1997 was not a good year for the comic book movie in general, even if most of the headlines were rightfully stolen by Joel Schumacher’s Batman & Robin completing the franchise’s downward trajectory from brooding and atmospheric Gothic blockbusters into an exercise in selling toys to children that’s so inane it still boggles the mind that it arrived just eight years after Tim Burton’s first installment.
George Clooney may have taken most of the credit for putting the entire genre on life support, but Batman & Robin wasn’t the only terrible DC adaptation released that year. Just twelve months after Kazaam, Shaquille O’Neal proved once again that he had absolutely no future as an actor when he headlined Steel, which tanked spectacularly at the box office after bringing in a paltry $1.7 million on a $16 million budget.
The superhero film was savaged by critics, and boasts precisely zero redeeming features, while it also gets unfairly overlooked when it comes to discussing the very worst that the comic book genre has to offer. Dr. John Henry Irons had proved to be a popular figure among fans since making his debut in 1993, but it would be an understatement to say that the pic dropped the ball big time.
Unsurprisingly, Steel co-creator Jon Bogdanove has revealed that he was never consulted on the project, meaning there was nothing he could do about one of his most famous creations being butchered by Warner Bros. and journeyman director Kenneth Johnson.
“One of my suggestions for how to rescue this film would have been to involve in any way the two creators who invented the character. The most ironic moment of my career was drawing the comic book adaptation of the film adaptation of a character I created, after having no input into the film at all. Of course it hurt. I think Louise and I would have loved to at least been consulted and then if they went and did the same crap, at least we’d have been consulted. On the other hand, that’s sort of the nature of the business, certainly in those days, to just ignore the contribution of the creators. And by not having had anything to do with the movie, I can come on this show and speak critically about it.”
Bogdanove and Louise Simonson may have been credited in Steel, but you get the distinct impression that they’d rather not have themselves associated with the turgid flop. With any luck, though, perhaps one day we’ll get a reboot that can do the character justice.