The evolution of live-action superheroes as been a wild and bumpy ride since they first popped up in the 1940s. We have to wonder if people 70 years from now will look back and snicker, thinking our present-day superheroes were as goofy and corny as some of the first portrayals are to us.

 



1. Spider-Man

Live Action Superheroes: Then Vs. Now

While many believe that the web-crawler's first live action appearance was the influential Japanese adaptation from 1978, but they forget his scattered educational appearances in the cult-classic kids show The Electric Company.

 

2. Aquaman

Live Action Superheroes: Then Vs. Now

Jason Momoa is the first actor of color to portray a superhero in the DC Extended Universe, and his Polynesian heritage helped to inform the newest live action version of Aquaman. 


3. Batman

Live Action Superheroes: Then Vs. Now

Joel Schumacher and George Clooney were set to return after the 1997 disasterpiece Batman & Robin with a another 90's installment: Batman Triumphant, complete with rumored castings like Nicolas Cage as Scarecrow and Madonna as Harley Quinn. Lucky for us all, the Caped Crusader waited until 2005's Batman Begins to return to the big screen.

 

4. Thor

Live Action Superheroes: Then Vs. Now

Chris Hemsworth's final rival for the role of Thor in the MCU was his own brother, Liam. Chris failed to make the final four during casting (while Liam stayed in the running). But Chris got a second chance while working on The Cabin in the Woods, which was produced and written by Joss Whedon, director for the first two Avengers movies. Whedon phoned up Thor's director Kenneth Branagh and convinced him to give Chris another shot. 



5. The Flash

Live Action Superheroes: Then Vs. Now

Grant Gustin first appeared in a couple episodes of Arrow before getting the pilot for The Flash greenlit. Had the show not been a big success, the CW network was ready to take care of their own: Barry Allen would've found a recurring home on Arrow instead. The Flash has had crossovers with both Arrow and Supergirl, the latter reuniting former Glee co-stars Gustin and Melissa Benoist.  


6. Superman

Live Action Superheroes: Then Vs. Now

Though Kirk Alyn portrayed the first on-screen live action Superman in 1948, actor Ray Middleton preceded him with a live performance at the 1939 World's Fair. The video recording is up on YouTube.

 

7. Daredevil and Black Widow

Live Action Superheroes: Then Vs. Now

Alright, this one is a bit of a cheat, since the 1970's Daredevil and Black Widow teamup never made it beyond a photo shoot, but what could have been is too hilarious not to include. Angela Bowie, ex-wife of the late great David Bowie, had the rights to the Marvel characters for about a year, but her concept for a TV show was rejected due to cost and special effects constraints.

 

8. Wonder Woman

Live Action Superheroes: Then Vs. Now

Wonder Woman went through a couple of experimental trials before making her successful television debut, with Lynda Carter in the lead role. Earlier versions of Wonder Woman included the super heroine being merely the fantasy alter ego of an ordinary woman (played by Linda Harrison and Elle Wood Walker in a 1967 TV pilot) and Cathy Lee Crosby's version, who was a non-super powered assistant to a government agent. 


9. Captain America

Live Action Superheroes: Then Vs. Now

Captain America: 1990's Captain America, Cap's first and last feature film before The First Avenger in 2011, featured a Steve Rogers (played by Matt Salinger) who for some reason wore wax ears on the outside of his costume. Seems like it would've been easier to just cut some ear holes.   


10.

Live Action Superheroes: Then Vs. Now

You can see Melissa Benoist's first attempt at superheroism as "Wallflower/Woman Fierce" in a superhero-themed episode of Glee. 

 

11. The Incredible Hulk

Live Action Superheroes: Then Vs. Now

The Hulk: Lou Ferrigno was the first actor to portray a live-action Hulk in 1978, and he continued to be the only actor to do so all the way until the advent of CGI took over for Ang Lee's 2003 Hulk (Banner was portrayed by Eric Bana). Ferrigno also lent his voice for a mix of samples to create the Hulk's roar in 2012's The Avengers.