Author Topic: Early Superhero Films  (Read 1712 times)

Blumf

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Early Superhero Films
« on: January 30, 2021, 04:22:53 PM »
In the Wandavision thread:

Really? I much preferred the superhero films at the end of 90s and beginning of the 00s.

Which made me wanderwonder, what was the first proper superhero film?

Now, according to wiki there were many superhero film serials, but it looks like the first proper, hour plus, film was 1966's Batman, which is crazy (and kinda awesome).

Then, it wasn't till the success of Star Wars that paved the was for the Reeve's Superman films in the late 70's. And even then, it was sporadic until the late-90's when the X-Men and Spiderman films (not to mention stuff like Blade and Darkman) kicked things off into what we have now.

Interestingly, it seem that supervillains had a longer film career, with the likes of Doctor Mabuse having a series of films starting in the 1920's.

So, I wonder if it was just a case of waiting for SFX to catch up with the comic book action. Or was it stuck-in-the-mud producers not realising the market was always there.

Brundle-Fly

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Re: Early Superhero Films
« Reply #1 on: January 30, 2021, 04:33:09 PM »
Do Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers count?

NoSleep

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Re: Early Superhero Films
« Reply #2 on: January 30, 2021, 04:50:20 PM »
Superman was animated by the Fleischer Brothers (Popeye, Betty Boop) in the 40's.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XG0BhElVt8U

NoSleep

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Re: Early Superhero Films
« Reply #3 on: January 30, 2021, 05:02:44 PM »
And Zorro was going strong in the silent era:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oB8NG_yis7w

NoSleep

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Re: Early Superhero Films
« Reply #4 on: January 30, 2021, 05:06:32 PM »
Superman was animated by the Fleischer Brothers (Popeye, Betty Boop) in the 40's.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XG0BhElVt8U

Almost passed him by there.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=yZi5plJeLYY

Blumf

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Re: Early Superhero Films
« Reply #5 on: January 30, 2021, 05:16:55 PM »
To be clear, I'm talking about 'proper' films here, not serials or shorts. 70+ mins with self contained plots. So those old Flash Gordon series and the like don't count.

But the presence of those serials does does raise the question about why it took till the late 60's and later for full superhero films to come about. Which is why I'm wondering if it was down to SFX skills, or something else.

NoSleep

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Re: Early Superhero Films
« Reply #6 on: January 30, 2021, 05:25:06 PM »
So Mark of Zorro (1920) fits the bill (see above for link).

Blumf

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Re: Early Superhero Films
« Reply #7 on: January 30, 2021, 05:25:41 PM »
And Zorro was going strong in the silent era:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oB8NG_yis7w

That's a good one. The Mark of Zorro from 1920 would count, depending on how wide you cast the superhero net.

Would we include The Lone Ranger as a superhero? In which case, he has a 1956 film.

NoSleep

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Re: Early Superhero Films
« Reply #8 on: January 30, 2021, 05:27:59 PM »
That's a good one. The Mark of Zorro from 1920 would count, depending on how wide you cast the superhero net.

If Zorro isn't, then neither is Batman.

NoSleep

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Re: Early Superhero Films
« Reply #9 on: January 30, 2021, 05:32:54 PM »
Looks like The Scarlet Pimpernel (1917) might be the first.

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Re: Early Superhero Films
« Reply #10 on: January 30, 2021, 05:34:30 PM »
If Zorro isn't, then neither is Batman.
Batman has had superpowers, Zorro hasn't; Batman hangs out with invincible god-beings from other planets, Zorro doesn't; Batman is the flagship title of one of the two biggest superhero publishing companies in the world, Zorro isn't; Batman's stories are (often) superhero stories, Zorro's aren't. Is Don Quixote a superhero? Are Aubrey and Maturin?

Blumf

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Re: Early Superhero Films
« Reply #11 on: January 30, 2021, 05:34:56 PM »
If Zorro isn't, then neither is Batman.

Yeah, but he doesn't have a dark theme to his character costume


NoSleep

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Re: Early Superhero Films
« Reply #12 on: January 30, 2021, 05:42:11 PM »
Is Don Quixote a superhero?

No. You know what the story is about? His mental illness.

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Re: Early Superhero Films
« Reply #13 on: January 30, 2021, 05:59:15 PM »
.

NoSleep

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Re: Early Superhero Films
« Reply #14 on: January 30, 2021, 06:08:41 PM »
Yeah, but he doesn't have a dark theme to his character costume

It's all-black!

Blumf

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Re: Early Superhero Films
« Reply #15 on: January 30, 2021, 07:03:10 PM »
It's all-black!

Mate, that just old black and white film stock fooling you!




Okay, we've got an issue here, what's a superhero?

On the one side, you got Superman; he's got the cape, the pants on outside his leggings, actual super powers, and an origin story. Definite superhero!

On the other, you've got Philip Marlowe; he's got a hat. Not a superhero.

In between, where is the line?

Re: Early Superhero Films
« Reply #16 on: January 30, 2021, 07:55:57 PM »
If Batman is a superhero then why isn't James Bond?

NoSleep

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Re: Early Superhero Films
« Reply #17 on: January 30, 2021, 07:59:30 PM »
Is Robin Hood a superhero? Plenty of films to choose from.

He seems to be the inspiration for Zorro (in contrast to The Scarlet Pimpernel's preference for saving the aristocracy).

And it seems Zorro is the inspiration for Batman; it's part of the Batman canon that the film he went to see with his parents the night they were murdered was The Mark Of Zorro.

Dex Sawash

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Re: Early Superhero Films
« Reply #18 on: January 30, 2021, 08:02:49 PM »
Birth of a Nation had a kkk superhero

Re: Early Superhero Films
« Reply #19 on: January 30, 2021, 08:09:41 PM »
Batman has had superpowers, Zorro hasn't; Batman hangs out with invincible god-beings from other planets, Zorro doesn't; Batman is the flagship title of one of the two biggest superhero publishing companies in the world, Zorro isn't; Batman's stories are (often) superhero stories, Zorro's aren't. Is Don Quixote a superhero? Are Aubrey and Maturin?


Depends. Certainly, som Zorro stories went fantastical -- esp. the Italian films where he'd meet Maciste.

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Re: Early Superhero Films
« Reply #20 on: January 30, 2021, 08:43:11 PM »
Interestingly, it seem that supervillains had a longer film career, with the likes of Doctor Mabuse having a series of films starting in the 1920's.

even earlier, the first FantĂ´mas film was made in 1913!

NoSleep

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Re: Early Superhero Films
« Reply #21 on: January 30, 2021, 09:14:47 PM »
Birth of a Nation had a kkk superhero

The wiki page on superheroes circumvents mentioning the KKK whilst nonetheless citing real-life masked vigilante gangs as a direct inspiration for early superheroes. The Bald Knobbers sound a bunch of fun guys:

Quote
The Bald Knobbers were a group of vigilantes in the Ozark region of southwest Missouri from 1883 to 1889. They are commonly depicted wearing black horned hoods with white outlines of faces painted on them.

Quote
The Bald Knobbers, who for the most part had sided with the Union in the American Civil War, were opposed by the Anti-Bald Knobbers, who for the most part had sided with the Confederates.

Quote
They began as a group dedicated to protecting life and property, aiding law enforcement officials in the apprehension of criminals, opposing corruption in local government, and punishing those who violated the social and religious mores of their community. In some places, the vigilantes gained much political influence, occupied key offices, and became effectively the ruling faction in local politics. They made many enemies, however, with whom they had several violent, sometimes fatal, confrontations.

As they were depicted in a 1919 film, The Shepherd Of The Hills:



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Re: Early Superhero Films
« Reply #22 on: January 31, 2021, 11:12:40 AM »
Are the Kelly Gang superheroes?

Blumf

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Re: Early Superhero Films
« Reply #23 on: January 31, 2021, 11:51:41 AM »
Are the Kelly Gang superheroes?

Built in a cave, with a box of scraps!


NoSleep

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Re: Early Superhero Films
« Reply #24 on: January 31, 2021, 12:23:12 PM »
In that case Troy Hurtubise[1] must be in there with a fighting chance.

 1. sadly RIP 2018; if only he'd been wearing the suit.

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Re: Early Superhero Films
« Reply #25 on: January 31, 2021, 12:24:35 PM »

Re: Early Superhero Films
« Reply #26 on: January 31, 2021, 02:01:18 PM »
Very tenuous, but if Greek gods count as superheroes ("a benevolent fictional character with superhuman powers"), The Island of Calypso: Ulysses and the Giant Polyphemus from 1905.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EQVU0WGG5Hk&ab_channel=FilmsbytheYear

NoSleep

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Re: Early Superhero Films
« Reply #27 on: January 31, 2021, 02:04:06 PM »
Very tenuous, but if Greek gods count as superheroes ("a benevolent fictional character with superhuman powers")

They certainly do count, as they're superheroes in DC comics[1].

https://dc.fandom.com/wiki/Gods_of_Olympus
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sirhenry

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Re: Early Superhero Films
« Reply #28 on: January 31, 2021, 02:11:02 PM »
Very tenuous, but if Greek gods count as superheroes ("a benevolent fictional character with superhuman powers"), The Island of Calypso: Ulysses and the Giant Polyphemus from 1905.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EQVU0WGG5Hk&ab_channel=FilmsbytheYear
And virtually everything in Ray Harryhausen's catalogue then.

Re: Early Superhero Films
« Reply #29 on: January 31, 2021, 02:56:57 PM »
Very tenuous, but if Greek gods count as superheroes ("a benevolent fictional character with superhuman powers"), The Island of Calypso: Ulysses and the Giant Polyphemus from 1905.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EQVU0WGG5Hk&ab_channel=FilmsbytheYear

Bit short for a feature.

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