Even though it seems like the comic book movie is a newer thing, it’s been around for decades: let’s not forget the first set of Superman movies starring Christopher Reeves (1978-87). But even before those, there were movie serials. The Adventures of Captain Marvel came out in 1941. Both Batman and the Phantom came out in 1943. And Superman made his first big screen appearance in 1948.
As you can see, the superhero genre has been around for quite some time. And just like with modern comic book movies, not everything released was good. Especially most of the movies in the late 80s and 90s (Tim Burton’s Batman excluded).
Then, what I consider modern comic book movies, started in the early 2000s with franchises like X-Men and Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man. This is when things began to get pretty interesting.
Technology was finally at a place where it was able to make the comic book movies more realistic looking. It wasn’t quite there yet, (just look up Ang Lee’s Hulk) but without a doubt those movies set in motion the course of what was to come.
Then in 2008, Iron Man came out and changed the game for comic book movies forever. What really makes it remarkable was how successful they were using a less recognizable character (Blade and the Crow did okay, but nowhere near Iron Man levels of success).
Of course, Iron Man isn’t necessarily a less recognizable character. But his story isn’t widely known outside of comic book fans. Plus, the character didn’t have the movie baggage from previous incarnations like many of the more mainstream superheroes (namely, Batman and Superman). This allowed the studio to focus more on the heroes’ origin and multi-movie character arc, which would end up being the Marvel method for making movies.
Let’s just take a moment and think about the butterfly effect the 2008 Iron Man movie had on the comic book movie landscape. Without the success of Iron Man, I highly doubt that Marvel would have even considered making a connected universe throughout their movies. Think about it. No other superhero franchise before that went beyond a standalone universe.
Without Iron Man paving the way for a comic book cinematic universe, DC probably wouldn’t have gotten their things in order (and now are bringing us a Justice League film). And the effects go beyond just the superhero genre; it has changed the way we tell all Sci-Fi and Action films. Hell, everyone is creating a cinematic universe these days: a 90s hip-hop universe starting with Straight Outta Compton, a M. Night Shyamalan universe with Unbreakable and Split, and even a Universal Studios Dark Universe with the newest Mummy movie.
We even have the Arrowverse on TV and many other comic book shows. And this doesn’t even include all of the animated movies out which stick pretty close to the comics themselves. There’s so much going on that it’s hard to keep up with it all. I might even, dare I say, think the market is now over saturated.
My only hope is that we are not approaching a bubble that will soon pop. Much like what happened to the comic book industry in the 90s. With every new movie and TV show coming out each year, we inch ever closer to the point where it all becomes stale and no longer entertaining. And then the next thing you know, we have the next Batman Forever on our hands. But I guess, why dwell on that while we have such high quality work coming out? And if it does all come to a fiery end, it ends. Then we’ll just have to find something else to enjoy. Hey, I know. We could all read comics again!
To find out more on comic book movie history, check out this quick rundown on comic book movies by Movieclips Action.
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