If you look at the box office numbers, there’s no denying the ongoing success of the superhero genre of films, with over $2.7 billion earned by Avengers; Endgame, over $1.3 billion from Black Panther, and $1.1 billion from Aquaman. Comic book movies and TV shows continue to be money-makers, but there are concerns from a lot of fans that the genre is starting to get played out, especially with how Marvel and DC properties rarely challenge the overarching brand in any way that’s too bold. Here, we’re looking at some of the potential shake-ups the superhero genre might need, and which properties and producers look poised to provide it.
Return of the meta hero
The depiction of heroes who do not fit “the mold,” often with a focus on gritty realism, is not anything particularly new. Alan Moore’s Watchmen originally started publishing in 1986, after all. However, after decades of shiny, lionized Marvel and grim, self-serious DC, it’s no surprise that the rebellious and cynical Watchmen would be on the fast track to gaining popularity, with the recent mini-series drawing a lot of attention. The adaptation of Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson’s The Boys shows a big fondness of the kind of meta-textual commentary that both shows provide, with a more irreverent and deeply humorous twist than The Watchmen.
A deeper delve into characters
Great superhero movies and TV shows are, at their core, about their characters. The first season of Jessica Jones was so popular thanks to the damaged, damage-inducing main heroine and the eerily sociopathic Kilgrave. That seems to be the take that Valiant might be taking with future forays into the cinematic universe of comic books, according to an interview with Dan Mintz from DMG, who aims to provide a range of “Scorcese-friendly” characters to the screen. While there’s plenty of charisma in an on-screen Tony Stark or Starlord, there hasn’t really been a deep character portrayal of a hero over the past decade outside of Logan, and even that was a departure from the sass and spit of Hugh Jackman’s usual Wolverine.
A more diverse future
Having effectively taken over the comic book and movie industry with its heavy hitters, there’s a lot of room for Marvel to lead the charge in changing up the landscape of heroic media. In particular, they have already started to show a focus on more diverse leads and casts than previously seen. Jessica Jones being their first Netflix-produced TV show was a significant step. Black Panther was, as far as many are concerned, the first major black-led movie since 1998’s Blade, and Ms. Marvel shows a commitment to making sure that the screen isn’t entirely dominated by the Peter Parkers and Captain Americas of the world. In terms of promoting a diverse cast, it could be that Marvel has the clout to do it without the often illogical fear of losing viewers that big production companies often show when it comes to not casting white male leads.
The fact remains that superhero movies remain the primary draw for the widest audience when it comes to cinema. However, it could be time for the genre to evolve even further if the above indications are true.