TBH, Now’s the Time to Get Excited About Superheroes

I’m the first to admit it: I’m a total superhero nerd. Instead of going to Grad Bash at Universal my senior year of high school, I watched “Avengers: Infinity War” (and no, after watching it three more time since April, I’m still not over the ending). Superhero movies mean a lot to me. I have marathons with one of my best friends, and they’re a movie night staple for my brothers and I. With the growing popularity of the genre, there’s no time like the present to begin your superhero origin story.

The takeover

The box office charts alone that the superhero genre is booming financially. “Avengers: Infinity War” grossed $2 billion, and “Black Panther” grossed $1.3 billion globally. Within the top ten grossing movies worldwide for 2018, six were superhero films, and Marvel Studios made three of those. Dru Jeffries, author of Comic Book Film Style: Cinema at 24 Panels per Second, noted Marvel’s success.

“Marvel Studios has developed a house style that works well for them and is comparable to the classical Hollywood studio system, whereby studios cranked out films quickly and with remarkably consistent quality by streamlining the production process,” Jeffries said. “Individual directors have been less important to Marvel Studios than the actors, characters, and producers.”

Oscar nominations also indicate that the genre is on the rise. “Avengers: Infinity War” received a nod, and “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” and “Incredibles 2” were nominated for Best Animated Feature; “Black Panther,” however, has dominated Oscars talk. It received seven nominations and became the first superhero movie nominated for Best Picture. Ever since “The Dark Knight” didn’t receive the same nomination in 2008, superhero movies have been at the center of a larger cultural debate—why wasn’t the Academy nominating wildly popular movies?

Jeffries weighed in on “Black Panther” being nominated. While he does not believe the film will ultimately win Best Picture, he acknowledges that it is an indicator of other phenomenon.

“Perhaps the lesson of Black Panther will be that superhero films can and perhaps should engage more directly with difficult social and cultural realities,” Jeffries said. “It's certainly that, rather than the rather rote narrative structure, special effects, etc., that gave the film its profound cultural resonance.”

The fan perspective

The popularity of superhero movies has had rippling effects. Raisa Karim, a second-year political science major, is the president and founder of Gator Comics at the University of Florida, has noticed more people, particularly women, becoming interested in comics, and credits movies.

“I think before the MCU [Marvel Cinematic Universe], people were intimidated by comics and they had reason to be,” she said. “The fan base was not friendly to newcomers and particularly not to women. But now the movies provide a much bigger avenue into the hobby that the fan base has become much more diverse and welcoming.”

Karim’s latest favorite is “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” and before that, enjoyed “Wonder Woman.” She still thinks inclusiveness for women within the genre has a long way to go, as many people don’t want to have female leads, but counted the movie as a win.

“Wonder Woman made me very happy and showed that female-led films can rock the box office,” she said.

Into the future

2019 holds no indication that this trend is dying. DC has “Shazam!” and “Joker” premiering this year (and “Wonder Woman 2” in 2020, if you’re counting down like me). Marvel is set to dominate the box office again, with three major films premiering. Their first 2019 movie is “Captain Marvel” which debuts March 8. The movie follows Captain Marvel, an alien warrior caught in the middle of an intergalactic war. It marks the first female-led film for the studio, with Brie Larson playing the titular character, and Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck directing. In April, “Avengers: Endgame” will be the culmination of eleven years of storytelling. After countdowns and fans’ Twitter campaigns, Marvel released the trailer for the highly-anticipated movie that left fans (including me, I’ll admit) begging NASA to rescue Tony Stark from space.  Finally “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” starring Tom Holland, Zendaya, and Jake Gyllenhaal, premieres in July.

As for the future of the genre, Jeffries believe fans should look to “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.”

“No film has so thoroughly integrated the aesthetics and narrative style of comic books into its design while at the same time telling a story that has cultural and emotional resonance and widespread appeal,” he said.

Jeffries added that if “Into the Spider-Verse” takes Best Animated Film at the Oscars, live-action filmmakers may experiment with the same bold style of storytelling.

Where do I start?

It’s hard to know where to begin if you’ve never been interested in superheroes before. If you liked animated movies, “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” is a great introduction, especially to the Spider-Man story. “Wonder Woman” and “Aquaman” have been DC’s two latest hits. Despite poor critical reviews, “Venom” is an unabashedly fun film that shows how funny superhero movies can be.

As for Marvel, watching all twenty movies before “Avengers: Endgame” on April 26 might be ambitious, but doable (and fun, especially if you find a friend to watch along with you). If you’re short on time, try to figure which heroes you’re interested in, and go from there. Personally, my favorite Marvel movies are “Iron Man,” “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” and “Thor: Ragnarok.”

The biggest thing to remember as a new fan is that there’s a giant community out there ready to help. Newcomers could try online forums, or even check in with Gator Comics. Karim said she’s always ready to welcome new members.

“People that aren't necessarily comic book readers now have another medium to experience superheroes, and that's movies. I had no idea that there were so many people out there interested in superhero stories other than a few cousins of mine,” Karim said. “Superhero movies reminded me that I was never alone.”