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Were the 1990s the Worst Time for Comic Book Movies?

Were the 1990s the Worst Time for Comic Book Movies?

I won’t bore anyone with my gushing appreciation for “Dick Tracy,” and not just because it’s been such a long time since I saw the film and I’m admittedly running on the fumes of a twenty year memory, and I don’t need to go into how the list really needs mention of “The Rocketeer,” the Roger Corman “Fantastic Four” adaptation and the TV movie “Archie: To Riverdale and Back,” but I must take minor issue with Den of Geek’s piece from last Friday recognizing the low quality of 1990s comic book movies. From the intro:

the decade before was quite so barren where comic book movies were concerned. It wasn’t that there weren’t any. As we’ll come to see, there were plenty. But they were regarded differently. They were, outside of the Batman universe, anyway, niche projects, designed to capture a small-ish audience, and thus made on tight budgets. It was the marriage of Internet hype and a big budget, serious approach to the X-Men that arguably turned things around.

Never mind also that I think the first “X-Men” is almost as bad as the Schumacher “Batman” movies, but why single out the ’90s, which also gave us pretty decent (albeit not anywhere near brilliant) adaptations with “The Crow,” “Men in Black” and in some regards “Tank Girl”? Was there ever a better year prior? Sure, it was a disappointing decade after the monumental success of Tim Burton’s “Batman” in 1989 (a year we also got the first “Punisher” and “Brenda Starr”), but the same thing happened after the first “Superman” movie at the end of the ’70s. Remember anything of real worth between that and “Batman” about ten years later?

Let’s just put aside “Superman II” since it’s a very debatable film, depending on which version is considered. And I’ll leave my love for “Howard the Duck” on the wayside this time around. I also had childhood fondness for “Swamp Thing,” “Superman III” and “Supergirl.” But I would never consider any of them to be any better than “Timecop” (also a bit of a guilty pleasure). Nor were the prior decade’s TV series versions of characters like Hulk and Spider-Man. To ask “what happened” with comic book movies in the ’90s is to assume that they were really on the up beforehand.

Also, the 2000s have had their fair share of bad comic book movies. I’m pretty sure there have been more bad adaptations this past decade than in the ’90s, there’s just been more of them over all. Still, as I pointed out in my spotlight on Martin Sheen’s performance last week, “Spawn” was indeed really, really awful. I don’t believe we’ve seen as bad or disappointing a comic book movie as that one since its release. Thank god.

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