Everything seemed possible back then. If a movie about fishing could make $260 million and a movie about film-serial space battles could make $307 million — and now they were making a big-budget special-effects movie based on Superman, of all the crazy things — then maybe what people wanted was lighthearted, high-concept blockbusters. All they needed was a big idea, preferably somebody else’s.
“Comics Strip for Next Film Cycle,” Variety reported in 1978, proclaiming that “the next cycle of big budget films will be centered on comic book characters.” Then they rattled off a list of comics with a film in development — Flash Gordon, Popeye, Tarzan, Dick Tracy, Little Orphan Annie, The Phantom. They even mentioned a live-action movie based on Marmaduke the Great Dane, which seemed deeply unwise. It was like last call at Kevin Feige’s place.