We live in a golden age of comic book adaptations, not just in movies, but now television as well, with shows like The Flash, Arrow and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D to name just a few. Shows like The Walking Dead even have the creators of the original comics involved in some of the creative process. So it’s easy to forget that not that terribly long ago, comic book television shows were considered bottom of the barrel, lucky to even get the low budget treatment for a syndicated show. Even the Justice League, currently one of the most anticipated comic book adaptations for the big screen ever, got the cheap-o treatment as a pilot for CBS back in 1997. Yup, that means that Batman and Robin actually wasn’t the worst comic book adaptation of 1997, there was something out there even worse.
The Justice League of America pilot is a perfect example of how NOT to do a comic to TV adaptation, taking elements and characters from the comics but changing them beyond recognizability. You’ve got a Green Lantern who is said to be Guy Gardner, but is wearing Kyle Rayner’s mask, but doesn’t remotely act like either character, a Flash who is Barry Allen I guess, even though there is nothing resembling any version of Barry ever portrayed. The list goes on: Fire and Ice, members from the great Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis run of the Justice League International comic, are here as well. There’s a half-assed attempt at evoking the comedy approach from that era of the comics, but it fails miserably. The costumes look like bad cosplay from a convention, not something you’d see in a big budget production. And the effects make Cleopatra 2525 look good.
I could go on and on about how bad this all is, but former JLA writer Mark Waid said it best, describing the pilot as “80 minutes of my life I’ll never get back.” So for you brave souls with morbid curiosity and all you appreciators of camp out there, check out a 24 minute version of the pilot below… and don’t say we didn’t warn you.