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The modern mythology: why superhero media must be remade

The modern mythology: why superhero media must be remade

The modern mythology: why superhero media must be remade
August 12
13:00 2022

Everybody has a favorite superhero. Whether your childhood idol throws batarangs or shields, costumed crime-fighters are engrained in contemporary culture. With Marvel’s 14-year movie series growing ever-larger, some are beginning to feel the company is running out of ideas. The concept of a cinematic universe is starting to push against what superheroes are at their core: modern myths constantly needing to be retold.

Before the explosion of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with the release of “Iron Man” in 2008, comic book culture was not nearly as mainstream as it is today. Superhero movies were lucrative, but certainly not record-setting. What they lacked in cash flow was made up for in their ability to be artistically experimental.

Tim Burton’s “Batman” (1989) was a far cry from how comic books presented Batman at the time. However, it was an excellent mixture of Burton’s iconic style and Gotham’s grittiness. Sam Raimi’s 2002 “Spider-Man” changed fundamental aspects of the titular character while still becoming a classic. What made these movies special wasn’t solely the heroes that starred in them, but how the directors uniquely interpreted them.

Even today, the best of superhero media is represented in original ideas. “Joker” (2019) introduced the villain entirely separate from his arch-nemesis, and characters in the MCU like the Falcon differ greatly from their comic counterparts. They certainly take notes from the decades of comics that come before them, but they are mostly new characters with old names.

Announcements of new comic book movies are always followed by fierce debates on comic book accuracy and scrutiny of loyalty to the source material. This standard is not only impossible but unhealthy. Some heroes wouldn’t even exist today if it weren’t for artists putting their unique spin on a character.

Although we picture Batman as the dark and brooding hero, before the groundbreaking comic “The Dark Knight Returns,” the hero was best known for the campy 1960s show starring Adam West. The four-part comic series introduced the grittier Batman for the first time. It shocked audiences with the idea of a Batman that was introspective and violent. Today, that’s the only Batman most people know.

These vast interpretations of well-known heroes and villains strive to create more meaningful understandings of characters and that appreciation shows. While DC Comic’s foray into their own cinematic universe has been disastrous, their artist-driven ideas win out both in their comic books and films. DC gets a lot of backlash for their constant rebooting of their comics. However, they have almost five times as many Eisner awards as Marvel, a company that prides itself on never rebooting or fundamentally changing its characters.

DC is not faultless in this effort. Their insistence on jumping into their own cinematic universe has tied up years of movie productions. Their rushed productions create mediocre films, such as “Suicide Squad” or Joss Whedon’s “Justice League.”

They have since redirected towards more director-driven works, but recent marketing shows them doubling down on the cinematic universe experience. Despite actor Ezra Miller’s recent controversy, 2023’s “The Flash” is being pushed as the next big DC movie.

Marvel Studios began as a groundbreaking way to synchronize movie releases, and the Infinity Saga will forever be known as what made superheroes mainstream. Yet as the company has popularized costumed superhumans, it could just as easily ruin them. Holding fast to the same ideas and portrayals for over a decade is already tiring out audiences and simply throwing new characters on top won’t change that.

Not every movie needs a post-credit scene or 10-year plan for a big reveal. Producers like Kevin Feige and Warner Brothers should let superheroes exist as the interpretive cultural phenomena they are meant to be.

Featured Illustration by Erika Sevilla

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Ayden Runnels

Ayden Runnels

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