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Paul Reubens' Revolting Superhero Role You Likely Forgot

While the late Paul Reubens will forever be known for portraying the effervescent, kid-friendly goofball Pee-wee Herman, an often-overlooked 1999 superhero movie saw the actor playing decidedly against type. "Mystery Men," loosely based on characters from "Flaming Carrot Comics," features Reubens as The Spleen, a stomach-churning hero covered in zits and wielding the dubious "power" of weaponized flatulence. While other heroes rely on batarangs and repulsor blasts to save the day, all Spleen needs is a well-aimed fart to take out his enemies.

The role is a pretty stark departure from the one that made Reubens a household name, and the film's grimy, Gotham-esque setting is a far cry from the vivid, whimsical world of "Pee-wee's Playhouse." Regardless, Reubens thrives as the character, providing the sort of absurdist, disgusting humor you would expect from a fart-powered hero named after a bodily organ. But he's meant to be off-putting — to the point where even his team members find him gross — and Reubens plays the part perfectly. It's a testament to the actor's comedic range, proving he was just as adept at playing repulsive as he was rambunctious.

Unfortunately, that would be the only time we'd see Reubens take on the pungent character.

Why was there never a Mystery Men 2?

Though the movie has developed somewhat of a cult following over the years, "Mystery Men" garnered a middling reception upon its release from critics and audiences alike. In his 1999 review, Roger Ebert recognized the movie's potential, but said that, ultimately, "'Mystery Men' has moments of brilliance waving their arms to attract attention in a sea of dreck." Similarly, fans weren't flocking to theaters for the movie.

Despite a star-studded cast – which also included Ben Stiller, William H. Macy, Janeane Garofalo, Hank Azaria, Greg Kinnear, Kel Mitchell, and Geoffrey Rush — the movie ended up flopping. With a budget of $68 million, "Mystery Men" only recouped about $33.5 million. "Mystery Men" would eventually find more of an audience decades later via home releases and streaming services, but that renewed interest was too little, too late. Speaking to ComicBook.com earlier this year, Azaria, who played The Blue Raja, said, "We already tried that, we failed rather miserably, really. We have a cult following ... but the box office at the time didn't agree, so usually Hollywood doesn't [give you] a second bite at that apple, do they?"

While we may never get a "Mystery Men" sequel thanks to the original's underwhelming response, The Spleen will always serve as a reminder that Paul Reubens' comedic chops stretched well beyond Pee-wee Herman.