Daily Bulletin

The Conversation

  • Written by The Conversation Contributor

The Golden Age of Comic Book Filmmaking began in 2000 when Bryan Singer’s X-Men (2000) dragged superheroes to the centre of popular culture. Today superpowered protagonists are as familiar to cinemagoers as sticky floors and popcorn.

Such awareness saw studios in 2015 going bigger (Avengers: Age of Ultron), smaller (Ant-Man), or back to the beginning (the erroneously-titled Fantastic Four) to reinvigorate the genre.

Somewhere between the mash-ups and redundant reboots, more interesting work has started to emerge. The comic book adaptation, like all good teenagers, is demonstrating new-found maturity. So let us take a look back at the trends and triumphs of this year in superheroes.

image Miles Morales is Marvel’s new Spiderman. © Marvel Comics.

Over the past 12 months a female hero, Laura Kinney, took over as Wolverine, Korean-American Amadeus Cho became the Hulk’s alter-ego, and the Marvel universe welcomed biracial Spider-Man Miles Morales.

Mainstream audiences might have missed these changes as they took place in the pages of the comics rather than on-screen, yet after years in which every superhero seemed to be played by a white guy named Chris (Evans, Hemsworth, Pratt), 2015 finally ushered in some diversity.

image Haley Atwell as Pegger Carter. Marvel Television.

The year began with Captain America’s love-interest Peggy Cater getting her own television series, Agent Carter (2015-). Led by a game Haley Atwell, the Cold War series managed to be fun and stylish without shying away from the misogyny of the era, with the British secret agent tackling workplace sexism as often as international spies.

Up next was a Supergirl (2015-) television series, which drew early online criticism from viewers wondering why the last daughter of Krypton was Super “girl” rather than Super “woman”, an issue the family-friendly show sought to diffuse in its pilot by having media guru Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart) argue:

What do you think is so bad about “Girl?”. I’m a girl, and your boss, and powerful, and rich, and hot and smart. So if you perceive ‘Supergirl’ as anything less than excellent, isn’t the real problem you?

image Calista Flockhart as Cat Grant. © CBS

The most interesting of these female-led superhero shows, Jessica Jones (2015-), was an end-of-year treat from Marvel’s increasingly fertile partnership with Netflix. The series centred on a failed superhero turned hard-drinking private eye played with punk-like tenacity by Breaking Bad alumnus Krysten Ritter.

image Marvel’s Jessica Jones came to Netflix. © Netflix © Marvel

In focusing on the everyday consequences of superpowers Jessica Jones was in keeping with the more realistic tone set by 2015’s earlier Netflix-Marvel collaboration Daredevil (2015-).

The show’s villain Killgrave, played by one-time Doctor Who David Tennant, has the generic ability of mind control, yet the series used this tired trope to engage with larger debates around rape, trauma, and consent – topics unlikely to be addressed in Iron Man 4.

While one might argue that these shows are merely picking up on hashtag-friendly issues to provide their high-concept shows with a veneer of socio-political relevance, their engagement with contemporary concerns seems more honest.

Jessica Jones showrunner Melissa Rosenberg began working on the series for broadcast network ABC in 2010, long before these issues were on the international agenda. The move to Netflix allowed her to engage more directly with the demons faced by a character suffering with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Risk-averse Hollywood filmmakers are slowly joining comics and television by offering more demanding roles for women. Next year’s Batman V Superman features Wonder Woman in a supporting role ahead of a solo film in 2017, while Marvel has slated a 2019 release for its intergalactic heroine Captain Marvel.

As Evangeline Lilly’s Hope van Dyne noted upon receiving her own supersuit in the post-credit coda of this year’s Ant-Man, “It’s about damn time”.

It’s also about damn time superhero movies stepped up in terms of racial diversity. In a year in which the multicultural cast of Furious 7 (2015) propelled the roadworthy franchise to new box office highs it is surprising to see so little imagination in the casting of the next Hollywood heroes.

In comic books, the current Avengers roster includes an African-American Captain America and a Muslim Ms Marvel. Jessica Jones' love-interest, the Blaxploitation-inspired hero Luke Cage, will receive his own Netflix series next year, but in 2015 the cinematic Avengers remained stubbornly homogeneous.

image Michael B. Jordan played the Human Torch in Fantastic Four (2015). © Marvel

This may be partially explained by the misplaced fan criticism that followed the casting of Fruitvale Station star Michael B Jordan in Fantastic Four as an African-American version of the traditionally white Human Torch.

Filmmakers have been slow to match the diversity of comics and TV in their US$100 million tentpole films.

Comics are increasingly treated as the research and development branch of larger entertainment companies. Television, in turn, might be considered the prototype phase, as studios test new ideas before their wider (and more expensive) implementation in feature films.

Thus, next year African-American sidekicks War Machine and Falcon will finally be elevated to the Avengers for Captain America: Civil War (2016), which also introduces African hero The Black Panther to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The easy migration of intellectual property from comics to film and TV demonstrates how larger conglomerates such as The Walt Disney Company and Time Warner are taking advantage of transmedia paradigms.

In 2015 Hayley Atwell’s Peggy Carter not only headlined her eponymous show, but also made cameo appearances in sister series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D (2013-) and feature films Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant-Man.

Hit superhero show Arrow (2012-) was also expanded into a transmedia universe (informally termed the “Arrowverse”) that includes fellow CW show The Flash (2014-), the animated webseries Vixen (2015-), and comic books that fill in the narrative gaps between episodes.

image The Flash and the Arrow team up on an episode of The Flash. Warner Bros. Television.

Inspired by the universe-building of superhero franchises, a number of Hollywood studios are trying to get in on the lucrative transmedia game with cross-platform worlds planned for Transformers, Fast & Furious, and Universal’s Monsters.

We will have to wait until next year to see whether these shared narratives find consumers enthusiastically relaying from one platform to the next, or whether the stories become too dense for all but the most ardent fans.

Since 2000, cinema has formed the hub of these superhero franchises, but 2015 saw the scales tipping in favour of television. The Flash managed to pack a 23-episode season with high-velocity action, world-ending spectacle, and even a talking gorilla, visual set pieces once considered impossible on a television budget.

Streaming shows such as Daredevil, Powers, and Jessica Jones demonstrated how the relaxed censorship of non-broadcast television can take heroes to darker territory than they will find in the multiplex.

The expanding Arrowverse suggests that episodic television is more suited to chronicling the never-ending quests of superheroes than a 100-minute movie every two years.

In 2015 the now familiar superhero story started to come of age, exploring new topics with different heroes on a wider variety of formats. Next year will reveal where that renewed purpose takes these timeless icons.

Authors: The Conversation Contributor

Read more http://theconversation.com/what-superheroes-looked-like-in-2015-51999

Writers Wanted

Racing 2-year-old horses is lucrative, but is it worth the risks?


How to Sanitize Cloth Masks Properly


The Conversation


Ray Hadley's interview with Scott Morrison

RAY HADLEY: Prime Minister, good morning.    PRIME MINISTER: G’day Ray.   HADLEY: I was just referring to this story from the Courier Mail, which you’ve probably caught up with today about t...

Ray Hadley & Scott Morrison - avatar Ray Hadley & Scott Morrison

Prime Minister's Remarks to Joint Party Room

PRIME MINISTER: Well, it is great to be back in the party room, the joint party room. It’s great to have everybody back here. It’s great to officially welcome Garth who joins us. Welcome, Garth...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Prime Minister Interview with Ben Fordham, 2GB

BEN FORDHAM: Scott Morrison, good morning to you.    PRIME MINISTER: Good morning, Ben. How are you?    FORDHAM: Good. How many days have you got to go?   PRIME MINISTER: I've got another we...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Business News

Tips to find the best plastic manufacturing supplier for your needs

Plastics are very much an important part of all of our lives, but they’re particularly valuable to a wide variety of industries that rely on their production for their operations. The industries, ...

News Co - avatar News Co

7 foolproof tips for bidding successfully at a property auction

Auctions can be beneficial for prospective buyers, as they are transparent and fair. If you reach the limit you are willing to pay, you can simply walk away. Another benefit of an auction is tha...

Dominique Grubisa - avatar Dominique Grubisa

Getting Ready to Code? These Popular and Easy Programming Languages Can Get You Started

According to HOLP (History Encyclopedia of Programing Languages), there are more than 8,000 programming languages, some dating as far back as the 18th century. Although there might be as many pr...

News Co - avatar News Co

News Co Media Group

Content & Technology Connecting Global Audiences

More Information - Less Opinion