Illustration by Steph Davidson

Superhero Movies Seize Hollywood

  1. Bankable Genre
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    Bankable Genre

    Since Christopher Reeve leapt into the air in 1978’s Superman, the superhero film has been one of Hollywood’s most bankable genres. The 96 superflicks that have followed have grossed more than $10.8 billion. Last year they accounted for 12 percent of U.S. box office receipts, up from 3 percent in 2010.

    Illustration by Steph Davidson
  2. Batman and Superman
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    Batman and Superman

    Batman, whose seven films have grossed $3.7 billion, always outsells Superman in toys, says trade publisher Jim Silver. He’s got more gadgets.

    Superman got a reboot this year. Despite tepid reviews, Man of Steel grossed $662 million worldwide for Warner Bros.

    Illustration by Steph Davidson
  3. Spider-Man and Thor
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    Spider-Man and Thor

    Each of the four Spider-Man films since 2002 has grossed less than the previous one domestically. The pressure is on for May’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2 to break that cycle.

    Marvel’s Norse strongman opened in his second solo outing on Nov. 8, with Thor: The Dark World taking in $86.1 million on its opening weekend in North America. That’s 31 percent more than his 2011 debut film, a sign of Avengers euphoria.

    Illustration by Steph Davidson
  4. Captain America
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    Captain America

    2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger was the lowest-grossing of the Disney-era Marvel films. More than half its business came from overseas, and the character got minor screen time in 2012’s The Avengers. That may be why Disney has scheduled a low-profile April release date for the shield thrower’s sequel next year.

    Illustration by Steph Davidson
  5. Iron Man, Elektra, and Daredevil
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    Iron Man, Elektra, and Daredevil

    A comic book backbencher, Iron Man became the film genre’s biggest star after Robert Downey Jr. took on the role of the billionaire playboy genius. His return in The Avengers: Age of Ultron in May 2015 augurs a big box office.

    Elektra’s 2005 U.S. box office was less than the opening weekend of 2003’s Daredevil, in which she was a sidekick.

    After struggling with the script for a Justice League film, Warner Bros. has ordered up a Batman-Superman combo for 2015, with Ben Affleck as the Caped Crusader.

    Illustration by Steph Davidson
  6. Guardians of the Galaxy
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    Guardians of the Galaxy

    Hoping to duplicate some of its Avengers success, Disney is releasing Guardians of the Galaxy, another hero ensemble flick, in August. It features lesser-known characters such as Star-Lord and Rocket Raccoon.

    Illustration by Steph Davidson
  7. Ant-Man and Ghost Rider
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    Ant-Man and Ghost Rider

    Many studios prefer to bet on heroes who have big fan bases in comics. Yet Disney has scheduled the relatively unknown—and comically named—Ant-Man as a July 2015 release. It will star Adrien Brody as a chemist who discovers a way to alter his size.

    Nicolas Cage’s Ghost Rider grossed $228 million for Sony in 2007.

    Illustration by Steph Davidson
  8. Wonder Woman and Green Lantern
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    Wonder Woman and Green Lantern

    Female heroes are a minority. Wonder Woman’s  planned 2005 film never got made. But she may see action if Warner Bros.’s Justice League film gets green-lighted.

    Green Lantern’s feature debut in summer 2011 got squeezed between an X-Men film and a Transformers sequel.

    Illustration by Steph Davidson
  9. X-Men
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    X-Men

    In May, Fox will revive its 14-year-old franchise with X-Men: Days of Future Past. Entertainment Weekly calls it the Ocean's Eleven of superhero flicks.

    Illustration by Steph Davidson
  10. The Hulk
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    The Hulk

    The 2008 film Incredible Hulk bombed, but Mark Ruffalo’s sensitive savage in The Avengers drew fan praise.

    Illustration by Steph Davidson
  11. Catwoman
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    Catwoman

    Even Halle Berry in a catsuit couldn’t save 2004’s Catwoman. The film made $40 million domestically.

    Illustration by Steph Davidson