Where Did Superhero Mania Come From?

I’ll probably be updating this later with a bit more depth but here is the nub:

When will this superhero crap end? I hear the constant cry in the electronic winds of the internet.

Probably soon is my guess. But before we get into that lets see where it started.

A lot of people credit 9-11 for creating the Superhero Craze. This is understandable as an explanation. When we saw those smoking holes craters in Manhattan and we knew that thousands of people had been murdered, the concept of the supervillain became a reality. If there are real life supervillains there is some comfort to be found in superheroes. Even if they are only fictional

This theory has one major flaw. X-Men came out in 2000. X-Men was the start of the modern superhero cycle. Yes, I know, there were superhero movies in the 1990s but they are a separate genre. In those movies the superhero was half monster or possibly more than half.

There were couple things that worked hand in hand to start the post 90s superhero craze in movies.

First. Special effects were finally up to making super human feats look plausible on screen rather than hokey.

Second. There was a generational crossover of interests.

If you look at the big franchises that Generation-X loved, Star Wars, Alien, Terminator, Stargate, Independence Day. What genre do they fall under? Obviously, Science Fiction. Even Ghostbusters pretty much qualified. Okay, hardly a big secret. Gen-Xers like us some Sci Fi.

But look at the first two big hits for Millennials. Lord of the Rings (2001) and Harry Potter (2001). Millennials are the first generation to make fantasy flicks profitable. That genre of film was notorious for flopping with Generation X but that was not the case with Millennials.

Superheroes provided a bridge between both audiences. Consequently they did blockbuster business.

Third. The halo effect of Marvel’s Infinity Stones movie cycle. Don’t get me wrong, there have been plenty of superhero bombs (Ghostrider, Superman Returns, Fantastic Four Rise of the Silver Surfer). But with Captain America, Marvel began building a story to a climax. It kept interest in the whole genre alive and kicking, when it looked like it was starting to taper off in the late 00’s.

But now, some things are about to change.

First. Marvel’s Infinity Stones story is over . It was a grand canvass to be painting on but the story is told. Marvel has revealed it’s slate of upcoming movies at Comicon.

Black Widow: She’s dead (sorry, spoiler alert). People aren’t interested in a dead characters story.

The Eternals: They are very proud of having Angelina Jolie and a deaf heroine.

Shang-Chi: A movie with an Asian action star… Finally!

Sorry dude, you were one quarter German.

Hawkeye: Maybe. The problem is that he is now a family man and that equals baggage.

Doctor Strange and the Multi-verse Madness: Probably the most promising.

And of course; Thor: Love and Thunder. Which has a title like a porn parody and won’t be anywhere near as interesting. Natalie Portman is 90 pounds soaking wet and is going to be portraying Thor. Apparently, she is still his(real Thor’s) love interest and is going to be 40 when this is released, Not exactly the peak of her fertility years. Portman has always been so wooden termites follow her around. Also Valkyrie, is now the KING of Asgard is looking for a lucky girl to be her queen. In short, this movie is trolling it’s core audience.

There is nothing that approaches cohesion in this lineup. There was always a reason to look forward to the next Marvel movie because you’d be taken a little bit farther down the Infinity Stones road. But that road has come to a deadend. There is nothing more to look forward to.

Second. Generation-X is reaching it’s gruff, middle-aged years. Past a certain age people usually stop bothering with movies, especially once your kids are all old enough to be ashamed to be seen with you in public. Gen-X is hitting that point. So now the big question is, will Generation Z still be interested in a genre that they have been stuck with their entire lives?

4 thoughts on “Where Did Superhero Mania Come From?

  1. Excellent points.

    A Black Widow film would have done big business. I don’t know why they never did one earlier.

    I’ve heard rumors that the Hawkeye film is supposed to be about his daughter taking over. Yeah, another female character is what they need.

    Thor: Love and Thunder reminds me of the second Shumacher Batman film. The first had done okay with it’s neon colors and over the top villains. Doubling down for the second film killed the franchise until Nolan.

    Will Gen Z even care about films?


  2. Can I renounce my millennial membership and join Generation-X? Every franchise you listed is one of my all-time favorites. I like LOTR and have read the Harry Potter books, but don’t get the hype.

    Most demographers use 1981-1996 as the birth years for millennials, and I just barely make the cut at ’82. I personally would argue that if you remember what life was like before ubiquitous personal computers and the internet, you aren’t a millennial.


  3. Mr. Univac,

    In William Strauss and Neil Howe’s 1990 book Generations, the authors argued that people born near to one generational group (i.e., either the first few years or the last few years of a given 22-year-long generational span) are bound to share a lot of the characteristics of that other generation. In your case, you are an early-born Millennial, the sort of people who had many of the same experiences as Generation-X had (especially late-born Gen-Xers.)

    In other words, it’s no wonder that you often feel more a part of Generation X than you feel a part of the generation that demographers have assigned to you. According to Strauss and Howe, that’s normal, and to be expected. And you’re in the same boat with lots of other people born within a year or two of your birth. So you don’t need to “join” Generation X, because you’ve already experienced so much of the stuff that we experienced (e.g., your own example of knowing life before the growth of a robust Internet), so you’re already one of us, in a sense.


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