Heroes and villains once recognized solely by comic book readers are now household names as blockbuster movies, and popular television shows have attracted a new, much larger audience. With more people engaged in comics and the unique worlds created by their writers and artist the question for long term lovers of this art form is how the attention from broader audience affect their favorite characters?
The Worlds of DC and Marvel
Two of the biggest publishers in the comics world are DC and Marvel. DC started out as Detective Comics in the 1930’s and was well known for its roster of beloved heroes including Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and the Flash. DC’s characters became hugely popular during World War II, especially Superman as readers thrilled to the Man of Steel’s American ideals, and his alter-ego’s Clark Kent’s modest humility. Batman comics on the other hand, appealed to readers in the 1950’s for their darker story lines, and the character’s mental abilities. Both characters found their way to television, but without the high concept story lines, and well developed characters this media failed to appeal to adult audiences. Marvel started in the 1930’s as well, but no one hero was able to leap off the page into the public’s imagination like Spiderman. Entering the comic universe in 1962, Spiderman also had several runs on television, but these attempts never saw the same level of fan worship as the Wall Crawler enjoyed among comics fans.
Animation and Film
Animation gave the characters of both Marvel and DC a fresh look, but sadly this media was for many years considered the realm of younger viewers, so the characters of both heroes and villains remained undeveloped. Both publishers incorporated with other media franchises, offering them new opportunities for reaching a broader audience. Characters of several long running, popular comics were revamped several times for television and film. With the improvements in special effects and CGI Superman could truly appear to fly, stop bullets and runner faster than a locomotive. Directors, writers, and studios updated characters like Spiderman and Batman, giving audiences fully flushed out, realistic heroes. These new versions of superheroes and super villains thrilled movie audiences, but where do these changes leave their comic book counterparts?
Comics and New Audience
Many of both Marvels and DC’s characters saw few changes before the shift to movies and T.V. This left some comic book favorites in a “time bubble” with publishers afraid to tweak the characters too much and disappoint longtime fans. There is no doubt the need to satisfy new fans of older heroes has modified the direction of comic book content. In the past, while comic books have always contained some aspects of real world events it’s seldom brought dramatic changes to the characters themselves. Now, with a greater demand from a broader readership comic books are not only incorporating controversial topics, they are updating backstories, and giving many heroes a complete, and often controversial makeover. For most true fans these changes are acceptable, and proof that this art form like the heroes in its pages are indestructible.