Onscreen Superheroes: Will they Live or Die?

“You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”  -Harvey Dent.

This very quote can be applied to the superhero screen genre, from Marvel and DC comics especially. When the first superhero films and TV shows came out, fans couldn’t get enough and were clamoring for more. Now after the superhero genre has dominated the box office the last few years, and even started to take over certain networks on TV, there are those who believe it has become overplayed and are predicting its demise.

Since the year 2000, Marvel and DC have produced a combined total of 54 movies, which comes to about four movies per year. While this number doesn’t seem that large, the average rises significantly when you take a look at just the past five years, with an average of more than five movies per year. Next year alone there are seven superhero flicks scheduled for release from the two powerhouse comic franchises.

Superhero movie release

You may assume that I am part of the group that believes that the market for superheroes is oversaturated and needs to slow down for fear of falling apart. On the contrary, I love how the superhero genre is flourishing right now and it is my belief that is will continue to do so. I hope the genre continues to find success and will be here for the long run.

Some have likened superhero films as today’s modern western. Some find that comparison a sign of good fortune and others a sign of doom. For example, Steven Spielberg stated, “We were around when the Western died, and there will be a time when the superhero move goes the way of the Western.”

On the opposite side, screenwriter Stephen McFeely one of the writers of Captain America Winter Soldier, believes that superhero movies are the new Western, but not based on their similarities in popularity, but grounded in the ideals they embody. Ideals about honor and looking out for the little guy.

In the wake of film box office success, superhero TV shows have become increasingly popular. With some networks, such as the CW, and streaming services, like Netflix, offering many new shows. The CW is even referred to as the DC Channel. With the addition of Supergirl to its lineup the network now has four shows DC comics properties.

Netflix has also made deals with Marvel, with three current Netflix/Marvel original series in its lineup, and with many more to follow. Are superhero television series dependent on the success of the movies, or will television shows continue to stand on their own?

You may wonder what will happen when they run out of superhero storylines to adapt. How will they continue to succeed? But don’t forget that superhero movies are not based on fact or history they are movies based on works of fiction and comics are always expanding and the storylines are ever changing.

Marvel Comics has recently introduced a number of new characters, and these characters have yet to be incorporated into films. There is the new Iron Man character, Riri Williams, and new Spiderman character, Miles Morales. These new characters will allow for additional movies.

Superhero Riri Williams   Superhero miles morales

Another factor that comics fans sometimes don’t take into account is the use of time travel, as used X-Men Days of Future Past. The use of time travel in a film or television series allows for the slate to wiped completely clean and start new. You can even using the same characters in different ways.

I truly believe that the superhero genre is here to stay and is not going anywhere anytime soon. In fact, with the introduction of new characters and storylines I think it is only going to increase in popularity for the years to come.

Colin Stroehle

3 thoughts on “Onscreen Superheroes: Will they Live or Die?

  1. Nothing is immune to market oversaturation…I someday soon we’ll see our movie industry get sick of comic book heroes and hopefully move on to the next big thing.

  2. Not even Superman is immune to the forces of over saturation. Someday soon these movies will be replaced by the next big thing. Hopefully it’s something a little less same and predictable.

  3. I’m pretty much with you on this one, Colin. While I *do* think that we’re reaching a time where Superhero films are going to have to start going through some changes to be relevant (it seems like they are starting to become progressively more ‘adult’, for instance), I don’t see the genre ‘dying’ anytime soon. While Sam raises a good point, ‘nothing is immune to market over saturation’, I would argue that Marvel has a certain kind of magic when it comes to changing itself to fit the times. They are going to learn, and learn fast, which movies people want to see, and which they don’t, and they will adjust accordingly. Or, perhaps, when the movies dry up, they’ll switch to video games instead (which evidence suggests is already happening), and they’ll just move their renaissance to a new platform. My point is that, while it’s obvious that superhero movies ARE starting to get a bit ‘drab’ in the eyes of the populace, i think it’s still a bit early to declare a Time of Death. After all, isn’t it when things seem most hopeless that superheroes often make their comebacks?

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