Superheroes and villains look today versus their first on-screen appearances

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In an age of superhero reboots, it can sometimes be tricky to remember the trailblazers who first helped bring these popular characters to life.

With Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice fresh in our minds and Suicide Squad on its way there’s a whole litter of heroes and villains on our screens.

But how many of us remember those that first donned the capes and leotards?

We check out the original big and small screen appearances of some of the biggest comic book heroes and bad guys to see how they stack up to their modern day versions.

From campy beginnings to gritty reimaginings, many have gone from strength to strength over the years while some have languished in the wilderness before getting a new lease of life.

 

Batman: 1943 v 2016

Lewis G Wilson, left, and Ben Affleck as Batman
Lewis G Wilson, left, and Ben Affleck as Batman

Lewis G Wilson was the first and youngest actor to ever play the Caped Crusader – and also the least successful. He donned the cape for the serial Batman in 1943 but his physique was perhaps not quite what people had envisioned.

Poor old Lewis was a bit ‘thick around the middle’ and was forced to wear the utility belt on his chest. His voice was too high and complaints flooded in. That was the end of this Batman.

Ben Affleck took on the role for the first time in Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. While the actor was criticised at first, with many not believing he was the man for the job, he’s now won most over.

The star is contracted to play Batman in another three films – and has offered up his own stand-alone Batman scriptas a potential story.

 

The Joker: 1966 v 2016

Cesar Romero, left, and Jared Leto as the Joker
Cesar Romero, left, and Jared Leto as the Joker

It would be wrong of us not to include one of the most iconic characters from the DC Universe in this list.

Batman’s arch nemesis, the Joker, was first brought to life on screen by Cesar Romero in the iconic campy 1960s TV show.

Romero, previously known for playing Latin heartthrobs on the big screen, refused to shave off his moustache for the part and so the white face paint was just smeared over it. If you look closely at the picture you can spot Cesar’s facial fuzz under the make-up.

Fast forward half a century, and the newest incarnation of the Clown Prince of Crime is being played by Jared Leto , star of Fight Club and frontman of rock band Thirty Seconds to Mars.

Leto’s take on the character is set to be one of the darkest yet, and will appear in the upcoming DC villain ensemble movie Suicide Squad in August.

 

Superman: 1948 v 2016

Kirk Alyn, left, and Henry Cavill as Superman
Kirk Alyn, left, and Henry Cavill as Superman

Kirk Alyn was a good first outing as Superman .

The Last Son of Krypton had already debuted on radio, but Alyn took the helm when it came to TV.

He was the first to play up the idea Clark Kent was a disguise paving the way for Reeve, Routh and Cavill.

Brit Henry Cavill is the latest to pull on the tight-fitting suit, making his superhero debut in 2013’s Man of Steel and reprising the role for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice opposite Ben Affleck’s Dark Knight.

With a slew of movies planned for the nascent DC cinematic universe, it looks like we’ll be seeing the Jersey-born actor taking to the skies for a few years to come.

 

Wonder Woman: 1975 v 2016

Lynda Carter, left, and Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman
Lynda Carter, left, and Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman

After a failed pilot movie, the first successful attempt at a live action version of Wonder Woman came about in 1975 in a TV show starring former Miss World USA Lynda Carter .

The programme catapulted Carter into the limelight, and her portrayal of the Amazonian warrior princess is still highly regarded today.

After the series ended in 1979, producers struggled to bring the character back to the screen.

Fans had to wait until Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice to see Israeli model and actress Gal Gadot don the costume.

While her screen time was fairly limited, Gadot’s Wonder Woman is set for her own solo big screen adventure in 2017.

 

Hulk: 1978 v 2015

Lou Ferrigno on the left as the first live-action Hulk, and Mark Ruffalo's CG version on the right
Lou Ferrigno on the left as the first live-action Hulk, and Mark Ruffalo’s CG version on the right

Before the dawn of CGI, bringing superheroes and their powers to life required a hefty amount of creativity. Nowhere was this more apparent than in the classic 1970s TV adaptation of The Incredible Hulk.

Small screen star Bill Bixby played Dr David Banner (originally Bruce Banner in the comics), but it was towering bodybuilder Lou Ferrigno who portrayed his monstrous alter ego the Hulk.

Thanks to a lot of green paint, a dodgy wig and liberal use of slow motion, Ferrigno’s screen presence (and sheer size) made the rampaging anti-hero believable to audiences.

Special effects have moved on since then, with a muscular man in purple shorts replaced by the latest computer generated wizardry. Our modern day Banner is currently played by Mark Ruffalo , most recently in Avengers: Age of Ultron .

The surly green giant is set to appear in the upcoming Thor: Ragnarok next year.

 

Supergirl: 1984 v 2016

Helen Slater, left, and Melissa Benoist as Supergirl
Helen Slater, left, and Melissa Benoist as Supergirl

Following the success of Christopher Reeve’s big screen portrayal of Superman, a spin-off movie following the adventures of Supergirl made its way to cinemas.

Starring Helen Slater in the title role, the movie saw the Man of Steel’s cousin find her way to Earth and facing off against Faye Dunaway’s evil witch Selena.

The film, which also featured legendary British stars Peter O’Toole and Peter Cook , was panned by critics and fans alike for its ropey effects and performances.

The reviews have been kinder to the Supergirl TV show currently gracing our screens, with Glee’s Melissa Benoist filling the red boots as Kara Zor-El.

In a nod to the movie, Helen Slater plays Kara’s adoptive Earth mum in the new series (and former Superman Dean Cain appears as her dad).

 

Nick Fury: 1998 v 2015

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David Hasselhoff, left, and Samuel L Jackson as Nick Fury

It may be the shortest timespan on our list – but it’s probably the most drastic change.

Movie goers are now familiar with Samuel L Jackson’s take on gruff one-eyed spymaster Nick Fury in Marvel’s Avengers movies, but it might surprise some of you to learn that we have David Hasselhoff to thank for the original live action version of the character.

Donning the eyepatch in a poorly received TV movie/pilot Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D, the Hoff’s cheesy take on the cigar-chomping action man didn’t exactly set the world alight.

Funnily enough, years before Jackson landed the role, Marvel Comicsintroduced an alternate universe version of (the originally white) Nick Fury explicitly based on the Pulp Fiction star’s appearance and personality.

In a strange case of art imitating life imitating art, one could say the part was literally made for Sam.

 

 

 

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One thought on “Superheroes and villains look today versus their first on-screen appearances

    Maria Dandridge said:
    June 5, 2017 at 1:23 am

    Zed like the new vs the old other than wonder woman is a close call and Lie was a bad ads hall! At least he was real.

    Like

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