Offbeat superhero movies have successfully existed right alongside the mainstream stuff from Marvel and DC. A few even existed before the MCU and DCEU began. These are the quirky, unusual films that gently spoof the whole notion of superheroes or have a non-traditional take on it. What makes them stand out is that they can be appreciated by superhero fans, yet also by people who wouldn't normally care about the genre.
The following behind-the-scenes stories offer a glimpse into how these movies were made, and some of the unusual struggles involved in getting them produced. They include director/studio fights, dangerous stunts, and happy accidents that produced magical moments. Every tale will help you look at these nostalgic films in a new light.
Vote up the stories you think are the most “super.”
- 1107 VOTES
Director Sam Raimi Secretly Re-Cut ‘Darkman’ Behind The Studio’s Back
Director Sam Raimi's 1990 film Darkman was - and continues to be - appreciated by both fans and critics for its creative take on the superhero myth, and for its ominous visual style. Liam Neeson stars as Peyton Westlake, a brilliant scientist working on a form of synthetic skin.
When he's left for dead after a violent attack organized by a local crime boss, Westlake creates the titular alter ego for himself and goes looking for revenge. Using his artificial skin, he's able to disguise himself as other people, including the very same boss responsible for his disfigurement.
There was significant tension between Raimi and Universal Pictures during the making of Darkman. Universal wanted something mainstream and PG-13 rated, like Tim Burton's Batman, which came out the year before. Raimi wanted to make something twisted and R-rated. When the film tested poorly, the studio brought in an editor to chop it down to a brisk 85 minutes, cutting out much of what made it distinct in the first place.
Right before the scheduled critics' screenings, Raimi sought to rectify the situation. With the help of editor Bob Murawski, the director secretly re-edited the movie without the studio's knowledge, putting stuff he liked back in and restoring his vision. The gambit worked, as reviews were largely positive, forcing Universal to concede that Raimi's version was the correct one to release.
- 2105 VOTES
Paul Reubens Brilliantly Ad-Libbed An On-Set Accident In ‘Mystery Men’
The comedic superhero movie Mystery Men was a surprise flop upon its 1999 release, but it has gone on to become a genuine cult classic. It follows a group of heroes with unlikely powers, one of whom is Spleen (Paul Reubens), whose power is the ability to make people faint by passing gas. You'll never see Superman doing that!
One of the film's biggest laughs involves Spleen, and it was a total accident. A crew member unthinkingly threw a lighter into a trashcan that was right behind Reubens. Because the can had already had a fire going inside, the lighter caused a small explosion. The actor never broke character. Instead, he ad-libbed the line “excuse me," making it seem like Spleen's flatulence had caused the explosion. His improv was so funny that director Kinka Usher chose to include it in the final cut.
- Photo: Buena Vista Distribution378 VOTES
The Weight Of The ‘Condorman’ Costume Almost Drowned Actor Michael Crawford
A generation of 1980s kids grew up watching the Disney flick Condorman on HBO. It’s the story of cartoonist Woodrow “Woody” Wilkins (Michael Crawford), who essentially becomes the titular superhero he created in order to help a beautiful KGB spy named Natalia (Barbara Carrera) defect. He even has his own gadget-filled outfit, with wings that stretch far out to the sides.
That suit looked cool - or at least it did in 1981 - but it wasn't necessarily pleasant for Crawford to wear. One scene in the movie finds Woody, in his crimefighting get-up, falling into the River Seine. The weight of the costume made it difficult for Crawford to swim. He ended up sinking a full 10 feet before the safety team pulled him out. Despite this near-drowning, he offered to do another take of the scene. Director Charles Jarrott declined the offer, getting a professional stuntman to do it instead.
- 447 VOTES
The 1994 Los Angeles Earthquake Damaged The Sets For ‘The Shadow,’ Messing Up Its Ending
Making The Shadow was a risky bet. The 1994 film was a big-screen version of a character created in 1931 and best known to older audiences, due to his popularity on radio. Younger audiences had no attachment to him, nor did he necessarily have any relevance to them. Nevertheless, Universal Pictures went ahead with an expensive production that featured Alec Baldwin in the lead role of Lamont Cranston, a rich playboy who moonlights as the titular masked vigilante.
No expense was spared in creating sets. For that reason, it was disastrous when a 6.7 magnitude earthquake hit Southern California, damaging the Universal soundstages, including one where The Shadow was filming. This included an elaborate “hall of mirrors” set critical to the finale. Because the overall damage totaled $42 million, Universal didn't want to pump money into rebuilding anything. Director Russell Mulcahy was forced to cobble together an ending using the footage shot pre-earthquake, rather than completing the longer, more elaborate sequence he had planned.
- Photo: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer578 VOTES
A Touching Comment From Robert Townsend’s 6-Year-Old Nephew Inspired ‘The Meteor Man’
People often credit Black Panther for being the first superhero movie with a Black lead. Twenty-five years earlier, however, Robert Townsend offered audiences a Black superhero in his 1993 comedy The Meteor Man. He stars as Jefferson Reed, a teacher who gets clocked by a fallen meteor and suddenly develops incredible powers. Donning a costume, he begins working to make his inner city neighborhood a better place for the local children.
Perhaps appropriately, it was Townsend's 6-year-old nephew Greg who inspired the movie. Townsend recalled:
I went to Chicago [and] my nephew Greg Jr. had to be around 5 or 6. It was around Halloween time, and I was asking him like the uncle, "What are you going to be for Halloween? Spider-Man? Batman? Superman?" He [said to me], "I can't be them because they're white."
This made Townsend realize the need for some racial diversity in the superhero game:
It clicked in my brain. I said, “You know what? I'll be the first African-American superhero. I'll create a world that nobody has ever seen before. I'll create bad guys you've never seen before.”
- 663 VOTES
Helen Slater Said The Monster Tractor Stunt In ‘Supergirl’ Was ‘Petrifying’
Supergirl was supposed to be a big break for Helen Slater in 1984. She was a relative newcomer with only two small TV credits to her name. Then she landed the lead role in a big, expensive comic book movie, playing a character beloved by fans. Having to carry the film doubtlessly was a weight on her shoulders, however. The experience ended up being a trial by fire, as the complications of shooting a picture heavy on special effects and stunts occasionally frightened her.
One of the most complex scenes finds a monster tractor running out of control on a busy street, crashing into a gas station and generally causing all kinds of destruction. To make it look as though Supergirl is pushing it to safety, Slater was placed on a crane, her hands on the front of the tractor. Both vehicles moved simultaneously - the crane forward, the tractor in reverse - to create the illusion. In other words, she was between two large vehicles, with little protection. She called the process “petrifying”:
I had gotten to that point where I thought, “Look, if I fall off and die now, it’s been great…This is part of my job.”