What is it about superheroes that so ignites the public’s sense of excitement and enjoyment?
This summer has already seen a number of superhero movies released. These films will be further complemented by marketing efforts in the area of PC games, console games, as well as books, comics and music and DVD releases. It is highly likely that at least one of these superhero movies and the related spin-offs will once again break all records for profit generated from a movie release.
As a genre, superheroes have been around long time. The word superhero dates to at least 1917. Today, superhero comics are most notably published under the Marvel or DC publishing labels, although there are a myriad of other comics published by other companies as well. What is it that grants the superhero genre such enduring appeal?
By tradition a superhero is a character who possesses powers that are somehow above and beyond the abilities of an ordinary human being. It should be noted though, that there is no absolute requirement for a particular character to possess superpowers as such, all that is required is skills or abilities that go beyond the norm. An example of a superhero character that possesses no true superpowers would be Batman or Green Arrow from the DC comics stable.
One activity that is common to many superheroes, if not all, is the dedication of their powers and abilities in a daily battle to combat threats to humanity and fight against crime. Often superheroes will find a large part of their activities devoted to defeating super villains. These super villains will have powers similar in magnitude to those of the hero themselves. Perhaps it is the magnitude of these powers that make the story is interesting.
The conflicts often portrayed in these stories are certainly well beyond the ability of any normal human to deal with. However the deeper aspects of these stories should not be ignored, as it is not all just energy blasts and explosions. For example, in the X-Men the subject of racism and prejudice is explored. Although the X-Men are heroes and fight on the side of good they are nevertheless frequently persecuted by normal humanity as well as the super villains that oppose them. Despite this opposition and persecution the X-Men define themselves as heroes by an adherence to a strong moral code which keeps them fighting the good fight.
This summer will see the release of the movie based upon the Marvel comic’s character called Iron Man. Iron Man 2 will no doubt be yet another financially successful movie to come out of Hollywood. It is the second movie in a trilogy and follows the life of a millionaire playboy called Tony Stark. Part of this financial success will be based upon sales of various PC and console games. The attraction of these games is no doubt based at least in part on the ability of the individual to immerse themselves in the persona of the hero they admire.
Where once the printed word was enough and later illustrated comics came to surpass this, we now have reached the time where those pictures have become photorealistic animations in a 3-D PC game. From these advances, fans of the superhero genre are gaining an ever closer identification with the hero they so admire. Based upon these factors, it looks as though superheroes will remain with us for some time yet to come and superhero movies along with them.