When writers adapt a story for the big screen, OR create an original story based on established characters, it’s a given that they’re going to want to put their own mark on their creation, not merely clone the original, and one of the most common ways to do this is to introduce new characters that were not present in the source material.
Of course, this CAN be annoying if the newcomers steal too much thunder from the characters most of the fans will be buying tickets to see–but done right, original, non-canon, cinematic/television creations can become a welcome addition to a franchise, and even a permanent part of a character’s overall universe. In the case of comics, many of the more popular characters on this list actually transcended their television or cinematic origins, and were adopted by the books themselves…Some become so popular it’s even forgotten that there was ever a time when they were anything BUT original, canon characters.
Now, some of the fictional personalities listed here ended up as part of the comics–others never left the realm of the big or small screen–but ALL had their beginnings on something other than an illustrated periodical.
Here are ten characters that are as good as anything spawned from the imaginations of the best comic writers:
10. Bob The Goon (Batman)
Bob The Goon (as he is known on IMDB) is Joker’s “Number One Guy” in Tim Burton’s groundbreaking “Noir-esque” 1989 interpretation of the Caped Crusader. Starting off as Jack Napier’s triggerman, he becomes the second most powerful criminal in Gotham when Napier becomes Joker and takes control of Carl Grissom’s syndicate….Until Joker gets annoyed and shoots him dead for no discernible reason.
Bob is played by remarkably prolific (166 film and TV roles) actor Tracey Walter, whom you may also recognize as “Cookie” from City Slickers, Coroner’s assistant Lamar in Silence Of The Lambs, and the thief Malak in Conan The Destroyer.
9. Captain Amazing (Mystery Men)
1999’s Mystery Men is based on characters from Dark Horse’s surrealist superhero comic: Flaming Carrot. Imagine the super team analogy to a delusional garage band, and you have a pretty good idea what the plot of the film is like: Costumed heroes with a lot of heart, but little actual skill.
Captain Amazing is an original creation of the film played by Greg Kinnear, and he represents the opposite of the Mystery Men: Not only is he a talented and effective crimefighter, he’s also rich and famous, most of his money coming from endorsement deals and selling ad space on his supersuit like it’s a stock car. I personally love the idea of “superhero turned corporate whore”, and Kinnear plays it to the hilt.
8. Otis (Superman: The Movie)
Ned Beatty‘s character “Otis” (no last name given) is like the opposite end of the henchman spectrum from the aforementioned Bob The Goon. While Bob is scary and badass and capable–Otis is bumbling, inept, and relatively harmless. He’s Lex Luthor’s sidekick in Richard Donner’s 1978 classic: Superman: The Movie–the “Model A” of superhero films. It’s not clear exactly why Luthor keeps Otis around (and indeed, he ends up ditching him in Superman II when he slows down Luthor’s escape from prison). His only “positive” trait would seem to be that he’s loyal to the point of idiocy. Personally, I think Lex liked having him around because he enjoys feeling smarter than people–and Otis was pretty much born to help improve the intellectual self esteem of others.
7. Abraham Whistler (Blade)
The half-vampire vampire hunter Blade’s mentor–in his 1998 film incarnation–Abraham Whistler is supposedly VERY vaguely based on Blade’s comic mentor, Jamal Afari….with a few slight differences: Like, Afari was a black Jazz trumpeter, and Whistler is a grizzled old white dude played by a Country singer (Kris Kristofferson).
Whistler is the stereotypical “Jedi Master-ish” father figure character, and Kristofferson plays him well
6. Loony Bin Jim (Punisher: War Zone)
Doug Hutchinson of The Green Mile’ as Loony Bin Jim: The psychopathic brother of Punisher: War Zone antagonist Jigsaw, was one of the highlights of this….”not for everyone” 2008 adaptation of the popular Marvel Comics vigilante. Hutchinson steals every scene he’s in–his performance is disturbing, repulsive, and damn fun to watch!
5. Dr. Erik Selvig (Thor)
Physicist Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) first appears in Kenneth Branagh’s excellent 2011 Thor adaptation as a mentor to Jane Foster–assissting her in her wormhole research when Thor arrives on Earth. His purpose is basically to provide exposition, since–as a Swede–he was raised with the stories of the Norse Gods, and recognizes Thor and his description of Asgard and its inhabitants as the source of such legends. Next time we see him is in The Avengers, where S.H.I.E.L.D. has him working on the Tesseract. He becomes one of Loki’s “Personal Flying Monkeys”, until the end when he snaps out of it, and saves the day by explaining how to close the portal the Chitauri are using.
He’s expected to show up again quite soon in Thor: The Dark World.
4. Lionel Luthor (Smallville)
Smallville added quite a number of original characters to the Superman mythos from 2001 to 2011, but few were as memorable, or had a larger impact, than Lex Luthor’s dear old dad: Lionel.
Played superbly by the vastly underrated John Glover, Lionel was not the first father the character of Lex Luthor had been given–there had been several over the years appearing in different origin stories for Lex. But Lionel was the first that became a three-dimensional, recurring character anywhere. Founder of Luthorcorp, Lionel was a strict and draconian authority figure–constantly testing his son for weakness, and showing him precious little affection…The implication seems to be that Lionel’s style of parenting is at least partially responsible for why Lex became the supervillain we all know and love. Even when his character was “reformed” near the end, and he tried to make amends with his son, it proved too late–the damage had been done.
3. Max Shreck (Batman Returns)
Named for German silent film star Max Schreck, Christopher Walken‘s Shreck is one of the greatest non-canon Batman villains in the history of the character.
Appearing in Tim Burton’s second Batman film, 1992’s atmospheric and Gothic Batman Returns, Max Shreck plays a role that has become quite popular in superhero cinema: The unscrupulous, wealthy businessman who bankrolls the TRUE villain, usually while being oblivious to his actual intentions.
The character is striking, stylized, and brilliantly portrayed.
2. Harley Quinn (Batman: The Animated Series)
No, I didn’t realize either that Harley is not originally a Batman comic character. It wasn’t until I compiled this list and she was suggested to me that I found out (special thanks to Nerd Bastards’ own Jeremy R. Hudson for the info).
Harley first appeared in Batman: The Animated Series (considered by many to be THE best animated iteration of Bats) in 1992. She’s the Joker’s girlfriend/moll/emotionally abused squeeze toy. The acclaimed 1994 graphic novel Mad Love detailed her origin as a young psychiatrist at Arkham Asylum named Dr. Harleen Quinzel. A clinical fascination with the Joker’s case becomes a romantic obsession, leading to Dr. Quinzel breaking Joker out of Arkham, going bugshit insane, and adopting the persona of Harley Quinn, Joker’s partner in crime and love (in her mind, anyway).
Harley has become one of the most popular Batman villains–and probably the second most popular female Batman villain, beating out Poison Ivy, and coming in second only to Catwoman. She’s a cosplay fixture, and interpretations of her outfit abound at conventions. Her voice was most famously provided by Arleen Sorkin, and she was played in live-action on the short-lived Birds of Prey series by Ferris Bueller’s Day Off co-star Mia Sara.
1. Agent Phil Coulson (Iron Man, The Avengers, etc.)
Is there ANYONE else it could possibly be?
THIS non-canon, cinematic creation was so popular with the fans they actually brought him back from the dead to star in his own TV series!
Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) first appeared in 2008’s Iron Man, and would go on to appear in every “Marvel Phase One” film except The Incredible Hulk. He’s become the face of the Strategic Homeland Intervention Enforcement and Logistics Division. His “death” made The Avengers get their shit together and defeat Loki, and he’s rising from the dead to star in the soon-to-air Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. tv series.
Gregg’s performance is a masterpiece of understated badassery, and his Coulson is, quite simply, impossible not to love.