austin's ship goes down, he nearly perishes, requiring more than simple medicine to get him back on his feet. The US Government rebuilds Austin, making him faster, stronger, better than the average man.

    He's implanted with nuclear-powered cybernetic parts, giving him superhuman speed and strength. With his newfound abilities, Colonel Austin becomes a secret agent, working for the government against the forces of evil and injustice wherever they may be found.

    The Six Million Dollar Man was a massively popular series in the 1970s, going on to sell lunchboxes, toys, and pretty much anything else they could stamp Austin's face onto. The series also spawned a spinoff called The Bionic Woman, which was also successful.

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  • Series: The Incredible Hulk (1977 - 1982)

    Character: Dr. David Banner and The Incredible Hulk

    Actors: Bill Bixby (Banner) and Lou Ferrigno (Hulk)

    Details: The Incredible Hulk was a big hit - arguably the first hugely successful television series to feature a live-action version of a Marvel character.

    There were some changes made to the characters: Banner's first name was inexplicably switched from Bruce to David, and the Hulk was much weaker than his comic book counterpart (to say nothing of his Avengers movie incarnation, in which he seems to have almost unlimited strength). The plot centers around Banner traveling around the country trying to remain inconspicuous, but always getting upset and transforming into the Hulk.

    Things usually resolve with the help of some green-skinned fisticuffs, and then Banner goes his lonely way again - all the while pursued by an investigative reporter named Jack McGee who believes the Hulk to be a deadly menace and seeks to expose him once and for all.

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