Remember that story we told you about Joel Schumacher killing the comic book movie with Batman & Robin? Yeah, well the moratorium lasted just a few years—exactly enough time for studio execs and their hired helmers to figure out what went wrong with comic book adaptations. The answer? They went too silly. Enter: Bryan Singer, Guillermo del Toro, Sam Raimi, Ang Lee, David Goyer and, of course Christopher Nolan. A half-dozen of Hollywood’s most seriously creative directors who—one by one—redefined what it meant to adapt a graphic novel.

The new and improved wave of superhero movies came with the new millennium, with the X-Men, Spider-Man, Blade, Hulk and Hellboy all getting decidedly darker makeovers. (OK, so Spider-Man was still campy, but only in that Evil Dead sort of way that made Raimi a name director in the first place.) The most striking example of the new direction comic books were taking on the big screen came in 2005 with Batman Begins, directed by Nolan and co-written with Goyer. The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises followed, each to amazing financial and critical success (the latter being unusual for a comic book movie).

Like any successful idea, there have already been multiple attempts to replicate the exploration of the dichotomy of man versus superhero, first with Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man and this summer with Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel. Unfortunately, neither film has come close to touching the originality of what Nolan and Goyer created.