Enlisting third-string saviors

Times Staff Writer

HOLLYWOOD is running out of A-list superheroes. Spider-Man, Superman and Batman have all been done (and Joss Whedon’s Wonder Woman project is on deck), so now-desperate producers can only scour old comics for, well, second-class men in tights.

For example, on Friday, Nicolas Cage will star as “Ghost Rider,” the demonic, motorcycle-riding Marvel Comics hero from the 1970s (think Evel Knievel meets “The Exorcist”). And coming to theaters in 2008: “Ant-Man,” another old Marvel character, this one a tiny little guy who commands his own bug army, which sounds more like a bad picnic than a big movie.

For the record:

12:00 AM, Feb. 11, 2007 For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday February 11, 2007 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 41 words Type of Material: Correction
Comic heroes: An article on comic book-based films in today’s Calendar section says writer-director Joss Whedon is working on a Wonder Woman film. He has walked away from the project, according to public comments he made after the story was written.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday February 18, 2007 Home Edition Sunday Calendar Part E Page 2 Calendar Desk 1 inches; 40 words Type of Material: Correction
Comic heroes: An article on comic book-based films last Sunday said that writer-director Joss Whedon is working on a Wonder Woman film. Whedon has walked away from the project, according to public comments he made after the story was written.

But, hey, if this is the future of superhero cinema, we want to do our part to help. So we rummaged through our musty old comics collection and came up with some obscure (but 100% genuine) characters that are very likely available and, even likelier, pretty cheap.

Black Canary


(DC Comics, 1947)

Her hair changes from blond to brunet pretty much every day. She wears black fishnets and high-heeled boots. She likes motorcycles and volatile boyfriends. Her super power: By simply opening her mouth she can unleash a shrill noise that wrecks everything in sight.

The star: It, like, so has to be Lindsay Lohan.

The selling point: Did we mention the fishnet stockings?

Matter-Eater Lad

(DC Comics, 1963)

His power is he can eat anything. It doesn’t matter how big it is, it doesn’t matter how hard it is, he can eat it. We’re not making this up. It’s a power that everyone on his planet shares. And the name of that planet? That would be Bismoll. Honest. The character turned out to be a few years ahead of his time -- his galactic case of the munchies sounds more like the planet Haight-Ashbury to us.

The star: Somebody text Jack Black’s agent right now.


The selling point: This movie could do for extreme-eating sports what “The Fast and the Furious” did for street racing.

Brain Boy

(Dell Comics, 1962)

That Brain Boy was smart. No, really, like unbelievably smart. He was so smart he could read minds and fly. How? He just figured it out one day. You could too if you were smarter. His intelligence also led him to skip the traditional stretchy pants and cape; he just wears khakis while matching wits with his archenemy, oily South American dictator Ricorta.


The star: Frankie Muniz as Brain Boy, Ricardo Montalban as the evil cough-drop guy.

The selling point: No costumes = low budget.

The Watcher

(Marvel Comics, 1963)


In a mysterious citadel on the moon, there’s a creepy, solitary alien with a massive skull and a fondness for togas. His every waking moment is devoted to over-analyzing Earth history and second-guessing mankind.

The star: Larry King.

The selling point: CNN cross-promotion.

Captain Marvel


(M.F. Enterprises, 1966)

Remember Captain Marvel, who yelled “Shazam!” and wore a red suit? This isn’t him. This is the other Captain Marvel, a horrendous rip-off put out by a low-rent publisher. This hero was an alien android who yelled “Split!” -- at which time his body parts would shoot off into different directions. His hands would fly one way, his feet another and his head launched toward the ceiling like a champagne cork -- it’s like “CSI” on LSD.

The star: A cheesy hero who pops off? A hero who might lose his head? We’re thinking Mel Gibson.

The selling point: Make this sham movie so you can sue whenever the legitimate Captain Marvel finally reaches the screen. Then take the money and “Split!”


Brother Power the Geek (DC Comics, 1968)

DC Comics (which was about as edgy as “Ozzie and Harriet”) wanted to get groovier a year after the Summer of Love, which led to Brother Power the Freak -- but the skittish editors, worried that sounded too druggy, changed the name at the last minute. It just got worse and worse. The origin: A hippie gets a beat-down by some war-loving thugs so he puts his bloodied, wet and tattered clothes on a mannequin to dry them out. Lightning hits the mannequin and it comes to life. The rag doll with the tie-dyed spirit takes up the struggle against The Man and tries to unite his hippie pals.

In the second issue, he gets shot into space by then-California Gov. Ronald Reagan(!) but, with no interest in a third issue, he became a forgotten 1960s icon just floating around in the stratosphere, sort of like Tiny Tim.

The star: Andy Dick.


The selling point: There hasn’t been a quality stoner flick since “Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle.”


(Marvel Comics, 1980)

Marvel Comics and Casablanca Records hatched this idea of a flamboyant disco singer who was also a mutant superhero (um, isn’t that Donna Summer?). Bo Derek was their visual template, but Dazzler always reminded us of Michelle Pfeiffer in “Scarface.” She wore a sexy silver jumpsuit and her power was turning sound into displays of light that, well, really dazzled people. Later, Marvel took the character in other directions but, to us, Dazzler will always be the girl who spends a suspicious amount of time in the bathroom stalls of Studio 54.


The star: Brittany Murphy likes to sing, right? Or maybe Gwen Stefani -- she already has the wardrobe.

The selling point: The soundtrack! Toot toot, hey, beep beep

Mr. Terrific

(DC Comics, 1942)


Here was a guy who had everything: Olympic-level athleticism, world-class good looks, photographic memory and a huge bank account. But somehow he was bored by it all and lost his will to live -- until he met a girl who made him leap with excitement (well, to be more precise, she was a suicide jumper and he dived off a bridge to save her). After that, he embraced life with a spooky sort of gusto. He dubbed himself “Mr. Terrific” and got a green-and-red outfit with the incongruous motto “Fair Play” emblazoned right above his belt buckle. Oddly, none of this clicked with the public. Mr. Terrific tanked.

The star: Jump up, Mr. Cruise, you’re already Tom Terrific in our book.

The selling point: Hmmm, hard to say. This one might be mission: impossible.