I underestimated moviegoers insatiable hunger for superheroes, and it cost me $20.
That’s how much I bet a friend that “Ant-Man” — the recently released film based on a C-list Marvel character who can shrink and hold court with insects — would flop.
Although star Paul Rudd imbues the little hero with a winning mix of irreverence and swagger, Ant-Man still struck me as too small to mount a summer blockbuster. To my surprise, the film has raked in almost $300 million since its July 17 premiere and has garnered mostly positive reviews from critics.
Maybe the success of “Ant-Man” is unsurprising, given Marvel Studios’ bulletproof record at the multiplex. In the past three years, the Disney imprint has produced three of the 10 highest grossing movies in history.
But I doubt even a proven hit-maker could make household names out of the characters featured in Jon Morris’ “The League of Regrettable Superheroes.” Published last month by Quirk, the book is a compulsively readable encyclopedia of ill-conceived funny book protagonists from 1938 to the early 1990s.
Even with Marvel’s seal of approval, it’s hard to imagine fanboys flooding theaters for a film about The Eye — a forgotten hero from the 1940s that Morris describes as a “living, speaking, crime-fighting, disembodied floating giant eyeball.”
It’s harder still to imagine a blockbuster based on Doctor Hormone. Introduced in 1940 by Dell Comics, the character’s origin story centers around an elderly scientist who is rejuvenated on his deathbed by a magical “youth hormone.” Over the course of the short-lived series, the doctor squared off with Nazis and the KKK.
Another offbeat hero unearthed by Morris is The Bouncer. Introduced in 1944, the character’s mismatched powers allow him to jump high and transform into a statue. His archenemies are The Glow Worm and Mr. Lucifer.
Although most of the heroes collected in the book were too odd or thinly conceived to succeed in the first place, I can’t help but compare a character like Dollman — who has the ability to shrink to a weirdly specific 6 inches — with the similarly themed Ant-Man.
Jaymie Baxley writes about arts and entertainment for The Robesonian. He can be reached at 910-416-5771 or by email at [email protected]