The concept of superhero already implies something of caricature. They are characters that inherit customs and aesthetics, for example, pulp literature (the origin of Batman is pure cheap literature of the time), characterized by charging the inks in the grotesque and exaggerated popular genres. Shortly after the creation of the genre in the comics, the superhero stories were filled with giant gorillas, impossible villains and hilarious secondary characters.
Heroes like Shazam! or Plastic Man were already, from the outset, deformed mirrors of very specific referents and although the second half of the twentieth century, from the 70s to the avalanche grim & gitty of the nineties, brought realism and serious superheroes, let’s be honest: superheroes are people who wear underpants on the outside, colored pajamas and whose binary vision of morality is very simple to ridicule.
Film and television have never lagged behind in that mockery. Since the days of the 1960s Batman television, which marked the figure of the Batman based on humor and self-confidence for decades, so many superheroes on screen have coexisted seriously and gravely as parodists. After all, it is not easy to take seriously the real image version of the meshes and masks. And ‘Deadpool 2’ shows that superhero comedy enjoys more acceptance than ever. Today we have selected some of the best, of all genres and with all the nuances. These are the best superhero comedies in history.
14‘Rat Pfink to Boo Boo’ (1966)
A spooky trinket of Ray Dennis Steckler, responsible for the also scandalous underbudgeting gadget ‘The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies!?’. Its genesis has given it a mythical character, since it began as a serious crime film entitled ‘The Depraved’, but Steckler got bored and at forty minutes decided to change the tone and turn it into a parody of Batman. The dramatic mutation in the tone is perfectly reflected in the film, with two halves like night and day.
The shooting anecdotes are many and varied: there is a real parade in which actors and equipment of the film sneak to simulate that it is dedicated to the protagonists. And the original title was the most logical ‘Rat Pfink and Boo Boo’, but an error in the printing of the title turned the rabbit into a legend, since it was too expensive to change it. All in all, the film is a pioneer in laughing at superheroes, taking the then very popular ‘Batman’ on television to high levels of ridicule and shamelessness.
13‘The Return of Captain Invincible’ (1984)
A huge commercial failure at the time (cost seven million dollars, raised about five hundred thousand) from Australia, and that is pure extravagance: the twilight story of a superhero clearly inspired by Superman, with musical numbers (some of the composers hands of ‘Rocky Horror Picture Show’) and Christopher Lee of villain. All this before the superhero parodies became fashionable, although ‘Superman III’ is almost a comedy and was a year ahead.
12‘The Toxic Avenger’ (1984)
A crude and brutal comedy, as is usual in the Troma, but which maintains a very curious balance between a real superhero movie and his parody. That is to say, if we remove the jokes scrupulously respect the superheroic codes: typical origin -clearly inspired by the first and very slight Peter Parker-, distinctive uniform -tutu and mop, turned into icons in a very ingenious way-, freak pride and ability to expand its mythology with new adventures (the best, the incredible fourth installment) and characters (the blind bride is a discovery that also works as a nod to classic monsters). No wonder that the character became an emblem for the company.
11Radioactive Man in ‘The Simpsons’ (1991)
The inevitable contribution of ‘The Simpsons’ to the theme of superhero parodies is in Radioactive Man, a hero who starred in the episodes ‘Three Men and a Comic Book’ and ‘Radioactive Man’. His greatness as a character is that he has gone through all the stages of the superhero industry, from his primitive incarnation in a black and white serial to the carefree color and pop version in the style of the ‘Batman’ of the sixties.
The plan to revitalize this fictional chronology within the series is to shoot the inevitable overproduction with big stars in Springfield and Milhouse is chosen to fill the role of sidekick or assistant. Of course, Radioactive Man has had its real printed version, where it has been investigated in its superpowers and history, clearly inspired by those of Superman.
10‘Blankman, my brother the nutty’ (1994)
A young and brilliant inventor (Damon Wayans) is inspired by his childhood hero, Batman, to avenge the death of his grandmother. In fact, this sympathetic parody is set in the recent success of the first ‘Batman’ by Tim Burton to make fun of the tropes of the genre, from the robotic assistant to the sidecick (here the brother of the protagonist, under the alias of Other Guy). A hero who laughs at the impossible gadgets of his idol, but not his implacable moral mission.
9Bluntman and Chronic, from ‘Chasing Amy’ (1997)
In principle, the superheroic alter ego of Jay and Bob the Silent was nothing more than a joke in one of the real comics scripted by Kevin Smith and starring the couple of camels that sold drugs at the door of the store of ‘Clerks’… But in reality, they were born as characters in a fictional comic that appeared in ‘Chasing Amy’, and whose co-author was Ben Affleck.
In fact, the struggle of Jay and Bob the Silent to avoid the diffusion and adaptation of these comics is the basis of ‘Jay and Bob the Silent Strike Back’, and there is a nod to his popularity in ‘Clerks II’. The characters are a parody for highly placed fans (ie, very receptive), where all weapons are derived from the use and abuse of joints, but that benefit from Kevin Smith’s extensive knowledge of superhero conventions.
The adventures in real image of Trey Parker and Matt Stone have not been as successful as his popular ‘South Park’, but from the unknown but magnificent ‘Baseketball’ to the incredible and more current than ever ‘Team America’, his comedies outside the Animation movies are great. One of the most popular is this double parody of the films of superheroic origins and of the pornographic cinema… parodic. Tells the story of a Mormon who has to pay for his wedding doing superhero porn until he has to face a nemesis of real comics accompanied by the typical buzzing sidekick and teenager , Choda Boy.
7‘Mystery Men’ (1999)
The quintessential superhero parody for years was this extravagant comedy that was very much noticed in the pages of an indie comic of the time. The fact is that as a film that goes through all the topics of the genre works great, and its characters would be heroes of tom and loin… if they were not so ridiculous. Extraordinary interpretations of comedians with overwhelming personality such as Ben Stiller, Janeane Garofalo, Hank Azaria, William H. Macy, Paul Reubens and many other greats.
6‘The Specials’ (1999)
Another film fundamental among superhero parodies, but not very well known despite its many features in common with ‘Mystery Men’. Although here what we have is not a group of useless with ridiculous powers, but a team of superpowerful beings (specifically, the sixth or seventh best in the world) with really admirable powers portrayed in their day to day.
The first movie written by James Gunn out of the Troma’s aegis and before the bombing that supposed ‘Scooby-Doo’ has a very bad grape and a tremendously funny and varied cast -Rob Lowe, Melissa Joan-hart, Gunn himself…- It is easy to detect in it obsessions and dynamics between characters that would permeate in later films of Gunn as’ Guardians of the Galaxy’, of which ‘The Specials’ is an undeniable precedent.
The line between the parody and the superhero movie, which simply has some humor, is sometimes very fine. Is ‘The Incredibles’ a luminous superhero movie or a parody? And ‘Megamind’? and ‘Hancock’ ? Demons: and ‘The Ninja Turtles’? Many times the limit is in the awareness of its own condition of ridicule that the film has. In that sense, ‘Kick-Ass’ is in the exact middle ground: it laughs at superheroes, their conventions and, above all, their morals , but their sequences of action and their argument, with a history of origin included, are of serious movie of superheroes. Hence, possibly, his enormous success, which led to a sequel … even more parodic.
The same year of ‘Kick-Ass’, the director of the aforementioned ‘The Specials’, James Gunn, signed the most brutal and brilliant superheroic parody in history. Gunn proves to be a deep connoisseur of the tropes of the genre and dynamite conscientiously, saturating them with a violence much less verbenera than that of ‘Kick-Ass’ and proposing a protagonist (spectacularly incarnated by a Rainn Wilson without fear of falling ill the spectator) who becomes a hero out of spite.
As an air-to-air missile aimed at the always dubious moral of superheroes, the film parodies from the aesthetic conventions to the motivations of the heroes, passing through the always murky role of the sidekick, here embodied by a also brilliant Ellen Page. The result does not take prisoners and is with all certainty, the top of the most beastly humor of Gunn.
3‘The Tick’ (2017)
This essential superhero parody has gone through three glorious phases. Indiecomic in 1987 (it’s amazing all the parodies that start there and it makes all the sense: the parody of the superhero is a reaction to the North American mainstream comic, as is the independent comic), cult television series of thirty episodes in 1994 and, now, a series of real image on Amazon that retains all the charm and ingenuity of its precedents.
The protagonist is an invulnerable hero accompanied by a naive sidekick , La Polilla, and with whom he saves the city again and again from villains like Mad Nanny. Sometimes more focused on concrete parodies, sometimes laughing at the superhero genre in all its breadth, ‘The Tick’ is a classic for a very clear reason: his tendency to buffoonery and his appreciation for what he is parodying make it impossible not to love him.
2Vindicators in ‘Rick and Morty’ (2018)
The third season of ‘Rick and Morty’ has reached a very high level of meta-referentiality and reflection on itself and on the genres it exploits. Of course, ‘Rick and Morty’ could not stop putting into question the superhero codes and so it was with the episode ‘The Vindicators 3: The Return of Worldender’. The Vindicators, a group of heroes clearly inspired by the super teams of Marvel or DC, have to face the lethal Worldender.
Of course, Rick will do the usual: eliminate the villain and face the heroes against each other. This time, with a Machiavellian game type ‘Saw’ in which the worst miseries of each will come to light and showing, incidentally, that the real villain of this series is one of the protagonists.
1Deadpool 2 (2018)
As a parody it is more similar to ‘Scary Movie’ than to ‘Mystery Men’, but this sequel rings finer than its already quite destructive predecessor in terms of making a cut of sleeves to the superhero movies. Everything related to X-Force or the passage through the Xavier Mansion is chufla of many carats, although sometimes the film yields to the temptation to take its heroes seriously, a sin that prevents it from being the ‘Grab it as you can’. the Marvel superheroes that many of us would like to see.
This is the list with the 14 parodies that we consider key to understanding the superhero parodies, but what tapes do you think should be added to this compilation of the best parodies with masks and capes?