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How comic book films can recapture their dwindling audiences

How comic book films can recapture their dwindling audiences

How comic book films can recapture their dwindling audiences
April 08
10:35 2023

This past year has been particularly hard for comic book films. With big releases like “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” and “Shazam: Fury of the Gods” failing at the box office and receiving low ratings from movie critics, chances are we’re seeing the downfall of the comic book film genre in real-time.

If comic book film franchises like Marvel and DC Comics want to win back audiences and restore their previous successes, they need to diversify their films and go outside the box.

As highly anticipated as many Marvel and DC Comics films usually are, their box office results show that audiences don’t harbor the same interest they did in the past. “Shazam: Fury of the Gods” pulled in a revenue of $102.4 million, making it the lowest-grossing film out of the DC Extended Universe after “Wonder Woman 1984” and “The Suicide Squad.” However, it wasn’t the only comic book movie to fail at the box office. “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” also had the lowest revenue of its series, according to

Meanwhile, franchises like “Scream”, “Creed” and “John Wick” all managed to have very successful box-office openings due to strong word of mouth. Audiences and critics seem to favor other genres like horror and action over the typical superhero film.

Comic book franchises should take inspiration from the success of unique projects like “The Boys,” “Invincible,” “The Batman” or “Peacemaker.” These all hit well with audiences and critics because they strayed from the classic comic book movie. Well-established comic book franchises bombarded viewers with films built around the same format, where a hero always beats the bad guy with little to no consequences, all while cracking a couple of lighthearted jokes. Viewers are tired and want variety.

Not every movie or TV show must be rated R or overly dark, but there must be some balance in order to keep things fresh. Audiences and critics have had enough of the typical superhero film at this point, so the only way to save the genre is to try new things.

There’s an increasing trend of lower box office numbers for each new Marvel release due to oversaturation. The Marvel Cinematic Universe released 18 films and TV shows between 2021 and 2022. The latest MCU films, with the exception of “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” produced a gradual decrease in revenue.

The latest MCU release, “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania”‘s total box office revenue within its six-week release window was $470 million, according to This falls far below previous MCU entries’ revenues like “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” with $955 million and “Thor: Love and Thunder” with $760 million, which were both released less than a year before “Quantumania” debuted.

There’s no question that comic book moviegoers are experiencing fatigue and a dying interest with each new release. What used to be a special event has now turned into a simple routine. Marvel and DC Comics must stop pumping out so many films in a short time span and give audiences room to breathe.

Another reason for the comic book franchises’ box office failures is poor critic reviews from respected sites like Rotten Tomatoes. “Shazam”’s Tomatometer is 51 percent based on 219 reviews and “Ant-Man”’s score is 47 percent with 380 reviews. Casual moviegoers see low ratings and decide to skip the theater altogether in order to stream a month or so later. The subsequent high ratings for film franchises like “John Wick,” “Scream,” and “Creed” convince viewers to buy a ticket and help word of mouth spread.

Both Marvel and DC Comics have to recognize audience and critic preferences with how their most recent entries have turned out. There’s no longer a guaranteed box office win for cookie-cutter superhero films with mediocre visual effects and plots.

The best course of action is for Marvel and DC Comics to cut down their film output to a few projects a year, so they have time to polish them before release. If comic book film franchises can offer viewers better VFX, acting and writing, audiences will fall in love with superhero films all over again.

Featured Illustration by Erika Sevilla

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Joaquin Fernandez

Joaquin Fernandez

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