How comic heroes became mainstream
Fast forward twenty years and the scenery has totally changed. Just take a look at the highest grossing films of all time: five of the top fifty are comic-related movies (Avengers (Assemble), The Dark Knight, Spider-man, Spider-man 2 and Spider-man 3) and the rest, while not comic adaptations, are dominated by genre blockbusters like Lord of The Rings, Avatar and Star Wars. The Avengers (Assemble) has made $1.4bn to date at the international box office and comics isn’t finished with 2012 yet: July sees the reboot of Marvel’s Spider-man series going head-to-head with DC’s Batman The Dark Knight Rises, the third film in Christopher Nolan’s trilogy. This would have been unthinkable as recently as a decade ago. The success of the two Iron Man films, Thor and the X-Men series has all helped to make comicbook stories arguably the dominant force in popular culture of the first part of the twenty-first century.
And it’s not limited to film either. One of the biggest hits on TV over the past couple of years is The Walking Dead, a series based on Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard’s zombie comic of the same name published by Image Comics. It season two finale was the most-watched basic cable drama telecast in TV history, drawing in 9 million viewers. And despite the fact that the show has lost its showrunner (Frank (Shawshank Redemption, The Mist) Darabont), its momentum is likely to continue when it returns later this year.
When we started TRIPWIRE back in 1992, we never dreamed that comics would take over popular culture the way that it has and if you’d told us twenty years ago, that the third-biggest grossing film of all time would be one based on Marvel’s much loved superhero team The Avengers, we would have laughed in your face.
Of course, cultural trends are cyclical and the influence of comics on mainstream culture will come to an end at some point. But with a third Iron Man, a second Thor and a follow-up to Avengers (Assemble), this is unlikely to happen for some time. Comic culture, for so many years a sideshow to the main event, is now at the heart of popular culture, whether on the big screen or the small one.
Joel Meadows is editor-in-chief of Tripwire magazine, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary with a special edition book, crowdsourced at Unbound.Tagged in: avatar, Avengers (Assemble), Charlie Adlard, christopher nolan, comic books, Iron Man, Lord of the Rings, Robert Kirkman, Spider-man, Spider-man 2 a, Spider-man 3, star wars, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises, The Walking Dead, Thor, X-Men
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