Almost Heroes: The Most Hilarious International Bootleg Superheroes

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As the international box office for films like 'The Avengers,' 'The Dark Knight' and 'Iron Man 3' will show you, superheroes are not just an American business. Batman, Superman, Spider-Man and other costumed vigilantes are massively popular all over the world, earning billions of dollars a year with their cinematic adventures.

Of course, there was a time before superhero movies were so common in America. Naturally, that meant superhero cinema was less common in other nations. Which means that the world is rich with lousy superhero bootlegs produced by other countries to capitalize on characters they didn't own. The results are countless productions that simply boggle the mind, films and shorts that take iconic superheroes and transform them into something completely bonkers to appeal to a different culture.

This list is just the tip of the iceberg.

  • The Amazing "SupaidA man"

    Japanese Spider Man What's truly crazy about Japan's take on Marvel's Spider-Man is that it's not an unofficial bootleg at all. This is what happens when a comic book company sells character rights to another country and just lets them go nuts with the character, traditional origin and powers be damned! Instead of focusing on a mild-mannered student who gets bitten by a radioactive spider and gains superpowers, this utterly bizarre show (with episode titles like "Becoming Splendid: To the Murderous Machine of Transformation" and "To the Flaming Hell: See the Tears of the Snake Woman") rewrites Spidey into a hero who has more in common with Japanese TV heroes than American superheroes. So now, Spider-Man is a motorcyclist whose father gives him a powerful wristband, allowing him to wall crawl, spin powerful webs and, uh, control a giant robot. Then again, would he really be a Japanese Spider-Man without a giant tiger-based robot named Leopardon?

  • La Mujer Murcielago, AKA, the Mexican Batwoman

    Batwoman In the pages of modern DC comics, the character of Batwoman has become one of the most popular and innovative superheroes of all time. But nearly 50 years ago, she was the subject of a Mexican production that saw Batman's staunch ally re-imagined as a scantily clad avenger who battles mad scientists and fish monsters and appears to be a weird polyamorous relationship. She's also afraid of mice, because, you know, irony. Even with subtitles, we imagine that 'La Mujer Murcielago' would be totally incomprehensible nonsense, but Batwoman's crazy luchador/bikini model costume is jus bizarre enough to warrant a few minutes of your precious time.

  • Superman Goes Full Bollywood

    Indian Superman If we knew exactly what was going on in 'Tu Mera Superman,' we'd gladly fill you in. But we don't. So we can't. Here's what our eyes tell us: Indian superman and his girlfriend (Lois Lane? Spider-Woman? Lois Lane in a Spider-Man costume?) go out for a flight and do a whole bunch of mid-air dance moves. Spider-Lois sings a song that goes like "Suuuuperman, Suuuuperman!" while Supes super-discos in the park. Then they beat up a bunch of attempted rapists and crash a massive public dance party, where more super-grooving occurs. It's as low rent as any other bootleg superhero movie, but like so many Bollywood productions, the focus on dancing and music lends the cheapness of it all a truly likable and goofy quality. In short, who cares what's really going on? Just watch Superman dance.

  • The Adventures of Filipino Batman and Robin

    Alyas Batman en Robin

    What is the 'Alyas Batman en Robin'? What are its intentions? Why is it seemingly so difficult to track down online? Well, we may be able to answer that last one. This unauthorized Batman movie was filmed in 1989 but not released until a few years later after its creators tangled with Warner Bros.' legal department. The goal of the movie was to capitalize on Tim Burton's 'Batman' by creating a parody of the classic '60s Adam West series. So, how exactly do you parody a show that was already a parody? By taking a deep dive into unfiltered crazy, of course. That's why Batman, Robin and their rogue's gallery join together for a big musical number. That's why Batman has a mullet and wears a trucker hat. That's why none of it makes any sense.

  • 'Supermen Donuyor,' or the Turkish Superman

    Turkish Superman As you've seen, most foreign superhero rip-offs take comic book heroes into the realm of comedy and parody. They don't even attempt to recreate the actual thing. So 'Supermen Donuyor' deserves at least a little credit -- it almost resembles something that could be misconstrued as an actual movie. Despite the headache-inducing cheapness of it all, the trailer below makes good use of John Williams' (stolen) score, lending a sliver or two of gravitas to Turkish Superman as he stoically flies, stoically crushes ordinary criminals like ants and stoically rescues hostages from stock footage of out-of-control trains.

  • 'Return to Supermans'

    Return to Supermans As you'll surely notice the moment you hit play on the video below, 'Return to Supermans' isn't an actual bootleg movie. However, it's a very funny parody of bootleg superhero movies (and 'Superman Donuyor' in particular), getting just enough details right to get away with the more obvious jokes. Produced by the short-film collective Channel 101, 'Return to Supermans' finds the title hero doing battle with his arch-nemesis Spider-Man, who has arrived in his Death Star to bring destruction to the city. Although the broad jokes are amusing, the framing, costuming and random mixing of characters and images from American pop culture are deliciously on point. Cheap foreign bootleg movies don't necessarily need a skewering, but this does the job nicely.

  • Fat, Hairy Italian Spider-Man

    Italian Spiderman While we're on the subject of spot-on superhero bootleg parodies, we'd be doing you a disservice if we didn't introduce you to 'Italian Spider-Man.' Although a cleverly made parody, you wouldn't be out of line for thinking that this was a real thing. A real thing financed and made by mad men, but a real thing, nonetheless. This Spider-Man is so agile, web-slinging hero, but a pudgy jerk with a mask, skin-tight red clothing and a disgusting mustache whose powers seem to include punching people and outrunning motorcycles. The fact that it's nothing like Spider-Man at all only adds to its seeming authenticity.

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