Sam Raimi’s First Comic Book Movie Isn’t Based on a Comic at All

These days, Sam Raimi is a filmmaker synonymous with comic book movies. After all, he directed three Spider-Man movies in the 2000s. So when Marvel announced Raimi would direct Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, fans were more than pleased. It felt like one of the best filmmakers to ever do it was back at what he does best: adapting a comic book for the big screen. More remarkably, Raimi’s first comic book movie isn’t based on a comic.

Liam Neeson with his face covered with a mask in 'Darkman’
Liam Neeson in ‘Darkman’ | Universal Pictures

Sam Raimi was the first to make a ‘Spider-Man’ movie

Some fans might always associate Raimi with the Evil Dead franchise he launched way back in 1981. But of all the films he’s made, none had the same impact culturally or at the box office as 2002’s Spider-Man. Hitting theaters mere nine months after 9/11, Raimi’s movie gave the world the escapist adventure they needed and the morally upright everyman hero they deserved just then. And it quickly earned $400 million, according to Box Office Mojo.

Two sequels followed in 2004 and 2007. And though the second film remains a high watermark among comic book movies, Spider-Man 3 received a much harsher reaction from fans. Nevertheless, respect for Raimi remained high in the 15 years between his final adventure with the friendly neighborhood webhead and the Doctor Strange sequel. But then again, Raimi had a comic book sensibility long before he was working with Marvel’s iconic source material.

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But he made an original ‘comic book’ movie much earlier

More than a decade before Spider-Man swung into theaters, Raimi’s Darkman became a modest hit. The movie was his follow-up to Evil Dead II. And while his horror sequel felt like a horror cartoon at times, Darkman was Raimi’s effort to create his own comic book hero in the vein of Batman and The Shadow, both characters he’d wanted to work with. In the process, Raimi delivered a new original hero that carried all the trademarks of a comic book one.

Liam Neeson stars as Peyton Westlake, a scientist who survives a vicious attack terribly disfigured, mentally scarred, and without the ability to feel pain. Using a synthetic skin he created, Westlake sets out on a quest for revenge against the men responsible for the attack. Armed with an endless array of disguises, he adopts the moniker “Darkman” by the end and vows to continue serving the greater good in his new life.

Could Sam Raimi give ‘Darkman’ a second shot of life as a franchise?

Darkman certainly ends with promise for more. But aside from a pair of direct-to-video sequels in the mid-1990s, nothing more came from it. However, in 2022, Neeson confirmed to ComicBook.com that he’d be interested in reading a script for a sequel. The film predated the actor’s continuing action hero career, including his role as Qui-Gon Jinn in the Star Wars saga. And Neeson has long expressed enthusiasm for his experience on Darkman.

With Raimi back behind the camera for the first time in nearly a decade, perhaps the time is right to dust off Darkman. Since the character is bandaged up throughout, Neeson could reprise his role in a sequel set soon after the original film, with other actors stepping in as Darkman’s various disguises. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is likely to give Raimi his biggest hit yet. So perhaps he can use that clout to bring Darkman into the light.

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