Just as over 100,000 fans head to the multi-media extravaganza that the San Diego Comic-Con has become, Vasily Karasyov, an analyst for the Susquehanna Financial Group has released a report that claims that Hollywood studios will soon find themselves mourning “the death of superheroes.”
According to Deadline, Karasyov identifies four successful superhero movie franchises, Sony’s Spider-Man, Warner Bros.’ Batman, Fox’s X-Men, and Marvel Studios’ Iron Man. Certainly few fans would question the fact that those four franchises are indeed successful, though some would undoubtedly point out that Warner Bros. Superman was highly successful in its original pre-CGI 20th Century incarnation (as was Batman for a while at least). And if Warner Bros. is able to revive the Superman franchise with Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel—having five successful franchises in one category hardly appears to be a sign of decay or weakness.
But Karasyov is a “big picture” guy who only want to discuss 21st Century superhero movies that benefit from computer-generated effects that make their super doings visually credible. And he obviously isn’t counting a modestly successful film like Marvel Studios’ Thor, which cost $150 million, but made $444.6 million worldwide. Karasyov ignores Thor even though Kenneth Branagh’s film has performed better than Christopher Nolan’s first Bat-effort, Batman Begins, which also cost $150 million, but which made just $372.7 million worldwide.
Karasyov does have a point--the studios are not finding it easy to develop new superhero franchises as Warner Bros.’ expensive flop with Green Lantern demonstrates, but that is only one film. This weekend Marvel Studios, which has a pretty good track record, will try again with Captain America: The First Avenger, but even if Cap fails it doesn’t mean the end of superheroes in Hollywood. There’s a lot riding on Joss Whedon’s Avengers. Can studios bundles some of their lesser superheroes with a couple of franchise-worthy winners and create a “super-group team-up” sub-genre? It’s just one of the avenues that studios will explore and if The Avengers is successful can a Justice League be far behind.?
It certainly is true that fashions change and even the richest deposits of pop culture gold are eventually mined out and exhausted, but analysts have been predicting the demise of the superhero movie since Ben Affleck’s Daredevil movie flopped in 2003. So far two out the three big superhero movies out this summer have done well both with the critics and the box office—and that’s a better batting average than most genre categories achieve. If Nolan’s final Batman film flops and Sony’s Spidey-reboot founders, then you know the superhero genre is in real trouble. But until then reports of the demise of superheroes in Hollywood have been greatly exaggerated.