Superhero cinema is experiencing a boom, a resurgence that began right around the turn of the new century. Cape-and-cowl movies haven’t just been legitimized, they are now parlaying their popularity into expanding their mythologies and crafting interconnected on-screen universes. Suffice to say, their foothold on multiplex prominence is sturdy. But it was not always so. Prior to Sam Raimi‘s Spider-Man, unless your hero moniker rhymed with Scatcan or Schmooperman, it was unlikely you would get your own theatrical franchise. And even those two tentpole heroes experienced a falling-off and an eventual total lack of quality. Superman was forced to fight Nuclear Man and Joel Schumacher did his very best to further The Dearth Plight.
Pursuant to a 1990s kick that which we inexplicably find ourselves on here at Junkfood Cinema (and seriously if any of you happen to know the cure for a bad case of the blands, let us know), we thought we’d take a look at some of the smaller, darker heroes that cropped up like weeds during this strange filmic era. More specifically, we’re going to be examining an important moment in made-up film history.
Long before Joss Whedon put together his blockbuster adaptation of The Avengers, an attempt was made by some of the characters from ’90s superhero films to form their own team. According to the New England Journal of Shut-Up-and-Use-Your-Imagination, this attempt failed…miserably. Luckily, we’re bored enough to envision a stenographer on hand for this momentous occasion that unfolded entirely in our heads. Here now, for the first time in history, is the transcription of that meeting made public.
(Into the room, with billowy cape and glowing eyes, appears Spawn. With grim foreboding, he eats a snickerdoodle from the snack table and approaches the podium.)
Spawn: Silence! (He quickly realizes that no one in the room was speaking) I will now proceed with the calling of the roll. The Shadow?
The Shadow: (Cackles uncontrollably) Here. Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?
Spawn: …The Shadow?
The Shadow: (Annoyed) I said here!
Darkman: I’M HERE DAMMIT!
Spawn: Alright, easy Dr. Mood Swing. The Crow? Crow? Crow! Stopping eye-humping yourself in that mirror and pay attention.
Crow: Darkman, tell Spawn that Eric Draven sends his regards.
Darkman: Spawn, Eric Draven sends–
Spawn: I got it! Judge Dredd?
Dredd: Ay-oh. Aui oo da eee.
Spawn: I…I don’t…
Shadow: Is he having a stroke?
Dredd: Ay I oh wah fi, is jus mah veaux.
Crow: Hey, Dredd, if you’re not going to wear that helmet, can you at least do us a favor and shove it in your mouth?
Spawn: Order! Let me get through this shit. Blade?
Blade: (Suddenly stops twirling a sword in the back of the room, turns his head slowly over his shoulder) Here. By the way, if we need to have some of these meetings during the day, that’s fine be me.
Crow: Jesus, we get it, you’re the Daywalker. Any other vampire mythology you want to completely shit on? Tell me again how silver isn’t just for werewolves.
Blade: Bite me, Emily Dickinson.
Crow: Put your glaives back in your pants, M.C. Hammer, I’m not a vampire.
Dredd: Yo nah?
Crow: Sound it out, Dredd, use your big caveman words.
Spawn: Shut it! I don’t know how I got put in charge of this army, but I’m going to get through this if it kills me.
Crow: You’re already dead.
The Shadow: Looks who’s talking.
Crow: Go play with your decoder ring, Zorro.
Blade: Relax, Spawn, the only one you haven’t called is MacGyver over there.
Guyver: The Guyver.
Blade: That’s what I said, MacGyver.
The Shadow: Maybe he can take some chewing gum and a paper clip and fashion them into a single person who has ever heard of him.
Guyver: Oh, and fighting crime on the radio was so useful?
Spawn: Enough! Look, we’re getting overshadowed by Batman and Superman. Our only chance at stealing some of their limelight is to band together. Now we can either get on the same page or we can slip silently back into obscurity. Now, item one on our–Darkman, stop crying!
Darkman: (Sobbing) I spilled my coffee on my pants and now I want to kill someone.
Crow: Jesus, could you be more emo?
Blade: Really? Tell me something, Crow, is The Cure still doing it for you or are you just sitting around waiting for Death Cab for Cutie to be a thing?
Crow: Do you really want me to send you to eternal sleep right here in front of MacGyver and everyone?
Guyver: The Guyver.
All: Shut up!
Darkman: I think we should make The Shadow our leader, if we want to be taken seriously I mean.
Spawn: I’m sorry, what was that weepy?
Darkman: (Sniffles) I think it’s pretty clear he’s a far better hero than you.
Spawn: Dammit, Shadow! Stop clouding Darkman’s mind!
Shadow: (Coming out of a trance, his laughter filling the room) But it’s so easy.
(Darkman flies into a rage and tries to tackle The Shadow, who is, at this point, just a shadow. Darkman misses and tackles Judge Dredd by mistake, beating him mercilessly.)
Dredd: (Between punches striking his billboard-sized face) Stah! Stah! Iam de-lau! Iam de-lau!
Darkman: I DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU’RE SAYING!!!
Guyver: This is an outrage, I can’t believe I ever wanted to be a part of this team.
Spawn: Shove it, MacGyver, nobody knows why you’re here anyway. You’re not even a real superhero. All your powers come from your suit.
Blade: Look who’s talking, Cape Boy.
Spawn: (Chains start to reach out from his uniform) You wanna repeat that?
Crow: Pipe down, Spawn. We’ll call you if we need help battling rubbery CG hell clowns.
Spawn: Hey, Crow, congratulations on being the favored Halloween costume of every skinny douchebag on the planet.
(Just as the heroes converge on one another, the doors suddenly swing open and in walks Captain America.)
Captain America: What in blazes is going on here, gentlemen? Can you guys really not get your act together and work as a team? You should all be ashamed. How do you expect to defend the planet if you can’t even make it through one meeting? Spawn, do I really need to teach you how to be a leader?
The Shadow: News flash, Captain: It’s the ’90s, you currently suck worse than any of us.
Captain America: How dare you, I defeated the Red Skull.
The Guyver: His skull was only red for the first ten minutes. And he was Italian! You can’t even get your own villains right.
Spawn: Good point, MacGyver.
Guyver: The Guyver.
Darkman: Kill him! I’ll make a copy of his face!
(Captain America runs effeminately out of the room. The dark heroes disband. Upon hearing that The Phantom was on his way over, they decide to pretend there was never a group in the first place to avoid talking to him.)