The Shelf Is Half Full

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Archive for the category “Comic Book Movies”

The Top Twelve – Superhero Movies

This list is just my own person favorites and not intended to be a scientific or definitive list. I don’t expect my opinions to be shared by everyone, but at least that should make this a refreshing read, right?

X2

#12. X2: X-Men United (2003)

Not enough credit is given to Bryan Singer’s X-Men films these days. I think the poor quality of X-Men 3 (2006) and X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) as well as the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has made people forget that before X-Men released to positive reviews in 2000, superhero movies were pretty much a joke. The Batman franchise was dead and buried thanks to Batman and Robin (1998) and the most successful comic book franchise was Blade. Anyway, the first film was good but the second one was even better. Wolverine’s origins were explored, the tension between humans and mutants took center stage, Nightcrawler was a worthy addition to the cast, and everyone from Mystique to Pyro got meaningful character development. Twelve years later this film still stands as one of the best ensemble superhero movies and arguably the blueprint for The Avengers movies.

Superman

#11. Superman (1978)

The first modern superhero film is still one of the best. The movie told us that we would believe a man would fly, and thanks to the cutting edge special effects, it’s still easy to believe Superman can fly almost four decades later. But more importantly, thanks to Christopher Reeve we believed that Superman could act; his portrayal of the Man of Steel was so different from his portrayal as mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent that it was easy to believe nobody could make the connection. To me this is the standard for everything that was to come; it’s also so much better than Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel (2013) that it isn’t even funny.

Spidey

#10. Spider-Man 2 (2004)

Yesterday I wrote about how awesome Doctor Octopus was in this film and how the movie raised the bar for action in the genre. But there is plenty more to love about Sam Raimi’s second Spider-Man movie. The characters are older and more complex. Peter feels more of the toll that being Spider-Man takes on his personal life, which is probably the most important dynamic of the character in the comics. Harry Osborn really comes into his own in this film as well. While the franchise took a nose dive after this, this is still a high point and I feel is the film that should be most closely modeled when Marvel brings Peter Parker into their cinematic universe.

Ultron

#9. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

The most recent addition to this list, Age of Ultron is a worthy follow up to the most successful superhero movie of all time and another hit in Marvel’s recent flurry of creative successes. The all-star casts returns and by this point could play the characters in their sleep. Jeremy Renner’s increased role as Hawkeye arguably makes him the breakout star of the movie, but everyone has their moments. The Maximoff Twins worked better than I could have hoped and the Vision ended up as one of the best parts of the movie instead of the straw that broke the camel’s back. Ultron was also a strong antagonist who entertained me in ways I didn’t expect. While not as good as the first one, it’s still a great time at the movies.

Logan

#8. The Wolverine (2013)

Hugh Jackman has been playing Wolverine for about fifteen years at this point, but for my money, it’s this film where he gave his greatest performance as the character. I love this movie because it is a great character study and a solid action film and doesn’t try to be more than that. I also enjoy the film for helping wipe away the bad memory of Logan’s first solo film, and for not trying to insult me for being a comic book fan like other movies from 2013. If you haven’t had a chance to see it yet I highly recommend it.

CA.0417.ironman

#7. Iron Man (2008)

I remember going to the theaters to see this movie and not having overly high expectations. As difficult as it may be to imagine now, Tony Stark was hardly a pop culture icon. I knew of him mostly because I played War of the Gems on Super Nintendo. By the time the movie was over I was in love with Iron Man and even more in love with Robert Downey, Jr. Turns out I wasn’t the only one; this movie helped launch Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and made Robert a high profile star once again. And it still holds up as one of the most fun comic movies out there, and is far better than its sequels.

Lights

#6. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

I remember when Marvel announced that they were doing this movie shortly after the release of The Avengers and thinking that they may have gone in over their heads a bit. Sure, Iron Man and Thor weren’t exactly cultural icons but the Guardians of the Galaxy were obscure even by comic book standards. I expected this to bomb hard, but that is why Kevin Feige is a millionaire and I am writing about his movies. Guardians of the Galaxy was irreverent, innovative and glorious entertainment, introducing audiences to a slew of new characters that almost all comic book fans have come to adore. Including myself. This movie is fantastic and arguably the best launch of a franchise ever.

Batman

#5. Batman Begins (2005)

Then again, this is a pretty good argument too. While I have gained a certain appreciation for the 1989 Tim Burton film Batman, especially Michael Keaton’s performance as the caped crusader, I have to say that on the whole those movies fell flat for me. And let’s not even talk about the Joel Schumacher films. But Christopher Nolan’s reboot of the character in movies was the breath of fresh air that the character needed, the most serious dramatic film based on a comic book to date. This told the origin and training of Batman so well that I don’t think it ever needs to be addressed again.

Future

#4. X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

It was a long and bumpy road, but the third Bryan Singer directed X-Men film was more than worth the wait. Featuring a story that was loosely based on one of the best stories in the X-Men’s history, this film brings together the cast of the original series with the younger cast from X-Men: First Class (2011) to stellar results. In many ways this is my favorite comic book movie, because it felt like a reward for sticking with the series even after it burned me as a viewer more than a couple of times. Unfortunately, being a movie that runs on time travel, there are some serious logic problems that sometimes distract from the experience, but other than the film is a blast. Especially when Pietro is involved.

Avengers

#3. Marvel’s The Avengers (2012)

Here’s a bright idea; take a World War II soldier, a Norse God, Frankenstein’s monster, a female James Bond, a male Katniss Everdeen, and a man in a flying robot suit and make a movie. This should have been a disaster, but Marvel’s careful world building mixed with talented actors mixed with Joss Whedon’s writing and directing somehow formed the perfect mixture for what may be the best comic book movie ever. It’s a miracle that this film works as well as it does. Which is spectacularly. I think I saw this movie around five times in theaters and was never bored, and I still like to throw it in when I have nothing better to do. One of the best popcorn flicks ever put together.

Joker

#2. The Dark Knight (2008)

Batman Begins was a great… beginning, but it turned out to be a mere appetizer for the most critically acclaimed film based on a comic book ever. The Dark Knight is more of a serious crime thriller than escapist popcorn fun, though it does have its moments. However, this was one of the first movies to take the heroes and villains seriously and show that they actually can be symbols with greater meaning. Even if it did beat those points into the ground. Still, it’s got a ton of great performances and an Oscar-winning Heath Ledger as The Joker, one of the all time great antagonists in cinema; not just comic book movies, but movies in general. It’s a remarkable piece of film making, and it just happens to involve a guy in a bat mask.

Scuffle

#1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

If one takes the comic book escapism of The Avengers and blends it with the real world seriousness of The Dark Knight, you get the conspiracy thriller action film called Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I was a huge fan of the first Captain America film but the sequel was an improvement in every single way. Chris Evans is brilliant as Steve Rogers, there’s a strong supporting cast and a genuinely compelling plot. The action scenes are gorgeously choreographed and feature a lot of practical stunt work, and the film even brings in political concepts from the real world to discuss them. It’s my favorite comic book movie and I think it’ll be a while before anything challenges it.

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The Top 50 Marvel Cinematic Universe Moments – #10-1

Finally, I’ve reached the ten greatest moments in the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies (in my completely subjective opinion). If you haven’t had a chance to the first forty moments, you can easily read them in the links provided here:

With that out of the way, it’s time to get started on the absolute best of the best. And once again, SPOILERS!

Coulson

#10. The Death of Phil Coulson (The Avengers)

Agent Phil Coulson of S.H.I.E.L.D. was introduced to us in 2008’s Iron Man as the likable spokesman for the organization. Clark Gregg returned to the role for Iron Man 2 and Thor, and was a good addition each time, helping to tie the universe together when the narrative was still struggling to be cohesive. While he was always portrayed as a man with authority that tended to be politely ignored, new layers were added to the character in The Avengers; Pepper Potts mentioned a cellist who he had been dating and the usually reserved professional became a giddy fanboy around his hero Captain America. When Loki killed Phil Coulson, I have to admit that I was almost surprised how much it affected me; I liked the character, but I realized in that moment that I’d taken him for granted a bit. The death of Phil helped to bring The Avengers together as a team, so it definitely is one of the key moments of the film. However, I do feel like this whole scene is cheapened somewhat by Coulson’s return from the dead in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. But for that one moment, Loki may as well have stabbed all of us in the heart. The fact that Phil still managed to fire off some sharp quips and an impressive gunshot made the moment even more awesome.

King Loki

#9. Loki On Asgard’s Throne (Thor: The Dark World)

The sequel to Thor was definitely a movie that got better as it went along, and it carried that momentum right until the very end. The final scene sees the God of Thunder talking to his father Odin, relinquishing his right to Asgard’s throne. He claims that he would rather be a good man than a great king, which is a fantastic moment for the character. But once Thor leaves the room, the film ends in the best possible way as Odin is shown to be Loki in disguise. One of the best things about this scene (and a few others building up to it) is Anthony Hopkins’ delivery; he manages to be wholly convincing as Odin the first time the audience watches, but on subsequent viewings we can see Loki’s motives in Anthony’s actions. Marvel has done a lot of cliffhanger endings but none quite as sweet as this one. It’s satisfying to see Loki finally achieve his goal, and it will be interesting to see where the character goes from here… and how Thor will react when he finds out.

Winter Soldier

#8. The Winter Soldier is Unmasked (Captain America: The Winter Soldier)

While I loved Captain America: The Winter Soldier immediately, I have to admit that I was kind of surprised by how little the titular villain was in the film. But subsequent (and frequent) viewings have made me realize that this isn’t really a detriment. All of his appearances mean something and he comes across as very threatening, and while comic book enthusiasts knew who the Winter Soldier was, I know that the general public was still caught off guard when Bucky Barnes was revealed to be the man in the mask. This event is placed at just the right time in the movie; just when Steve and company think they have all the answers, the good Captain is thrown for another loop right in the middle of an intense fight. The reactions from the two is so perfectly done that it doesn’t matter that I knew who the Winter Soldier was; I still felt that emotion and the scene was one of the best in the movie.

Stark

#7. Iron Man is Born (Iron Man)

Considering that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has Norse gods and talking raccons, it’s almost hard to believe how gritty and down to earth the first thirty act of Iron Man was. Tony Stark is attacked by terrorists while showcasing his Jericho missiles to the army in Iraq, and is forced by the leader of the terrorists to build one of the missiles for their use. To complicate matters Tony has shrapnel trying to dig its way into his heart and the only thing saving him is a magnet hooked up to a car battery. In the absolute worse situation possible, the man born to privilege uses all of his wits, limited resources and the help of a kind man named Yinsen to escape, The scene is genuinely gripping and raw, and Robert Downey is able to show Tony’s character growth exceptionally well. By the time the miniaturized arc reactor is in his chest and the Mark I armor is complete, most of us were already hooked and ready to get into the movie. It was a great scene that started the Marvel Cinematic Universe off on the right foot.

Convicts

#6. Escape From the Kyln (Guardians of the Galaxy)

If Guardians of the Galaxy has one major flaw, it’s that the most thrilling action scene takes place in the middle of the film, not at the end. This scene is amazing; Rocket goes through a plan to escape from the prison and is shown to be essential to the team with his skill set; he’s smart, good with technology and thinks in a way most people wouldn’t. The scene also showcases Groot at both his funniest and most terrifying and has possibly the best line in the movie when Drax explains how nothing goes over his head. It’s chaotic, but there’s a narrative that makes it easy to follow; everyone has something to do and then they all come together. This is the movie in a nutshell; fun, hilarious, action packed and filled with unique and quirky characters. Once this scene was over, any trace of skepticism I had was gone and I was fully invested in the movie.

Angry

#5. “I’m Always Angry” (The Avengers)

With all due respect to Bill Bixby, Eric Bana and Edward Norton, Mark Ruffalo is the definitive Bruce Banner in my opinion. From his first moment on screen we could tell there was something special about this performance. Bruce isn’t a terrified man running away from his problems; he’s come to an uneasy peace about the situation he’s in. Nobody can threaten him because “the other guy” is the most powerful and terrifying force on the planet. He’s got a dark sense of humor and well justified paranoia, but one can also see the good man who wants to use his brilliant mind to save the world. Still, it was kind of hard to pinpoint what exactly about the performance made it so different from other people. Then we got the best line in any Marvel movie ever, Bruce chose to become the Hulk, and everything clicked. This moment was amazing and it still gives me chills every time I watch this movie.

Monster

#4. Loki Confronts Odin (Thor)

Thor is one of my least favorite MCU films, but it has one of my absolute favorite moments. In a film that often fails to create genuine emotion, this confrontation is so raw and tragic that it rips your heart out with a spoon. This was Tom Hiddleston’s coming out party as an actor as he was able to portray intense sadness and anger without going over the top, and Anthony Hopkins rises to the occasion on the other end. The sense of self-loathing and betrayal Tom puts into lines like “I am the monster that parents tell their children about at night,” and “No matter how much you claim to love me, you could never have a frost giant sitting on the throne of Asgard,” are bone chilling. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has made me cheer and laugh many times, but this is the only moment that makes me tear up every time I watch it. Consequently, it’s the reason this film edges out Iron Man 3 for me.

Dire Straits

#3. The Helicarrier Attack (The Avengers)

One typically doesn’t equate the term “action scene” with the term “character development”, but a well thought out action scene can actually become a defining moment for a character. The Helicarrier attack at the end of The Avengers’ second act is a perfect example of this and I will argue that it’s probably unappreciated by many. It’s an example of extreme dire straits, and in those moments people tend to reveal who they really are. Nick Fury is a leader; he calls the shots and makes sure that everybody is on task. Bruce Banner sadly becomes a monster, but it allows Thor to be a protector, the one who fights giants. Tony Stark is a mechanic; he immediately starts repairing the machine. Steve Rogers is a soldier who goes where he is needed most, and Natasha is the assassin who is able to track and shut down the man behind the attack; the mind controlled Hawkeye. Every hero is at their most pure here, and that in a nutshell is what makes The Avengers work; amazing action featuring compelling characters we can get behind.

Zola

#2. “A Beautiful Parasite” (Captain America: The Winter Soldier)

This is one of Marvel’s most brilliant moves; every comic book fanboy who went to see The Winter Soldier thought they were safe because they knew they twist. The Winter Soldier was Bucky Barnes. We all expected that. So Marvel managed to catch us off guard with this gut punch of a revelation that absolutely nobody saw coming. The return of Arnim Zola was cool enough, but when he tells us that Hydra has secretly survived inside of S.H.I.E.L.D. for over seventy years, it was absolutely mind blowing and one of the coolest moments possibly. It’s the kind of twist that’s more satisfying without any foreshadowing, and it also sent a clear message. Big moments won’t just happen in The Avengers films. The film universe is not playing by the same rules as the comics. And the organization whose presence has been a factor or been referenced in every Marvel film was not what we thought it was. The very foundation of the MCU was shook to its core.

Avengers

#1. The Battle of New York (The Avengers)

It really couldn’t be anything else. Honestly if I were to separate the finale of The Avengers into different moments I could probably fill up the top ten spots using only the last half hour of this movie. But I chose to throw it all together, only giving one moment a separate entry. Everything in here is so great. Tony Stark threatening Loki sets the stage beautifully, the alien invasion is an amazing spectacle, Thor using lightning to zap several Chitauri grunts at once is immensely satisfying, and then Bruce Banner shows up, turns into the Hulk and stops a leviathan dead in it’s tracks with one punch. And that’s just a warm up. The tracking shot where all of the Avengers are in a circle is iconic, Captain America’s natural progression into field commander is brilliantly played, Hulk smashing stuff is truly incredible, and Hawkeye gets to show off and prove it was a good idea to include him in the movie. Everybody gets individual moments to shine, but the most impressive visual is an ingenius tracking shot that follows Iron Man as he flies by Black Widow, blasts his repulsors off of Cap’s shield to take out aliens and flies by Hawkeye as he shoots an enemy down at point black range. Then it continues to follow an arrow shot by Clint and seamlessly transfers to Hulk and Thor wreak havoc on top of a leviathan before bringing it down. This ends in Hulk punching Thor out of frame in what should be the most hilarious use of slapstick comedy ever… but it isn’t.

No, that distinction goes to the confrontation (if one generously feels like calling it that) between Hulk and Loki. Loki tries to talk the Hulk down and claims that he is a god, and Hulk picks him by his legs and treats him like a ragdoll in what is quite possibly the greatest thing humans have ever accomplished. I can’t think of any film moment in recent memory that made so many people so happy. It’s a fantastic capstone to the most amazing finale in comic book movie history. This is what comic fans have been waiting for, not just since Iron Man came out, but since X-Men came out and dare I say since Superman came out. It is truly magical and I don’t think that once in a lifetime feeling will ever be truly duplicated.

The Top 50 Marvel Cinematic Universe Moments – #40-31

Before you read this post, if you haven’t checked out #50-41, I strongly suggest doing so. Other than that, I just want to give a few brief reminders that this list A) only involves the ten theatrical Marvel Cinematic Universe films, and B) is completely subjective and not meant to be a definitive or objective list. It’s a collection of the moments that made me happy to watch this universe unfold.

Captain America: The First Avenger

#40. Not Meant For Ordinary Men (Captain America: The First Avenger)

The first substantial scene in Captain America: The First Avenger may seem like an odd choice for this list at first. It’s an introduction to Johann Schmidt (a memorable performance from Hugo Weaving) and to the Tesseract, the all powerful weapon of both this film and The Avengers. Okay, so Thor had a brief scene after the credits, but this was where we got a sense of what the cube was and where it came from. And this is the important thing. Up until this point, the MCU had struggled to create a sense of real connection. Iron Man 2 felt awkward with it’s references, but this was the first time an important element from one film affected another. Norse Mythology is established as being real in the MCU in the first Thor film, which allows this scene to feel connected to that movie. It was the first time that Marvel real got it right when it came to presenting their movies as feeling like one giant story.

Trouble Sleeping

#39. Trouble Sleeping (Iron Man 3)

One of the few story elements that I really enjoyed in Iron Man 3 was Tony Stark’s post traumatic stress after the events of The Avengers. While for us fanboys that battle was pretty much the greatest moment ever, in the universe itself it’s a truly horrible moment with a lot of consequences. For Tony Stark, it’s a wake-up call that his Iron Man suit isn’t the answer to everything. He can keep peace on Earth, but what about the greater cosmic forces at play? In this movie we see him creating suit after suit after suit because he feels unsafe and anxious to the point of paranoia. This point really hits home when the Mark 43 armor attacks Pepper Potts in her sleep because Tony is calling out for it. It is here that we see how big of a problem Tony’s anxiety can be for the people he loves and nicely sets up the idea that he could be desperate enough to create Ultron in the new Avengers film.

Blonsky

#38. Emil Blonsky: Crack Addict (The Incredible Hulk)

Emil Blonsky is my favorite character in The Incredible Hulk and is the main reason I keep coming back to it despite it’s flaws. Tim Roth is a treasure with a unique charisma that elevates any role he’s in, and this is no exception. Blonsky is the complete opposite of Bruce Banner; Bruce gets ultimate power in an accident and wants to get rid of it, while Blonsky pursues that some power relentlessly because he can never have enough of it. Watching the transformation from mercenary to super soldier to monster is the true delight in this flick and makes Abomination one of my favorite villains in the MCU. My favorite scene in particular is when he stares into a mirror, looking like he’s going through heroine withdrawal before his spinal column starts trying to push through his skin. It’s great stuff.

Aether

#37. Thor vs. Malekith (Thor: The Dark World)

Christopher Eccleston’s Malekith is an underdeveloped personality, but in terms of providing an imposing villain he was a definite step up for Marvel movies. One of the smartest decisions in this film was keeping Malekith and Thor separated for the bulk of the movie. They have a brief interaction where Thor scars his face with a lightning bolt after Malekith has Thor’s mother killed, but they never come to blows because Thor is preoccupied with destroying the Aether or fighting Malekith’s allies. So when we get to the climax, it feels fresh and there’s enough damage on both ends to make us really believe they hate each other. And with the Aether powering him up, he’s a believable threat to Thor as well. Their confrontation was one of the best in any Marvel film, and really stands out because of the portals that makes the fight literally span worlds.

Oh Crap

#36. Pepper Potts: Extremis-Powered Action Girl (Iron Man 3)

Pepper Potts was always one of the best characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, played by Gwyneth Paltrow and always keeping pace with Robert Downey, Jr’s Tony Stark. Their chemistry has been a highlight of all of the Iron Man films. In the bounds of normal reality, her intelligence, self reliance and refusal to take crap from even Tony Stark make her a strong character without being overstated. But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t immensely satisfying when she gets a power boost from Extremis in Iron Man 3 and beats the living daylights out of Aldritch Killian in the film’s final act. It allows the strength of her character to be showcased in a way that’s more traditionally “Marvel” as opposed to a grounded reality.

Black and White

#35. “What Do You Want Me To Be?” (Captain America: The Winter Soldier)

One of the smartest choices in The Winter Soldier is the addition of Natasha Romanoff to the story. Black Widow is a character that helps highlight the conspiracy thriller nature of the film; the movie is a web of secrets and so is Nat, so this is a character that establishes the tone. But the real brilliance here is that even though Steve Rogers and Natasha have worked together as Avengers, they have totally different ideologies that conflict with one another. Steve comes from a simpler time and doesn’t believe in compromising for the sake of good, while Natasha is a product of the modern political climate and has no problem bending the rules for the greater good. Over the course of this film they learn to trust each other and begin to affect each other; Steve learns how to handle the modern world better and Natasha becomes more of an idealist who realizes where she stands. This is all signs that Steve’s response to that question has merit. “How about a friend?” The Winter Soldier has strong themes of friendship throughout and this is one of the best examples.

Bots

#34. Iron Man and War Machine vs. Whiplash (Iron Man 2) 

Colonel James Rhodes has been an important part of all three Iron Man films, and Don Cheadle was a definite upgrade from Terrence Howard. While the first film hinted at Rhodes being in a suit, the second film delivered on the premise. Tony and James come to blows when Rhodes takes the Mark II Armor, but the real highlight is in the finale when we get to see them fighting together. The War Machine amor stands out from Tony’s as a heavier, more military style suit. The scene where two best friends mow down Hammer drones despite a tactical awful location is riveting and the follow up suit with Anton Vanko (Mickey Rourke) is a satisfyingly explosive conclusion to the movie.

Cap

#33. A Man Standing Above Everyone Else (The Avengers)

The Avengers is a movie that’s pretty much made of awesome moments; it’s essentially the climactic chapter of a six-film story, after all. Tom Hiddleston’s Loki returns and is used to magnificent effect, and I feel really came into his own in this scene in Germany. Commanding everyone to kneel before him and giving a grand speech about how humans crave subjugation really made him a grander villain that he was in Thor and helped us believe he could be a threat to all of the Avengers. I think the scene probably works best because Joss Whedon’s atheist and humanist beliefs allowed him to write the religious undertones of this speech in a way that really got under our skin. And the scene takes a new turn when perhaps the perfect contrast to Loki arrives in the form of Steve Rogers. He reminds of his World War II history and challenges Loki despite being severely outmatched. It’s a great moment featuring two characters that honestly have no business being in the same film together.

Excessive

#32. The Hulk vs. The Abomination (The Incredible Hulk)

I struggled with the placement of this fight on this list, but I always knew it would be on here. I feel like later fight scenes (even the Malekith vs. Thor fight I placed earlier on this list) were done better, but there’s an extra meta layer to this one that deserves to be acknowledged. This fight is an apology to fans who were disappointed with the 2003 Hulk film and it’s lack of a decent villain fight. This movie delivered it in spades; the clash between Hulk and Abomination was epic and had a lot of force and weight behind it, and some impressive creativity. Hulk doesn’t just smash Blonsky with his fists for ten minutes, he makes uses of his surroundings and fights intelligently, something that I do have to admit is missing from Hulk in The Avengers. There’s also a perfect moment where Hulk says his iconic “HULK SMASH!” line for the first time on the big screen. However, I do feel this fight was a little excessive, both in length and in the brutality department. It’s an imperfect gift but it was heartfelt and therefore I still greatly appreciate it.

I am Iron Man

#31. “I Am Iron Man” (Iron Man)

The secret identity has been a major trope of pretty much every superhero comic and especially in movie adaptations. Superman, Batman, Spider-Man and Daredevil all had dual lives, and it would have been very easy for Marvel to do this with Iron Man. After all, Tony kept his identity a secret in the comics for decades. Instead, the first film in the MCU ends on an emphatic statement where Tony says that he is Iron Man. While this may seem trivial, it sets a precedent. There is no duality to the big screen heroes of the MCU; they are who they are. Tony Stark and the suit are one. We all know that Bruce transforms into the Hulk, Steve Rogers is a living legend who everybody knows, and Thor is… well, Thor. This movie changed the game by letting us fans know that we could see a lot of conventions done away with. And it’s just a great line on its own merit.

Are Superhero Movies Killing Comic Books?

Being a comic book fan in today’s world is a much different experience than it was when I was a kid. I grew up in the 1990’s where the only superhero who had a movie with a budget was Batman, and most of those films were not particularly engaging. No, if you wanted a real superhero fix, the best place to go was to get a comic book off the shelf at a grocery store. Yes, you could still find Superman and X-Men comics in the magazine section of a store when I was a kid. Alternatively you could watch cartoons so long as your comic book interests only went so far as Superman, Batman, Spider-Man and the X-Men. But unless you were actively browsing comic books, it was almost impossible to feed that interest.

Case in point: I only knew who Captain America, Iron Man and Green Arrow were because I liked video games and they had a few comic book based video games at the time that caught my interest.

Nowadays, Marvel and DC superheroes are more visible than ever. The X-Men have their own movie franchise, Batman has been in a series of critically acclaimed films, and Marvel’s Cinematic Universe has turned the Avengers into household names. Green Arrow and The Flash headline popular TV series and Daredevil just got a series on Netflix. Superheroes are everywhere, and because they are everywhere it doesn’t make you uncool to like them. In some ways, not having an interest in superheroes is now the exception rather than the rule.

As the phrase goes, “Geek is Chic”.

Phase 3

However, parallel to this is that comic books, the original medium for these heroes, are going through some changes. Marvel is not some small company with a niche product, it’s owned by the massive and highly successful Disney company. They are about to make more money from the opening weekend of The Avengers: Age of Ultron than they will make from the entire year’s worth of comic book sales. Now that paper comics only account for a fraction of Marvel’s income instead of the primary source, they are not as valuable and may very well be on the road to extinction.

If that sounds like hogwash, consider that Marvel has recently cancelled The Fantastic Four, one of their longest running comics, because the film rights are owned by Fox Studios and Disney and Marvel will not make much profit off of them. And even the significantly more popular X-Men franchise is being phased out at present because, again, Diseny does not own the rights to make films with those characters. It is disheartening to say the least.

While DC has the rights to all of their characters, one has to wonder if they will care that much about their comic books if they are able to make the billions of dollars that Marvel is making off of their movies. While they have struggled in recent years to captivate a large audience, there is certainly potential for DC’s iconic characters to become critical and box office successes. But while I am excited to finally see Wonder Woman and Aquaman on the big screen, I worry about what it will mean for comic books in general if all that matters is the success or failure of movies.

Are comic books going to die?

Aquaman

The answer to that of course, is “no”.

For starters, there is a side benefit of successful movies. They are commercials for comic books. While Batman was always popular, he only starred in Batman and Detective Comics for the better part of fifty years before commercially successful film adaptations helped to elevate him in the public conscience. If you go into a comic book store today, it would not be unexpected to see half a dozen or more comics starring The Dark Knight, not to mention a library of collected works. This is because those movies generated interest in the character and brought an audience into comic book stores wanting to know more about this character they now love. The Avengers are more popular than the X-Men for the first time in over two decades because of the success of the film.

Perhaps no where is this more evident than in the sudden surge of Guardians of the Galaxy comic books. A comic book that was so obscure even die-hard geeks would have a difficult time naming more than one character on the team was the basis of one of the most successful movies of 2014. And suddenly Marvel is selling comics starring those heroes by the truckload. If publicity and awareness is used to promote a quality product, that product will sell and make money.

Guardians of the Galaxy

There’s another, more subtle benefit to this process that is probably going to take a little more time to truly impact the comic book industry. The fact of the matter is that graphic novels have a broader audience and cover more ground that just superheroes. Marvel and DC may be the big dogs on the market and they are what the outside world thinks of when they think about comic books, but there are a variety of independent companies that also make a dent in the comics industry. Some are pretty large, such as Dark Horse and Image, but there are also plenty of others looking to make their mark. There’s also the relatively young sub genre of comic books that are independently posted on the web by young artists who are willing to put in the work to promote their material themselves and to provide something different than usual comic book fare.

As comic books gain more mainstream acceptance and more people become willing to try out a comic, the more people will be exposed to these other comics. The first time I went to the comic book section of Barnes & Noble to pick out a Batman comic, I left with a Batman comic and a comic that I never knew existed but caught my eye: American Vampire, a comic for mature readers printed by DC’s imprint Verigo Comics. And I loved it.

American Vampire

While superheroes may be moving from the comic book format and making TV and movies their homes, there will always be a demand for the unique medium of comic books. The industry is not going to die, but I think it will surprise people with how much it is able to evolve in the face of a changing world.

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