The Evolution of a Genre

Once a genre that would be laughed at and mocked. I will explore how the genre of the superhero/comicbook film has evolved into a respected genre in film.

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By Nick Salinski - 7/19/2014

The superhero films have been around for decades from Richard Donner's Superman: The Movie and Tim Burton's Batman to Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight trilogy and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. For years, the superhero genre would be mocked, laughed at and shrugged by the naysayers who believed it was a genre meant for little kids. Now, it's become a respected genre that has captivated audiences worldwide and has become a phenomenon. Ranking in billions of dollars at the box office. The evolution of this started years ago when it was a black and white serial and due to the popularity of the characters, they reached the big screen with Richard Donner's Superman. But, I'm getting ahead of myself. The genre was known for being campy thanks to the Adam West Batman. Even to this day despite it's campiness, I have seen episodes for myself and they're really good for the time. Times grew darker though and studios seen the popularity of the characters. Richard Donner made us believe a man could fly, Tim Burton brought us a dark cinematic Batman with Mr. Mom himself in the titular role.

They were fun flicks but never taken seriously, no thanks to films like Howard the Duck whose campiness and silliness went to the extreme. Then again folks, it was Howard the Duck of all characters that got an adaptation. Boy, that was a mistake! Thanks to the studios wanting to bring in more buck and be more kid friendly, they ran the Superman and Batman franchises into the dirt. Ruining the images of those characters for a long time. I would include Blade into this article but, the mass audience didn't know that he was a comic book character. Marvel tried taking a crack at their properties but with the never released Fantastic Four and the horrid Dolph Ludgren Punisher flick, the reputation for these kinds of films became even worse. That is though, until 20th Century Fox and the director of the utterly fantastic "The Usual Suspects" director, Bryan Singer took a crack at bringing Marvel's X-Men to life. Thus, the genre has been reborn. In what turned out to be a fantastic flick, audiences and critics still never took the genre too seriosuly but made everyone realize that these kinds of films can be great. Sam Raimi then brought us Marvel's flagship character, Spider-Man, to life in 2002 in what was sure a campy flick, turned out to be a fantastically entertaining film and showed that these kinds of films can bring in money.

This genre wasn't without it's failures though, even in a post Batman & Robin world. From DareDevil & Elektra to films like Catwoman and later on, Green Lantern and Jonah Hex which when you think about it, hinder the genre. Then you have what some might say the under appreciated in, Ang Lee's Hulk. Sequels to films like Blade, Spider-Man and X-Men came out and the genre grew and the masses loved it. Then along came an independent director by the name of, Christopher Nolan.

Christopher Nolan brought back DC's Dark Knight in a serious adaptaion that took the world by storm with, Batman Begins. A fantastic film that not only rebooted the franchise but showed that real, quality films can be made out of the genre. That he once again proved with its 2008 sequel, The Dark Knight. The genre has become something that critics and film makers took the genre seriously. But, just because something has become quite respected and evolved into a genre that if taken seriously can bring in a lot of attention and possible awards, doesn't mean it still can't be fun right? That's where the superhero genre evolved into cinematic universes.

Over the last few years, Marvel has become it's own film making studio now owned by Disney and made A list heroes and superhero films out of B list characters. They became box office hits and spawned a cinematic universe that would, like The Dark Knight, change the game of the genre. It would ultimately end it's first phase in the first superhero crossover film ever with, The Avengers. A box office monster that broke numerous records and became the most successful superhero film of all time. It's something that years ago, no one would ever dare to do as the same goes for people taking the genre seriously.

There's nothing quite like the superhero film. It's awesome spectacle, masses of fans from comic readers to casual movie goers and film makers, they've all come to love and respect a genre that quite frankly, would never thought to have been taken seriously. From the campiness of Donner, Burton and Raimi's films to now cinematic universe and reboots out the wazoo. This is an ever growing genre that while it may fade for a while like in the past, it'll never truly die. People go for the spectacle and awe of these films. The intensity, romance and acting that in some cases come unexpected awards and Oscar caliber performances. This is the genre that I love, our community loves and is what made this site into what it is.

This is a genre that nobody would want and now is the one that we don't deserve but, the one we and the studios need for now.

I appreciate those who took the time to read this, show your love and support for the genre and this site. Band together and be reminded that this is a genre that we have many studios and filmmakers to thank for. But most importantly, the creators in the comicbook business for without them, we wouldn't have such a fantastic genre that while it has it's ups and downs, is an ever evolving genre that will live on past our lifetimes.

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Maven - 7/19/2014, 3:30 AM
Well done

NerdyKevin15 - 7/19/2014, 3:42 AM

Nubase - 7/19/2014, 4:21 AM
very true write up!

Without starting to flame warm batman begins changed the game, l remember when that movie came out, l ignored it cos l was still scarred by the Schumacher movies and that CBM movies like ang lees hulk and Electra was poor but then l watched batman begins when it came out on dvd and l could not believe what l was watching, it was ground breaking, someone called Nolan took a cbm and made it into a convincing and respectable movie then dark knight came along and changed everything, even joss whedon said a few weeks ago that the dark knight is the `godfather` of comic book movies.

Now we have great movies coming from Fox, Marvel Studios, Sony and WB/DC who will now after such a long time will create their own DCCU, we should all be glad we are living in these times cos it could have been so different.
DrunkenNukem - 7/19/2014, 5:23 AM
I remember back when Spiderman 1 was out, my father was making fun of it before going into the theater...and then after watching the film he was more excited than i lol...he became fan of the superhero films after that.
AlexanderLykins - 7/19/2014, 8:43 AM
People have always been closet superhero fans. They just needed good movies to rally behind.
AlexanderLykins - 7/19/2014, 8:46 AM
I also think Ang Lee's Hulk was a fun movie. Sure, it pooped on the character and overall was a tough movie to watch, but the Hulk was [frick]ing awesome. I remember people thoroughly enjoyed the Hulk in Ang Lee's movie. Best display of his brute strength was in that movie in my opinion. That tank scene was crazy!
Jollem - 7/19/2014, 9:56 AM
nice article

being a comic book fan way before the movie explosion, i'm glad to see the medium enjoying the success it's had and will continue to have
tonytony - 7/19/2014, 10:03 AM
good article. its great to see you making an effort to hold in your Marvel(anti dc ) bias. one more thing. its worth noting the dark knight did way more for the genre than avengers. the oscars changed there their format because of the dark knight. It also picked up multiple wins(unheard of for a cbm) the goid work it did in making the genre respectable and credible is being eroded by marvels comedy approach. worth mentioning.
StaticShock86 - 7/19/2014, 11:35 AM
I completely agree, something we need to realize though is that even though comicbookmovies are on a roll its still a very young genre. We need to support every movie that comes out, no matter if your DC or Marvel. We need to at the very least go and show support for these characters, so that maybe the character you love can get their chance. Because we now have the chance to see almost every comicbook character in a movie or show. So I say go see a movie even if you might not think it's going to be good, to convince studios to make more comicbook movies. If we don't this genre will slowly die, then we will be complaining about why they don't make these kinds of movies no more.
dannramm113 - 7/19/2014, 11:37 AM
Didn't read...
AlexanderLykins - 7/19/2014, 11:43 AM
What's your point? We'll never get CBM's like the Dark Knight trilogy ever again. If Marvel Studios is destroying the genre, then Man of Steel is part of that too. It's looking like the DCCU will be similar to what Marvel Studios gives us too. I'll be curious to see what your argument is after that.
tonytony - 7/19/2014, 12:26 PM
Alexander if the dcu puts out action comedies on everything I will be the first one to criticise. In the meantime they arent if we get more like the dark knight and man of steel I will be very happy
McNyagano - 7/19/2014, 1:10 PM
"and credible is being eroded by marvels comedy approach."

What? How is Marvel destroying the genre when every other studio out there is trying to copy their formula? Wouldn't it make sense that studios avoid the MCU formula since it's eroding the genre? I'm sorry man but..

tonytony - 7/19/2014, 1:20 PM
im trevor slattery. I love action comedies of the mcu
tonytony - 7/19/2014, 1:23 PM
@mcnyango that gif wouldnt be out of place in a mcu film
DrKinsolving - 7/19/2014, 1:30 PM
Great Article, love the genre and the variety of movies we get....

The Dark Knight was great and I'm a fan but that movie and trilogy had it's day in my opinion, and Marvel is still moving forward with the MCU which will be evolving for a very long time.

If Marvel didn't make the Avengers and if the MCU didn't prove to be successful we might not be getting Batman v Superman. I can't wait to see where the DCCU takes it's universe, a universe where the stories from the comics can come to life, one of the benefits of leaving Nolan's Batman universe behind
tonytony - 7/19/2014, 1:49 PM
btw article gets a thumbs up
Titanace - 7/19/2014, 5:23 PM
A breath of fresh air article. So many People are hung up on the silliness of company or studio wars that they lose sight of how well this genre of movies is doing...
MightyZeus - 7/19/2014, 7:13 PM
Good article. As i've said before, i love variety with films. I also love variety with comic book films which is why i'm neutral when it comes comic book movies. I mean in my top comic book movie list i have both The Avengers and Man of Steel.

With out variety the comic book genre would just get stale.
sameoldthing - 7/19/2014, 7:19 PM
The Donner Superman films were huge hits at the time & were good for that time period.
So think what you want those first 2 movies were cool & Christopher Reeve was superb.

Tim Burton Batman movies are not to my general liking but the masses ate it up..the Schumacher disaster Bat-films are what really hurt the superhero film genre.

The Blade movies were great,3rd film was weaker but had it's good bits. Who gives a shit if the general audience knows if it is or isn't based on a comic property. That's an absurd notion. Good is good regardless.

case - 7/20/2014, 4:39 AM
I disagree whole heartedly. It's a genre that has been loved and held dear by many off a long long time. Just like all genres there is excellence and a sea if shit that comes with it.

It's definitely at an unprecedented high right now due to efforts by Marvel and DC, and quite a few solid other parties.

It just seems like you had what you thought was a nifty idea and wrote an article around it fitting facts to your needs/point.

Batman 89? Superman78? Not taken seriously?
AlphaAndDecima - 7/20/2014, 10:01 AM
Good article.

I think the genre has fluctuated over years from good to bad to horrendous to incredible….going from Superman: The Movie all the way to Captain America: The Winter Soldier/X-Men: Days of Future Past(didn't want to mention only one great CBM that was released this year). While there's been some pretty awful CBMs in the past, I think studios are finally coming around the curve of realizing that the superhero genre needs to be respected as much as other genres, and while it has come in only spurts, it was really something that mattered starting in 2002, imo. Some studios have faltered since then, but there's been a stronger consistency(well, except for Sony's behalf).
DrLove1023 - 7/21/2014, 6:26 PM
StaticShock86 - 7/19/2014, 11:35 AM
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I completely agree, something we need to realize though is that even though comicbookmovies are on a roll its still a very young genre. We need to support every movie that comes out, no matter if your DC or Marvel. We need to at the very least go and show support for these characters, so that maybe the character you love can get their chance. Because we now have the chance to see almost every comicbook character in a movie or show. So I say go see a movie even if you might not think it's going to be good, to convince studios to make more comicbook movies. If we don't this genre will slowly die, then we will be complaining about why they don't make these kinds of movies no more.


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