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Here’s What Marvel & DC Movies Looked Like Between 1977 & 1986

While there’s no doubt that the Marvel / DC movie is really enjoying its time in the spotlight, nobody with half a brain would insist that they are a “new” phenomenon. The superhero movie goes back a hell of a lot further than The Avengers (2012), Iron Man (2008), and Blade (1998)… but for the sake of this article we’ll start at right around 1977 — which is right before Richard Donner’s excellent rendition of DC’s Superman wowed the planet and inspired everyone to grab a slice of the pie.

And boy was it not pretty.

The well-regarded Incredible Hulk TV series actually beat Donner’s Superman to the (small) screen by about a year, but if you have vague memories of movies called The Incredible Hulk and The Return of the Incredible Hulk (both from 1977), you’re not insane; the first one was the pilot episode and the second one was simply two episodes wedged together. Same goes for 1978’s The Incredible Hulk: Married, and no, I am not kidding…

We also got a 13-episode live-action series called The Amazing Spider-Man in 1977, and that pilot episode has been released as its own movie. Ditto episodes 2 and 3, which were re-released as Spider-Man Strikes Back or Spider-Man: The Deadly Dust, depending on what country you were in back in 1978. Lastly, the feature-length series finale was re-released as Spider-Man: The Dragon’s Challenge (aka Spider-Man: The Chinese Web) in 1979.

If only the series were as interesting as that block of minutiae…

Then there was a wacky 1978 rendition of Dr. Strange, which is more or less forgotten, and justifiably so. Like most of the films mentioned here, Dr. Strange (1978) was produced for network television but also earned a theatrical release outside of the U.S. Unlike the Hulk and Spider-Man pilots, Dr. Strange was not picked up for a full season.

Safe to say that Marvel’s own version won’t look a whole lot like this…

In 1979 there were two Captain America TV movies, one called simply Captain America, and the other one entitled Captain America II: Death Too Soon, which was a fine title in 1979 because spoilers hadn’t actually been invented yet.

Check out this trailer for Shout! Factory’s double feature release of these two, er, classics…

If you’re wondering why we never got to Wonder Woman, it’s because she beat all these guys to the small screen. Her series, including a feature-length pilot episode, premiered way back in 1975, and yes, all three seasons are available through Warner Home Video…

For one more example of what DC was doing with its characters on TV back in 1979, check out this soul-crushing clip from Legends of the Superheroes, which is available from Warner Archive. Brace yourself. I’d call it the Star Wars Holiday Special of the DC universe. Prepare yourselves for… Ghetto Man.

Last and probably least, we got this in 1986. Yeah. Of all the characters to give a movie in 1986, they went with this. And yes, it’s awful…

Image: Shout! Factory


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  1. Tom says:

    That is Tootie from Facts of Life, Kim Fields, mom in the Spider Man show intro. 

    I rather enjoyed that short lived Spider Man show, but then I was 6 and it was the 70s.

  2. Bill Ramig says:

    Did the same guy do the music for Dr Strange that did Star Trek: The Motion Picture?

  3. J says:

    As far as classic television superhero outings go, in my opinion, it doesn’t get much better than the ’90s-era cartoons. With Batman: The Animated Series probably at the top and Marvel’s stuff in a very close second. Still great to this day.

    • Wes Falcon says:

      well you’re a special kind of person aren’t ya !

    • Doc says:

      You didn’t actually watch a lot of Marvel’s 90s offerings, did you? Most of it from Avengers: United We Stand to Iron Man to Hulk to FF to Silver Surfer was pretty crap. X-Men teeters because it was awesome for us as kids but doesn’t age well. The only true shining gem of 90s Marvel was Spider-Man. The first series, not Unlimited. That too was crap.

  4. The “best” one of all was left out: Exo-Man (1977)

  5. JR says:

    You didn’t mention the classic, campy Batman television series. Shame on you!

  6. The stunts were a bit more impressive back then. No CGI.

  7. saglancy says:

    Shame, no mention of Thor turning up in one of the NBC Hulk movies

  8. Roy Stephens says:

    The Wonder Woman TV series was awesome for the time.  And even today, Lynda Carter is the gold standard by which any and all future Wonder Woman actresses will be judged.  Gal Gadot has some very large shoes (or, red boots) to fill.

  9. Zac says:

    Shame on you! Howard the Duck is not awful.

    • Not Stan Lee says:

      I agree, Howard the duck is actually a lot of fun even though it flopped at the Box Office.

  10. Ryan says:

    Spiderman was also on The Electric Company back in the 70’s

  11. Kevin Rubio says:

    Bite your tongue Scott! The Incredible HULK was AWESOME!
    And at the risk of sounding like your grandfather – “You don’t know how good you have it! So he happy and appreciative and don’t you go make me open a can a ‘whup-ass on your’ your young nerdy frame!”

  12. Midwest Mike says:

    TIL that Chris Hardwick is probably the only one at Nerdist over the age of 30.