Going nuclear

"Superman IV" may be the worst super-hero movie of all time, next to "Superman III". And "Catwoman". Also, "Daredevil" ...

OK, look, "Superman IV" is a bad movie, so quit messing with my brain, Anonymous Internet Ranking Argument Person Who Only Lives In My Head! Part of the blame for that epic fail has to rest with the villain "Nuclear Man" and his wretched costume:

I have to -- reluctantly -- give him a pass for the hair, because it was 1987 and frankly the entire follicle world was pretty messed up. I mean, mullets were on the horizon, you know? It wasn't a pretty time. So I can forgive him for looking like Mrs. Brady after a bad day at the salon. But it doesn't help.

Not that anything could help this outfit all that much. I can't decide if my favorite bit is the crotch-enhancing gold area, surrounded by black so it really pops, or the sloppy starburst and puffy "N" on his chest. Seriously, it looks like a sixth-grade tweener spray-painted this onto her favorite stretchy top after an all-nighter of binging on "Twilight" and Twinkies. The rays aren't even, the whole thing says "puffy" instead of "radiation", and you can't even tell for sure if it's supposed to be an "N" or a lazy "Z".

However, I think the winning element in this pre-Apocalyptic disaster has to be the fingernails. I grant you, fingernails aren't generally considered to be part of the costume per se, but then again you don't see a lot of male super-villains with four-inch metallic-silver jobbies either. I believe later we discover that Lex Luthor funded the creation of his Superman-beating villain through his line of Korean nail salons.

I'm also always interested in how belts are used in these costumes. I mean, in the original Superman design, they were there to hold up his big ol' circus shorts, and you could see the loops that the belt went through in order to provide the support. But here, you've clearly got a one-piece leotard (sparkly, no less!), which doesn't need a belt, because there's no separate pants element to hold up. So why is it there? Because, that's why, and don't question your mullet-headed, puffy-lettered betters, punk!

45 Responses to Going nuclear

  1. John says:

    Oh, man – the war in my brain for “All Time Worst” is between this and Catwoman. Oof – I gotta sit down.

  2. Dan says:

    I remember one summer when the USA network showed Superman IV and Supergirl back to back. I’m pretty sure sitting through that could be the cause of my bitterness.

  3. Gene says:

    I haven’t seen either all the way through, but I’d have to say at least Catwoman had Halle Berry in it. Not her best role ever, but at least she’s easy on the eyes. Superman 4 had no redeeming value that I remember of…..

  4. Frevoli says:

    Nuclear Man was meant to be an evil superman clone… why didn’t they just use Bizarro?

  5. Frevoli says:

    talking about bad superhero filmns… I think we’ve forgottten Steel

  6. JWMan says:

    Didn’t shadows and darkness render him useless? How’s that for a super-villain flaw?! The one common element associated with most bad guys (darkness, shadows, caves, etc.) and it happens to be this guy’s kryptonite (pun intended). What happens on a cloudy day? He can hop, float, outrun a segway, and knock over a cubicle wall.

    I see him with orphan Annie, “The sun’ll come out tomorrow, bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow there’ll be sun!”


    In fact, this should probably be the theme song for all failed villains.

  7. McKnight57 says:

    Frevoli (5): Yes. yes we have forgotten Steel, but we did it on purpose. No movie involving a 7-foot-tall cross-eyed over-hyped basketball player has ever been good. Case in point: Kazzam! Honestly, I don’t know how you spell it, I just want it gone from my brain.

  8. Nick Hentschel says:

    In keeping with Jeff’s principle that “any character has a defender somewhere,” I’m going to say that NM was the only thing, as a kid, that I *liked* about this movie! (Apart from Mariel Hemingway slinking around, of course.;-) )

    I actually quite liked the “nuclear” theme for his powers, the black-and-gold color scheme, and the fiery special effects that they used. It simply could have been ore tasteful: say, Luthor’s bald head, instead of the mullet? A greater proportion of black to gold? The execution may be faulty, but this COULD work….

  9. Myro says:

    For shame. Elektra was about 10 times worse than Daredevil (still can’t touch the monstrosity that was Superman IV), but no mention?

    Catwoman and Superman IV are the only superhero movies bad enough that I stopped watching them in the middle. I mean, the stupid was hurting my head.

    Jeff, I know it’s a small point, compared to all the other bad in the costume, but you missed the shiny metallic loops around the armlets with no gloves. Sometimes its the small details that round out the overall design.

  10. Nick Hentschel says:

    OO!! OOO!!! I jsut got an idea for how to save this: let’s put MARIEL HEMINGWAY in that costume, instead of Mark Pillow. While it may not be that masculine (esp. the fingernails), SHE could certainly have rocked it back then! After all, she didn’t really have much else to do in the movie……

  11. maniacmick says:

    I actually like the DareDevil movie, it wasn’t Spiderman but it wasn’t awful

  12. Hyperanthropos says:

    You’re gonna crucifey me for writing this, but from the many, many things that were bad from “Superman IV”, I personally think that Nuclearman was the least worst aspect. Yes, you can complain about the costume, but remember this was 1987, Superhero-Movies didn’t go for the more “realistic” look yet, but were more true to the source material. In real, Nuclear Man’s costume may look campy, but it would look cool in a comic book. His hair isn’t so bad either. I think, the lion’s mane lets him look kinda badass.
    Yes, I know, if they had wanted a clone of Superman, they could have used Bizzaro. And I agree, Mark Pillow’s didn’t give his role “Nuclear Man” as much personality and charsima, as Terence Stamp gave “General Zod.”
    But look at all the stunts of power Nuclear Man pulls off. He fights with Superman around the entire globe, creates a tornado, blasts the Great Wall of China apart, encases Superman in a block of solid ice, causes a volcanic eruption, almost launches a nuclear missile and nearly destroys the statute of Liberty! (Yes, the whole fight scene was completely ridiculous.) Nuclear Man may have had the personality of a brick, but what he lacked in eloquent speech, he made up with sheer brute force.
    “Superman IV: The Quest for Peace” was a poor movie, not doubt about that. The plot made no sense, the dialoque was bad, the acting weak and the effects were lame. However, I personally wouldn’t mind seeing Nuclear Man getting introduced into the DC Universe one day – perhaps with a better origin story (and better character development).

    Okay. I admit, the long fingernails were silly.

  13. Debochira says:

    As a kid, it never occurred to me that the gold sides were actually gold. They didn’t stand out at all so I thought they were not spandex but actually skin. Definitely a design flaw if it’s hard to tell between flesh and fabric.

    Superman’s outfit wasn’t much better. It didn’t seem like it was the same material as the first three films. It seemed like a onesy for a grown-man, as opposed to the spandex of the original. Plus, the blue was far too light and made it seem like a 1940s cartoon that was out of print.

  14. TOOL says:

    You know as a little kid I think this was my favorite one and looking back on it now it looks so bad LOL. I don’t think that there has ever really been a movie or series that has made a good Superman movie like the old ones though.

  15. Ritoru Bushi says:

    The only real beef I had with this movie was that it was soooo difficult to accept a pretty-boy in the 70’s-styled type of spandex you’d see in a porno tryiong to not only act tough, but mean and angry at the same time.

    According to IMDB, Mark Pillow (yes, that’s his real name), A.K.A. Nuclear Man, “Was a Chippendale’s Dancer in Los Angeles.” He only did three movies, Superman IV: The Quest for Peace being his first. You can’t go too hard on a dancer who tried to be what he thought would look like a super villain.

    But yeah, his costume was awful! What the hell was that, sequined spandex?

  16. Worf says:

    @Ritoru Bushi: With that Chippendale information, I’d think he helped design the costume. That would explain at least some of the suckiness.

  17. Watson Bradshaw says:

    Nuclear Man: Where is the woman?
    Superman: Give it up, you’ll never find her.
    Nuclear Man: If you will not tell me, I will hurt people!
    [Nuclear Man begins to cause mass destruction]
    Superman: Stop! Don’t do it, the people!

    with writing like this what did you expect from the suit?
    I love that the suit was supposed to be tiny pieces of fabric Lex cut up and put into the missile that miraculously formed a full costume around a grown man! I remember having the comic adaptation of the film years ago and Sup’s fought another flawed clone before Nuclear Man enters the picture The first Nuclear Man was somewhat more inhuman-looking than his successor, and resembled vaguely in looks, and significantly in personality, the comic book character Bizarro. Luthor postulates that this Nuclear Man was not strong enough, and hatches the plan to create the second Nuclear Man inside the sun as a result.

  18. Worf says:

    @Nick Hentschel(10): You mean kinda like this?

    Nuclear Woman


  19. Sarah Douglas… nothing else about the Superman universe matters. Though Antje Traue is a close second.

  20. @Worf(18): Something about Nuclear Woman says “Don’t go there.” ;>

  21. X-stacy says:

    You can’t entirely blame Pillow for the terrible acting. I mean, half of proper acting is in the vocal delivery, and the voice was Hackman’s, with a pretty good mouthful of scenery. Plus, you know, maybe both of them could have done something a bit better with a different script.

    (It says something that I can defend the “acting” but can’t defend the outfit, doesn’t it?)

  22. Nick Hentschel says:

    @ Worf: It’s a start… and it DOES look better, doesn’t it? Thanks.

    I should make this a project of my own, making her look more like Mariel. (She’s a bit lankier, for one thing…..)

  23. Worf says:

    @The Atomic Punk(20): I can just see the Atomic Woman doing a hip-thrust to shoot those energy beams can’t you? 😀 😉

    @Nick Hentschel(22): You’re welcome to try. I sure enjoy attempting these redesigns whenever we get into these discussions. (though not really a redesign this time, but….)

  24. hyperanthropos says:

    @Worf: Seen your “Nuclear Woman” desing. Looks pretty good.

  25. spidercow2010 says:

    Is this the first instance of–what would you call it?–the sort of textured fabric Spider-Man wore and Henry Cavill’s Superman will be wearing in their movies? You know, little hexagons? is this the source of that now-bankrupt recurrence?

  26. Rendu says:

    Historical note: “Bizarro = botched Superman clone” is a post-Crisis re-boot, so wouldn’t have been canon when “Nuclear Man” was conceived, although it might have been published by the time the movie came out.

  27. Dan says:

    @maniacmick I’m a Daredevil defender too. There are a few of us around. : )
    And Myro is totally right about Elektra. Let’s face it, once you get past Jenny Garner’s hotness, the movie is unwatchable. If I made a top 10 worst Marvel Movie list, Daredevil wouldn’t be on it.

  28. dblade says:

    @maniacmick and Dan: I will admit to not minding Daredevil, although the Elektra/Matt Murdock park exchange nearly had me gagging. I wasn’t sold on the choice of Kingpin either.

    So flawed but watchable.

  29. Jeff Hebert says:

    I should say that I only saw the “Daredevil” movie on TV, so it was pretty easy to turn the channel. The only super-hero movie I actually walked out of a theater on was “Superman III”. That thing was an insult to comic book fans everywhere and I couldn’t bear to sit there watching the Superman ideal get spat upon (metaphorically speaking). “Superman IV” was bad, but at least it was an actual Superman movie, not the unholy abortion that was SIII.

    “Daredevil”, from what I saw, was not that kind of epically awful. It just wasn’t very good and I didn’t want to invest any more time in it, so I didn’t.

  30. Dan says:

    @Jeff, it’s definitely flawed, but not nearly as much as Elektra, Ghost Rider, or Punisher War Zone. Or the onslaught of terrible DC movies that have been made. If you ever choose to give it a second chance, try the directers cut. It’s slightly better, with more inclusion of Matt actually acting like he has a day job.
    @dblade, yeah the playground scene is rough. I’m not a hugh fan of the Bullseye fight in the end either, but I really liked how they did the Kingpin fight. I think with some better editing, it could have been a really awesome movie, instead of just ok.

  31. Michael says:

    This is far from the worst Superhero movie ever made. I agree with Dan except for the Punisher thing. I liked that one.

  32. Ritoru Bushi says:

    Does anyone remember the old episode of Married with Children (Season 10, Episode 25: Kiss of the Coffee Woman) where their first choice for Lance on the commercial was some handsome looking fellow, yet when he spoke his first line his voice sounded like someone has his male bag in a vice grip??

    Something tells me that might have been why they dubbed Hackman’s voice over Pillow’s acting. Maybe they couldn’t let him actually speak because his voice was high enough to shatter the glass from the 1 gallon beer stein the audience had to drink from to tolerate the abomination that was Nuclear Man’s outfit.

    Just a thought.

  33. Nick Hentschel says:

    @ Ritoru: It wouldn’t be the first time, esp. not in the 80’s! Klinton Spilsbury, the lead actor in the equally unpoular “Legend of the Lone Ranger,” also had his voice dubbed.

    Meanwhile, here’s *my* take on “Nuclear Woman.” I couldn’t help but make few tweaks along the way.
    Regrettably, I didn’t get the resemblance as close as I’d like: lovely though she is, ol’ Mariel’s features run a bit on the distinctive side. If anything, she came out a tiny bit like Jennifer Connelly! But that ain’t half bad, so here we go!


    Girl need to get her nails done…. 😉

  34. Worf says:

    Hmmm.. Worse Superhero movie? I think it might be a tie between the original Fantastic Four Movie (1994) and the Justice League Movie (1997). I wasn’t a big fan of the Daredevil Movie, but it is great in comparison with either of these two. Now Electra was just a hair above the two contenders here, and I know I’m inviting angry comments but I don’t think Jenifer Garner is hot. AT ALL. She THINKS she’s hot but she ain’t.

  35. Nick Hentschel says:

    Aw, c’mon, doesn’t anyone care about my picture? I even posted it to the FB page!

  36. Myro says:

    Nick (35): Actually, that’s not bad. She looks normal by comparison. I mean superhero-normal.

  37. Nick Hentschel says:

    “Superhero-normal” is the only “normal” that I care to be. Thanks.

  38. Worf says:

    @Nick: Cool picture. I see you didn’t copy the nether-region highlight feature of the original costume…. 😉 And I’m really starting to agree with you. It’s a design that’s better suited to the female form. Like the Wonder Woman costume. Could you imagine trying to dress a man in that?

  39. punkjay says:

    He looks a lot like the douch bag from the TV show Greatest American Hero!

  40. Nick Hentschel says:

    @ Worf – They *did* try that, after a fashion: in the old days, they established that Steve Trevor, Wonder Woman’s love interest, had a fantasy image of himself called, “Captain Wonder,” who was sort of a bigger, badder, MALE counterpart to Wonder Woman. I don’t think they used it for very long, though.

    Glad you like the costume, but I do have to ask for some help on a coule of points that YOU got right. First off, I couldn’t figure out how to put the “rings” on the gloves/boots (or do you like them better without?), and I wasn’t able to give her top the black, middle section without some black “shoulders” that I had to cover up with the cape. Any ideas?

  41. Worf says:

    @Nick Hentchel: The top involves a bit of clever masking and the rings on the gloves are crescent insignias that I sized really small. Here’s a little “show-n-tell” for you:


    Hope you enjoy 😉

  42. Nick Hentschel says:

    I think that I can work with that, and the idea for masking the insignia is a good one! Thanks!
    I used the same T-shaped, “Top-Spandex” shape, but only one, and I masked it differently. I think I can fix this now…..

  43. Worf says:

    Np. Always happy to help. And I tried that same solution first, but didn’t like that “shoulder bleed” so I went for the more complex one.

  44. Nick Hentschel says:

    And her we go! I added your improvements, adjust the cape to fit, and changed her eyes (now RED!!!), brows, and hair a little.



    I can hear the intro: “Strange visitor from another REALITY, endowed with frightening powers beyond imagination, socialite Lacey Warfield was transformed into the unwitting pawn of a villain’s sinister plot: NUCLEAR WOMAN!!! But, rebelling against her master’s control, ands eemingly sacrificing her life to save humanity and atone for her unwitting crimes, Lacey was transported by mysterious forces into another world, a world that never knew Superman, where the evil Lex Luthor sailed to new heights of power without opposition!”
    “Swearing vengeance against the man who destroyed her life and countless others, Lacey Warfield hides by day as the wealthy owner of the Daily Planet, the last bulwark against Luthor’s growing power. Working alongside her friends Lois Lane and Perry White, the only ones who know her secret, she struggles to live up to the example of the man she loved, the man whose secret she now understands. But when Luthor and his fellow villains strike, Lacey explodes into action with the force of the atom itself, fighting back with a weapon of Luthor’s own making, the power of THE NUCLEAR WOMAN!!!”

    …Or something like that. I just couldn’t help but roll with it, once I got this idea!

  45. Blue Blazer says:

    I like the ‘roid rage look on his face.