There was a time when comic books were the only place where superheroes belonged, and only the most dedicated comic book readers knew everything there was to know about them. However, ever since Hollywood took an interest in adapting them for the big screen and producing a variety of items based on them, they have made their way from the pages of books into our homes. Superman, Batman, and Spider-Man have long been famous, but in the past ten years, lesser-known heroes such as The Guardians of the Galaxy, Ant-Man, and Aquaman have gained widespread recognition among the general public. The entertainment industry in Hollywood is notorious for following trends, and everyone is hunting for their own superhero property at the moment. The events of the past seem to be repeating themselves.
Even in the 2000s, after the explosion of the superhero genre, pulp characters like The Green Hornet and The Lone Ranger made their way to the big screen. However, despite having star power and high-profile directors, both films underperformed and failed to capture the audience’s interest, which resulted in them becoming major box office bombs. However, it appears that a significant number of the classic pulp heroes that were the source of inspiration for a variety of superheroes are either locked in development hell or no studio has any interest in adapting them at all.
Do the classic pulp heroes, who served as the bedrock for the superhero genre, still have a place in the modern world now that the superhero genre continues to dominate, and various characters from the pages of Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, and Image Comics get films and television series based around them? What kind of plans does Hollywood have for them, and if they do have plans for them, will the audience really care? These are some of the first examples of pulp heroes, and the question is whether or not they still have a place in today’s world.
Buck Rogers is one of the most influential characters in science fiction. Despite his initial popularity, the character has fallen into obscurity to mainstream audiences and is now known more as a pop-culture touchstone without general audiences knowing very much about him. Buck Rogers first appeared in newspaper comics in 1929 and was created by Philip Francis Nowlan.
There are now two different Buck Rogers projects under development, which some refer to as “development hell” because many people fear that the projects will not be realized any time in the near future. The first one comes from Legendary Entertainment and is a remake of a television show that George Clooney is going to produce and may even star in. The second one comes from Skydance Pictures and is a movie, but no additional information has been revealed about it. Regardless of which one makes it to the big screen first, there will always be a market for science fiction, and the true challenge of making this franchise a success is coming up with a means for it to differentiate itself from the source material that it was based on.
Alex Raymond came up with the idea for Flash Gordon in January 1934, and he was inspired to do so by the popularity of Buck Rogers at the time. In the 1930s and 1940s, the figure starred in a number of different serials, and he was even a source of inspiration for a younger version of George Lucas while he was developing the idea for Star Wars. The most noteworthy claim to fame that Flash Gordon has in the modern period is the 1980 film starring Sam Jones, which is well-known for the music that was composed and performed by the band Queen.
After an abortive attempt to bring the Flash Gordon franchise back to life in the form of a series for the Syfy channel in 2006, the property remained dormant for a number of years. Before Taikia Waititi signed on to helm an animated version for Disney/Fox, Matthew Vaughn and Julius Avery were attached to direct a live-action remake of the picture. After Waititi joined on, the film was rebuilt as a live-action film with Waititi’s script that is currently in development. Even though Waititi has about a dozen different projects going on simultaneously as one of Hollywood’s hottest directors and writers, he seems like the right fit for the material. However, one has to wonder what Disney and Fox see in the property that they don’t already have with their various other franchises. The 1980s Flash Gordon film was a major inspiration for Waititi for Thor: Ragnarok.
Harry Steeger came up with the idea for the concept The Spider in 1933 with the intention of creating a rival for the character The Shadow. Richard Wentworth, a millionaire playboy who had served as a major in World War I and was living in New York City unaffected by the economic downfall of the Great Depression, was depicted in the beginning of the story as donning a black trench coat and hat along with a mask that featured a spider on it. Richard Wentworth was also depicted as dressing up in this manner. The character made an appearance in a few film serials but has not been featured much in recent years, with the exception of IDW comic books. It was in these comic books that the character’s story was relaunched and eventually crossed over with other pulp heroes such as The Green Hornet and Kato, a modern-day Zorro and The Shadow.
The fact that the Spider crime fighter is now closely associated with Spider-Man is the most significant factor working against the character being revived. To a modern audience, the Spider would seem like a derivative of both Spider-Man and The Green Hornet. This is the most significant factor working against the character being revived. Nevertheless, an atmospheric noir story following the figure might be an excellent streaming series for companies who are in need of more streaming programming, such as Apple TV or Paramount+. It could even keep its location in the 1930s during the Great Depression and have a subtly subversive message about class consciousness.
The Nyctalope first appeared in the novel Le Mystère des XV, written in 1911 by the French author Jean de la Hire. This book was then translated into English as The Nyctalope on Mars. The Nyctalope predates both Batman and Superman by an entire three decades. The Nyctalope is equipped with a mechanical heart and several other organs, all of which grant him special abilities and heightened senses. The most famous of these is the Nyctalope’s augmented eyes, which grant him exceptional night vision (in contrast to his name, which stems from nyctalopia, or night blindness). In addition to being an early example of the genre of superhero stories, one may argue that he was also the first fictional cyborg.
Although the character has been featured in over 20 novels, he has never been adapted for film or television. Despite the fact that the character’s backstory may seem a little too similar to that of The Six Million Dollar Man, there is still a great deal of promise for the IP. Either as a feature film series for a studio such as Paramount, Amazon, or even Apple, who don’t have a large comic book firm to pull from for their own superhero picture. Apple, Amazon, and Amazon Prime are all examples of such studios. The obscurity of the character also provides a level of freedom with a lot of room for creative experimentation, as a director has the option of making a more conventional blockbuster movie or even a more contemplative and atmospheric character study in order to keep the production costs to a minimum.
The Shadow is widely considered to be one of the most iconic pulp heroes ever created. His first appearance was in a radio drama in 1931. The character was given a high-budget film version in 1994 starring Alec Baldwin in the wake of the popularity of the first Batman films. He has been featured in a variety of comics, television programs, and film adaptations. The movie turned out to be a huge letdown, and ever since then, there have been no serious plans to make another movie or television series centered on the character. There were even rumors that Quentin Tarantino was going to direct a remake, but by 2012 Raimi said the project would not move forward, and no major studio has considered The Shadow since then. The project came the closest in 2006 with director Sam Raimi (Spider-Man), and there were even rumors that Quentin Tarantino was going to direct a remake.
Since The Shadow shares many characteristics with other detectives and pulp heroes, a weekly episodic series or a prominent streaming series based on the character would be a good fit for him. This would be similar to how HBO re-imagined the character of Perry Mason. It was also demonstrated by The Batman starring Robert Pattinson that viewers are in the mood for a dark and ominous detective thriller; hence, a rendition of The Shadow that prioritizes style and atmosphere above spectacle could very well be successful.
Doc Savage, who was created in 1933 and is credited by Marvel Comics legend Stan Lee as being the forerunner of the modern idea of superheroes, is a scientist, a doctor, an adventurer, and a detective all rolled into one who went on incredible adventures to punish evil. Doc Savage first appeared in Marvel Comics. The protagonist has been featured in a variety of comics and radio dramas throughout the years, and he is considered an icon dating back to the days of pulp novels. Since 1999, numerous high-profile actors and directors, such as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sam Raimi, have been associated at various times to the project in an effort to bring a contemporary take on the Doc Savage film series to the big screen.
In 2018, the Doc Savage movie that was supposed to be directed by Shane Black (Iron Man 3) and starring Dwayne Johnson ran into a number of problems that prevented production from moving forward. The following year, in 2020, it was stated that the idea would be remade as a television series; however, there has been no news released since then. After the success of The Jungle Cruise at the box office, Doc Savage might be the next great adventure franchise Hollywood is looking for. Doc Savage is a traditional type of hero, a man of adventure similar to the renowned character Indiana Jones (whom he likely helped inspire).