There’s a new “Thor” and a new “Captain America.” Not to mention “Spider-Man,” “X-Men,” a reboot of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise, and a new Marvel movie called “Guardians of the Galaxy.” With five superhero movies all scheduled to come out in 2014 – along with television shows like “Arrow,” “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” “Young Justice” and the newly-announced series about Batman’s ally, Commissioner Jim Gordon, on its way – it can be safely said that America is well into a superhero craze.
It is not just our entertainment world that is flooded with superheroes. Clothing retailers like Hot Topic are raking in money due to mass sales of superhero merchandise, like collectable Kryptonian skulls and Batman money clips. Even the food industry has a foothold in the superhero market with products like themed fruit snacks and cookies.
Superheros have long had a presence in our written history. Whether it is the mighty Hercules, the fallen Achilles or the worn Odysseus, there are many “superheroes” in Greek myths. Heroes are also found in the lore of Egyptian, Norse, and countless other civilizations.
Modern-day comic book superheroes took flight in a time of increased suffering. Superman, first released during the Great Depression, was the first comic book superhero of his kind. Batman was close behind him, introduced in 1939 and then given his own comic in 1940. Since 1951, millions of comic books, thousands of TV episodes, and 122 live action superhero movies have chronicled the lives of masked crusaders. That’s not even counting the animated movies.
Sixty-two superhero movies have been released since 2003, which means over half of the 122 total superhero movies have been made in the last 10 years. This year, an additional nine live-action movies have already been confirmed for released in 2013 to 2015. “The Amazing Spider-Man 3” and “4” have been confirmed for 2016 and 2018.
There have been many protests against this superhero fascination. Child physiatrists complain that superheroes give a limited view of masculinity, and there have been outbursts against new gay and Muslim characters.
There is a minority that believes superheroes as a whole are a bad influence. Iron Man’s womanizing came under some fire before he and his secretary, Penny, started a committed relationship.
The death of Zod at the hands of Superman in the most recent film also took some heat, as Superman has had a rule about not killing in previous films.
Superhero movies have been very profitable in recent years. “The Avengers” pulled in over $1 billion internationally, with superstars like Robert Downey Jr. (Tony Stark/Iron Man) earning $50 million in salary.
The copious amount of money has started something resembling a superhero war with comic book superhero powerhouses DC Comics and Marvel Comics trying to one up each other on almost every front.
Video games, clothing, movies, TV shows, board games, collectables, and just about anything else you can imagine, are being mass produced both by DC and Marvel. The superhero war is no surprise, especially when the two comic businesses are owned by the two most powerful companies in the entertainment industry: Disney and Time Warner (formerly Warner Bros.). Disney owns Marvel, and Time Warner owns DC Comics. It seems as if we are prepared for a well-funded battle on the entertainment front.
There are complications to having a successful superhero franchise. Sophomore George Napper said, “It’s difficult for each director and writer working on each separate film to keep continuity with the other films in any given franchise, such as ‘The Avengers’ universe or the ‘X-Men’ films,” which take place in the same world. “Each event,” Napper continued, “in each film has the potential to affect change in any of the others connected to it, making the conception phase for each of these films more and more difficult.”
This difficulty though, does not seem to hamper Disney or Time Warner from perpetually trying to create successful franchises. As Napper pointed out, “Superhero films are good for the industry in that they obviously make tons of cash.”
Napper also believes that currently the superhero films are moving in the right direction.
“In terms of quality, they’ve gotten better on the whole. We’re not seeing total abominations like Superman III [from the 1980s], Daredevil [a Ben Affleck film in the early 2000s] or Catwoman anymore [an unpopular film starring Halle Berry, also in the early 2000s].” Though Napper believes films like “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” and both “Iron Man 2” and “3” could have been better – he still believes the improvements outweigh the setbacks.
In addition to both improvements in quality and tone, Napper believes there is another key feature to the improvement and success of these superhero films. “There’s been a move away from the campy to the more human side of these characters,” he said. “I think that movement can be traced back to Sam Raimi’s ‘Spider-Man’ trilogy, which thankfully focused more on Peter Parker than on Spidey and sparked the superhero movie rebirth in many ways.”
Though this superhero craze is in full swing there are still some things both Disney and Time Warner are getting wrong.
Senior Cooper Stock, a superhero fanatic, is not a big fan of Marvel’s new “S.H.I.E.L.D.” show. “That the characters are not given enough of a backstory for me to feel attached to them. I have found myself consistently bored,” he said.
He continued, “My biggest problem with this craze is the beating the Marvel is giving to DC. This new Batman-Superman movie that is coming out discourages me. I want a Justice League movie, and having a retired, old Batman feels like the wrong direction to be going in to accomplish that. DC is not listening to what the fans want movie-wise.”
Yet Stock is still impressed with all the superhero shenanigans. He is thrilled with new DC show “Arrow,” which is about the estranged green archer Oliver Queen who moonlights as Green Arrow.
“Before the craze, our entertainment was taking a dark turn for the immoral and ridiculous. The most popular shows before the super craze had no character that kids could look up to. No characters that were purely good and moral people. Having super heroes in our daily lives makes our youth focused on being good instead of being cool,” he said.
Stock brought up a point what most people crave from superheroes: good role models.
“I am under the impression that our society is full of people who do not understand character and what it means to have good character. Superheroes become role models for everyone in purely good and positive situations. I think our communities and societies will see a positive turn as the superhero movies continue to make money,” he said.