FAN CAST: If Today's Comic Book Movies Were Made In The 80's.

FAN CAST: If Today's Comic Book Movies Were Made In The 80's.

I take a look at some popular comic book characters who've recently been adapted to the screen and examine how they would be different if the films were made in the 1980's instead of today, and which actors would best suit the roles.

Adapting comic books in TV and Film has been done for a while. An early example would be the adaptions of characters like Batman and Superman in various 1940's movie serials. However, films based on comic books didn't really gain widespread mainstream success until the early 2000's when we were given films like “X-Men (2000)” and “Spider-Man (2002)”. But imagine for a second, if the popularity of comic adaptions didn't happen in the 2000's. Imagine it happened a bit earlier. Imagine it the 1980's. What would the films have been like? How would they have felt different from the current film? In the next few paragraphs I plan to take a look at various popular comic book movie franchises and how they would differ if they were produce in the 1980's instead of 2000-2014.


The 80's were a great time for movies about teenagers getting into peculiar situations. Just about every memorable movie from the 80's had a teenager as it's protagonist. Sam Raimi's “Spider-Man” was released in 2002 and was the start of a trilogy that would follow the story of Peter Parker. But Rami never really explored Peter's high school life and how it was affected by his responsibilities as Spider-Man. By the end of Raimi's first film, Peter Parker had already graduated high school. Mark Webb's 2012 film “The Amazing Spider-Man” dealt with high school issues a bit more, but still didn't go as in depth as it could have. I imagine that if Spider-Man was adapted to film in the 1980's the film more than likely would have focused quite heavily on Peter's life as a high school student and how he balances being a Superhero and a student at the same time. Problems would likely arise in Peter's family as his Aunt and Uncle notice a severe drop in his grades, which would provide some great drama for Peter at home. The film would have probably been a great coming-of-age tale.

If Spider-Man had been given a film in the 80's, I think it more than likely would have been written by John Hughes (Pretty in Pink, The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller's Day Off) and would have been directed by Hughes or possibly Howard Duetch, who directed many of Hughes's scripts. It likely would have starred various members of the 'Brat Pack' (a group of popular actors from the 80's who typically played teenagers in films, some of which were written or directed by Hughes). Just off the top of my head I could imagine someone like Matthew Broderick or Jon Cryer playing Peter Parker/Spider-Man and someone like Molly Ringwald playing Mary-Jane Watson.

The film probably wouldn't have been nearly as action-packed as what we're currently used to, but the story, character development and dialogue between characters would have been something that I'd really like to see. It's hard to say if the film would be better or worse than what we currently have, but I can definitely say it would be much, much different.

Iron Man

I don't think there is any way to top Jon Favreau's “Iron Man”. The film is witty, fun and is one of my personal favorite CBM's. But I think we would have gotten something equally as fun with an 80's cast, and 80's director and a 80's writer. Robert Zemeckis would have been a great choice for an 80's Iron Man film. Zemeckis wrote and directed the 1985 film “Back To The Future” which was a hit, spawning 2 sequels. The film had a fantastic mixture of drama, action and comedy which are all things that would be needed for a character like Iron Man.

The 1980's also saw the start of a talented young man's career with supporting roles in films like Tuff, Tuff, Less Than Zero and Weird Science. That young man was none other than Robert Downey Jr...The man, the myth, the legend. People seem to forget that he was semi-popular in the mid-80's. So, it's entirely possible that the man who currently plays everyone's favorite “Genius, Billionaire, Playboy, Philanthropist” could have played the very same role, back in the day.


Chris Hemsworth does a pretty amazing job of playing The God Of Thunder on screen. But imagine if someone a little different wielded that famous Hammer.

Lightning strikes a desert floor with a thunderous impact, leaving behind a massive crater. Inside the carter is a man, crouching. He wears a black, yellow and blue costume with a metal helmet, long flowing blonde hair and a hammer. The man comes to his feet, his face still masked by shadows and strands of his hair. He whips back his gold locks and reveals himself to the camera. It's Arnold friggin' Schwarzenegger playing Thor. Holy crap. I'm not gonna say anything else. I'm sure you're all sold on this idea.

The Punisher

I know Punisher already had a 1980's film and it was pretty awful. But that's because they did it wrong. First of all, you don't cast Dolph Lundgren as Frank Castle. Nobody has ever walked out of a movie theater and been like “Man, this movie needed more Dolph Lundgren” just doesn't happen.

The Punisher is a character that would have been so great in an 80's film. The 80's was a decade filled with insane ultra-violence in films. A lot of people don't think about it, but films like Predator, Robocop, Terminator and many others are FILLED with tons of really well-done violence (and all with practical effects! Yay!). If you did The Punisher in a similar style as the revenge film “Death Wish” or did it in the style of an exploitation film (similar to the films poked fun at by Grindhouse, Hobo With A Shotgun) you would have, I imagine, an amazing, ultra-violent Punisher film. The kind of Punisher film everyone wants.

The 80's were a great time for film. A lot of our favorite movies are huge hits from the 80's or cult classics from the 80's. You'd be hard-pressed to find a single film-fan who doesn't have an 80's classic in their top 10. So imagine taking the feel of your favorite 80's film and merging it with your favorite comic book character. It might not be the recipe for the most amazing films, but it's definitely something I wish I could have seen.

Let me know what you think in the comments.
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Pasto - 2/13/2014, 3:59 PM
This doesn't look half-assed to me.
DrDoom - 2/13/2014, 4:00 PM
Some interesting ideas here. I would've liked to have seen more examples, but what you've got is certaintly intriguing.
Doopie - 2/13/2014, 4:03 PM
I for one think Ahnuld would have made a great thor. maybe not so much for the acting but just imagine him with that hammer! also molly ringwold as MJ is a great idea.
Pasto - 2/13/2014, 4:19 PM
Wow, 5 thumbs and it made main.
dethpillow - 2/13/2014, 4:22 PM
great article!! rad.
this has got me all excited and thinking about all the possibilities.

good stuff.

i remember looking up the Cameron script to Spider-Man recently and reading a little, and it was great fun imagining what it would've been at that time, and it definitely felt more 90's to me. whatever that means.

i would've loved 80's films for superheroes like this. it's surprising it didn't happen more often, cuz like you're saying with Thor, there was a big market for those kind of films back then. and just a bunch of heroes don't really require that much CGI, and back then, u didn't even care about CGI. where there was a will, there was a way, and people did what they had to, and films came out the way they did.

same as now i guess, it's just talked about as if it's a factor in these movies. CGI, I mean. maybe now it's actually become a factor cuz the bar's been raised. but i'd love a Moon Knight movie in the 80's and would die even more to get to see an X-Men film made from back then. maybe we'd actually get one without Magneto. maybe Arcade or something. or real Dark Phoenix/Hellfire Club. bad ass. they sure would've been better dressed and cooler looking than our modern versions, i bet.
dethpillow - 2/13/2014, 4:23 PM
@Pasto - maybe it has to do with amount of thumbs relative to amount of views or some kind of ratio like that.
scruffylookingnerfherder - 2/13/2014, 4:24 PM
I think the audience is gonna be very uncomfortable seeing Dolph Lundgren's naked penis going into this young girl that you're talking about.
DrunkenNukem - 2/13/2014, 4:26 PM
Yeah i can see the ressemblance between Thor and Conan movie
Pasto - 2/13/2014, 4:29 PM
Possibly. Scratch that, it probably is why.
kappakappashred - 2/13/2014, 4:31 PM
EVERY movie needs more Dolph Lundgren
KnobGoblin - 2/13/2014, 4:31 PM
The first Thor movie was pretty much a remake of HE-MAN.
VISIONaryNPa - 2/13/2014, 4:32 PM
RDJ forever! hahahah
GammaSmasher71 - 2/13/2014, 4:32 PM
It was during the early 80's that my friends and I would sit around and fantasize about these movies. I particularly remember us agreeing that Arny was the best possible choice for Thor.
kong - 2/13/2014, 4:33 PM
I like it. Not much of a fancast though.
BenjiWest - 2/13/2014, 4:35 PM
Jon Cryer was in a Superman movie, I think part 4.
HeisenbergSaysRelax - 2/13/2014, 4:40 PM
The title was changed from "Editorial" to "Fan Cast"...I understand that it has fan casting elements, but I didn't intend for it to actually be a fan cast. However, I understand why it was changed and classified as a "Fan Cast" rather than an Editorial, which was it's original purpose.
novaprime - 2/13/2014, 4:48 PM
Blahhh!!!! Happy everything is happening now!
Pedrito - 2/13/2014, 4:49 PM
Very cool idea for an article, but give us more examples please. Cap? Fantastic Four?
Mike89 - 2/13/2014, 4:49 PM
Ahnuld as thor? sorry but it would have been hard to get past his austrian accent.

Matthew broderick as Spidey? maybe.
preacher - 2/13/2014, 4:53 PM
Cool article!! Very interesting theories proposed. I just have one thought...I think Iron Man would've been portrayed by someone who actually looked a bit like Tony Stark, which RDJ didn't at that time. Stark did not look like a teenager so, another action star (sorta)that I think would've been picked would be none other than Tom Selleck. With Magnum P.I., An Innocent Man, Runaway being the 3 actiony type's of TV shows/films he was the star of, plus the fact that he resembled Stark...

Anyways, just a thought. Again, great article!
CeltiC527 - 2/13/2014, 4:54 PM
marvel72 - 2/13/2014, 4:57 PM
tom selleck for tony stark.
preacher - 2/13/2014, 4:57 PM
And I just have to add, Dolph Lundgren, in my opinion, made a GREAT Punisher/Frank Castle. He really looked the part! His portrayal of Castle in this version was very much someone that you could see was really on the edge of sanity, even so much as BEING insane. The scenes of him kneeling naked in the sewer, with only candles to light the area, his eyes shadowed in darkness, damn, I remember watching that and thinking "Now THAT is the Punisher". My problems with the film didn't include Lundgren. It was the acting, the way it was filmed, and his signature skull was nowhere to be seen except on the handles of the knives he threw.
Dotanuki - 2/13/2014, 4:59 PM
Good article that begins to scratch the surface of a really neat "What If"! Why not look at Batman, Fantastic Four, the X-men, etc. and go through the same exercise?
Mike89 - 2/13/2014, 5:01 PM
Mel Gibson in his Lethal weapon hair style would have made a great wolverine!
BANE5000 - 2/13/2014, 5:01 PM
Iron Man couldve been either RDJ or Judd Nelson

With Captain America being someone like Rob Lowe or Emilio Estevez :D
Mike89 - 2/13/2014, 5:02 PM
He also would have made a decent Batman.
BANE5000 - 2/13/2014, 5:03 PM

Mel as Wolverine was once on a fan cast in Wizard magazine in the 90's, it was between him and Sylvester Stallone

Whats funny is i still remember the whole fan cast list from that issue till this day, wanna know who they had for the rest of the cast? :D
Dotanuki - 2/13/2014, 5:04 PM
One thing is that if you look at Alex Ross's art work, a lot of his characters are based on existing actors. Batman in Kingdom Come was based on Gregory Peck. Iron Man in Marvels was based on Timothy Dalton, I believe. I actually think that Pierce Brosnan could have been a good Tony Stark and mid-80's Mel Gibson an awesome Wolverine. If I'm not mistaken, he was considered for the role before the 2000 Singer movie was planned as the producer of those movies is married to Richard Donner (Lethal Weapon, Superman, etc.).
Dotanuki - 2/13/2014, 5:04 PM
I remember those articles BANE5000!
marvel72 - 2/13/2014, 5:05 PM
arnie for colossus.
BANE5000 - 2/13/2014, 5:07 PM

Those articles were cool cuz some people they put for roles were perfect casting at the time.


Arnie as Colossus was another fan cast in Wizard Magazine for an X-men film in the 90's

YOR - 2/13/2014, 5:08 PM
What about an 80's X-Men with ,Tom Cruise/Cyclops,Nicole Kidman/Jean Grey,Mel Gibson/Wolverine,Clancy Brown/Sabretooth,Tina Turner/Storm,Rutger Hauer/Cable,Arnold Schwarzenegger/Colossus,Malcom Mcdowell/Magneto and Patric Stewart could still have been Professor X.
Mike89 - 2/13/2014, 5:10 PM
An 80's Gary Oldman would have been a great Joker.
Jcool - 2/13/2014, 5:13 PM
Whats the point of this if you are just going to be lazy and say RDJ would of been the 80's Iron Man. Isn't this supposed to be a what if article? In the 80's if you are going for a younger star Tom Cruise would of been Iron Man. They wouldn't even have considered RDJ for the role. I also like preacher's idea of Tom Selleck.
Leadpoison - 2/13/2014, 5:16 PM
"Nobody has ever walked out of a movie theater and been like 'Man, this movie needed more Dolph Lundgren'"

Rocky 4 invalidates this article.
BANE5000 - 2/13/2014, 5:17 PM
Heres the list as I remember it from the Wizard Magazine fan cast for the X-Men in the 90's:

Professor X- Patrick Stewart
Cyclops- Kevin Costner
Jean Grey- Angie Everhart
Wolverine- Mel Gibson/Sylvester Stallone
Gambit- Patrick Swayze
Storm- Grace Jones/ Vanessa Williams
Rogue- Gena Davis
Jubilee- Wynona Ryder
Beast- Kelsey Grammer
Colossus- Arnold Schwarzenegger

Magneto- Sean Connery
Mystique- ? I forgot
Sabretooth- Jesse " The Body " Venture
Omega Red- Dolph Lundgren
Apocalypse- James Earl Jones
Ahab- Jean Claude Van Damme
Blob- Bam Bam Bigalow

YOR - 2/13/2014, 5:17 PM
How about an early 80's Batman with David Hasselhoff/Batman,Brad Douriff/Joker,Tom Skerritt/Gordon,C Thomas Howell/Robin or Nightwing,Bill Murray/Harvey Bullock,Pat Benatar/Catwoman,and William Daniels the voice of KITT ,who Batman would talk to through the Batmobile intercom like Michael Knight and KITT,the movie would be directed and scored by John Carpenter.
Wolf38 - 2/13/2014, 5:22 PM
Interesting perspective. But I have to say that thinking these thoughts and reading these comments makes me feel like it was worth waiting until the 2000s for most of these films to be made.

The "action film template" for the 80s seemed to be a fixed subset of big muscular guys (or Bridgette Nielson) with less concern for acting. Arnold as Thor does not sound like a good idea to me.

Spider-Man is teen/young adult-focused, as you point out though, so that would've been interesting to see in the 80s.

YOR - 2/13/2014, 5:23 PM
John Cusak for 80's Spider-Man.
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