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Daredevil and Black Widow

Today, a Marvel movie is a guaranteed hit -- but over the years Marvel has had its share of near-misses.

The delightful "Marvel Comics: The Untold Story" by Sean Howe reveals how the 1970s, '80s and '90s saw a galaxy of stars consider donning the capes and tights of various Marvel heroes. Click through our gallery to see what those movies could have looked like.

Back in 1975 Angie Bowie, then married to David Bowie, bought the rights to both Daredevil and Black Widow. 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.

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Doctor Strange

Benedict Cumberbatch has taken on the role of Doctor Strange in the current Marvel Cinematic universe. But there have been several previous attempts to bring sorcerer supreme Stephen Strange to theatres: at one point a script was written by "Back to the Future" writer Bob Gale, and later Wes Craven was set to direct. Meanwhile, one film company lost the rights to the character while developing their version of the film, so just changed the name to "Doctor Mordred" and made it anyway.

Best of all, at one point in the early 1980s there was talk of the sorcerer supreme being played by none other than Tom Selleck. His mustache is certainly magical.

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Luke Cage

At one point in the 1980s Carl Weathers was set to step from the ring of "Rocky III" to the streets to play Luke Cage, also known as Power Man. Cage finally got his own series on Netflix, played by Mike Colter.

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The Human Torch

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, smouldering star of Allen's other flaming hit "The Towering Inferno," would have set the screen alight.

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In 1986 film company New World bought Marvel. The relationship got off to an inauspicious start -- one exec thought they'd bought 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 Richard Roundtree, star of "Shaft", was in talks to play badass vampire hunter Blade in a western set in Mexico.

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Captain America

Director Michael Winner could have recruited his "Death Wish" star Charles Bronson for a proposed Cap film written in Britain by Winner, TV writer Stan Hey and a chap 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."

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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 a prospective live-action version, statuesque star Brigitte Nielsen was rumoured to be going green for the role.

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Iron Man

Nicolas Cage is a huge comic fan -- his copy of the prized Action Comics #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 armour. And Cage's 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 audiences -- he finally got to be a Marvel hero in two "Ghost Rider" movies.

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Black Panther

Before he appeared as relatively little-known Marvel hero Blade in a surprise hit movie series, Wesley Snipes was connected to a possible Black Panther movie in the early 1990s.

The character finally made it to the big screen with a smash hit movie in 2018.

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"Ant-Man" made it to movie theatres in 2015. Years earlier, Marvel had rushed a different version of the bite-size hero into production to compete with "Teenie-Weenies", a similar movie about shrinking people being developed by a rival studio.

The Ant-Man movie ended up shrinking from sight, but the rival film, starring Rick Moranis, was a smash -- retitled "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids", of course.

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Shortly after the huge success of "Terminator 2: Judgement Day", James Cameron began discussing his plans for 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 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 Leonardo DiCaprio as Spider-Man.

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Nick Fury

David Hasselhoff had already played one-eyed superspy Nick Fury in 1998, but George Clooney missed the chance to take on the role.

It wasn't his experience in superhero fiasco "Batman and Robin" that put Clooney off -- in fact, he thought a 2001 comic series featuring Fury was too violent.

Meanwhile, around the same time, the "Ultimates" line of comics depicted the character looking rather more like Samuel L. Jackson... and the rest is box office history.

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