Stating that comic book movies (CBMs) are a passing fad and will soon begin falling in popularity until they are no longer relevant seems to have become trendy lately. This is usually a statement thrown around by hyper-adults who think comic books are a childish habit and have no place in the 'grown up' art scene that is cinema.
Earlier this week, Mathew Fox (Lost, Speed Racer) went on record in an interview with Collider to say that comic book movies will be “exhausted pretty soon.”
“COLLIDER: I think this is probably one of my last questions. The comic book genre seems to be just incredibly popular right now – The Avengers, The Dark Knight, I mean it’s a huge genre. Are there any comics you read, or any comic book characters you’ve always been a fan of? I’m just curious if that’s something that interests you.
FOX: Off the top of my head I can’t – you know the truth is that stuff’s going to be exhausted pretty soon, because they’ve been churning them out man.
COLLIDER: I said that a few years ago, but this year is the biggest it’s ever been.
FOX: I know, and so once they’ve established all those franchises they’ll just keep doing more, more Avengers and more Iron Man’s and so on and so forth. But as far as like original material that is part of our comic book history, they don’t have a lot of stuff left. But I would be – I’m a huge comic fan, I love graphic art and I just love, you know I love that kind of thing so I mean, you know if it was the right thing I’d jump all over it, I think it would be really fun. And if it was something that my eleven year-old boy was fired up about then it would make it even doubly fun, you know?”
I say that the naysayers such as Mathew Fox and director David Cronenberg cannot be more wrong. CBMs have a long history in Hollywood. Comic books, as a medium, really began in the mid 1930s, but gained popularity with the introduction of Superman just eight years later. Within three years of Superman's debut and the subsequent rise in popularity of comic books, movie serials (short films that played in conjunction with a movie in theaters) starring superheroes began playing.
For about thirty years after the last movie serial featuring a comic book character aired (Superman, 1948) comic book characters were largely relegated to the small screen. Until Richard Donner's Superman in 1978.
Side note: I know this is like reading a love letter to Superman. That's not where this is going.
After Christopher Reeves gave us an awkwardly charming Clark Kent to carry the movie, CBMs were beginning to be looked at more closely. CBMs were released sporadically throughout the 1970s and 80s until Tim Burton's Batman hit the box office in 1989. Since then, there has not been a year that did not see a CBM in America.
There is a reason for that. Comic book movies have simply become a film genre, like science fiction or horror movies. Both of those genres are commonly associated with the “nerds” of the world, but they have the ability to appeal to everyone. Science fiction movies can appeal to everyone with their tendency to get people to think about their surroundings and how nature or technology effects their lives. Horror movies appeal to the adrenaline junkies in all of us, giving us a fright that serves as a release in a very base way that we usually don't get otherwise. Comic book movies, specifically superhero movies, give us an escape from the banality of our normal lives by allowing us to live vicariously through the gods of the new age. Because, let's be honest, how many of us wished (or still wish) they could be Spider-Man for even a day?
If everything that I've said thus far does not have you convinced that comic book movies won't suffer from any type of exhaustion, consider a final point. As long as the concept of 'the remake' exists, comic book movies (as well as Shakespeare, movies based on books, and all other genres) will never go out of style. Fortunately, though, I think CBMs have only scratched the surface.
To that end, here's hoping for a World War Hulk story arc on the big screen before 2020.