Since Disney launched the MCU with Iron Man in 2008, Marvel has been a prolific force in cinema for over a decade now.
While Disney’s MCU is the most popular (and widely thought of as the best) adaption of Marvel’s comic-book characters to the big screen, there were plenty of films drawing on the comics before Iron Man.
Some of the most notable titles include Sony’s Spider-Man films, Fox’s X-Men, and Deadpool films. There were also multiple adaptations of the Hulk during the ’80s and early 2000s. But the history of Marvel in cinema goes back much further.
So when was the first Marvel comic film adaption, and which character made their way to the big screen first?
The first Marvel movie
The first Marvel character to get the film treatment was none other than American patriot and supersoldier Captain America. Captain America was released by Republic Pictures in 1944 and would be the first and only Marvel-based movie for over 30 years.
The plot of the film followed Dick Purcell playing Grant Gardner, a soldier who becomes Captain America. In the film Captain America battles against the force of his nemesis, The Scarab has stolen a device capable of demolishing buildings with sound vibrations. There is no origin story involving the Cap being injected with Super-Soldier Serum, in fact, the studio rejected this idea as they believed it would be costly to retake footage to include it.
As was common for movies at the time, Captain America was a black and white serial film and this particular film is notorious for being the most expensive Republic Pictures created of its kind.
A serial movie was aired in parts at a movie theatre the way a TV series would be released. Often, each part was spaced a week apart, and the audience would need to attend each screening to watch the story unfold.
Captain America wasn’t the only superhero to get the serial movie treatment, with Batman also getting a taste in The Batman, which launched the year prior in 1943. Despite having a positive reception, once Captain America concluded it wouldn’t be until 1979 that the Cap would make his way back to the big screen, this time in the form of a TV movie by Universal Television.