No, I’m not referring to comic books. They’re the birth, cornerstone, and hopefully never tombstone of modern day superhero fiction, where all the movies and television spinoffs get the majority of their creative inspiration from. And frankly, the superhero film and television industries are doing great, and many (including myself) are happier people for it. But how long will that last? How long will the average viewer care to be entertained in such a way? When, if ever, will they as a majority decide they are tired of the constant bombardment of superhero media? We’ve seen the rise of the superhero market, held heavily on the shoulders of the early X-Men and Spider-Man films, but will we also see the fall?
My main concern is essentially that as it is right now, we have just a tad too much saturation in the superhero market. As it stands, there’s an average of 4-5 major superhero blockbusters a year. We now have two Superhero tv shows, one of them a spinoff of a popular franchise (Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), and the other a reaction to the absence of superhero television on the WB after Smallville wrapped up (Arrow). Each season of these shows produces about 20 hours of original superhero footage for us to consume, soak up and enjoy (not including commercials we have to sit through). And yes, each company wants you to be more invested in their market so as to overshadow others, which is why some (or most) stick to watching only one show, if that. But your average viewer doesn’t think about it like that – they’re thinking “man there is way too much superhero crap on right now.” And this is fine. We turn a blind eye, watch another show/movie. The world moves on. And they, the average viewers, may not even be thinking that now, but the superhero landscape is about to get very crowded. Will their opinion change?
The CW is prepping a spinoff tv show of Arrow in the way of the Flash, which is now well into filming its pilot episode (and will almost certainly be picked up). Captain America’s old love, Peggy Carter is in talks of getting her own tv series. The early days of Gotham, pre-Batman is getting it’s own series. Constantine is getting a series. Netflix just signed a deal with Marvel and Disney to create 13 hour-long episodes each for Daredevil, for Jessica Jones, for Iron Fist, for Luke Cage, all culminating in a Defenders miniseries which will be anywhere from 4-8 hour-long episodes. That is a lot of television on the horizon. A lot of superhero television. Will the average viewer care to watch a spinoff series? A pre-Batman series. Care to be completely caught up on the entirety of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe)? Even non-comic based superhero television is becoming heavily prevalent. Remember ‘Heroes’? Yeah, THAT’s coming back.
This doesn’t even begin to cover the four movie studios vying for your viewership. Marvel has two films coming out this summer: Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy. Producer Kevin Feige has made mention that they have a general timeline of films scheduled all the way out until 2021. Fox is merging their original and new X-Men franchises to work together in X-Men: Days of Future Past and 2016’s X-Men: Apocalypse, and they’re in talks to produce another Wolverine sequel (AND they’re rebooting the Fantastic Four). Sony is never letting go of Spider-Man and we can expect to get one every two years at best guesstimate, along with possible spinoff material with characters related to the Spider-Man name. All the while, DC Comics and Warner Brothers is prepping their cinematic universe with Batman/Superman, in very slow response to Marvel’s The Avengers booming success. Will this barrage of films at some point begin to deter moviegoers?
Another thing to take into consideration are the dates that these films are getting released on. If they don’t show up too near to each other, it shouldn’t affect viewership from diehard fans, or the average Fri/Sat moviegoers. But just this past week we encountered a problem with this thinking: Warner Brothers announced that they’d release they’re Batman/Superman film on May 6, 2016, the same date as one of Marvel’s films, which was subsequently announced to be Captain America 3. Marvel has stated that they don’t plan to back down from the date. If they do get released on the same weekend, that would make this the biggest superhero showdown in movie history. A worthy topic of discussion in its own right. Personally, if I may interject my own article, I think this is a terrible move on DC’s part. Sure, although Captain America is already a huge tentpole, backed by his first solo film, then the Avengers, and soon to be his second solo film, nobody honestly believes Captain America 3 will do better than arguably the two greatest superheroes in popular culture (Superman, Batman) clashing on camera. BUT, Marvel and Disney don’t need to worry about that particularly. Captain America will be the 13th canon film in the MCU. They can afford to take that hit. DC cannot. If Marvel can take away just 25-40% of the viewership from Batman/Superman, that’s a considerable hit to the company’s only film currently scheduled to be lined up. It’s not very likely the majority of folks will see both opening weekend. I expect that, depending on how well The Winter Soldier does in the box office in the next coming weeks, WB may choose to move their slot. This choice to choose sides, to choose one hero movie over another, is frustrating to both fans and others alike. Although there are plenty of weeks in the year, the happenstance that two major films release on the same weekend give viewers the mindset that the genre IS over-saturated.
As a comic book fan, I’m excited for all the new material, but I’m also really worried it might be too much, and too fast. I’d rather get less and have the beauty of the genre last longer, than get more now and have it die out quicker. But it seems each company wants only to make the profit while they can. Will the supply of superhero content outweigh the demand in the coming years? Probably. Regardless, it’s out of this mere bloggers hands, or any of you for that matter. All we can do now is enjoy what we can, view what we want, and see what shape the genre is in next year… 2016… 2021. Some of you are probably already tired of the genre, and haven’t read this far. That’s fine. Everyone is entitled to their opinions and their interests. How do you feel about the current state of superhero affairs?