Marvel's newest movie, “Avengers: Age of Ultron” is just around the corner and is expected to be a huge box office success. It only makes sense since the previous Avengers movie turned out to be the 3rd highest grossing film of all time. What's the secret to its success? Why do we choose to watch fantastical people in outrageous costumes save the day? Society has always been infatuated by super-human figures, but only recently has this surge of comic book characters influenced pop culture in a massive way. Why? Could it be the stories that they tell? Tales of mutants casted out of society, or a man who turns into a monster once his heart rate rises? I mean they're no different from any Hollywood story, I mean they've been telling the same story for years. So why does society suddenly enjoy these stories? It’s not like this subject matter is new, in the early 2000s comic book movies were popping up every year, yet they weren't taken as seriously as they are now. Today some of them are critically acclaimed, hiring A-list actors such as Robert Downey Jr, Gary Oldman, and Christian Bale. I've always been an avid comic book reader, and they've heavily influenced my artistic style and storytelling abilities, but even as a child I would have never thought an Avengers movie could ever be brought to life in the way that it has today. It still blows my mind just thinking about it. We live in an age where technology can create some mind-bending images, and with all the money Disney is fueling into Marvel, it's become an easy task. When Marvel's Cinematic Universe, was picking up speed, Disney made an executive decision to invest and buy out Marvel altogether. Disney already had the best market for cartoons, television, film, and toys, all they were missing were comic books. Comics have been evolving over the past 70 years, and society has been evolving with them. What does this say about our culture or society?
"Information courtesy of Box Office Mojo. Used with permission."
The very first modern comic book was known as “Famous
Funnies”. First published in the United States in 1933, around the end of the Great Depression. Seemed like an appropriate time to get distracted and read some funny stories, right? I mean nobody wants to be depressed forever. This was also around the cartoon boom of the early 30s, and comics were essentially cartoons that you could hold in your hand and carry with you. “Felix the cat” even spoke with talk bubbles in the age of the silent film. Comics were born in a time of turmoil and poverty and were a way of giving the people something to laugh at because that's what they were originally meant to do.
A few years later “Superman” was born, the symbol for truth, justice, and the American way. He was a symbol everyone could identify. His trademarked shield icon on his chest meant something. People who had a dime in their pocket could pick up his comic and have something to hope for. He was, and still is a figure to represent hope, especially in the time of his birth, WWII. Before him there was no one who could do the things he could. You could always count on Superman to save the day, and everyone in the world was looking for something like that at the time. In 1941, Captain America made his debut, a super soldier designed to defeat the Nazi menace, and the likes of Adolf Hitler. On the cover of his first issue, he's seen giving Hitler a clean sock to the face, wearing his red, white, and blue uniform,holding his star-spangled shield. He brought the attention of Americans and gave us a newer less gruesome look at the War, a more watered down solution of how things can change. When we look at a hero and see them take on problems that the world is facing, things seem so easy when they're much worse. Who wouldn't want to punch Hitler in the face? I know I would, but when reading about a man dressed in a silly costume, made to naturally represent where you come from, a sense of pride emerges. We all want all our problems to be handled by a single person, a person with the strength and endurance to do anything, it's almost like rooting for your favorite sports team. In sports, there are usually two teams, they both want the same thing, but you want one of them to get it, because it's as if you got it, as if you're contributing to something other than your problems. These superhero films have that same effect, but they face problems far greater than us. For example, in Captain America: The Winter Solider, Captain America needs to go outside the confines of the law to stop a secret government protocol that will kill anyone it deems evil, with some mathematical formula. The Captain, who works for the government, see's that the country he fought for in World War II has changed in a dark way. He's facing issues that the world is facing right now, with government surveillance or the National Security Agency. In other words, we as a country have always had judgments on our government, and would love to do something about it, but instead Captain America can do it for us.
These superheroes have been around for so long that they've gained a much larger audience, old and young. Multiple generations are influencing the next, my dad, for example, is the main reason for my love of comic books. He still keeps all of his old comics in cardboard boxes, and I've read most of them growing up. So experiencing all these movies with someone like my dad, makes them feel like a more special event. They give us our personal connection with the film, and with each other. It's as if we are going on an adventure with our favorite heroes, and it makes a perfect escape from the real world, but isn't that what films are for?