20 Overlooked Superheroes from History that Deserves a Chance at the Cinema
20 Overlooked Superheroes from History that Deserves a Chance at the Cinema

20 Overlooked Superheroes from History that Deserves a Chance at the Cinema

Steve - May 23, 2019

Despite living in the so-called “golden age of superhero movies”, with dozens in pre-production and at least a few blockbuster films released each year, the pickings have remained surprisingly narrow. As an audience, we are now well into the third iteration of Spider-Man this century, Batman is facing his third reboot in fifteen years, we endured two separate big-screen versions of Quicksilver in as many years, and we tolerated three different Hulks in less than a decade. Whilst occasionally some lesser-known comic book heroes have been permitted the chance to shine, most notably the Guardians of the Galaxy, for the most part, many excellent characters have been overlooked in favor of reusing the same tired out individuals. With Phase Three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe coming to a conclusion this April with the release of Avengers: Endgame, along with the expected retirements of Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man, it is time to open the vault on some old comic books and select a more original batch of heroes and villains to entertain us in the future.

20 Overlooked Superheroes from History that Deserves a Chance at the Cinema
Still from Marvel Avengers Assemble (c. 2012), directed by Joss Whedon, featuring several of the most famous comic book superheroes. Walt Disney Studios.

Here are 20 overlooked comic book superheroes from yesteryear who deserve their own movies:

20 Overlooked Superheroes from History that Deserves a Chance at the Cinema
Cover of Captain Britain trade paperback edition (c. 2005). Wikimedia Commons.

20. The only Marvel hero to be graced by the penmanship of legendary author Alan Moore, Captain Britain would be a well-suited, if somewhat corny, replacement for the outgoing Captain America in the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Initially intended solely for consumption in the United Kingdom, Captain Britain was Marvel’s first original content published by Marvel UK. Released in October 1976, the character was met with a mixed reception before being redesigned and relaunched in 1981 to wider acclaim. Descending from a fallen aristocratic English family, after suffering an accident Captain Britain becomes the guardian of a mystical amulet given to him by the wizard Merlyn. Possessing superhuman strength and the power to fly, his abilities are intimately connected to his costume. Serving as a form of battery, Captain Britain is only “super” whilst wearing his suit, offering an avenue of vulnerability to an otherwise immensely powerful character.

Furthermore, this battery is capable of depletion, rendering the superhero powerless if overexerted. Offering audiences several iconic story-lines, including multiple arcs involving trans-dimensional travel between the many worlds of the Marvel multiverse – which would be a superb direction to take the franchise post-Thanos – Captain Britain has been replaced on several occasions by other individuals allowing for a prolonged continuity. A member of the clandestine Secret Avengers, as well as the leader of the superhero group Excalibur, Captain Britain would be an excellent international addition to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and offers a broader range of long-term story arcs.

20 Overlooked Superheroes from History that Deserves a Chance at the Cinema
Textless cover of Nightwing #1, illustrated by Ivan Reis and Joe Prado (c. September 2016). Wikimedia Commons.

19. Often ranking extremely highly among fan-favorite comic book characters, Nightwing, the former vigilante partner of Batman, has inexplicably never been featured in the more than a dozen films involving the more famous caped crusader

Making his first appearance unrelated to Batman, Nightwing was introduced to audiences in 1965 in the “Superman in Kandor” story-line. Redesigned in 1985, becoming the iconic character known today, Dick Grayson became Nightwing following his dismissal from the role of Robin by Batman. Equipped with a high-tech suit accommodating his more acrobatic style, Nightwing’s weapon of choice was a pair of Eskrima clubs capable of joining together as a staff. Copied by his successor as Robin, Jason Todd, prior to his death at the hands of the Joker in “Batman: A Death in the Family”, Grayson later retires his unique identity to become the Batman following Bruce Wayne’s own death.

Enjoying several immensely iconic character arcs, including the murder of the Joker in the “Last Laugh” and becoming the leader of the Justice League, the contest between the disciples of Batman to replace him in “Batman R.I.P.” would form an unquestionably entertaining basis for a film. Remaining consistently popular within the comic book community, Nightwing was published in his own eponymous series for fifteen consecutive years. With the rebooting of Batman once more, the introduction of an in-universe successor to his more famous, if habitually recast, mentor is entirely logical.

20 Overlooked Superheroes from History that Deserves a Chance at the Cinema
The Incredible Hercules #126, illustrated by Ed McGuinness (c. 2009). Wikimedia Commons.

18. One of many reproductions of ancient mythology in the Silver Age by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, Hercules was designed as a counterpart and foil to the newly introduced Thor in the 1960s

Debuting during the Silver Age of Comic Books – a period of the genre generally defined as between the years 1956 and 1970 following the Golden Age – Stan Lee introduced his readership to several characters based on the Norse and Greek pagan deities. Releasing Thor in 1962, who, until the modern cinematic adaptations was a less known comic book character, Lee continued his successful collaboration with Jack Kirby with the introduction of Hercules in 1965. Based on Heracles from Greek mythology, using the Roman spelling of the name due to the unfamiliarity of American audiences with the original legend, Hercules quickly became a persistent heroic rival of the God of Thunder.

Frequently appearing alongside the Avengers on Earth in their battles with various figures from pagan mythologies, notably Surtur’s attack on New York City, Hercules became a prominent figure in the “Disassembled” story-line whereupon the Avengers Initiative is dissolved. Possessing the typical powers of the legendary character, namely superhuman strength and stamina, Hercules wields a mace forged by Hephaestus that can match the might of Mjolnir. Given the likely departure of Thor at the end of Phase Three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, his replacement with a similar figure would help ensure continuity and a like-for-like substitution of a fan favorite.

20 Overlooked Superheroes from History that Deserves a Chance at the Cinema
Cover of The Question #3, illustrated by Tommy Lee Edwards (c 2005). Wikimedia Commons.

17. The inspiration behind Alan Moore’s Rorschach, the Question is a masked investigative journalist who, unlike Batman, is willing to kill and consistently tries to seduce Lois Lane away from Superman

Offering an interesting spin on the superhero genre, the Question, like Batman, is an individual without any notable special powers. Created by Steve Ditko for Charlton Comics in 1967, the popular character was later bought by DC comics in the early 1980s to be added to their roster of heroes and incorporated into the wider DC Universe. An investigative journalist, the Question is forced to conceal his identity in order to perform his duties without exposing himself to retribution. However, in contrast to “the world’s greatest detective”, the Question is far more ruthless in his methods than Batman.

Although conflicted with regards the limits of his vigilantism, the Question, unlike the caped crusader, permits himself to kill others in the course of his work. Entering into conflict with Superman – whose partner, Lois Lane, the Question is infatuated with – over his willingness to murder, the Question opens up an entirely new and more morally ambiguous side of the superhero medium rarely seen outside Christopher Nolan’s critically acclaimed Dark Knight Trilogy. With the over-saturation of traditional superheroes and the demand for more adult characters, the Question would be a more than suitable protagonist for the 21st century.

20 Overlooked Superheroes from History that Deserves a Chance at the Cinema
Cover artwork for Martian Manhunter (vol. 3) #2 by Al Barrionuevo (c. 2006). Wikimedia Commons.

16. One of the original members of the Justice League, despite being frequently ranked as one of the greatest comic book heroes Martian Manhunter has never appeared on the big screen

Created by Joseph Samachson and designed by Joe Certa, Martian Manhunter, despite never appearing on the big screen, was one of the seven original members of the Justice League of America. First appearing in Detective Comics issue #225 in 1955, in the story “The Strange Experiment of Dr. Erdel”, the superhero, real name J’onn J’onzz is one of the most powerful beings in the entire DC Universe. Pulled to Earth by a teleportation beam, which breaks in the process, J’onzz is forced to reside on Earth until technology develops that will enable his return home. Resembling Superman in terms of his powers, he likewise possesses a singular, more relatable weakness: fire.

Often serving as a substitute for Superman in story-lines due to their similarities, following the Man of Steel’s increased popularity by the 1970s the Martian was sidelined. Nevertheless, Martian Manhunter played a central part in a number of major story-lines that deserve to be reproduced, in particular The Death of Superman, and recent years have seen the return of the figure to the Justice League. With the departure of Henry Cavill as Superman, the replacement of the character itself rather than merely actor is a far better alternative, offering audiences a fresh start with a previously unseen personality.

20 Overlooked Superheroes from History that Deserves a Chance at the Cinema
Blue Beetle vol. 2,#1, with cover art by Frank McLaughlin (c. 1964). Wikimedia Commons.

15. Appearing in three separate iterations of the character, Blue Beetle was one of the earliest comic book creations, debuting alongside Superman and Batman, yet has been persistently overlooked by modern cinema

Created by Charles Nicholas Wojtkoski, Blue Beetle was first introduced to readers in Mystery Men Comics #1 in 1939. The son of a police officer killed in the line of duty, Dan Garrett followed his father into the force to fight crime. Originally working without any accouterments, Garrett acquired a bulletproof costume and access to a mysterious compound known as “Vitamin 2X”. Capable of granting him temporarily great strength and stamina, the character was initially immensely popular. His fame was sufficiently great that, in 1940, the New York’s World Fair held a “Blue Beetle Day” in which 300 children competed in a relay-race final at the Field of Special Events.

Redesigned in 1964, following the purchasing of the rights to the character by Charlton Comics, the character ceased to be fueled by drugs but instead by a mystical scarab discovered during an archaeological dig. Retiring Garrett after Charlton Comics was subsequently sold to DC Comics, the character was rebooted using one of his proteges: Ted Kord. Joining the Justice League, Blue Beetle remained a marginal, but nonetheless noteworthy figure throughout many of the iconic DC arcs including the Infinite Earths story-line and Extreme Justice spinoff series. Overlooked by modern continuities, the debut of the historic character in film is long overdue.

20 Overlooked Superheroes from History that Deserves a Chance at the Cinema
Quasar #1, featuring the Wendell Vaughn version of the character by Paul Ryan (c. 1989). Wikimedia Commons.

14. Undergoing several variations of the character across a more than forty-year lifespan, Quasar is a recurrent staple of Avengers story-lines but is yet to appear on the silver screen

Whilst the original Quasar – Neutron, debuting in 1977 – was a member of an alien species, who combated rogue members of the X-Men in his capacity as part of the Imperial Guard of the Shi’ar Empire, his eponymous successors brought the character into the mainstream with a more conventional personality. Granting immense power to an individual fused with them, the Quantum Bands – created by Eon for his designated Protector of the Universe – are permanently attached to the individual who becomes symbiotically dependent upon them. Allowing the bearer to draw from the “Quantum Zone”, Quasar is gifted the powers of inter-dimensional travel as well as becoming a powerful cosmic entity.

Most famously the title held by Wendell Elvis Vaughn, the development of this rebooted version of Quasar in 1979 was a historically important moment for comic books. In contrast to the Silver Age cosmic heroes, such as Silver Surfer or Adam Warlock, Vaughn was an everyman. A member of S.H.I.E.L.D., although deemed unsuitable for field work, the construction of Vaughn’s Quasar marked a crucial turning point of superheroes from inherently special individuals to encompass ordinary members of society at large. Subsequently a leading member of the Avengers, with the expansion of the Marvel Cinematic Universe into the Quantum Realm as well as outer space, Quasar would be a perfect inclusion going forward.

20 Overlooked Superheroes from History that Deserves a Chance at the Cinema
Dazzler, as seen on the cover of Secret Invasion: X-Men #3.
Art by Terry Dodson (c. 2008). Wikimedia Commons.

13. Despite being developed as part of a cross-promotional marketing campaign between Casablanca Records and Marvel Comics, Dazzler is nevertheless a hilarious and unique superhero worthy of an appearance on the big screen

A mutant commonly associated with the X-Men, Dazzler – real name Alison Blaire – was developed chiefly by Tom DeFalco and John Romita Jr. as part of a cross-promotional campaign between Casablanca Records and Marvel Comics. One of the last such commercial comic book tie-ins, with hopes at the time for resultant albums and concerts, Dazzler first appeared in 1980. Intended to star in a related movie with model Bo Derek as the lead, her rigid insistence that her husband direct scuppered plans and doomed the character to comparative obscurity. Becoming an on-and-off member of the X-Men, Dazzler notably teams up with Captain Marvel to defeat Thanos.

A mutant with the power to transform sonic vibrations – i.e. sounds – into powerful beams of light, whilst immensely corny the character is, at least, unique. With the emergent success of Deadpool, a singing and dancing superhero defeating her opponents through song harks back to the cheesy cult classic Flash Gordon. Equally provocative, following the Age of Apocalypse story-line, Dazzler takes up smoking and loses her voice. Although rumored that Dazzler will be a minor character in the upcoming X-Men: Dark Phoenix, with the film expected to be a critical and commercial failure Dazzler deserves a better outlet for the original and entertaining superhero.

20 Overlooked Superheroes from History that Deserves a Chance at the Cinema
Textless cover of Nova #1, with art by Adi Granov (c. 2007). Wikimedia Commons.

12. Regarded as one of the greatest and most popular comic book heroes to never appear in a film, Nova is an integral figure in the histories of both Thanos and the Guardians of the Galaxy

Taking form over the course of a decade, even the discarded early concepts of Nova are interesting in their own right. Of particular note, the initial version of the character, created by Marv Wolfman in 1966, was an alien doctor who discovered a box of pills that gifted him a different superhuman power every five minutes. Re-imagined in his final form in 1976, Nova was intended as an homage to Lee and Ditko’s Spider-Man, envisioning a working-class hero with an ordinary alter-ego. Selected by the last surviving member of the Nova Corps, New York high school student Richard Rider is transformed into a superhero with the powers of the eponymous planetary defense force of the destroyed world of Xandar.

Deriving his powers from an energy source – the Nova Force – Rider is granted the superhuman powers of flight, strength, and speed. Capable of traversing the vacuum of space, during the “Annihilation” story-line Rider is merged with the Worldmind, a collective history and hivemind of Xandar offering him thousands of years of knowledge and the computing power of millions of individuals, to become a leading general in the conflict. With the destruction of Xandar off-screen prior to the beginning of Avengers: Infinity War, there is a perfect opening for the iconic character in the near future as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

20 Overlooked Superheroes from History that Deserves a Chance at the Cinema
Black Knight #1, with cover art by Joe Maneely (c. 1955). Wikimedia Commons.

11. Joining together several separate super-teams, including the Avengers, Defenders, and Excalibur, the Black Knight is a visually interesting and central character in Marvel’s vault of forgotten superheroes

Created Stan Lee and Joe Maneely in 1955, the original black knight was recruited by Merlin during the 6th century to serve at the court of King Arthur. Wielding the Ebony Blade in defense of his king, Sir Percy was slain by Mordred the Evil during the fall of Camelot. Enduring as a spirit, following the fall of his descendant Nathan Garrett to evil after the discovery of the Ebony Blade, his contemporary descendant Dane Whitman later inherited the family sword to redeem the name of the Black Knight and become a superhero. Advised by his long-deceased ghostly ancestor, Whitman joins the Avengers after defeating Kang the Conqueror.

Although possessing no superhuman abilities, the Black Knight, akin to Hawkeye in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is the master of his medieval weaponry and capable of holding his own against both Captain America and Wolverine. Appearing in several cross-over story-lines, in addition to being a member of the Avengers, the Black Knight also served as part of the Defenders and Captain Britain’s Excalibur team. Consequently, the original character is well-suited for inclusion in a multi-film cinematic universe and perfectly placed to bring both the Marvel television and film universes into line as a singular entity.

20 Overlooked Superheroes from History that Deserves a Chance at the Cinema
First appearance of She-Hulk from issue #1 of her first title: “Savage She-Hulk”. Art by John Buscema (c. 1980). Wikimedia Commons.

10. Although seemingly derivative, She-Hulk not only is an interesting and wide-reaching character but was also the last created by Stan Lee for Marvel Comics

The cousin of Bruce Banner, Jennifer Walters acquired a milder version of the Hulk condition after receiving a blood transfusion from Banner following a shooting. Successfully gaining control over her powers, capable of transforming at will in a manner similar to the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s inconsistent approach to the Hulk, Walters grows to actually prefer her She-Hulk form over her regular appearance. Believing it provides her with a freedom, assertiveness, and confidence she had previously lacked as an attorney, following a radiation leak on a helicarrier Walters loses the ability to ever return to her former self.

Encompassing several terrific and iconic story-lines, including most notably World War Hulk, as one former She-Hulk writer declared: she “has the potential to be our Wonder Woman. A powerful female with a strong moral center and a determination to do what’s right” – a feature presently lacking in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. A member of the Avengers, Fantastic Four, Heroes for Hire, Defenders, Fantastic Force, and S.H.I.E.L.D. on varying occasions, She-Hulk, in addition to serving as a revitalization of an over-used and tired out male character, would be an excellent bridge between the many arms of the comic book universe.

20 Overlooked Superheroes from History that Deserves a Chance at the Cinema
Adventure Comics #432, depicting The Spectre, with cover art by Jim Aparo (c. April 1974). Wikimedia Commons.

9. Offering a balance between action and moral conundrum, the Spectre would be a circumspect and appropriate character for the morally didactic modern age

A founding member of the first superhero team in comic book history – the Justice Society of America – the Spectre was created during the Golden Age in 1940 by Jerry Siegel and Bernard Baily. Centering on Jim Corrigan, a by the book police officer who, whilst on his way home to his fiance, Clarice, is murdered by a gang of criminals, his spirit is denied entry to the peaceful afterlife. Sent back to Earth by an entity known only as “The Voice”, Jim is charged with defeating the evil he had failed to combat in life as a law enforcement professional. Seeking vengeance against those responsible for his death, the original series was ahead of its time in both graphic detail and maturity.

Despite the initial popularity of the character, the Spectre faded after World War Two before being rebooted again in the 1970s and 1980s. Each time using a different individual as the backstory for the avenging spirit, the character was capable of undergoing an easy “soft” reboot to remain relevant and interesting. Possessing almost limitless powers whilst inhabiting a human form, the character is nevertheless bound by divine law to only harm those judged as unworthy.

20 Overlooked Superheroes from History that Deserves a Chance at the Cinema
The Cat #1, introducing audiences to the character later known as Tigra, with cover art by Wally Wood (c. Nov. 1972). Wikimedia Commons.

8. Created to broaden the appeal of comic books beyond a male audience, Tigra was one of the earliest mass marketed standalone female comic book characters

Introduced as part of an effort by Marvel Comics to widen the appeal of comic books and attract more female devotees in the 1970s, “The Cat” was initially a non-superpowered crime fighter. Lasting for only four issues, each with a separate art team due to the lack of desire to work with the character, despite the stated design to reach beyond the traditional audience demographics the male illustrators, defeating the purpose somewhat, depicted her in an immensely sexualized fashion. Rebooted a year later in 1974 as “Tigra”, the character became her iconic form as a super-powered and part-animal heroine.

Serving as the protector of a secret race of humanoid Cat People, who had suffered persecution during the Dark Ages and gone into hiding, the duties of “Tigra” are akin to those of Black Panther in his role as the defender of Wakanda. Abandoning her former appearance entirely by choice, Greer Grant-Nelson resumes her crime-fighting career to greater effect. Becoming affiliated with the Avengers as well as the Fantastic Four, Tigra’s narrative offers writers the chance to pair a unique and interesting mythos with powerful real-world political allegories regarding social exclusion and segregation that, whilst forming a part of comic book story-lines, have thus far been overlooked by their cinematic adaptations.

20 Overlooked Superheroes from History that Deserves a Chance at the Cinema
The Crimson Avenger, from Detective Comics #22, with art by Jim Chambers (c. December 1938). Wikimedia Commons.

7. The first masked superhero in DC Comics history, beating Batman by five issues, the Crimson Avenger was a sufficiently iconic character that Christopher Nolan paid homage to his death in his Dark Knight trilogy

Referring to three separate iterations of the character, the Crimson Avenger was the first masked superhero in the DC Universe. Originally published in 1938 during the Golden Age, the first Crimson Avenger – Lee Walter Travis – was a wealthy newsman who donned a red trenchcoat, fedora, and mask to fight crime. Later retconned to be a World War I veteran, providing the otherwise untrained character a fighting backstory, the inspiration behind his sudden desire to stand up was a vision into the future in which Travis saw the selfless sacrifice of Superman to defeat the monster Doomsday.

Wielding smoke grenades and pistols, Travis’ death was unashamedly borrowed by Christopher Nolan in The Dark Knight Rises. Piloting an explosives-laden freighter to a safe distance, the then-terminally ill Travis sacrifices himself to save the city. Rebooted in two different forms over the years, neither achieving the iconic success of the original, to this day the Justice League includes the costume of the Crimson Avenger in the background during the induction of new members as a homage to the character. Given the pedigree of the character, it is high time for a return of the original everyday superhero.

20 Overlooked Superheroes from History that Deserves a Chance at the Cinema
Cover art of Wonder Man #1 by Jeff Johnson (c. September 1991). Wikimedia Commons.

6. Overshadowed by the contemporary success of Wonder Woman, likely precluding any successful explicit adaptation for years to come, Wonder Man remains a salvageable character worthy of an appearance on the big screen.

First appearing in The Avengers issue #9 as one of the superhero teams earliest members, Simon Williams – alias Wonder Man – was created by Stan Lee, Don Heck, and Jack Kirby in 1964. Initially a villain, desiring revenge against Tony Stark for the collapse of his family’s company and his own imprisonment, Williams sides with Dr. Heinrich Zemo’s Masters of Evil to destroy the Avengers. Transformed into an ion-powered superhuman, becoming Wonder Man, Williams infiltrates the Avengers with plans to betray them. However, after luring the superheroes into a trap, Williams has a change of heart, saving the heroes at the apparent cost of his own life.

Later revealed to have been in a state of suspended animation, existing as a being of pure energy and thus unable to be killed in the traditional manner, during his unconsciousness his brain was used by Ultron as the foundational map for the synthezoid Vision. Serving in a prominent capacity in countless Avengers story-lines, including Civil War, Secret Invasion, and Dark Reign, the reborn Williams later becomes intimately involved with Ms. Marvel. With the inclusion of Carol Danvers in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, now is the perfect time to introduce William’s Wonder Man in some capacity also.

20 Overlooked Superheroes from History that Deserves a Chance at the Cinema
The cover of the graphic novel Zatanna: Everyday Magic. Art by Brian Bolland (c. Oct. 2003). Wikimedia Commons.

5. Belonging to the Silver Age of comic books, Zatanna is one of the more prominent recurring characters in the DC Universe yet has never feature even as a side character in the films of her more famous counterparts

The daughter of Zatara – who made his first appearance in the legendary Action Comics #1 – Zatanna was created in 1964 by Gardner Fox and Murphy Anderson. A magician like her father, Zatanna’s story begins with her embarking on a quest to find her long-absent parents. Throughout her long journey, during which time she discovers that her competence as an illusionist is aided by her genetically gifted magical abilities, she encounters several other DC staple characters, including Batman and Robin, Atom, and Green Lantern. Eventually rising to the ranks of the Justice League of America, she becomes a close companion to both Superman and Wonder Woman.

One of the most powerful sorceresses in the DC Universe, Zatanna is capable of casting spells by both incantations and writing them in her own blood, using the latter to heal herself after being shot in the larynx on one occasion. However, clear limitations also exist, for whilst her powers increase while not being used she can also over-exert, rendering herself almost powerless. Woven into the stories of so many of the most famous comic book characters, as well as offering a counter for DC to Marvel’s Scarlett Witch or Doctor Strange, Zatanna is long overdue for inclusion on the big screen.

20 Overlooked Superheroes from History that Deserves a Chance at the Cinema
Textless cover of Moon Knight #1, with art by David Finch and Frank D’Armata (c. June 2006). Wikimedia Commons.

4. Arguably the first superhero to suffer from a clearly defined mental illness, Moon Knight is one of the most unique and visually interesting comic book characters ever invented

First appearing in “Werewolf by Night #32”, Moon Knight was created in 1975 by Doug Moench and Don Perlin. A U.S. Marine turned mercenary, Marc Spector, left for dead at an archaeological dig in Egypt, is offered the chance by the moon god Khonshu to return to life as the deity’s avatar on Earth. Becoming the Moon Knight, Spector returns to the United States to dispense justice on behalf of his supernatural benefactor. Disguising himself with multiple alter egos, most commonly a taxi driver to blend into the background, as Moon Knight the character becomes a central figure in story-lines ranging from Spider-Man to the X-Men.

Benefiting from being assigned to some of the most imaginative writers and artists at Marvel Comics, offering Moon Knight one of the most distinctive appearances of any superhero from any publisher, his story-lines are among the most unique in the genre. With his powers altering depending on the phase of the Moon, as the lifestyle of a superhero begins to take its toll Spector gradually loses his grasp on reality. Unable to determine who he is anymore, Moon Knight is perhaps the first mentally ill superhero, suffering from disassociative identity disorder as well as becoming semi-addicted to pain.

20 Overlooked Superheroes from History that Deserves a Chance at the Cinema
The third Union Jack (Joey Chapman), on the cover of Union Jack #1, with art by Mike Perkins (c. Nov. 2006). Wikimedia Commons.

3. Initially a dynastic character, the three iterations of Union Jack each offer a unique and interesting character capable of spawning an entire extended franchise on its own

Originally created by Roy Thomas and Frank Robbins, Union Jack was introduced to audiences in July 1976. A British aristocrat, Lord James Montgomery Falsworth dons his superhero alter ego during the First World War to serve his country. Retiring in peacetime, Falsworth is forced to resume his duties during the Second World War, becoming a member of the Invaders: a superhero team led by Captain America, Bucky Barnes, and the Human Torch. His daughter, Jacqueline, saved by the Human Torch, later becomes Spitfire, whilst Union Jack is ultimately crippled fighting his brother: Baron Blood.

Replaced by his son Brian, who had acquired superpowers from German scientists attempting to recreate the Super Soldier Formula that produced Captain America, the second iteration of Union Jack also is granted the gift of lightning by Thor. Dying suddenly in 1953, in the 1980s the working class Joseph Chapman dons the costume to save his friend’s life during a visit to Falworth Manor. Acting as a common hero in contrast to the aristocratic Captain Britain, the character has remained an important figure for social critique and commentary in a way the prior versions could never serve.

20 Overlooked Superheroes from History that Deserves a Chance at the Cinema
The Living Tribunal, illustrated by Jim Starlin. Wikimedia Commons.

2. Stronger even than Thanos armed with the Infinity Gauntlet, the Living Tribunal is the most powerful entity in the entire Marvel Multiverse and serves as the ultimate arbiter of justice

A fictional cosmic entity created by Stan Lee, Marie Severin, and Herb Trimpe, the Living Tribunal first appearance was in Strange Tales #157 in June 1967. Charged with overseeing and maintaining balance not only on Earth-616 – the mainstream universe in Marvel Comics – but across the entire multiverse, the Living Tribunal is widely regarded as the most powerful being in existence. Although claiming that there was one higher than even he, now deceased after being killed by the Beyonders, even Thanos wielding the Infinity Gauntlet regarded the Living Tribunal with awe and considered there to be no equal to his power.

Initially encountered by Doctor Strange, the Living Tribunal announced his intent to destroy Earth due to its persistent potential for evil but is convinced otherwise. Frequently represented by The Magistrati who dispense justice on his behalf, the Living Tribunal is comprised of four faces representing Equity, Vengeance, and Necessity. The fourth side of his head is merely a void, representing a lost part of itself that broke away to become the Stranger. Representing an entirely unique concept for a superhero, despite his immense power the Living Tribunal has, in fact, been defeated, making the possibility of an enjoyable film entirely plausible.

20 Overlooked Superheroes from History that Deserves a Chance at the Cinema
Textless variant cover of Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #6 by Kamome Shirahama. Wikimedia Commons.

1. A deliberately lighthearted superhero in defiance of the genre’s norm of seriousness, Squirrel Girl is perhaps the most original comic book creation since the Golden Age

Created by Will Murray and Steve Ditko, Squirrel Girl was designed as part of a conscious effort by Murray to escape from the traditionally self-serious superhero genre. A college student with the power to communicate with squirrels, heightened reflexes dubbed “squirrelgility”, superhuman strength that enables her to jump between trees with ease, and buck teeth capable of chewing through wood, the character is deliberately designed as a style parody of other superheroes. Despite this, Squirrel Girl is legitimately a powerful superhero, capable of besting Wolverine in single combat and rescuing Iron Man during her initial appearance.

A never-ending source of originality, randomness, and humor, Squirrel Girl is also equipped with a four foot tail in addition to carrying a utility belt for nuts – referred to as her “nut sacks” – to give as snacks to her non-human companions. Offering a surprisingly nuanced range of story-lines, including against major villains such as Doctor Doom, Squirrel Girl later becomes the nanny to the child of Luke Cage and Jessica Jones. In sharp contrast to the prevalent post-Nolan trend of superhero movies, tending towards gritty realism over light-hardheartedness, Squirrel Girl would be a breath of fresh air in an otherwise increasingly stale genre akin to the wondrous Deadpool adaptations.

Where do we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

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“Union Jack: London Falling”, Christos Gage, Mike Perkins, and Drew Hennessy, Marvel Comics (2007)

“All New, All Different Marvel: Your Guide to the Avengers Team Books”, Andrew Wheeler, Comics Alliance (July 1, 2015)

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