Question of the Day: Are we at Peak Comic Book (Superhero) Movie?

Much like the Peak Oil analogy, the concept where all the easy oil-wells (cue The Beverly Hillbillies theme, or wailing Middle Eastern aria) have been tapped and exploited and now we either have to drill way off into the ocean, or remove copious amounts of sulphur to get good, usable hydrocarbons or by brute processing force, extract it from the sticky tar sands. Thus several treatments of Superman, Batman, Spiderman, and the popular mutants of the X-Men have yielded their massive cash bounties, nowhere more greater than the summer of 2012 where The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises reaping box-office windfall (albeit at very high production and marketing costs).

The origin story has been done to death (albeit, The Amazing Spiderman trotted it out once again.) And with it (hopefully) passing, it invites more complex things like the tableaux of societal anxiety in the Nolan Batmans, flirtations with classical tragedy in Ang Lee’s Hulk, period-pieces like Fist Class and Captain America, the universe-slash-continuity building with Marvel Studios across many different characters or even the risky The Last Temptation Christ experiment in Superman Returns.

My question to you is this, with smaller comic book properties such as Ant Man in production, but really, just a slew of sequels and spin offs (Ironman, Thor, Wolverine, Robin) or team ups (Avengers 2, Justice League, Guardians Of The Galaxy) or the eventual reboot of Batman, do you think we’ve hit the peak of Box-Office, at this point, and that the slide (slow or fast) down the curve (with ever increasing budgets to make these things) will convince the major Hollywood Studios to start looking for another trend to get on board with for their big summer tentpoles? Or do you think that things are here to stay, and a more experimental, extracting black gold from the tar sands approach will yield the continuation of a golden age of Comic Book Superhero Films?

A primer of both the optimistic and not so optimistic views from last year, The Great Comic Book Movie Debate:

MorePop: Batman – The Night of the Owls

“Beware the court of owls, that watches all the time,
Ruling Gotham from a shadow perch, behind granite and lime.
They watch you at your hearth, they watch you in your bed,
Speak not a whispered word of them or they’ll send the talon for your head.”


When I initially wrote my first impressions of DC’s New 52 for this column, there was only one issue per series out. Now we’re up to issue 11, just about all the books have finished at least one arc, I’ve dropped some from my reading list, and added others. After issue 1, I had Scott Snyder’s Batman series as my fourth favorite out of what I’d read. With more issues and time, it’s become pretty clear that the Court of Owls/Night of the Owls Batman arc is easily my favorite thing in the entire New 52. Re-reading the whole thing yesterday in preparation for this post only confirmed that. It’s really well-structured, with strong continuity and works incredibly well both in individual issues and the arc as a whole.

The New 52 relaunch included four Batman-centric books, plus a myriad of other Bat-family books. At first, you wonder why there’s a need for Batman AND Detective Comics AND Batman: The Dark Knight, not to mention Batman & Robin. Checking them all out, though, they each have a slightly different approach to the Batman mythos. Batman is dark and fairly realistic in tone, the clear parallel to Nolan’s Batman movies. Detective Comics takes a much more old-school comic approach, with colorful and larger-than-life villains, more along the lines of the video games Arkham Asylum and Arkham City. I’m not quite as familiar with Batman: The Dark Knight, but it seems to hit somewhere in between, with its first arc concerned with a Bane-derived fear toxin. Meanwhile, Batman & Robin is almost a family drama, focusing on the relationship between Bruce Wayne and his son Damian, the current Robin. I’ve enjoyed all these books to varying degrees, but Snyder’s flagship Batman is head and shoulders above the others.

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MorePop: The DC New 52

I‘ve never really been a comic book reader, other than gobbling up Archie and Uncle Scrooge when I was a kid, and delving into the occasional graphic novel more recently. But I’ve been more and more intrigued by them, and kind of fascinated with the idea of weekly comic reading. Mostly what’s stopped me from getting into comics is the sheer overwhelming nature of long story arcs, high issue numbers, and the feeling that I could never catch up sufficiently. So when I heard a few weeks ago that DC was going to reboot all of their series (and start a few new ones), it piqued my interest immediately. Granted, this is kind of a publicity stunt from DC, desperate to get new readers and pull lapsed ones back in, but whatever. It’s working (and not just on me – the New 52 has been selling much better than hoped, with most of the #1 issues going into second and third printings – how long that will last is anyone’s guess).

Now that all 52 series have released their first issues, I thought I’d run down the 13 series I read this first month. Is anybody else checking out the New 52? What are your favorites so far?

Swamp Thing #1

I had absolutely no intention of buying this book. I didn’t know the character, and I had little interest in finding out about a superhero version of the Creature from the Black Lagoon (my uninformed mental image of what this must be). But everybody, and I mean pretty much everybody I know who reads comics told me I had to check it out. And they were right. This is probably one of the best written books of the ones I read; it has a lot of voiceover text boxes, which I don’t always like, but in this case, the monologue is thoughtful and almost poetic – an inner voice that made me want to know about this man. The art is more than solid, too, with the introduction of the big bad done almost wordlessly in one of the most disturbing reveals of this subset of #1s. I will definitely be back for more.
Writer: Scott Snyder Artist: Yanick Paquette

Action Comics #1

I’ll confess, Superman has always been one of my least favorites of the major superheroes. I just find him kind of boring, with his eager do-gooder attitude and his essentially unbeatable powers. But this Superman isn’t boring – he starts off tearing up an office building and holding a crooked company owner over the balcony, threatening to drop him if he doesn’t answer for his mistreatment of the people of Metropolis. This Superman is young, volatile, unpredictable, and dangerous. You understand why the police want to catch him. I love that. I even love the jeans-and-Superman-t-shirt costume he’s wearing. Yeah, I’m in.
Writer: Grant Morrison Artists: Rags Morales, Rick Bryant

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