These days, even booking a small part in a huge superhero movie usually leads to some steady work, and brand recognition. One day you're a side character in a Marvel movie, the next you're leading your own TV show, with two spin-offs to show for it. However, it wasn't always this way, as some big stars landed some small roles back in the wilderness days of comic book films, and then saw them evaporate. Hell, there are even some known names who landed major roles in the past couple of years. Unfortunately, those folks happened to pick the wrong movie to make their four-panel debut, and those roles got buried.
Well today's the day we revisit the hits and misses, in order to remind you that these 15 stars once had roles in some familiar comic franchises. Some you may remember, others you may forget, but all deserve a spot of notoriety on this list!
Ellen Pompeo -- Daredevil
While Grey's Anatomy would eventually see Ellen Pompeo falling for heartthrob of movies and TV, Patrick Dempsey, her role in Fox's Daredevil saw her set-up with a ladies' man of a different caliber. Playing Karen Page to Ben Affleck's Matt Murdock, the would-be love interest may have had a shot at a tender moment with Affleck on screen in a possible sequel. But with the disastrous reception, and the film's focus on the romance between Murdock and Jennifer Garner's assassin Elektra Natchios, it just wasn't meant to be.
Joe Manganiello -- Spider-Man
We can almost guarantee you're going to need to take a breath before reading this next entry, as we were quite surprised when we realized it ourselves. Joe Manganiello, better known as a hunky werewolf from HBO's True Blood or as a hunky stripper in the Magic Mike franchise, was actually in Sam Raimi's Spider-Man. Even better still, he played the role of Flash Thompson: bully to Peter Parker, and eventual laughing stock at the hands of Peter's newly developed powers during the first film's early hallway brawl. Something tells us that a modern rematch would go just a little bit differently.
Patton Oswalt -- Blade: Trinity
Before landing a plum role on Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., Patton Oswalt had only one other comic book adaptation credit to his name. Unfortunately for him, it was as Hedges, the vampire hunter / short-lived associate of Ryan Reynolds' Nightstalkers in Blade: Trinity. Though Oswalt's misfortune of being cast in such a lackluster film did come with a hell of a silver lining, as he's periodically shared stories about how Wesley Snipes was so into character that he'd refer to himself as Blade. Not to mention, he also shared the fact that Snipes was blazed pretty much all of the time, giving a plausible explanation to why such an anticipated sequel fell flat on its face.
Elizabeth Banks -- Spider-Man
Let it be said that Sam Raimi has an eye for talent, as he not only discovered Joe Manganiello for a role in his Spider-Man trilogy, but he also found Elizabeth Banks to be the perfect choice for The Daily Bugle's famed administrative assistant, Betty Brant. One of the few romantic foils for Peter Parker in the comics, Banks' Brant was used more as a snarky presence to bounce off of J.K. Simmons' J. Jonah Jameson; though the two did share a bit of a moment in Spider-Man 3. Of course, that was just the Symbiote talking, and since Spider-Man 4 never happened, we never did get to see any sort of fallout from this temporary moment between the two.
Angela Bassett -- Green Lantern
One of the best decisions that the folks behind the 2011 adaptation of Green Lantern could have made, and heavens knows those were far and few between, was the casting of Angela Bassett as Amanda Waller. Should that film have succeeded, we'd more than likely see her not only tell off Batman in the future Justice League films that would have spun off from this film's hypothetical success, but we would have seen her ordering around the Suicide Squad, should that film have also sprung forth from that same scenario. Alas, Green Lantern tanked, and it's Viola Davis' turn to give the DC Universe hell. Still, Bassett's Waller is a beautiful "what if?" we can't seem to shake.
Norman Reedus - Blade II
Before he was cross-bowing zombies and playing The Walking Dead's _Daryl Dixon, Norman Reedus was hunting an entirely different set of beasts altogether: vampires. Guillermo del Toro cast the then unknown actor as Scud: the weapons maker / _Powerpuff Girls fan who would later reveal himself as a familiar for the vampire royal family. It's a shame he had to eventually die an explosive death, but at the very least it lead to a relationship that would have put Norman Reedus in Guillermo del Toro's Silent Hills, which unfortunately was cancelled before it got very far. Still, this was one of those roles that paved the way to Reedus becoming the basic cable badass that he's now primarily known for, and it's made all the difference.
Tim Robbins -- Green Lantern
You can be an Oscar winner/nominee, or just all around well respected actor, and the comic movie bug will eventually bite you. We're about to come up on several more entries of this caliber, starting with Tim Robbins role as Senator Robert Hammond, father to Peter Sarsgaard's villainous Hector, in Green Lantern. While his performance wasn't given the most screen time, he did he best that he could with what material he was given. Much like Angela Bassett before him, Robbins is one of those actors we kind of wish we could have seen in the current DC Universe, as his Senator Hammond would have made a great ally for Holly Hunter's Senator June Finch in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
Martin Sheen -- Spawn
Another well respected actor who landed a big part in a comic book film is Martin Sheen, who managed to snag the role of the lead baddie in 1997's mixed-reception classic Spawn. But unlike some of the other luminaries we've got on this list, Sheen's performance as Jason Wynn isn't nearly as redeemable, though we'd like to think that's no one's fault but the writers. Playing a covert ops agent / arms dealer hybrid, Sheen's Jason Wynn was on a strict diet of only the tastiest scenery, and he ate as much as he could chew. Is it a fun performance? We could argue that it was indeed. But is it anywhere near the caliber that Martin Sheen usually delivers to his work? Indeed, it is not.
Jon Cryer -- Superman IV: The Quest For Peace
Before he made a career as the cosmic punching bag Charlie Sheen and Ashton Kutcher took pity on over 12 seasons of Two And A Half Men, Jon Cryer was an outside member of the 1980's society known as "the Brat Pack." That association not only saw him star in the John Hughes movie Pretty In Pink, it also found him taking on a role in the then red-hot Superman franchise. But as any good franchise fan will tell you, the end can come at any moment, turning a sure thing into a dud. Cryer, sadly, was a part of one of the most infamous duds ever, playing the role of Lenny Luthor -- Lex's dim-witted nephew -- in Superman IV: The Quest For Peace. All we have to say about this rather interesting choice is that Lenny's fashion sense is about as ill advised as the rest of the film's missteps, and Cryer obviously bounced back after such a dismal showing.
Christopher Lee -- Captain America 2: Death Too Soon
Even an actor like Christopher Lee can manage to find himself in a film that's incredibly below his talents. Yet being pigeon-holed as a B-movie star in the 1970s lead to his participation in some rather low-quality fare, one such film being Captain America 2: Death Too Soon. But just as he did with every role he'd ever taken, Lee played the role of General Miguel with the same intensity and respect that he gave even his most top-tier resume entries. It may not be a memorable performance, but at the very least it's further proof that Lee could elevate any material he chose to become a part of.
Drew Barrymore -- Batman Forever
When Joel Schumacher took over the Batman franchise, the public should have seen the signs that the series was about to go to a bright, neon-colored hell. Though, to be fair, Batman Forever was nowhere near the abomination that Batman and Robin would become. Still, the third film in the series and the only entry with Val Kilmer playing the Caped Crusader and his alter-ego cast some interesting actors in supporting roles. One such actor, Drew Barrymore, was cast as Sugar -- one of Two Face's two girlfriends, who would cater to his every need. You probably didn't remember her, as she wasn't really given much to do, but trust us -- she's in there for a couple key scenes with Tommy Lee-Jones and Jim Carrey.
Kerry Washington -- Fantastic Four
Kerry Washington is best known for being a Scandal maker on ABC's TGIT line-up. But about a decade before she was raising hell in D.C., Washington was playing the role of Alicia in Fox's Fantastic Four duology. A blind artist who inhabits the world of the first super family in Marvel history, Alicia eventually became the love interest of Ben Grimm, after his transformation into The Thing had left him abandoned by his previous fiancé. Kerry Washington finds herself as only the third alum on this list that was cast in a role that allowed them to appear in a sequel, as her character was also seen in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer.
Ian McKellen -- The Shadow
Some comic book movies don't deserve the pall of anonymity that they've accrued over the years since their release. Russell Mulcahy's The Shadow is definitely one of those films, as it stands with The Rocketeer and Dick Tracy as a retro-themed throwback that got buried at the box-office in the 1990's. While the film boasted Alec Baldwin at the top of his game playing Lamont Cranston / The Shadow, the film also managed to snag Ian McKellen as the atomic scientist / father to Cranston's love interest, Dr. Reinhardt Lane. Considering how early in the days of comic book movies The Shadow was, McKellen's involvement is a keen reminder of how the well-respected, classically trained actor has always had a spot in the geek pantheon with his name on it.
Catherine Zeta-Jones -- The Phantom
Right before she took her breakout role in Martin Campbell's The Mask Of Zorro, Catherine Zeta-Jones would jump on-board another pulpy project, as she was cast in the role of Sala in The Phantom. Another comic book movie that was made before the genre took off, Zeta-Jones was the adversary (and eventual ally) of Billy Zane's "ghost who walks." Interestingly enough, the obscurity of this role didn't seem to stop her from being linked to the proposed sequel that would come to prominence in 2008. But just as quickly as that franchise's return was announced, it was dashed in favor of a now defunct reboot. Still, it just goes to show that if you've lined up a franchise with Billy Zane in the lead, you'll probably want to work with him again, given the chance.
Kevin Smith -- Daredevil
Show us a bigger comic fan in Hollywood than Kevin Smith, and we'll show you either a liar. Smith has not only made his love for all things inked and traced well known, he's taken on some roles in comic properties just for the hell of it. The most obscure of those roles is, of course, as a coroner named "Jack Kirby" in Fox's Daredevil. With his appearance being nothing more than a cameo, Smith takes his place next to Stan Lee and Frank Miller as a comic writer who's made an appearance in the very comic that he's written for. Also, as a slight side-bar, we may never have had a Daredevil starring Ben Affleck if it wasn't for Smith convincing him to take the role, so take that as you may.