Part 1: (Part 2 is here) The new millennium not only ushered in a new decade, century, but the year 2000 also saw the release of a movie which rang the bell to give birth to “The Movie Age of Comics”. How can we be sure of this? Well let’s look into a bit of the background of how “Ages” of comics are determined as well as the clear evidence we are in a new “Age of Comics”.
Since the Golden Age of Comics was first named, (first named in 1960 by Richard A Lupoff) and several years after the Golden Age ended, there has been an effort to categorize comics into Ages. Golden Age, Silver Age, Bronze Age, to name the first three ages of comics. The naming of “Ages” and the years included in each age are not always agreed upon, especially since there is no one authoritative source in existence to provide such a ruling. This is why to some, Golden Age Comics ended in 1949, while others believe it ended with the birth of Silver Age Comics in 1955. The influence of superhero comics reigns supreme here as the beginning and ending of each “Age” revolves around superhero comic characters.
With that out of the way, the evidence has now become overwhelming that we are in the midst of a new age of comics, which will be named simply “The Movie Age of Comics”.
How did we get here? Well, the simple beginnings were in 1966 with the first feature movie made from a comic book character. “Batman: The Movie”, was released in 1966 and starring Adam West. This movie piggybacked on the campy TV series (3 seasons 1966-1968) of the same name with the same cast.
This first superhero movie did not begin the Movie Age of Comics, as credit for this belongs to another event. But it was a beginning.
Next came “Superman: The Movie” in 1978 starring Christopher Reeve as the Man of Steel.
Things were looking quite promising, but like many franchises, the sequels Superman II, III and IV, could have easily been named “Superman: The Forgettable”. The sequel’s degenerated into goofy plots, goofy dialogue accompanied by less than stellar performances by the cast. After the release of Superman IV, in 1987, the Superman movie franchise was thankfully shelved. Even Superman Comic Books declined in popularity mirroring the decline of the movie franchise, providing the first bit of evidence that movies would impact sales of comic books. It took a previously unthinkable act “The Death of Superman”, spanning several comic issues, between 1992-93, to inject new life (an oxymoron) back into one of DC’s A-list characters.
With the popularity of the 1st Superman movie in 1978 DC thought they had hit a gold mine so along the way, and the short term future was littered along the roadside with DC Comics B-list comic characters starring in their own, unfortunately, mostly forgettable movies.
And a few others not worth mentioning as the previous three leave will leave enough bad taste for all of us!
Watching these movies is equivalent to being tied to a chair and forced to watch a marathon of Gilligan’s Island TV episodes. Did we actually like this TV series?
Then in 1989, a defining moment for comic book characters was laid out before us by the genius of director Tim Burton. Finally, the real “Batman” hit the silver screen with an unlikely Michael Keaton providing the darkest and quirkiest Batman yet to see the big screen. A masterful and manic Joker performed by Jack Nicholson didn’t hurt either. The sets and dark brooding mood of the film left fans clamoring for more, which they were given in Burton’s “Batman Returns” (1992) starring Danny Devito as The Penguin.
Unfortunately “Batman Forever”, 1995 was ridiculous with director Joel Schumacher at the helm who went on even further to deep-six the Batman movie franchise with 1997’s “Batman & Robin”. It was painful to watch. It was a train-wreck in slow motion, with the train wreck being infinitely more interesting to watch.
Thus ended what could have been a beginning of the movie age of comics. But still, 1989 was a beginning. Tim Burton showed that a simple premise of one superhero good guy pitted against one super villain bad guy, coupled with good character development and good direction, could rocket to the top of the box office! It didn’t hurt Batman comic book sales either!
The rest of the story behind why we are in “The Movie Age of Comics” will be in part 2!
End of Part 1.