The delightful book Marvel Comics: The Untold Story by Sean Howe reveals how a galaxy of stars considered donning capes and tights in the 1970s, '80s and '90s, but for various bizarre reasons they never happened. Click through our gallery to see what those movies could have looked like.
Black Widow is now an established Avenger with her own movie, and Daredevil headlined a Netflix show in 2015. But an altogether weirder version almost happened decades ago in 1975. Angie Bowie, then married to David Bowie, bought the rights to both Black Widow and Daredevil. Sadly the project got no further than a photo shoot in which Bowie and actor Ben Carruthers dressed as the characters for photographer Terry O'Neill. Admit it: This would have been glorious.
Benedict Cumberbatch owns the role of Doctor Strange in the current Marvel Cinematic universe. But there were several previous attempts to bring sorcerer supreme Stephen Strange to theaters: At one point a script was drafted by Back to the Future writer Bob Gale, and later Wes Craven was set to direct it. Meanwhile, another film company lost the rights to the character while developing a movie version, so they just changed the name to "Doctor Mordred" and made it anyway.
Best of all, in the early 1980s there was talk of the sorcerer supreme being played by none other than Tom Selleck. His mustache was certainly magical.
Disaster movie mogul Irwin Allen once owned the rights to the Human Torch, a fiery hero and member of the Fantastic Four.
We don't know who might have played the title role, but we reckon Paul Newman, smoldering star of Allen's other flaming hit, The Towering Inferno, would have set the screen alight.
In 1986, film company New World bought Marvel. The relationship got off to an inauspicious start -- one exec thought they'd bought the rights to Superman -- but it did yield a movie starring Dolph Lundgren as the Punisher.
The plan was to film other lesser-known Marvel heroes, and so, long before Wesley Snipes took on the role, Shaft star Richard Roundtree was slated to play badass vampire hunter Blade in a Mexico-set western.
Director Michael Winner could have recruited his Death Wish star Charles Bronson for a proposed Captain America film. A script was written (in the UK) by Winner, TV writer Stan Hey and a chap whom Hey later described as "some quaking, black-tee-shirted geek from [comic shop] Forbidden Planet."
The trio spent just six weeks knocking out a script in which the Statue of Liberty was kidnapped. Marvel's boss said it was "bloody awful."
She-Hulk was hastily created in the pages of Marvel comics to stop the makers of the 1970s Incredible Hulk TV show from calling dibs on a female version of the angry green giant. In 2020, Orphan Black and Perry Mason star Tatiana Maslany was announced to play She-Hulk and her alter ego Jennifer Walters in a new Disney Plus TV series. But years before that, statuesque star Brigitte Nielsen was rumored to be going green for the role.
Nicolas Cage is a huge comics fan -- his copy of the prized Action Comics No. 1 was infamously stolen from his home -- and in the 1990s his name was linked to an Iron Man film.
As Robert Downey Jr. can attest, Cage never donned the armor. And Cage's comics-related bad luck continued when his starring role in the notoriously troubled Tim Burton Superman film also fell through in the late 1990s.
Happily for Cage -- if not for viewers -- he finally got to play a Marvel hero in two Ghost Rider movies.
Ant-Man first made it to movie theaters in 2015, played by Paul Rudd. Years earlier, Marvel had rushed a different version of the bite-size hero into production. The goal was to compete with a similar movie from a rival studio called Teenie-Weenies.
The Ant-Man movie ended up shrinking from sight, but the rival film, starring Rick Moranis, was a smash as the retitled Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.
Shortly after the huge success of Terminator 2: Judgment Day, James Cameron planned a Spider-Man movie. He was reportedly paid $3 million for a 47-page treatment that never reached the screen, partly because the project was mired in legal disputes over the rights to the film.
Terminator star Arnold Schwarzenegger was linked to the role of bad guy Doctor Octopus, who attempted to get his tentacles around a Spider-Man played by none other than a young Leonardo DiCaprio (center).
David Hasselhoff had already played one-eyed superspy Nick Fury in 1998, but George Clooney missed the chance to take on the role.
You might think superhero fiasco Batman and Robin put Clooney off, but in fact he was concerned that a particular 2001 Fury comic series was too violent.
Around the same time, the Ultimates line of comics depicted Nick Fury looking rather more like Samuel L. Jackson... and the rest is box office history.