Superhero Hollywood

Captain-America-The-Winter-Soldier-PosterAre you excited for the new Captain America movie? I know I am. I’ve been collecting Marvel Comics since I was 12 years old. It’s great to see some of the world’s most talented people making some great movies out of some of my favorite characters. In a very real way it’s like being 12 all over again. Opening weekend, I’m going to be there. And I’ll be there for Guardians of the Galaxy this summer. I’m a Marvelite and I can’t help myself. I love it.

However, I’ve also been collecting comic books for over a quarter century. I’m aware of the history of comic books. I’ve been there for part of it. And so, I feel it’s necessary to deliver a warning to those of you who do not collect comics but do go to see comic book movies. I know there are millions of you because I’ve seen how many people go to the movies and how many people go to my local comic book shop. As I watch these comic book movies make billions I become afraid that the local movie theater is going to end up being like that local comic book shop’s shelves.

Most people think that comic books automatically equals superheroes. This was not always the case. In the late 1950s it was Western comics that were all the rage. Two-Gun Kid and Kid Colt Outlaw and Gunsmoke Western were Marvel’s big hits. There were also romance comics and ‘true’ crime comics and horror comics. And then there was Fantastic Four #1 and Amazing Fantasy #15 (The first appearance of Spider-Man). And of course DC had Superman and Batman and eventually the Justice League and whatnot.

By the time I got into comic books in the late 1980s, my local comic book shop was 95% superhero comics. The first comics I bought were GI Joe comics. They were some of the only non-superhero books Marvel published. But soon I was collecting Uncanny X-Men and then New Mutants and X-Factor and Wolverine and Excalibur and then X-Force after New Mutants ended. It was years before I really started to get into comic books that didn’t involve super powers.

Recently my girlfriend started buying healthier food for us to eat. She told me the other day, “I don’t care if you eat it. It’s just a matter of it being available for you to eat.”  Her point was that we tend to consume what’s in front of us. I bought super-heroes mainly because that’s what they had at the shop. This isn’t to say the shop didn’t carry anything else. There were plenty of independent comics that had nothing to do with superheroes, but I didn’t buy them because they didn’t relate to anything else I was buying.

My fear with these incredibly successful comic book movies is that soon, the movies will consist of 95% superheroes. Recently the head of Marvel Studios said that with all of the franchises they’re starting up, it wouldn’t be unexpected if they started coming out with three or four movies a year. Of course that’s just Marvel. That’s not including DC/Warner Bros. or the various Marvel properties that other studios have such as Spider-Man and X-Men both of which are not only talking about the sequels to the movies that are coming out this year but sequels to those sequels.

So my warning is this: Go ahead and see the comic book movies. But please, please, please see other movies too. See Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel. See Chris Nolan’s Interstellar. See anything and everything that interests you that doesn’t have a cape attached to it….or prepare yourself for theaters where the person talking in the theater is asking “What’s that character’s power?”

Like I said, I love Marvel’s movies. I enjoy watching them. But I’m also interested in things that don’t involve super powers. Last year, the most powerful movie I watched was simply one man against the elements. He had no super-powers. That movie was All Is Lost starring Robert Redford. This year, I’ll be watching him in Captain America 2.

– Jack Cameron