There’s no point denying it – comic book movies are here to stay. Each year the box office is dominated by flying capes, colourful costumes and world-dominating villains and, to the delight of all comic book fans, the comic industry is finally pulling off all-star team-ups and crossovers on the big screen. However, the journey to comic book cinematic control hasn’t been an easy one, and plenty of franchises have failed to wow audiences and critics upon release. Nevertheless, studios are willing to take a risk on even the most obscure characters and they still manage to attract Oscar winners, indie actors and A-listers actors to fill the boots of superheroes (and supervillains). A fair share of actors have more than one iconic comic book character to their name, and a special few have even managed to dip their toes in both worlds of Marvel and DC.
10. Nicolas Cage
Nicolas Cage is owed a memorable mention on this list not just because he has played more than one superhero on screen (Ghost Rider and Big Daddy from Kick-Ass), but because he doggedly pursued the chance to play Superman for years and very nearly succeeded. Cage is a crazy comic book fan and is particularly obsessed with Superman – he named his son Kal-El, he sold his collection of more than 400 vintage comics for $1.6m (in 2011 he also sold his Action Comics first issue for a record-breaking $2.16m) and he even created his own comic, Voodoo Child. In 1997, Cage signed on to play Superman in Superman Lives. This was set to be a new, big-budget reboot of the series scripted by Kevin Smith and directed by Tim Burton. Superman Lives entered into pre-production (sets and costumes were even constructed) but ballooning budget concerns and script rewrites led to Burton dropping out. A search for a director and script continued but Cage finally exited the project in 2000. Some scrappy-looking costume footage of Cage from Superman Lives leaked on to the Internet years later, and most fans agree that the franchise dodged a bullet when the project fell apart.
9. Doug Jones
Poor Doug Jones has appeared in many iconic roles over the years but the performance artist/actor is usually wearing so much makeup that he’s completely unrecognisable. Such was the case when he lent his talents to portray the amphibious, occult-fighting Abe Simian in the Hellboy series (in the first movie he didn’t even get to use own voice and was dubbed by David Hyde Pierce) and the mo-capped Silver Surfer in Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer. However, he is slightly more recognisable in his small role as ‘Thin Clown’ in Batman Returns.
8. Josh Brolin
Jonah Hex had the potential to offer something new to the superhero genre. The gritty, no-nonsense DC character is a heavily scarred antihero who hunts down outlaws and corrupt officials in the old American west. Sadly, none of this grim and gritty edge was anywhere to be seen in the movie adaptation which resulted in a jumbled mess of ideas starring Josh Brolin in the lead role. Hopefully Brolin will have better luck in his upcoming roles as good guy Dwight in Sin City 2 and big Marvel bad guy Thanos in Avengers 2 (technically, Oldboy and Men in Black III, both of which Brolin starred in, started their lives as comics too – but they differ greatly from the source material).
7. Michael Fassbender
Although he only played a villainous side part, Michael Fassbender was another casualty of Jonah Hex. However, he had fared much better some years earlier when he played superheroic Spartan warrior Stelios in the movie adaptation of 300 and he took on an even more iconic character when he played the role of a young Magneto in X-Men First Class and Days of Futures Past.
6. Ray Stevenson
Ray Stevenson has played two very different characters in the Marvel universe. In 2008, he took over the role of Frank ‘The Punisher’ Castle for a blood spattered, R-rated reboot of the character in Punisher: War Zone. Although the bloodfest was an accurate take on the superhero/antihero, middling box office returns killed any hopes of future sequels. However, Stevenson was given an opportunity to return to the Marvel universe when he was cast as Volstagg, one of Thor’s allies from the Warriors Three. It was a small part, but at least he got to return for some more Asgardian ass-kicking in the sequel Thor: Dark World.
5. Aaron Taylor-Johnson
Although he was something of a makeshift vigilante who didn’t really know what he was doing, Kick-Ass still managed to take down the mob in Matthew Vaughn’s adaptation of Mark Millar’s cult comic series, so he still deserves some form of superhero credit. Aaron Taylor-Johnson starred as the titular hero and he reprised the role for the sequel, Kick-Ass 2, but the young actor is expected to make more of a splash playing superhero Quicksilver when he joins the comic book dream team for Avengers: Age of Ultron.
4. Halle Berry
For definitive proof that playing a superhero doesn’t always lead to an iconic performance, take a look at Halle Berry’s onscreen superheroic efforts. The actress failed to endear herself to X-Men fans when she turned in a stoic performance as Storm in the first three movies, and her most recent turn in Days of Future Past didn’t show much of a marked improvement. However, Berry cemented her place on countless worst superhero movie lists when she starred as Catwoman in the campy, notoriously bad movie spin-off for Batman’s femme fatale.
3. Ben Affleck
Another comic book adaptation ruined by fetishistic leather, cheesy dialogue and tone-deaf direction was Daredevil starring Ben Affleck. Admittedly, it’s not on the same bad level as Catwoman, but the big screen debut of Hells Kitchen’s blind acrobatic vigilante was a disappointment to say the least. However, Daredevil’s failures seemingly haven’t deterred Affleck and, despite having had a pretty respectable career revival as a director in recent years, he’s donning a leather costume yet again for Zack Snyder’s upcoming Batman vs. Superman. Early impressions seem promising and it’s an onscreen matchup superhero fans have been waiting for since Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns comic, but Christian Bale and Christopher Nolan have left some pretty big boots to fill.
2. Ryan Reynolds
Poor Ryan Reynolds is perhaps the biggest victim of the superhero genre. Despite having starred in three pretty big comic book movies (and one lesser known one), the actor just hasn’t had the best of luck. After having a sidekick role in Blade Trinity (which was supposed to lead to a spin-off movie), Reynolds played the ‘Merc with a Mouth’ Deadpool in Wolverine: Origins. Although he was a fan favourite for the role and showed promise as Deadpool early in the movie, the character was completely gutted and turned into a generic villain for reasons only known to the scriptwriters. It seemed as if Reynolds was going to pull it all back when he was cast as cocky pilot Hal Jordan aka the Green Lantern, but DC’s intergalactic space cop just didn’t translate well on the big screen (setting most of the movie on Earth really didn’t help). Oh and the less said about his recent comic book movie RIPD, the better. A 2 minute promo reel for a Deadpool standalone movie voiced and mo-capped by Reynolds was recently released on the Internet, so here’s hoping that he gets another shot at the character, and at his superhero career, sometime soon.
1. Chris Evans
Chris Evans is the undisputed cinematic comic book actor. He’s played Captain America in three movies and has at least three more movies left playing the character thanks to Marvel’s forward-planning contracts. Before that, he played Johnny Storm, aka the Human Torch, in both Fantastic Four movies. However, despite being the only actor to play two mainstream characters from the same comic book universe on the big screen, Evans hasn’t left it there. The actor has also played some very different roles in adaptations of lesser known comic books like The Losers, Scott Pilgrim vs the Universe, TMNT and most recently in Snowpiercer. In interviews Evans has downplayed his involvement in Marvel’s huge cinematic success and he has said that he was reluctant to take the part of Captain America in the first place. He’s also said that he’d prefer his career to take him behind the camera as a director, but for now there’s no denying that he’s done pretty well with the superheroics so far.