Zero Issues – When is the Comic Book Bubble Going to Burst?

In 2016, the comic book crazy is only going to get crazier, with DC throwing their hat into the billion-dollar ring. The first entry in their attempt to steal Marvel’s crown is Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, which is set to hit theaters next March. To say that there has been a lot of online hype surrounding this film is a similar understatement to saying the Titanic was a bit of a problem. Ben Affleck takes on the role of Batman, and is roughly the 30 or 40th person to do so, alongside Henry Cavill’s Superman. Of course, the only problem is the outcome is fairly obvious since the Justice League movie has already been announced. BvS  is one of ten, yes, ten DC movies set to hit theaters by the end of the decade. And while it will obviously be a massive hit, things really get interesting a few months down the line, with Suicide Squad being released that August. It seems hard to market a film with Suicide in the title, as it’s one of the words studios like to avoid. Similarly, Edge of Tomorrow was supposed to be called All You Need is Kill, the same title of the novel which it was based off of, but studios don’t like having words like that attatched to $200M productions, and for good reason. Many not familiar with the comics or cinematic universe are going to cringe at such an unappealing title, which means the marketing is going to have to do a phenomenal job overcoming that obstacle. There’s also some questioning of whether or not it will be rated R or PG-13. That’s a valid question. For example, Mad Max: Fury Road was rated R and took in over $350M worldwide. However, it seems unlikely that they would split the universe making half of their films R and half PG-13. While this may seem like a massive tangent, my point is that while superhero films can get more and more unusual and unorthodox, it’s only a matter of time before audiences get tired of trying to follow seventeen different storyline spread across 70,000 sequels released in the span of a month. Take Deadpool for example. It’s much harder to market that than pretty much any other Marvel superhero film, though again, films like Mad Max and Kingsman: The Secret Service proved that opening an R rated blockuster isn’t as hard as people thought. But if it fails, it will likely make it harder and harder for studios to put out big R rated films.

The best piece of anecdotal evidence I can give to this is when I was walking out of a screening of Avengers: Age of Ultron, and a theater employee had to explain to an elderly couple what the “Infinity Gems” were, since they hadn’t seen Guardians of the Galaxy, and that pretty much sums up my point. The Marvel films alone are almost becoming too convuluted for people to just go see one out of the blue, which make up a bigger audience than you might think. Your average moviegoer doesn’t read comics and carefully follow lore, they’ll go see whatever new blockbuster is out because they want something to do, and that audience makes up a much larger percentage than comic book nerds. Time and time again, films like DreddKick-Ass, or Scott Pilgrim VS The World fail to find an audience is because they rely almost exclusively on the Comic-Con audience, who aren’t as big as many people like to think they are.

Essentially, I can boil it down to one good comparison. Remember Guitar Hero? Or Rock Band? Remember how for the mid to late 2000’s it was the most popular thing ever? Every new release of a Guitar Hero game was a huge deal, but then Rock Band entered the scene. In an effort to keep their brand alive, Guitar Hero quickly started pumping out more and more games, despite the fact that audience demand was not as high and the quality seemed to be plateauing. They eventually grew tired of it, but Rock Band stayed on for a few more years, yet eventually suffered the same fate. I’m thinking that history is likely going to repeat itself if studios don’t slow down the release schedule. Superhero films used to be a big deal, but now thanks to how many of them we get, there’s hardly any anticipation for them. Too much of a good thing.

So is DC going to instantly cause a chaotic rip in the box office? No. It will continue going strong, and may even come out on top for a few entries ahead of Marvel if they can offer interesting and unique takes on their intellectual propeties, but eventually audiences are just going to stop showing up. Not all at once, of course, but over a few years. By 2020, don’t be surprised when superhero films are averaging $30M opening weekends. It’s going to just be too watered down for audiences to get pumped up when there’s one being released every three months. Not only that, but keeping track of which films are in chronological order and what universe is not something general film goers are interested in.

I’m not saying that this is a fad that is going to die and Batman Vs Superman will flop, I’m just saying that every time a new superhero film gets added to the pile, it wears down audience interest more and more. The Marvel Universe is already so convoluted at this point that it’s beginning to be crushed by its own weight, and the interesting new take that DC offers may just be what pushes it over the edge, before ultimately, ironically, suffering the same fate.

Or I could be totally wrong.

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