By NATALIE SACKET
It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s Superman (and Batman)!
Tonight’s release of “Batman v. Superman” is yet another film installment in a long line of superhero films. Superheroes have delighted and intrigued audiences since the 1930s across many mediums. However, the past decade has seen a dramatic surge in superhero movie and television adaptations.
Superhero adaptations have come a long way, from comic strip, to graphic novel, to the big screen. Now, it seems as though a new feature on superheroes is being released every other month.
With shows like “Daredevil,” “Jessica Jones,” “The Flash,” “Arrow” and “Supergirl,” television has been dominated by superhero adaptations. Each year, more series are released with superheroes as the primary focus. Some can fly, some have super strength; some have powers, some don’t. There is one constant: all attract large audiences.
With the massive surge of Marvel and DC films, superheroes have dominated the big screen for years. Just in 2016, there are six prominent superhero films being released. Many more are to follow in coming years.
So why is there a massive resurgence in superhero adaptations? Perhaps it is merely that technology has changed enough that it can translate the exciting imaginations of the comics.
Charlie Wylie is a Northwestern senior who can be considered an expert on superheroes. He has been an avid comic reader for 28 years and watches almost every recent superhero installment. He won first place at Ranger Research Day last semester for his presentation on the cultural adaptations of Lois Lane.
“We now have the technology to bring these incredible stories to life,” Wylie said. “Superheroes have always been portrayed in the medium of comic books. That medium is only limited by the imagination of the writer and the artist.”
Superhero adaptations relate to a wide variety of audiences for many reasons.
“Superhero movies have action, science fiction elements, romance, drama and comedy all rolled into one,” Wylie said. “It contains a little bit of everything, which is why I think it appeals to so many people.”
Superheroes give audiences something to hope for and someone to look up to. They are the Greek gods of modern entertainment.
The superheroes have changed throughout the decades. Superman used to battle Nazis, as he was a symbol for the resurgence of the Jewish community. The heroes have adapted to social conditions. In some decades, they have been comical; in others, they have been cynical and serious. As most forms of pop culture, the superhero genre has adapted within its cultural conditions. Now, our heroes have become far more morally complicated and flawed. None of these heroes are entirely pure. Perhaps we need these heroes to be flawed, as it displays the human experience. Since September 11, 2001, superheroes have become a more prevalent aspect of our entertainment.
Wylie is optimistic about the future of superhero adaptations.
“I think these kinds of movies will continue to be popular,” Wylie said. “There were low expectations for ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ and ‘Ant-Man.’ Both of these movies have done phenomenally well. Look at ‘Deadpool.’ I have to admit, I wasn’t expecting that movie to blow up like it did. But, yet again, another big success. ‘Batman vs. Superman’ is probably going to do fantastic at the box office as well. This sucecss carries over to television as well … This genre will continue to be popular because people want to watch these stories.”
Regardless of why this genre has a newfound popularity, it is certain that these heroes are saving the box office.
Even though these superheroes may only exist in fiction and are unable to save us, they are the heroes we need to help us escape our daily lives.