Will Cinema Always Be So Marvel-lously Popular?
August 8, 2012
By: Rhianna Campbell
Christian Bale and Tom Hardy as Batman and Bane
With the likes of the Dark Knight Rises and the Amazing Spider-Man attracting the masses recently, it makes a person think: will comic book movies always be so popular?
Comic book films quite often sell out in a single weekend, and inspire toys, clothing and everything else you could possibly imagine with a superhero’s face on it. (Seriously, I once found a Superman toilet roll holder. And as if that isn’t odd enough, it wasn’t the Superman logo or something like that; it was literally Superman, bursting through the wall, with an arm extended conveniently so you can hang your loo roll at ease.)
Whilst I’m a self-confessed comic book lover, it has to be said that the classic heroes are quite often given a makeover and blasted back onto the big screen with a slightly different outfit or a new super villain. Superman, for example, is currently being remade for the 12th time in movie form, has been adventuring through the comic book landscape since 1938, and has even been made into a soap opera style show- Smallville. Yet despite the obvious happy ending, we all flock to the cinema to see the inhabitants of the Marvel and DC Universes battle it out with their nemesis time after time.
So why do comic book movies retain their popularity so well?
Amanda Berry is an assistant professor of literature at American University whose research includes comic books and graphic novels.
“During the last 5 years, Hollywood studios have released 21 films adapted from comic books,” she said. “While all but four of the 21 films generated a profit, the amount of money made by extremely successful comic book movies vastly outweighs the small losses by a margin of 8:1.”
Berry also reckons that the comic book fan community boasts a superpower of its own: superloyalty! (insert appropriate jingle here). This ‘superpower’ helps drive the popularity of comic books and therefore, the popularity that surrounds every comic book escapade on the silver screen.
Comic books, somewhat like your average soap opera, are serial adventures that require a diligent attention to detail to an ever-growing archive.
“Comic books can be read as single issues of course, but the serious fan understands that each single issue also relies on years and years of accumulated textual history,” Berry said.
One of the theories is that the serious comic book reader revels in the idea of absorbing the enormous project of reading and thinking about a huge, and still expanding, archive of material.
This intense devotion to the world of comics means that the fans inspire interest and anticipation for the films in other audiences, due to their sheer enthusiasm.
“What may seem like escapism to an outsider is a deeply pleasurable opportunity for endless learning and study for the ‘fanboy.’” reckons Berry.
For less comic book oriented fans, theories suggest that filmgoers seek escape from real life hardships, but this theory hardly correlates with the movies, which feature relevant issues including drug abuse, death, poverty and crime and violence.
A more plausible explanation could simply be the basic appeal and comfort of good emerging victorious over evil, or the way the audience identifies with the protagonist; an average Joe with a tremendous secret identity as an unfalteringly brave, popular saviour. Or, if you’re anything like me, you watch the movie and wish you, too, could possess some kind of superhuman power.
Even more simply, audiences just watch the film for the dazzling special effects.
Well, regardless of any of these theories, comic books and the adapted movies don’t seem to be leaving us anytime soon. They allow people to relive their childhood, belong to a family of likeminded people and have that ever-existing anticipation for the latest comic book or its on screen counterpart.
I don’t know what any of you guys think, but the comic book universe is welcome to stay in my opinion.
Who’s your favourite comic book hero? Leave a comment!