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How The Comics Genre Has Taken Over The World

A look at how the comics genre has grown in the world of entertainment media.

Whether you’re a comic reader or not, and whether you’re 8 years old or 80, comics and the characters within will have crossed your path at some point.

The history of “comics” dates right the way back to the 1800’s evolving over the following decades up until the 1930’s when the comic magazines and book collections we now recognise started being published. Detective Comics (DC) started up in 1937 and Marvel Comics in 1939 (also know then as Timely Publications and Atlas Comics before becoming Marvel in 1961) and this was when the superhero boom exploded into existence. After World War II the new world was looking for a new breed of hero and over the years that followed we had visionaries like Stan Lee, Bob Kane, Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster, and many more creating ever more notable and iconic characters with superpowers that displayed unimaginable feats of heroism which captured the hungry imaginations of both young and old and ingrained themselves permanently into the human conciousness around the world. Comics and their super-heroic protagonists such as The Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Captain America, The Avengers, Thor, Iron Man, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Justice League, and literally thousands more have ruled the comic shelves for the past 80 odd years and the comic genre has only grown stronger with time.

 

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In the 1940’s and 50’s comic characters moved into the new medium of radio with long-running serials like The Adventures of Superman being broadcast in America creating legendary phrases for its listeners like “Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane It’s Superman!” along with sound effects never experienced by readers before. Many more instances of both radio and early TV shows (including cartoons) came about and then in 1966 another media boom hit – Batman – the colour TV series with the camp comic feel, action, classic characters, famous actors and actresses, and visual “fight balloon” effects. Arguably one of the worst and yet best instances of comics come to life ever made!

 

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Throughout the 1970’s and 80’s comics were again brought to life in the form of The Incredible Hulk TV show and movies, Shazam!, Wonder Woman, and Spider-Man among others. Most of these shows were tongue in cheek, and not always purposefully, but almost all are regarded by those who remember watching them with love and affection. Superheroes were in their media “Golden Age” and shops were filled with lunch boxes, bed covers, wallpapers, dolls, toys, games and much, much more and the comics themselves were growing exponentially and adding more and more talent to their publishing houses, creating amazing classic runs. Branding and advertising in every possible medium was rampant. In 1978 (the year I was born) we got our first real classic comic movie in the form of ‘Superman’ featuring Christopher Reeve, and it truly blew the world away. The tagline “You’ll be believe a man can fly” rang true and it won an Oscar and was nominated for 3 more. In 1989 we were granted a Batman movie by Tim Burton starring Michael Keaton and once again a classic character was given a new lease of life through the silver screen and a wave of new fans discovered comics through film. This is where the possibility of comic movies really sprang from.

 

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At the end of the 80’s and into the 90’s we were overloaded by TV shows, movies, cartoon shows, and video games all spawning from the household comic names we still hold dear today. Shows like Lois & Clark, The Flash, Super Friends, Superman: The Animated Series, Batman: The Animated Series, X-Men, Fantastic Four, Spider-Man: The Animated Series, The Incredible Hulk etc were on all the time (and brilliant I might add) and the awareness level for Marvel and DC were at an all-time high. Companies such as McDonald’s were dishing out superhero toys (and still do) with their Happy Meals, kids were running around in Batman and/or Spider-Man pyjamas, and more and more movies with ever increasing budgets were being green-lit by Hollywood. Older and still more tongue in cheek films such as The Phantom, The Shadow, The Rocketeer, Howard the Duck, Captain America (1990 version) were released, but most were hated (although I love them all) and Hollywood couldn’t seem to produce films that would be widely accepted as “hits”.

 

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The next big media boom can be traced back to 2000 with the release of X-Men by Bryan Singer. We’d had some terrible Batman sequels, a Blade movie, and a Fantastic Four film that wasn’t even released to the public, but X-Men seemed to strike a new chord with the public. Hope was given again to comic adaptations and the chosen cast seemed to be a main reason. In the following 8 or so years that hope was partially dashed again with movies like Daredevil, the Spider-Man trilogy, the Blade sequels, Elektra, a new Fantastic Four film and its sequel, Hulk, the X-Men sequels, and Catwoman. The only real ray of light was 2005’s Batman Begins which stepped away from the look of a comic which had dominated all movies before it and moved more into the real world where Batman could actually exist and not seem so ludicrous. We were also given “better” shows like Smallville, Justice League: The Animated Series, and Birds of Prey.

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And then in 2008 we finally hit the big time. The point where the face of the comic world would forever change and become one of the biggest infulences in Hollywood, and the rest of multimedia entertainment, for the last 80 years. In 2008 both Iron Man (directed by Jon Favreau and starring Robert Downey Jr.) and The Dark Knight (the sequel to Batman Begins directed by Christopher Nolan and starring Christian Bale again) were released. The reality that both Marvel and DC created suddenly became tangible, believable, and accepted by the movie-going public, comic fans or not. Although The Dark Knight is a critically acclaimed film with huge ongoing support and a massive fan base (somewhat partially down to Heath Ledger’s final and almost flawless portrayal of The Joker) it was Iron Man that really sparked off the new wave of comic adapted films, and now Marvel (now owned by Disney) are raking in billions from the refreshed franchise. Whilst DC are attempting to do the same with their Superman and Justice League films Marvel are way ahead with multiple Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, and Avengers films either already released or in the making. Avengers Assemble took well over $1 Billion worldwide and makes it one of the biggest movies of all time, beating the previous title holder The Dark Knight… That’s truly incredible and a huge feat for the comic genre. As I’m writing this we’re facing dozens of new comic movies that are either just about to be released this year (Winter Solider, Amazing Spider-Man 2, Guardians of the Galaxy) or are in the planning stage (Batman vs. Superman, Justice League, Kick-Ass 3, and many more) and the quality seems to only be getting better. Even the animated movies being pumped out by both Marvel and DC are excellent (more so for DC) and the production quality and action are truly entertaining and impressive to behold. Using The Dark Knight and Iron Man as references Hollywood has finally found the right ingredients to make brilliant movies and if TV shows like Arrow, The Walking Dead (an Image Comics adaptation), and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D (love them or not) are anything to go by then we are very lucky indeed. I know I’ve missed out movies like Watchmen etc here but everyone has their favourites and there are too many to mention! Let’s also not forget that we’ve been granted award winning video games like the Batman: Arkham series, The Spider-Man games, LEGO Marvel and Batman, The Darkness 1 & 2 etc. All excellent releases coming from comics.

 

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It’s almost impossible to go into any high street retailer, or look at any online retailer for that matter, and not be confronted with a Marvel or DC character themed item. Children will always want to play superhero, running about in a cape or mask, and they’ll always want the toys. Adults will always enjoy the TV shows or movies and collect the hugely expensive replicas, figures, or statues, and it seems the influence comics have on the world today is truly overwhelming. It’s true that although movies and TV are growing the original media – the comics themselves – are suffering and sales are erratic at best. Reboots are rampant and DC are currently pushing their “New 52” run and Marvel are re-branding and refreshing their characters through their “Marvel Now!” releases. I’m not so sure it’s working for them and not everyone is happy about the changes, but they’re trying!

However I’m not complaining one little bit about what happens in the world of comics, I honestly love it all!

Just as a little extra here’s a list via Wikipedia of all the movies (and some serials) that have spawned from comics. Over 260 of them… Very impressive.

2 Guns (2013)
30 Days of Night (2007)[1]
30 Days of Night: Dark Days (2010)[2]
300 (2007)

Adventures of Captain Marvel (1941, serial)
Alien vs. Predator (2004, based from previous Alien and Predator films and the Dark Horse comics of the same name)
Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem (2007)
The Amazing Cynicalman (2012)
American Splendor (2003)
Archie: To Riverdale and Back Again (1990)
Art School Confidential (2006)
Ultimate Avengers (2006, animated)
Ultimate Avengers 2 (2006, animated)
Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow (2008, animated)
The Avengers/Avengers Assemble (2012)

Barb Wire (1996)
Batman (1943, serial)
Batman and Robin (1949, serial)
Batman (1966)
Batman (1989)
Batman Returns (1992)
Batman Forever (1995)
Batman & Robin (1997)
Batman Begins (2005, new franchise)
The Dark Knight (2008)
The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
Batman: The Animated Series:
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993)
Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero (1998)
Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (2000, animated)
Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman (2003)
The Batman vs. Dracula (2005, animated)
Batman: Gotham Knight (2008, animated)
Superman/Batman: Public Enemies (2009, animated)
Superman/Batman: Apocalypse (2010, animated)
Batman: Under the Red Hood (2010, animated)
Batman: Year One (2011, animated)
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1 (2012, animated)
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2 (2013, animated)
Lego Batman: The Movie – DC Super Heroes Unite (2013, animated)
Blackhawk (1952, serial)
Marvel Knights-Black Panther (animated)
Blade (1998)
Blade II (2002)
Blade: Trinity (2004)
Blade: The Series (TV Pilot, 2006) – re-released as Blade: House of Chthon (2007)
Bulletproof Monk (2003)

Captain America (1944, serial)
Captain America (1979, TV movie)
Captain America II: Death Too Soon (1979, TV movie)
Captain America (1990)
Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
Catwoman (2004)
Congo Bill (1948, serial)
Constantine (2005)
Cowboys & Aliens (2011)
The Crow (1994)
The Crow: City of Angels (1996)
The Crow: Salvation (2000)
The Crow: Wicked Prayer (2005)

Daredevil (2003)
Dr. Strange (1978, TV movie)
Doctor Strange (2007, animated)

Elektra (2005)

The Fantastic Four (1994, unreleased)
Fantastic Four (2005)
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007)
Faust: Love of the Damned (2001)
Firebreather (2010, animated)
The Flash (1990, Pilot for the TV Series)
Fritz the Cat (1972, animated)
The Nine Lives of Fritz the Cat (1974, animated)
From Hell (2001)

G-Men from Hell (2000)
Ghost Rider (2007)
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2012)
Ghost World (2001)
God Hates Cartoons (2002, animated)
Green Lantern: First Flight (2009, animated)
Green Lantern: Emerald Knights (2011, animated)
Green Lantern (2011)

Hardware (1990, unauthorized by creators)
The Haunted World of El Superbeasto (2009, animated)
Heavy Metal (1981, animated)
Heavy Metal 2000 (2000, animated)
Hellboy (2004)
Hellboy: Sword of Storms (2006, animated)
Hellboy: Blood and Iron (2007, animated)
Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008)
A History of Violence (2005)
Hop Harrigan (1946, serial)
Howard the Duck (1986)
The Incredible Hulk (1977, TV movie series)
The Incredible Hulk: Married (1978, TV movie series)
The Incredible Hulk Returns (1988, TV movie series)
The Trial of the Incredible Hulk (1989, TV movie series)
The Death of the Incredible Hulk (1990, TV movie series)
Hulk (2003)
The Incredible Hulk (2008)
Hulk Vs (2009, animated)
Planet Hulk (2010, animated)

The Invincible Iron Man (2007, animated)
Iron Man (2008)
Iron Man 2 (2010)
Iron Man 3 (2013)
Iron Man: Rise of the Technovore (2013, animated)
I, Frankenstein (2013)
I Sell the Dead (2008)

Jonah Hex (2010)
Josie and the Pussycats (2001)
Judge Dredd (1995)
Dredd 3D (2012)
Justice League of America (1997, TV pilot)
Justice League Star Crossed: The Movie (2001, animated)
Justice League: The New Frontier (2008, animated)
Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths (2010, animated)
Justice League: Doom (2012, animated)
Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox (2013, animated)
Justice League: War (2014, animated)

Kick-Ass (2010)
Kick-Ass 2 (2013)

Lady Death: The Movie (2004, animated)
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003)
The Losers (2010)

Man-Thing (2005, TV movie)
The Mask (1994)
Son of the Mask (2005)
Men in Black (1997)
Men in Black II (2002)
Men in Black 3 (2012)
Model by Day (1994)
Monkeybone (2001)
El Muerto (2005)
My Name is Bruce (2007)
Mystery Men (1999)

Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. (1998, TV movie)

Oblivion (2013)

Painkiller Jane (2005, TV movie)
The Perils of Gwendoline in the Land of the Yik-Yak (1987)
Power Pack (1991, TV movie)
Prehistoric Peeps (1905)
The Punisher (1989)
The Punisher (2004)
Punisher: War Zone (2008)

R.I.P.D. (2013)[26]
Red (2010)
Red 2 (2013)
Red Sonja (1985)
Ri¢hie Ri¢h (1994)
Richie Rich’s Christmas Wish (1998)
Road to Perdition (2002)
The Rocketeer (1991)

Sabrina the Teenage Witch (1996)
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)
Sheena (1984)
Sin City (2005)
Spawn (1997)
The Amazing Spider-Man (1977, TV movie series)
Spider-Man Strikes Back (1978, TV movie series)
Spider-Man: The Dragons Challenge (1979, TV movie series)
Spider-Man (2002)
Spider-Man 2 (2004)
Spider-Man 3 (2007)
The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)
Marvel Knights-Spider-Woman, Agent of SWORD (animated)
The Spirit (2008)
Spy Smasher (1942, serial)
Stardust (2007)
Steel (1997)
Supergirl (1984)
Superman (1941–1943, animated shorts)
Superman (1948, serial)
Atom Man vs. Superman (1950, serial)
Superman and the Mole Men (1951)
Superman (1978)
Superman II (1981)
Superman III (1983)
Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987)
Superman: Brainiac Attacks (2006, animated)
Superman Returns (2006)
Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut (2006)
Superman: Doomsday (2007, animated)
Superman/Batman: Public Enemies (2009, animated)
Superman/Batman: Apocalypse (2010, animated)
Superman/Shazam!: The Return of Black Adam (2010, animated)
All-Star Superman (2011, animated)
Superman vs. The Elite (2012, animated)
Superman: Unbound (2013, animated)
Man of Steel (2013)
Surrogates (2009)
Swamp Thing (1982)
The Return of Swamp Thing (1989)

Tales from the Crypt:
Tales from the Crypt (1972)
Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight (1995)
Tales from the Crypt: Bordello of Blood (1996)
Tales from the Crypt Presents: Ritual (2001)
Tank Girl (1995)
Teen Titans: Trouble in Tokyo (2006, animated)
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze (1991)
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III (1993)
TMNT (2007, animated)
Turtles Forever (2009, animated)
Casey Jones (2011)
Thor (2011)
Thor: Tales of Asgard (2011, animated)
Thor: The Dark World (2013)
Timecop (1994)
Timecop 2: The Berlin Decision (2003)
Turok, Son of Stone (2007, animated)

Up in Flames (1973, unauthorized by creators)

V for Vendetta (2005)
Vampirella (1996)
The Vault of Horror (1973)
Vigilante (1947, serial)
Virus (1999)

Wanted (2008)
Watchmen (2009)
Watchmen, Tales of the Black Freighter (2009, animated)
Weird Science (1985)
Whiteout (2009)
Witchblade (2000, pilot TV movie)
Wonder Woman (1974, TV movie)
Wonder Woman (2009, animated)
When the Wind Blows (1986, animated)

Generation X (1996, TV movie)
X-Men (2000)
X2 (2003)
X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)
X-Men: First Class (2011)
The Wolverine (2013)

2014:
I, Frankenstein
Big Hero 6
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
X-Men: Days of Future Past
Guardians of the Galaxy
I’ll be bringing you comic recommendations and reviews, along with perspectives on all things comic related in the future so stay tuned!

 

Images via Wikipedia, IMDB, Marvel, and DC.

Movie list via Wikipedia.

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