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Popular Comic Strips That Became Flop Movies; ONTD Original

Some of the first comic strips appeared in U.S. newspapers in the late 1800s and for most of the 1900s there were at least 200 comic strips & cartoon panels. During the week these would often be in black & white, with the Sunday comic section, sometimes called the funnies (because the strips were humorous, although some were more like serialized soap operas), usually being in color. Since the 1990s comic strips have been on the decline due to such factors as changing tastes in entertainment & the declining relevance of newspapers in general. However some are making the transition to digital platforms. (The OP recommends checking out the 2014 documentary Stripped which covers this better than she ever could.)

Several comic strips have been turned into movies, the heyday being the 1930s to the 1950s, with the comic strip Blondie inspiring 29 movies alone during this period. This post focuses on the more modern era (1980 to present) where comic strip based movies are few and just not that good.


This is a follow up to the previous posts of Hit TV Shows That Became Flop Movies & Hit Movies That Became Flop TV Shows.

Note; The general rule of thumb is that a movie has to make three times its budget at the box office to be considered a hit.


Technically based on the Broadway musical which was based on the long-running comic strip (1924-2010) about an orphan girl, Annie, & her dog, Sandy, that are taken in by a wealthy man, Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks. The comic touched on adult issues such as organized labor, The New Deal & Communism.
The 1982 movie, directed by John Huston, has Annie (Aileen Quinn) & her dog Sandy being taken in by Warbucks (Albert Finny) temporarily to improve his public image. Musical numbers ensue.
The movie made $57 million on a $50 million budget, a TV film sequel Annie: A Royal Adventure! came out in 1995. Disney & Columbia Pictures produced a version for TV in 1999 with Alicia Morton in the title role Victor Garbsr as Warbucks and Columbia produced another flop version, blamed on the infamous Sony leak, with Quvenzhané Wallis as Annie & Jamie Foxx as millionaire Will Stacks in 2014.



Based on Brenda Starr: Reporter (1940-2011) about the adventures and love life of a woman glamorous reporter. Originally written & illustrated by Dalia Messick, under the pseudonym Dale Messick, after she retired the strip was continued under different female writer & illustrator teams.
The 1989 movie has the comic strip drawn by an artist named Mike. One day Brenda (Brook Shields) comes to life, sees that she is underappreciated by Mike & leaves the comic. In order to get her back, & keep his job, Mike draws himself into the comic. The movie made $67,878 on a $16 million budget.



Based on the comic Marmaduke (1954-present) about a messy but lovable Great Dane and his family. The 2010 movie has Marmaduke (voiced by Owen Wilson), his cat friend Carlos (voiced by George Lopez) and their family moving from Kansas to California & dealing with the challenges that come with starting a new life. The movie made $83.8 million on a budget of $50 million.



Based on the long running strip of the same name (1936-present) which follows the adventures of the 21st Phantom (although some story-lines tell a story about a past Phantom), the most recent in a long line of crime-fighters stretching all the way back to 1536. When the father of British sailor Christopher Walker was killed in a pirate attack, Walker swore an oath on the skull of his father’s murder to fight evil & started a tradition that is passed from father to son. Since they all wear the same kind of costume people believe that The Phantom is immortal and can not be killed.
The 1996 movie has Billy Zane in the title role & is more or less based on the comic with added supernatural elements and characters not found in the comic. The movie made $17.3 million on a $50 million budget, but found some success on VHS, DVD & Blu-Ray and has developed a bit of a cult following.



Inspired by the comic which ran daily from 1934-1992, continuing on Sunday until 2003 with reprints still being syndicated. The comic follows Flash Gordon, polo player & Yale graduate, and his companions Dale Arden & Dr. Zarkov. The story starts with the Earth threatened by a collision with the planet Mongo. Zarkov invents a rocket to travel to the planet to stop the disaster. Half-mad he kidnaps Gordon & Arden, they land on the planet, halt the collision, and come in contact with the planet’s evil ruler; Ming the Merciless. A space opera ensues.
The 1980 movie has a bored Ming the Merciless deciding to destroy Earth with natural disasters. One of these, a meteorite, brings down the small plane with New York Jets star Flash Gordon and travel agent Dale Arden. They crash in the greenhouse of Dr, Zarkov who believes that the disasters are being caused by an alien source pushing the moon towards Earth. He has built a rocket to investigate. But his assistant refuses to accompany him, so he tricks Gordon & Arden on board, launches the rocket, which lands on Mongo & the adventure continues from there. The movie made either $27.1 mill. or $15.4 million (conflicting sources) on either a $20 million or a $27 mill. budget (again, conflicting sources). The film has since gained a cult following & is notable for having a soundtrack that was composed, performed & produced by Queen.


Dishonorable mentions;
Popeye (character appeared in Thimble Theater in 1929, the comic was later renamed Popeye & continued until 1994 as a daily, with Sunday strips still being new, but reprints old ones during the week) The 1980 musical with Robin Williams had a budget of $20 million & made $60 mill. Technically a success, although the film was expected to do much better & was considered a disappointment by the studio.

Prince Valiant (1937-present) The 1997 film with Katherine Heigl was a video release, Wikipedia has no info on budget or money brought in & Google keeps confusing it with the 1954 version, but on Rotten Tomatoes it has an audience score of 22%.

The Spirit (1940-1952 with a few new stories appearing in different publications from the 1960s & 1980s) The 2008 movie with Eva Mendes had a budget of $60 million & made $39 mill.

Sources; me, myself & I

Wikipedia; 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17

Rotten Tomatoes

YouTube; 1 2 3 4 5
Tags: black celebrities, disney, film, film - action / adventure, film - musical, film - science fiction, flop, jamie foxx, katherine heigl, ontd original, queen (band), sony leak - why are u punishing me, sony pictures
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