The Superhero Trend


DC Comics

Sydney Rogalsky, Staffer

Lately, it seems like you can’t go to the movie theater without seeing the newest action-packed superhero movie. Leading up to The Avengers, we saw Ironman and its sequel, Thor, and Captain America: The First Avenger. The newest remake of Spiderman came out this past summer as well as the end of the Dark Knight trilogy, Dark Knight Rises.
So what gives? What’s up with all the macho men in tights?
Historically, we’ve seen a trend with national issues having an effect on comics, and subsequently, the heroes we know and love.
The first boom of comics is known as the Golden Age. Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel, and Captain America were created in this time period. A prominent issue in the world was World War II. Because of the war, comics took on significant war themes. Comic books gained popularity at the time because they were cheap, portable methods of entertainment. They were a way people could get away from the world. We needed superheroes, and we got them.
The Silver Age was born out of the Golden Age. The Silver Age characters took on more flawed and self-doubting personas. They were no longer perfect, no longer “untouchable”. This came about because of the major social changes the world was undergoing. During this time, there was an increase in juvenile crime rates. Many people tried to blame it on comic books. As a result, the heroes the nation knew and loved were revisited and recreated. Starting with the Flash, comic characters went through complete transformations: the name remained, but the costume, locales, identities, and reasons behind their powers were totally revolutionized.
The Bronze Age of the 1970s was a much darker time for comics. The iconic event of this era was the death of Spiderman’s long-time girlfriend, Gwen Stacy. This led to the shattering of the idea of so-called “untouchable” characters. The comics of this time dealt with many “real-life” issues such as drug abuse, racial prejudices, environmental pollution, and social inequalities. There was a substantial rise in minority heroes as well as supernatural-esque characters (vampires, werewolves, etc.).
Currently, we are experiencing the “Modern Age” of comics. Characters have become more psychologically complex and many darker storylines have been included. We’ve seen a heavy increase in “anti-heroes” such as Wolverine, a darker version of Daredevil, and Elektra. There’s been a boom in the superhero movie market.
But why exactly is this modern age occurring?
Many people claim it’s only because of the increased ability of special effects. However, arguments circulate that the actual reason behind this comic boom is the need for superheroes. In a time where most major, developed countries have nuclear weapons, where the economy is so bad the stock market is literally expected to crash almost weekly, where acts of terror are so common, where people are so, so scared, we need heroes.
Heroes make us feel safe.
Heroes help us sleep at night.
We’re not making superhero movies because they’re fun. If we were, every hero would have a film. Where’s the Aquaman movie? Where’s the Flash’s movie?
We’re only making movies of the characters that have been historically loved and cherished. Characters that embody what heroism is. Batman, Superman, Spiderman, the Avengers.
We’re making movies that will help us get through these tough times. We need superheroes now more than ever. They need us, too.