by Victor Yap

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Avengers Assemble! Who’s excited about the Avengers movie? That one could be the ultimate comic book movie crossover, getting (almost) all the prime Marvel movie superheroes in one flick.

This is nothing new, though, as movies based on superhero comic books have been around for a while. Superman’s animated shorts were screened in cinemas starting 1941-43 and the first recognised Marvel film was the Captain America serial in 1944.

However, it must be said that this new surge of popularity is a new age of superhero films. Throughout the ‘90s, comic book movies had a bunch of hits and misses, creating cult-classics, popular franchises as well as flops as the years went on.

What started it all was the 1978 Superman film, the platform that catapulted the Man of Steel into Hollywood and encouraged the studio to produce a few sequels after. Tim Burton’s Batman films came out almost 10 years after that and reinforced the idea that comics make good movies.

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This resulted in a mix bag of terrible, good, and great movies that were inspired, adapted or made from comics. The trend at time was mediocre and there was no real demand for comic book films.

Movies like Spawn and Blade turned the trend around as it re-enact the original source material in the movie and stayed true to the characters portrayed on film

By being faithful to the comics and only adding changes where it is needed as well as giving it the appropriate Hollywood treatment ensured the two films would do well at the box-office and generate favourable response among fans.

The formula that these two successful comic films have set is not the ultimate strategy, however, as some titles that followed the formula still failed spectacularly. This includes the Spawn sequels, Marvel’s Daredevil, Ghost Rider, and The Hulk (the Ang Lee one), and the 2003 Punisher as well as many others that fizzled prematurely at the cinemas.

Here are some comic book movies that got it right and made it really big:
- Spiderman (2002): Tobey Maguire defined Peter Parker and brought the teenage hero closer to fans and a whole new group of audience through the big screen.
- Batman Begins (2005): Chrisopher Nolan’s reimagining of the Dark Knight set the benchmark for many comic book movies to follow.
- X-Men (2000): While the origins and backstory is completely different from the comics, it created a new franchise that inspired a new comic series for the X-teams, and reinforced the push for the re-creation of the Marvel Universe to become grittier and more gruesome.
- Fantastic Four (2005): Marvel’s First Family makes it to big screen and left its mark as the film to focus on four separate heroes working together and make the sizzling hot Jessica Alba comically strip on screen.
- Iron Man (2008): Robert Downey Jr. is Tony Stark and Iron Man … ‘nuff said.
- Popular non-mainstream comics: Wanted, Scott Pilgrim VS The World, 300, Kick-Ass, and Watchmen.
- Captain America (2011): The Star-Spangled Hero needed a movie of his own and he got it in spades thanks to the creative mind of its director Joe Johnston.
- Thor (2011): Another film that created its own origins for the character but still managing to do it well and stay strong in the box office.

Comic films that flopped commercially, even with big name stars headlining it, are thankfully not in abundance. Movies like Catwoman, The Punisher, and Elektra.

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This futile effort showed movie studios that character spin-offs is not necessarily a good thing. As such they turned to sequels and believed that is the way they can cash in on the demand for comic films. This includes:
- The Dark Knight: Heath Ledger re-defined the Joker as a dark, classy fellow and was responsible for making the film even darker than it could ever be.
- Iron Man 2: More Tony Stark but with triple armour-filled fun!
- Spiderman 2 & 3: Great takes on some of Spidey’s major storylines but still falling short of the first film. Many prefer the second film of the two, hailing it as the best of all three Spiderman films.
- X-Men 2 & 3: While both were box-office successes, the third film falls short of fans’ expectations. It doesn’t help the X-film franchise gave birth to a few more movie projects that work to deviate the movie continuity from the source material.

As sequels start to lose its appeal, the idea of rebooting the comic film franchise came up and is making its rounds around Hollywood now. The Incredible Hulk is one such example of a successful reboot and has spurred Marvel to consider other projects for the same treatment.

Marvel’s latest X-film, X-Men: First Class, is somewhat of a reboot, while Nolan’s Batman trilogy can be considered a full reboot from Tim Burton’s films while Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns is a reboot to the third and fourth film from the ’80, acting as a sequel to the original two.

For now there are two other reboots being filmed and are planned for a 2012 release: The Amazing Spiderman and Man of Steel (Superman). More great movies are being produced for the coming year with most of them being sourced from the comic industry. It seems like a renaissance is coming and the comic kings can only smile at this surprising turn of events.

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