8 Marvel Movies That Never Left the Drawing Board

Friday’s release of Ant-Man is expected to be another success story for Marvel Studios, which broke ground with 2008’s Iron Man and subsequently released 10 hits in a row. Flush with confidence, they’ve been able to introduce Norse gods, talking raccoons, and a diminutive Paul Rudd fighting a microscopic war on crime.

But Marvel didn’t always get their way. Take a look at eight projects that never managed to come to fruition.

1. Quentin Tarantino’s Luke Cage

Despite being a longtime comic book fan, Quentin Tarantino rarely tackles graphic novel adaptations; the closest he has come to the superhero world is directing a segment of Sin City in 2005. But right after 1992’s Reservoir Dogs put him on the map, he was offered a chance to direct a film based on Luke Cage, a crime fighter with impervious skin created in response to the “blaxploitation” films of the 1970s. “After Reservoir Dogs, I had considered doing a Luke Cage, Hero for Hire movie,” he told MTV back in 2012. “I talked to [Laurence Fishburne] about being Luke Cage, and he really liked that idea.” Tarantino ended up making Pulp Fiction instead; Luke Cage is set to appear in his own Netflix series in 2016.  

2. Silver Surfer (With a Score by Paul McCartney)

Of the thousands of Marvel characters that could have been selected for cinematic adoption in the 1980s, the Silver Surfer was one of the least likely candidates. Chrome-skinned, he spends his days flying through galaxies and encountering alien races. Despite the promise of overtaxing a special effects crew and budget, producer Lee Kramer tried his best to get a movie going in 1980. He envisioned a sprawling space epic on par with 2001, set to a rock soundtrack. Kramer even sent Silver Surfer comics to Paul McCartney, whose manager replied that the singer was interested in providing some of the music. Unable to find backers for his $25 million pipe dream, Kramer never got beyond the concept art (above) stage. The character didn’t appear in live action until the 2007 Fantastic Four sequel, where he was voiced by Laurence Fishburne.    

3. X-Men Origins: Magneto

After three successful X-Men movies, Fox wanted to pursue some solo ventures. X-Men Origins: Wolverine made it to screens in 2009, but a similar project featuring adversary Magneto didn’t follow as planned. Intended to explore the villain’s formative years in World War II and his hunt for a Nazi physician, some of the plot points ended up being used in 2011’s X-Men: First Class. That became a bone of contention for Magneto screenwriter Sheldon Turner: According to The Hollywood Reporter, he turned to the Writers Guild of America in order to receive a story credit for the material.

4. Namor, the Sub-Mariner

One of the medium’s oldest heroes—he first appeared in the October 1939 issue of Marvel Comics #1—Namor was another character crippled by the overactive imaginations of his creators. Ruling the seas requires extensive shooting on or near water, which almost always proves to be disastrous for filmmakers. Still, Philip Kaufman wanted to give it a shot. The director behind The Right Stuff and Quills told Entertainment Weekly in 2000 that Namor was on his to-do list. “I like the idea of the ‘vengeance of the deep,'” he said, “how we [mistreat] the ocean and treat everything so badly and that down there is some little guy with wings on his feet who’s gonna come up and stomp some [butt].” As of 2014, legal complications with the character and his film rights have prevented Marvel from inserting him into their current releases.  

5. She-Hulk


Bruce Banner’s cousin never made an appearance on Bill Bixby’s live-action series, but that didn’t mean she wasn’t being courted. In the early 1990s, Marvel made an aggressive attempt to find funding for a She-Hulk film starring 6’1” Brigitte Nielsen, best known at the time as Ivan Drago’s wife in 1984’s Rocky IV. Larry Cohen, who directed the killer-baby horror film It’s Alive, was approached to write it. The company arranged for a promotional photo shoot, but it wasn’t enough to garner interest.

6. Dazzler

A disco-loving mutant who can convert music into colorful (or dangerous) prisms of light, Dazzler made her first comics appearance in 1979; Marvel hoped they might be able to work with a record company to produce tie-in music. That didn’t pan out, but in the course of trying to negotiate a deal, editor-in-chief Jim Shooter ended up writing a feature film treatment. Bo Derek expressed interest in the role, at which point the premise morphed into the character having the Wonder Woman-esque power of forcing people to tell the truth. Daryl Hannah later agreed to star in the film, but Dazzler’s expiration date was too closely tied to disco’s. (Her salvation may come in the form of 2016’s X-Men: Apocalypse, which takes place in the 1980s.)   

7. Morbius, the Living Vampire

Marvel characters tend to follow a formula: flawed human becomes powerful, juggles exterior threats with relatable interior problems. Little of that was on display in Marvel’s horror comics of the 1970s, which included a character called Morbius, a physician who contracted vampirism via a laboratory accident involving bats and electroshock therapy. (If you can relate, please write us.) When Marvel signed a deal with Artisan Entertainment in 2000, Morbius was expected to be one of the projects. But both the company and contracted screenwriter, Michael France, passed him up in favor of pursuing what would become 2004’s The Punisher.     

8. Tobe Hooper’s Spider-Man

While James Cameron is the name frequently associated with attempts to make a Spider-Man feature prior to Sam Raimi’s 2002 film, he wasn’t the only one: Tobe Hooper, who directed 1974’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, was once set to take on a modestly-budgeted adaptation for Cannon Films. According to Joseph Zito, who was working with Cannon at the time, executives wanted to approach the comic as a kind of monster movie, with an eight-limbed Peter Parker struggling with his monstrous transformation. After subsequent drafts displayed a better understanding of the character, Cannon hoped to enlist Tom Cruise for the lead. Unfortunately, the company was experiencing financial problems. They sold Spider-Man’s film rights in a fire sale in 1990.

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Hulton Archive (left), Bruno Vincent (right) // Getty Images
How Superman Helped Foil the KKK
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Hulton Archive (left), Bruno Vincent (right) // Getty Images

The Klansmen were furious.

Dozens of them had congregated in a nondescript room in Atlanta, shaking cloaked heads at the worrisome news that their sect leader had just shared: An act of gross subterfuge had transpired over the airwaves. Millions of Americans had now become privy to their policies, their rankings, their closely guarded methods of organized hatred.

All of it fodder for some comic book radio show. Their mission had been compromised, sacrificed at the altar of popular culture. Kids, one Klansman sighed. His kids were in the streets playing Superman vs. the Klan. Some of them tied red towels around their necks; others pranced around in white sheets. Their struggle for racial purity had been reduced to a recess role play.

Stetson Kennedy listened, doing his best to give off irate body language. He scowled. He nodded. He railed.

The covert activist waited patiently for the Klan to settle down. When they did, he would call radio journalists Walter Winchell and Drew Pearson, offering the results of his infiltration into the group for public consumption.

He’d also contact Robert Maxwell, producer of the Superman radio serial. Maxwell, eager to aid the humanitarian mission of the Anti-Defamation League, would promptly insert the leaked information into his show’s scripts. In between fisticuffs, his cast would mock the KKK’s infrastructure, and the group’s loathsome attitudes would be rendered impotent by the juvenilia.

The Klan roared, demanding revenge on their traitor. “Show me the rat,” their leader said, “and I’ll show you some action.”

Kennedy cheered, just as they all did.

And when he returned home, his Klan robe would be traded for a cape.

The cover to the first issue of Superman
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Kennedy, born in 1916, was an unlikely undercover operative. After a back injury kept him out of World War II, the Jacksonville, Florida native decided he wanted to combat anti-American forces on the home front. With Klan members alleged to have assaulted his family’s black maid when he was a child, the Klan—once again gathering steam in an era of segregation and racial divisiveness—was a favored target.

Having convinced a “Klavern” in Atlanta, Georgia that he shared their bigoted views, Kennedy donned the ominous attire of a Klansman, attended cross burnings, and covertly collected information about the group that he would then share with law enforcement and media. Radio journalist Drew Pearson would read the names and minutes of their meetings on air, exposing their guarded dialogues.

Revealing their closed-door sessions was a blow—one that Kennedy didn’t necessarily have to confine to nonfiction. In 1946, Maxwell, who produced the Superman radio serial broadcast around the country, embraced Kennedy’s idea to contribute to a narrative that had Superman scolding the racial divisiveness of the Klan and airing their dirty laundry to an enraptured audience.

“The law offices, state, county, FBI, House Un-American Activities Committee, they were all sympathetic with the Klan,” Kennedy said later. “The lawmen were, ideologically at least, close with the Klansmen. The court of public opinion was all that was left.”

Ostensibly aimed at children, Superman’s daily radio dramas were often broadcast to assembled nuclear families; one phone poll showed that 35 percent of its audience was composed of adults.

But regardless of whether parents listened, the activist believed the younger demographic was worth attending to. “Even back in the ’40s, they had kids in the Klan, little girls dressed up in Klan robes at the cross burnings," Kennedy said. "I have photos of an infant in a cradle with a complete Klan robe on. It seemed like a good place to do some educating.” 

In “Clan of the Fiery Cross,” a 16-part serial airing in June and July of 1946, Superman opposes an organized group of hatemongers who target one of Jimmy Olsen’s friends. Exploring their network, Clark Kent uncovers their secret meetings and policies before his alter ego socks the “Grand Scorpion” in the jaw. The idea, Kennedy wrote in his account of his work, The Klan Unmasked, was to made a mockery of their overblown vernacular.

When traveling, for example, Klansmen might identify one another by asking if they “knew Mr. Ayak,” an acronym for “Are You a Klansman?” Although Kennedy may not have actually shared their code words on air—a longstanding myth that was debunked in Rick Bowers’s 2012 book, Superman vs. the KKK—their histrionics were perfect for dramatization in the breathless structure of a radio drama. Given shape by actors and sound effects, all the clubhouse tropes of the Klan seemed exceedingly silly.

The cover to the first issue of Superman
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

As Kennedy continued to serve up Klan secrets to Superman, he watched as Klan morale dipped and membership enrollment ebbed. Desperate, the Klan tried calling for a boycott of Kellogg’s, a new sponsor of the show, but racial intolerance was no match for the appetites of post-World War II homes. Rice Krispies and Corn Flakes remained breakfast table staples, and Superman’s battles with the close-minded continued. Emboldened by his success against the Klan, Superman took aim at Communism, a favorite target of the show’s anti-Red star, Bud Collyer.

Kennedy would go on to burden the Klan using proof of uncollected tax liens, and eventually convinced the state of Georgia to revoke their national corporate charter.

Kennedy died in 2011 at the age of 94. While some of his accounts of subterfuge in the Klan later came under fire for being embellished, his bravery in swimming with the sharks of the organization is undeniable. So, too, was his wisdom in utilizing American iconography to suffocate prejudice. Fictional or not, Superman may have done more to stifle the Klan’s postwar momentum than many real people who merely stood by and watched.

Portions of this article were excerpted from Superman vs. Hollywood: How Fiendish Producers, Devious Directors, and Warring Writers Grounded an American Icon by Jake Rossen with permission from Chicago Review Press. Copyright (c) 2008. All Rights Reserved.

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Courtesy of Highlights for Children
7 Engaging Facts About Goofus and Gallant
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Courtesy of Highlights for Children

For well over 60 years, the preadolescent readers of Highlights for Children magazine have gotten regular lessons in morality from Goofus and Gallant, a pair of kids of indeterminate age and relation who offer sharp contrasts in behavior. Gallant is prone to exhibiting perfect manners; Goofus is selfish, thoughtless, and has even been seen torturing small animals. (Honest: He has stoned birds and once subjected a frog to some disturbing cruelty.)

The two-panel strip has become so ubiquitous that warring ideologies are often described as “Goofus and Gallant” types. If you’ve ever wondered whether there’s more to Gallant than being a goody two-shoes or whether Goofus is flirting with juvenile delinquency, check out our round-up of the pair’s storied history.


Goofus and Gallant

Goofus and Gallant were the creation of Garry Cleveland Myers, a child psychologist and popular syndicated parental advice columnist. Myers debuted the strip, then known as the The G-Twins, in Children’s Activities magazine in 1938. While the twosome were already displaying their radically different approaches to life, Myers depicted them as fanciful creatures with pointed ears and curly-toed shoes. No one is quite sure why Myers opted for the fairy tale aesthetic, although one theory is that he wanted to depict bad behavior rather than bad children.

After Myers and wife Caroline started Highlights for six- to 12-year-old readers in 1946, they were eventually able to acquire the rights to the strip. Goofus and Gallant debuted in their magazine in 1948; by 1952, they had morphed into two regular kids. Their parents lost the elf ears, too.


Highlights turned into a family enterprise, with the Myers’s children and grandchildren having a hand in its publication. In 1995, Kent Brown Jr., the Myers’s grandson, told the Los Angeles Times that he was the inspiration for Goofus and that his cousin, Garry Myers III, was the model for Gallant. Myers III denied the accusation. “Kent gets great glee out of claiming to be Goofus," he said. Brown later stated that all of Myers's 13 grandchildren helped inform the characters.


Goofus and Gallant

Once Myers secured the rights to the two characters for Highlights, he enlisted illustrator Marion Hull Hammel to draw their adventures (and misadventures), taking them from the elfin creatures of the early days to the human boys of the 1950s and beyond. Hammel wound up drawing it for 32 years; Sidney Quinn took over when she retired and worked on it through 1995. Current artist Leslie Harrington has been on the strip since 2006. 


While the recurring theme of Goofus and Gallant is to exercise the Golden Rule, not all juvenile readers are on board with Gallant’s impeccable manners. "I got a letter from an attorney who'd grown up with the feature," Rich Wallace, the magazine's then-coordinating editor, told the Los Angeles Times in 1995. “He had something he wanted to get off his chest: 'Gallant was a wussy.'" Other readers have expressed similar disdain for Gallant, observing that they identify more with Goofus.


Goofus and Gallant

In the absence of any in-panel clinical diagnosis of Goofus’s reckless behavior—including but not limited to playing with fire, being unkind to peers, and vandalizing school books—we’re left with the editorial directives of Highlights. In a 1993 interview with the Chicago Tribune, magazine publicist Tom White admitted that Goofus is a “surly, uncooperative, ill-mannered child” but that "he is not a sociopath.” Good to know!


Discounting the two years they were absent from Highlights from 1946 to 1948, the antics of Goofus and Gallant have appeared without fail in every subsequent issue. In 2006, the magazine celebrated its 60th anniversary by shipping its one billionth copy. The magazine went from selling 20,000 copies of its first issue to averaging 2.6 million readers a month in the 1990s.


Goofus and Gallant

When Goofus and Gallant began their broadly-drawn moral plays in the 1950s, they were depicted as identical twins. Later on, editors for Highlights indicated the two were brothers, but not twins. By 1995, they were simply two unrelated boys. But according to former coordinating editor Rich Wallace, the two might actually be part of a Fight Club-style twist. “I’ve theorized they’re two sides of the same kid,” he said.

We were so awed by this possibility that we asked Highlights editor Judy Burke if it held any water. "We show the boys with different parents in the panels and they look slightly different from each other," she says. More recently, the two have seemed to become aware of the other's existence. "In April 2016, we had them breaking through their respective art panels and pranking each other for April Fools’ Day, which they couldn’t have done if they were the same child."

That doesn't mean that readers can't have an existential crisis of their own. "Each time we run Goofus and Gallant, we include the line, 'There’s some of Goofus and Gallant in us all,'" Burke says. "When the Gallant shines through, we show our best self.  We also include a few 'Goofus and Gallant Moments' from kids, where they tell us about times when they felt like either Goofus or Gallant. These two aspects of the feature support the theory that both characters reside within the same individual, and it’s up to that person to choose how to behave."

All images courtesy of Highlights for Children and used with permission.


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