Who Are Superhero Movies Made For?

8 min


Fans have appreciated the humungous universe that Marvel Studios has given us over the years. However, the increase in popularity for the Marvel movies does beg the question, do the audience care for the comics that originated the characters and stories we’ve grown to love?

Nolan’s Batman.

You can almost make the argument that superhero movies are made for literally anyone, and you wouldn’t be wrong. However, when Christopher Nolan decided to give fans a realistic take on Batman, he intended for the movie to be for the general audience who don’t read comics.¬†Unlike the climate of superhero movies nowadays, these movies weren’t generally taken seriously just a few years back. After all, the word comic implied laughter and comic-book ridiculousness.¬†Christopher Nolan understood he needed to give us a Batman everyone could take seriously.

The Batman comics have provided some mature, gritty stories (The Dark Knight Returns, The Killing Joke and Death in the Family) but none of these were movie adaptations at the time. These stories were accessible to everyone, but the problem is, not many people had time for them. So, really to the general audience, Batman Begins was the first proper outlook of Batman.

Though, it wasn’t just Batman that changed within the The Dark Knight trilogy. Characters like Raish Al Ghul, Bane and the League of Assassin’s were entirely separate to their comic versions. In the idea to make them more realistic, Nolan had revitalized these characters, giving completely different outlooks to the characters. Differentiating from the comics isn’t a bad thing by any means, but it is disappointing. For comic-book fans who have loved and grown up with these characters for years, they had wanted a more comic-accurate depiction of characters they’d never seen on screen before.

Marvel Cinematic Universe.

In 2008, the world got its first taste at what would grow to become the most successful superhero movie franchise. Iron Man had shaken the world in a way that no one expected. The first installment of the franchise was a considerable risk for Marvel Studios as not many, at this point, knew Iron Man. Unlike The Dark Knight trilogy, Iron Man didn’t exactly settle for realism. Instead, the movie focused on being fun and mature enough that it wasn’t targeting kids only. The general audience suddenly widened, and more and more teenagers and adults invested time into these “niche” Marvel movies. Along with this introduction came the idea of expanding the world to create a universe of superheroes.

When the Marvel Cinematic Universe launched, there was the intention of building a universe within its first movie. Meaning they would need to introduce characters, even if they weren’t popular at the time. Characters like Thor, Captain America and Hulk were favourable enough. However, it was with the launch of characters like Black Panther, Doctor Strange and Guardians of the Galaxy that Marvel needed to make some changes. The popularity of these characters, among others, wasn’t enough to invest people into a movie. For some of these characters, they were given their solo movies as experimentation to see if they’d do well enough for a sequel. For others, like Black Panther’s introduction came through the launch of a big movie event for the MCU.

The origin movie for Black Panther came only after his successful introduction in Captain America: Civil War. The most significant change made to Black Panther within the MCU was one that fans appreciated. His claim to the throne came at the young age of his mid-20’s in the comics. This does beg the question though, why make this change? This type of change was significant; however, it helped to make Black Panther a more complex character. Claiming the throne at such a young age would’ve disallowed the sense of wisdom we’d seen within him in the MCU. Yet, it’s his journey to that wisdom that connects us so much to the character. It’s is why comic-book fans appreciated this iteration of Black Panther and why the general audience immediately took a liking to him.

Changes are made to certain characters and stories because comics are more serialized. There’s a very different structure when comparing movies to comics. While one allows for longer stories to stretch for a year, the other usually takes a year or two to prepare and release. It’s natural that changes would be made to characters and stories in a movie-universe to suit the narrative that we’re used to seeing throughout this universe. Changes also allow for different, sometimes more exciting versions to take place. If it weren’t for the MCU, I’d never have cared for characters like Ant-Man, Scarlet Witch or Black Panther. These are characters that the MCU gave a new outlook on that everyone could appreciate.

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The DC Extended Universe.

When the DCEU launched, it was significantly different in its tactics compared to Marvel. Zack Snyder launched the DCEU with Man of Steel in 2013, deeming his movie to being more grounded and mature. Man of Steel saw several changes made to a hero that many fans have gotten used to for decades. Superman’s personality and heroic attributes were changed to suit a darker narrative. His tolerance for Metropolis becoming rubble and his decision to kill Zod allowed a disconnection between the character and fans.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, which re-introduced one of the most prominent DC characters. The most significant controversy around this movie was the changes made to Batman. Up until this point, the general audience remembered Batman from Christopher Nolan’s trilogy. The realism in Nolan’s version of Batman was well received, but Snyder had wanted a more “comic-accurate” version. The problem here wasn’t that Snyder aimed for a more “comic-accurate” depiction, it’s that it betrayed the core of the character. The MCU is known for making changes to their characters; however, their differences don’t often ignore the comic-book version. Allowing Batman to kill, having him lose Robin off-screen, seeing him constantly angry, and at times villainous were not functional changes. As a movie, BvS did make lots of references to famous comic-book stories, but often felt out of place or disorientated as Snyder hadn’t explained them in the film. These changes became a problem not just for the general audience, but the comic-book readers who knew Batman for decades.

Nevertheless, the DCEU has given us movies that took inspiration from the comics and made it work on the big screen. Films like Shazam or Aquaman are both very accurate to their comic counterpart in some ways and very different in others, and were received well by the overall audience – all because they didn’t betray the heart of the characters. My friend loved both DC films and was never into the superhero genre. This is because with characters like Shazam and Aquaman who are less known to the public are easier to love if you’re not comparing them to the comics. People who weren’t familiar with Shazam or Aquaman had been excited about fresh and new stories told within the superhero genre.

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General Audience & Comic-Book Audience.

The general audience is made up of people who aren’t familiar with comic-book stories and characters but want to enjoy a good movie. Then we have the comic-book audience; they’ve become more accustomed to the comic versions of the characters and stories told within the comics. Why change characters and stories within the movies that take inspiration from the comics? To reel in more people than just kids and the small but faithful readership.

The superhero genre wasn’t taken seriously for decades. It wasn’t until recent years that people have turned their attention into them. People have grown attachments to the MCU heroes, and there are others who are exploring new characters with DC movies. Superhero movies aren’t just for comic-book readers anymore. These movies have taught lessons, enlarged the film industry in a way that no one expected and has created characters that everyone can love.

Characters like Batman, Spider-Man and Superman have always been favourable among people. However, thanks to the growth of the superhero genre within the film industry, characters like Dr Strange, Captain Marvel, Shazam, Ant-Man, and so much more can be appreciated. It’s even brought more readers to the comic side of the business. The comic-books might be separate from the films, but they gave us these characters and the stories that have inspired so many movies. As long as they don’t betray the heart of those characters, these cinematic universes may be sustainable for a SUPER long time…

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Ali Harris

A fan of all things games, movies, TV shows and of course comic-books.