Superheroes have made their way further into the spotlight of pop culture, becoming more mainstream than ever before. The current trend in superheroes and comic book movies has entered a new age, with more movies a year than ever before. More recently, a new, higher standard in the quality of superhero films has taken effect. Similar to the Golden Age of Comic Books, this modern age of comic book based movies and superhero movies has brought these character archetypes, stories and ideas to a wider audience than ever before, and paves the way for future movies and trends with the success of each film.
Comic book characters have been in blockbuster movies before, but there’s something special about the more recent changes, a new standard that new comic book movies are judged by. A more recent trend in comic book movies is the desire for accuracy or homage to the original comics. Tim Burton’s Batman, for example, was a widely successful film starring Batman and the Joker, and revealed that the Joker of this version of Gotham was the killer of Bruce Wayne’s parents. This creative decision was to make the story more connected, to add a little poetry. I have nothing against the idea, in its own little universe, but I believe that that kind of change to a character and a character’s history would be less accepted by the standard we live in now.
Of course, Tim Burton’s Batman is far from the current age of comics or movies, and even though the release of any superhero material makes the idea of a new superhero movie more realistic, it is very detached to the current age.
I believe we’re in a new age of comic book movies. A vastly different age than anything in the history of comic book movies, with new trends and standards. This is the Golden Age of Comic Book Movies.
A major influence on the reception of every superhero movie or comic book movie today is based on numerous successes (and failures) of superhero and comic movies before them. So what makes this the Golden age, and not the early 2000s, with the release of movies like X-Men, Spider-Man, and (the non-incredible)Hulk?
Even though each of those movies added to the growing trend in popular culture, and made more superheroes and villains widely known, they fall short to the quality of superhero movies today. The standard is much higher now, shown by the fact that all three of those franchises/movies have been re-cast, reboot or retconned. In the X-Men: Days of Future Past movie, the results of time travel literally undid/changed the events of 4 of the past movies in that universe. The Spider-Man franchise was replaced with the Amazing Spider-Man, providing a new take on the character and even his powers, to be more accurate to the comics.
Also never seen before is the massive cinematic universe Marvel Studios has created in their Avengers movie series. The beginning of this project in Iron Man (2008) is a viable option for the beginning of the Golden Age of Superhero Movies. Another noteworthy franchise being Nolan’s the Dark Knight trilogy starting in 2005 with Batman Begins, raising the bar for other movies and setting a darker tone for superheroes in movies that some say was carried over into Man of Steel. Each successful comic book movie gives producers and writers more confidence for new projects involving superheroes and comic book characters, or introducing more obscure characters into mainstream cinema.
Retcons and reboots are no new occurrence to the average comic reader. It’s necessary for a series or character to continue to compete in a challenging market, I see it as another sign of the progression superhero movies. Movie franchises are always competing with each other, notably similar to how comic book companies and series compete with each other. The competitive market drives producers and artists to create higher quality media more often.
The cinematic universes created by Marvel Studies and DC Entertainment will be competing over the next few years at least, with the Avengers movies and DC’s Justice League movie. This, in a way, brings the DC and Marvel battle that’s existed in the comic book market for decades to a new level, or at least brings the competition to a new outlet. These movies will be watched by a much larger audience than the readers of the comics.
The increased popularity of comic books in mainstream pop culture was clear in the early 2000’s, with the beginning of long-running and successful franchises like Spider-Man and X-Men, making way for bolder attempts of comic book-inspired movies like Constantine in 2005 or Ghost Rider in 2007. There have been about 2-3 superhero movies a year involving DC and Marvel characters between 2000 and 2010, with 6 in 2005 alone, 29 total. Between 2011 and 2018, there have been/will be about 3-4 a year, with 28 total, including plans for sequels and reboots as far ahead as the Amazing Spider-Man 4 in 2018.
The rivalry between DC and Marvel has spread into the movie industry, making superheroes more widely known in popular culture, now more than ever. Because of this and other trends, I think of this as the Golden Age of Superhero Movies, starting mid-to-late 2000’s, up until either the Marvel Cinematic universe comes to a close or the Justice League series ends. Until then, we can probably expect a competitive rivalry shooting out handfuls of movies a year.
If that seems like a lot of superheroes on screen, take a look at some of the upcoming superhero/comic book-inspired television shows set to come out in the within the next few years, like Constantine, The Flash, Daredevil, Hourman, iZombie, and more. Ten confirmed so far, excluding already-airing shows Arrow and Marvel’s Agents of Shield. Superheroes and comic books inspired fiction has never been so widely liked and accepted, I would love to see this age continue and expand, and luckily it isn’t showing any signs of slowing down.