With today’s superhero explosion on the big screen and now on television, newer fans of the genre may not realize that there was a time when comic book characters were not the media darlings that they are these days. Back in 1997, in fact, superheroes appeared to be on their way out after several years of popularity on the big screen and some inroads on television. Batman and Robin, which came out that year, pretty much sunk that franchise in the theaters and ABC’s Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman came to an end in the middle of the year. But there was an attempt in 1997 to keep the comic book presence (specifically the DC characters) alive and well on the small screen. That took shape with the Justice League of America pilot commissioned by CBS that would have launched an ongoing series for the famous team. But this one faced many problems. First off, DC’s three biggest heroes Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman did not participate because there were already ear-marked for films or other projects. Not too much of a hurdle, though, because that still left popular characters the Flash, Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter, and more. But for some reason, they decided to add in non-comic book characters Ice and Fire and moved them to prominent roles on the team. That was not necessarily a disastrous move, but the characters just weren’t that interesting and it seemed odd to give them so much attention when DC has such a large stable of superheroes to draw from (though licensing issues may have come into play here). On top of this, the production had a less than stellar cast, though David Ogden Stiers (as Martian Manhunter) and Miguel Ferrer (as the villain the Weatherman) did what they could to liven things up. Add super cheesy production to the mix along with a poor script and mostly bad acting and you got a production that would do nothing to help revive the lagging superhero genre. Wisely, CBS passed on the pilot and decided to not even air it as a movie of the week. It has since resurfaced on bootleg DVDs and online from time to time and achieved a degree of notoriety. If you keep an eye on YouTube, it pops up there every now and then before the Warner Bros. folks see it and get it yanked (not wanting us to know it ever existed). Be warned in advance, though, that this is a hard one to sit through as it even fails to achieve the it’s-so-bad-it’s-good level status. But it’s still worth a look for a few chuckles if you have the time. And we can only hope that the upcoming 2017 Justice League movie will do a much better job of portraying these characters.
Aired: Never aired in the U.S.
Starring: Matthew Settle, Kimberly Oja, John Kassir, Michelle Hurd, David Ogden Stiers, Miguel Ferrer