In my last post, I went over the relatively brief history of superhero films starting with the 1974 release of Superman. Now, keep in mind that superhero films had been relatively successful before 2008. Films like X-Men established superheroes as a reasonably popular and profitable cinematic subject, but they were not as ubiquitous as they are now. The year 2008 was saw the lighting of a powder-keg. The release dates for Iron Man and The Dark Knight were close and both were adaptations of properties from competing rights-holders.
There is no question that superheroes are massively in vogue right now, especially in cinema. Recent years have seen a staggering influx of larger-than-life characters in costumes go up against bad guys in these huge multi-million-dollar spectaculars made by enough set and post-production crew members to fill a small town. In the midst of this box office flood of caped crusaders, I feel it necessary to remark that the explosive success of superheroes in Hollywood is, in the greater history of cinema, a blip; a loud blip, but a blip nonetheless. Here, I’ll go over the history of the genre up until the release of two pivotal superhero films and continue to discuss the current saturation of the genre in my next post. While the essence of the superhero film can be traced back to the original 1920 release of The Mask of Zorro, superheroes, as we know them, were never seen as a particularly lucrative or enticing property to adapt to screen until 1978 with the release Richard Donner’s Superman starring Christopher Reeve as the man from Krypton.