Happy New Year! The Geek Beat has returned for 2013, and with a new year comes all sorts of reflection on the last year and preparation for what’s to come. With the year 2012 recently becoming the reigning champion of box office history, largely due to comics-based films like The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises and The Amazing Spider-Man, it’s no mystery that we have quite a bit to look forward to in 2013 from these characters and the studios bringing them to life. Given 2012’s success for both Marvel and DC Comics characters, does 2013 hold similar critical and commercial fortune for them? To start, we’ll take a look at the box office champion of 2012.
2012 vs. 2013: Marvel Cinematic Universe Box Office
This last year, largely due to The Avengers, we had a very full serving of superheroes, populated by Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Hawkeye, Black Widow, Spider-Man and Batman. The ensemble film surpassed many people's expectations, making it the champion of this year’s box office. Batman wasn’t far behind, though, as the total for The Avengers exceeded $1.5 billion and Dark Knight Rises totaled just about $1.1 billion. When looking at characters poised to do that kind of business in 2013, the slate seems a little thinner.
Even though the last two Iron Man films have been success stories (the first film took $585 million worldwide, the second took $623 million), from an analyst’s perspective I’ll be very interested to see if Iron Man 3 gets a “bump” in ticket sales by being the film that directly follows The Avengers. When participating in a few podcasts leading up to the release of The Avengers, myself and the panel of each show largely thought that Avengers would do Iron Man money, and that audiences for the Marvel films would largely be the same from film to film. When Avengers hit so huge, though, we were proven dead wrong, as it became very clear that a lot of people that had stayed home for some of the individual films were turning out in droves to see the team-up outing. This could either mean that the audiences from film to film were all different and the team-up film combined them (which I don’t think is particularly likely), or the concept of a superhero team-up film simply has massively broad appeal.
In that respect, general audiences are likely to have the same view on superhero teams as hard-core comics fans, who largely love to see their characters team up. Either way, since Iron Man 3 basically follows on the heels of The Avengers, I’ll be very interested to see if it manages to outperform its predecessors, or if business will largely stay in the same $500-700 million bracket. The same can be said of the impending Thor sequel, which, while successful, ranks in fourth place out of the six Marvel Cinematic Universe films released so far, with just about $450 million worldwide. Will his ticket sales get a bump in November of 2013 because of the film’s inclusion of the Avengers’ villain? Or do people want to continue to see that guy who went toe-to-toe with both Iron Man and the Hulk? Time will tell, but it’ll definitely be interesting to follow the box office trends for Marvel films, especially considering what is planned for 2014 and beyond.
2012 vs. 2013: DC Comics Box Office
Leave it to Gotham City’s Dark Knight to face off against five other superheroes and still come back with little more than a bloody nose. While, comparatively, Rises wasn’t as much of a surprising success as its predecessor (largely due to the climate of superhero films four years ago compared to what it is today), Rises still did exceedingly well, coming in at number two for the year of 2012 right behind The Avengers. The year 2013 will be an interesting one for DC Comics, since like the last several years, it only has one film coming into the ring of the box office championship: one featuring its flagship character, Superman.
Now, in truth, I’m not exactly sure how to predict success for Man of Steel, just because it seems to be taking a fundamentally different approach in both marketing and execution than the last Superman film did. I don’t think it can necessarily be compared with Superman Returns, because in 2006 that film played off of the nostalgic aspect of the character’s previous films, with trailers that seemed to ask fans, “Wouldn’t it be GREAT seeing Christopher Reeve’s Superman again?” With respect to the 2006 effort, the film and the marketing had the same theme: Does the world need Superman? The end result was a modest box office success by the studio’s standards, and a film that is largely derided by both comics fans and casual film fans alike (you saw the end of Ted, right?).
With what we’ve seen so far, Man of Steel is taking a pretty different approach. The trailers and posters seem to be going for the proverbial jugular in regards to emotional weight. As I’ve alluded to before, comics fans keeping up with Krypton’s Last Son are largely aware of the difficulty Clark Kent had growing up in Smallville, being very different than the rest of the kids his age and having to keep a tight leash on everything he was able to do. While some general audiences are a little more aware of that through the efforts of the Smallville TV series that ran from 2001-2011 on the WB and CW networks, Man of Steel looks like it’ll be giving us a look at this aspect of Clark’s life far earlier than that show ever did. A lot of excitement for the current film, in addition to very well-edited and -timed trailers, has to be the involvement of Christopher Nolan. Many creative heavyweights from The Dark Knight Trilogy are chiming in with what they think it takes to make Superman work on film again, from Christopher Nolan and his brother Jonah, to screenwriter David Goyer, and composer Hans Zimmer (See Superman and Batman debate if this is why people are excited in the video below).
A lot of very popular and acclaimed people in Hollywood right now want Superman to work again. Is that enough to allow him to soar to the heights he did back in 1978 and 1980? Time will tell, but I’ve never bet against the Nolans, and I don’t think I’m going to start now. Beyond that, I’m also personally not in the habit of betting against Superman, and although cinematically that’s burned me once before (spending my entire senior year of high school sporting a Returns T-shirt and waiting impatiently for the film, NOT my graduation, to arrive that June), it’s never really burned me in comics, and I know from experience (in film and other mediums) that with the right people at the helm, Superman always fulfills the title that Zack Snyder bestowed upon him back in 2010: “King” of all superheroes.
My Pick This Week at the Comic Shop (Releasing 1/2)
This week, the Marvel NOW! initiative continues with Jonathan Hickman and Steve Epting’s New Avengers #1. I was a little surprised that this title was being brought back, since the last two volumes have been the baby of writer Brian Michael Bendis, but with the promise of a writer like Jonathan Hickman, I can’t help but get excited. Hickman is also the writer on the main Avengers title, amping that team up considerably to meet the needs of the Marvel Universe as the threats seem to get more extreme with each passing day.
New Avengers takes certain characters from the mysterious Marvel “Illuminati” to try and prevent the collision of our universe with another, and it’s in that cosmic vein that a writer like Hickman thrives. Given his great runs on characters like the Fantastic Four and with his new take on the S.H.I.E.L.D. organization, I’m hoping that his New Avengers will be similarly memorable. Not to mention the fact that he’s the writer of one of the best independent series on comics stands today in The Manhattan Projects.
That does it this week for the Geek Beat, I hope you’ve all had a great time over the holidays. Even though for a lot of people it’s time to get back to the grind, feel free to get in touch with me and let me know what you’d like to see from this piece over the next year. If I can make it a little easier, then I definitely want to. Take care, and I’ll see you right back here next week.
Chris Clow is a graduate of Western Washington University, in addition to having an obsession with film history and general geekdom. He is a comic book expert and retailer, contributor, and overall geek to Batman-On-Film.com and ModernMythMedia.com. You can find his comic book reviews for various monthly titles and his participated podcasts at BOF and MMM, as well as his regular piece The Geek Beat right here at Movies.com every Tuesday. Check out his blog, and follow him on Twitter @ChrisClow!